How to Travel as a Couple Without Killing Each Other

Happily traveling together fulltime for 20 months and counting

 “And you’re still married?”

It’s by far the most common reaction we get after telling people we’ve been traveling together for nearly two years. More interesting, apparently, than our favorite destination or even how we’re able to travel for so long is how we’ve refrained from murdering each other.

The frequency of this question reveals a lot about the state of our relationships; which is also where the answers begin.

You have to truly like each other

People are together for many different reasons. Genuine friendship isn’t always one of them.

On too many business trips to count, I recall spending evenings with acquaintances who were delighted to have drinks with me because it got them away from their families. Even complete strangers were happier to have my company than endure another night at home with their supposed “loved ones.”

Something that is obvious but often overlooked is the fact that if you’re going to spend all of your time with someone, you really have to like that person. Not all couples, I’m afraid, pass that test.

Adopt one another’s interests

Part of what makes people friends is the sharing of common interests. Typically you go out with friends to do things you mutually enjoy. The more things you have in common, the more time you enjoy spending together.

In a way, our interests determine our friends. But our interests aren’t things that are written in stone after falling randomly from the sky. We choose the things we enjoy, and choose our friends accordingly. Some of those things come naturally, others are “acquired tastes” that require more effort. Either way, they’re choices we control.

We’ve already chosen our travel partner and that partner comes complete with a long list of things they enjoy. We now have a whole new menu of interests to choose ours from: theirs. This isn’t to suggest we need to stalk them, borrow their clothes, and mirror their hair style in a Single White Female kind of way. But making an effort to adopt some of their interests goes a long way to making all of that togetherness more enjoyable for everyone.

Compromise

Regardless of how many things we have in common, no two people are identical. There are bound to be disagreements. And the more time people spend together the more often they’ll disagree.

Finding a middle ground is almost always the best way to resolve these conflicts. Each side has to be willing to meet the other part way, giving a little and getting something in return. Do your part.

Communicate

It’s impossible to find common ground if neither side knows what the other wants. We can’t expect our partner to know what we want if we haven’t told them, in actual words, clearly. If we’re assuming they know, or should know, but haven’t told them, we only have ourselves to blame for not getting what we want.

Listen

Listening is not just waiting for your chance to speak. Communication is a two way street. It’s not enough to say what you want. We have to listen, really listen to what the other person is saying. Only then can we understand. And it is understanding that makes compromise possible.

Schedule time apart

You’re best friends, with plenty of common interests, who are masters at listening to one another and sorting out your differences. Fantastic! You’re still going to need some time to yourself.

No matter how well we get along with someone, having some space to do our own thing and think our own thoughts is critical. Getting that space is more difficult when you share a hotel room or an RV permanently.

We’re fortunate in that our living space consists of two distinct rooms. Even though we’re rarely more than 20 feet apart, we don’t feel like we’re right on top of one another.

In situations with even closer quarters, actively scheduling alone time can help. It doesn’t matter if you’re running errands by yourself or just going out for a walk, getting some regular time apart is important for everyone’s sanity.

Entertain thy self

Alone time doesn’t even need to be completely alone. Shannon and I can sit side by side on the couch and be completely immersed in our own things. For all practical purposes, we’re miles apart. We can do that because we don’t need the other to entertain us.

Oftentimes recently retired couples run into difficulty because they don’t know what to do with themselves. For decades they’ve had someone else structure their day. Suddenly, they find themselves in charge of all those hours and don’t know what to do with them. So they follow their spouse around the house like a lost puppy, annoying the hell out of them in the process.

Before you set out on an extended trip, think about how you’ll entertain yourself during downtime. Take up some solitary hobbies or get an e-reader. Don’t expect your partner to keep you occupied. The only person responsible for your entertainment is you.

