Posted Date: February 12, 2020
10 months into our trip, we finally snapped.
I don’t know if it was the gloomy London weather or the reality that our dreamy vacation was nearing its end, but picking up dinner at the grocery store was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
For three consecutive days, we’d go to the grocery store to pick up ingredients for dinner and return home in dead silence.
To calm down, I’d go for a little walk by myself while Jenoa got some much needed alone time in the apartment. By the end of the night, we were back to being best friends.
When you travel with someone, you spend a lot of time together. And I mean a lot. You do everything together from planning to site-seeing. They are the first person you see when you wake up and the last person you see before going to sleep.
At some point on your trip, you are bound to get on each other’s nerves. It’s only human!
If you are planning to travel long-term with your partner, here are 10 helpful tips for traveling and living with your partner 24/7 for months on end.
1. You’ve already done it.
I wouldn’t say there are many good things that have come out of COVID19, but one of the silver linings for those of us who plan to travel long-term with a partner is that 2020 forced us to spend a lot of time in close quarters together.
Before COVID, no sane couple spent this much time together. We had lives, went to work, met up with friends, and participated in our personal hobbies outside the home.
But COVID brought all of that to a halt. People stopped going into work. Kids stopped attending school. Public gathers were completely shut down. Everything but the grocery store was canceled. People from all over the world had to start learning how to live with each other all day every day.
One thing that became quite noticeable was that living with your partner 24/7 wasn’t always as dreamy as it might sound.
We had to learn to give each other space, how to take on new responsibilities, and how to unwind and keep things fresh after a long day or when conversation turned stale.
These lessons learned will help you as you travel on your extended, and well-deserved vacation.
2. Split the planning
While COVID prepared you for spending your days with your partner, it hasn’t prepared you for all of the ways life is different on the road.
First and foremost, there is a lot of preparation that goes into planning a trip around the world. You have to book accommodation, plan activities, decide how long you are going to stay in a location, find restaurants, decide what you want to cook, reserve cars, and keep an eye on flights.
To make your trip as enjoyable as possible for both parties, we highly recommend splitting up these tasks as close to 50-50 as possible. If you have more of a 90-10 balance, one person in the relationship is going to start having an awfully short temper – putting a damper on what could be an otherwise enjoyable day.
I compare trip planning to weekly chores. A lot of these tasks aren’t very fun, but they need to be done to have a functioning trip. Just like somebody needs to take out the trash, wash the dishes, and mow the lawn – somebody needs to decide what to eat for dinner tonight and book accommodation or else you’re going to end up hungry with nowhere to sleep.
In our relationship, Jenoa is much more of a planner than I am. I knew if I didn’t change my ways and start taking some initiative, Jenoa would not have a good time, and by extension, neither would I.
On our trip, we took turns finding Airbnbs, picking restaurants, meal planning, and booking flights so that the responsibility didn’t lie squarely on one person’s shoulders.
These daily decisions and routine traveling tasks shouldn’t be what you remember most when you look back on your trip. But if you don’t make an effort to do your part in the planning process, you might have a lot more negative memories from when you and your partner were upset with each other.
Remember, your trip is supposed to be enjoyable for both of you. By splitting the travel chores, you’ll ensure everyone is having a good time.
3. Make time for yourself
You are traveling on this trip together because you want to have shared experiences with your partner, whether they are your spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, or a close friend.
You will have plenty of opportunities to create incredible experiences together every day. But it is important to find ways to have alone time as well. Over the course of your travels, you’ll need to find ways that work best for you.
A little downtime here and there can relieve a lot of tension that may slowly creep up throughout the day or weeks.
Depending on where you are and how safe you feel, you could split up for a couple of hours during the day to do your own activities. Here are a few ways to create alone time on your trip.
- Have a day where you split up and each do your own activity.
- Go for a walk while the other person stays at the hotel.
- Bring headphones and put on your own show at the end of the night.
- Take books to the park or beach and sit in different places.
- Go to a cafe and work on your computer or read a book.
Some people need more alone time than others, so you’ll have to decide what works best for you on your travels.
Jenoa and I did all of the above suggestions on our travels and found that giving each other space really rejuvenated us and brought new life to our conversations. Having our personal space also let us calm down on those days when we had had enough of each other’s quirks for the time being.
For some reason, people feel that splitting up for a morning while traveling is weird, even though we do it all the time in our daily lives. Long-term travel is not the same as going on a week-long trip together where you are going to want to see and do everything together. At some point, you’ll have different things you want to see and do, and that’s okay! Split up and do them!
4. Keep a journal
Journals are an excellent way to write down your thoughts, capture the feelings and emotions of the day, and record everything you’ve done while traveling. They also make great therapists.
Your journal should be a safe place where you can write down anything you wish without the fear of having someone else read through it. When you’re in one of those moods and just need a little break from your travel companion, write a few thoughts down in your journal. This is one of the best ways to calm yourself down if your partner is annoying you or you just need time to yourself.
I’m not saying you should bash your companion all the time. But sometimes when you are mad it just feels so good to express your feelings without worrying about the regret you might feel from saying something rash and possibly hurtful to your partner. Once you’ve written it down, you’ll often find that pent-up frustration gets released and you just needed to express your frustration somewhere.
On the flip side, make sure to write about the great things your partner does and why you are glad you get to travel with them. Recording your experiences will strengthen your relationship and make you grateful that you have somebody to share them with. If you remember to focus on the positives, you’ll appreciate your trip even more.
5. Learn how to be decisive
Tell me if this sounds familiar. Person 1: “What do you want for dinner tonight?” Person 2: “I don’t care, you?” Person 1: “I don’t care either.”
This carries on for 15 minutes before someone finally decides what sounds good.
When you are traveling, there are a lot of decisions to make. On top of worrying about what to eat for dinner, you have to worry about what country you are going to visit next, what your plan is for the next day, and where you’re going to stay next.
Everyone benefits when both parties are decisive and clearly communicate what they want.
From activities you want to do to finding a place to eat, being decisive will make your day a whole lot easier and help you do more of the things you love on your trip.
6. Bring a deck of cards
You will have downtime on your trip. Bring a deck of cards so you can play games together and bring a sense of normalcy to your life while you travel.
Jenoa and I brought a few different card games that we could pull out and play at night or as we waited for our flight in the airport terminal.
7. Let each person pick the top activity they want to do in that place
One important lesson we learned early on our trip was the importance of making sure each person got to do what they wanted to do in each place we visited.
Jenoa and I share a lot of interests, so sometimes our top picks overlapped, but other times, we wanted to do a few different things and we just didn’t have time for them all.
When that happened, we’d each say the top thing that we wanted to do in that city – and then make sure to do it. That way, even if we weren’t able to see or do all of the things we wanted to in a place, we’d at least have gotten to do our top choice.
For example, Jenoa and I went to Florence, Italy on our trip. The leaning tower of Pisa is a quick day trip from there, and I really wanted to go, but Jenoa had already been multiple times. I mentioned that it was something I really wanted to see, so we took a day trip out there and saw it.
In return, Jenoa really wanted to see the Tivoli Gardens – so we made it a priority to spend an afternoon exploring the gardens there. In the end, we both got what we wanted, which made our time in Florence even more enjoyable.
Depending on how much time you have in a city, you may be able to do everything you want and more. However, if you only have a day or two, you may have to pick between each of your favorite things.
Sometimes, you’ll have to compromise if both of your top activities are expensive and don’t fit into your budget. Make sure to do this fairly and that one person isn’t compromising on their choices more than the other.
8. Be attentive
One of my worst habits is that I can zone out a lot during conversations. The majority of the time, it’s not intentional. I’ll get distracted with a thought and then stop listening to what Jenoa is saying.
But sometimes I just get bored and tune out. I must get a blank stare on my face because Jenoa calls me out on it every time. But the truth is, when you’re traveling with someone 24/7, you do a lot of talking to each other. Sometimes, you just don’t want to think, or listen, or respond.
It’s important to listen to your partner and to be understanding. There may be times when your partner feels unsafe or unwell, and you’ll need to be there for them. Making sure you hear what they say will show your respect for them and let them know that you care.
9. Make friends along the way
There are 525,600 minutes in a year (I’m truly sorry for getting that song stuck in your head now). That’s a lot of time to spend with your companion. As you travel the world together, you’ll talk about and share all of your experiences.
Sometimes, you’ll crave a fresh conversation with someone who has unique experiences and stories from your own.
No matter where you go, there will always be opportunities to meet new people – whether that’s at your Airbnb or hostel, with your tour group or cooking class, on sitting next to a stranger on the airplane. Take the time to make new friends who you can potentially hang out with for the day or even just a few hours.
I know I craved the novelty of other people at different times during our trip – and we were able to meet new people who have now become good friends.
Just because this is your trip doesn’t mean you can’t invite friends to hang out with you from time to time.
10. Practice Gratitude
Showing gratitude may seem like an odd point to throw in this list, but it might be the most important.
I think it is human nature to find the negative in things or point out things that bother us. This is especially true in the day to day little details of our lives. On your trip, you will get hot and sweaty. You’ll encounter weird smells and bad food. You’ll get on each other’s nerves now and again.
Express gratitude to your partner for them and your trip. Make sure they know that you appreciate them and the effort they put into making this trip as great as it is. It always feels nice to hear a kind word or a sincere compliment, and always brightens the mood no matter where or when it is being said.
Sharing travel experiences with your partner will enhance your relationship and build a treasure trove of memories that you can look back on with fondness. But spending all day with someone, even someone you love, does pose unique challenges. These ten tips will help you make the most out of your trip while living with someone 24/7.