Everyone should want the same thing

A common challenge we see, typically among the RVing crowd, is for one partner to be more enthusiastic about the trip than the other. This is natural, but sometimes we get the impression one spouse doesn’t really want to live that lifestyle at all. They were browbeaten into it. In most every case, that is a recipe for failure.

Although it’s possible for a reluctant partner to discover the joys of fulltime travel once on the road, the odds are long. Traveling fulltime requires many sacrifices. To endure the hardships you really have to value the benefits. If someone doesn’t see the benefits right from the start, they probably never will.

Worse yet, all of those sacrifices can grow into resentment, threatening not only the trip but the relationship as well.

Channel the stress

Traveling is stressful. Often when under stress, we lash out at the people we’re closest to. This is a mistake. Whatever the situation, fighting amongst ourselves always makes it worse.

Instead of looking at our travel partners as someone to carry the blame, it helps to recognize that they’re with us to help shoulder the burden. Whether we’ve missed our bus or are hopelessly lost, two people have twice the resources to set things right.

It helps to remember, too, that the best travel stories center on mishaps. You’ll more fondly remember the times you overcame adversity than the times everything went according to plan. All the better if you did it together, without bickering.

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28 Comments on “How to Travel as a Couple Without Killing Each Other”

  1. Pierotucci January 11, 2012 at 8:37 am #

    So, we are just about to go on our first cruise for our 25th wedding anniversary. Hope we can last the distance!

    Like

    • Brian January 13, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

      After 25 years most people would say you’ve already gone the distance. Congrats and enjoy the cruise.

      Like

      • Janet Ward February 3, 2012 at 2:47 am #

        Love the How to travel… but I like the couples advice better, I’ve been with my love for 32 years, and this year first we’ve had alone, and I’m beside myself… and I want to travel Hub is 60 I’m 49 and he still wants, needs to work and we have kids locally… how can we up and travel? advice?? ideas??? help??? ??

        Like

  2. ashleypaige4 January 11, 2012 at 10:10 am #

    Great advice! Thanks for sharing!

    Like

  3. customtripplanning January 11, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    Wonderful advice, even if people never leave their own house! Hmmm, new sideline: need counseling, will travel.

    Like

    • Brian January 13, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

      Yes, that’s true. I kind of had that in mind when I mentioned the newly retired couple. Even if you don’t travel, suddenly spending a lot of time together may require some adjustments.

      Like

  4. Susan January 11, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    Well written….and it is an interesting read since you have already been traveling side by side for the last 20 months. I am envious as that is something I would very much love to do, yet I feel my husband wouldn’t be so keen on it. so for now, we take specific trips within a set timeline. But, oh! to dream of vagabond days and the waiting wonders of the world to be discovered.

    Like

    • Brian January 13, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

      Maybe work on him with progressively longer trips. Or maybe he’d be open to moving somewhere, like Europe, where you can hit a lot of great destinations with a short train ride or flight. Good Luck.

      Like

  5. Jackie January 11, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

    This is really great info. Lots of good points to think about before taking off for a long adventure in tiny-enclosed space!

    Like

  6. Maggie L R January 12, 2012 at 12:49 am #

    Great advice… It is wonderful to travel with a partner who is a good friend. Sharing likes and compromising when your ideas are different is key. My husband and I just spent 4 months travelling over 32,000 km in a minivan. we took the seats out and added a mattress and camped all the way. We had a fabulous time. I agree with all your tips, it worked for us in very tight quarters.

    Like

    • Brian January 13, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

      Sharing travel experiences doubles the enjoyment, I think. I’m not sure I’d want to travel alone. I know it wouldn’t be as much fun or nearly as rewarding.

      Like

  7. Annette | Bucket List Journey January 12, 2012 at 1:18 am #

    My husband and I work together, without killing each other (barely) and a lot of these same rules apply 😉

    Like

    • Brian January 13, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

      Working together takes it to a whole new level. Congrats on making it work.

      Like

  8. Nomadic Samuel January 12, 2012 at 1:53 am #

    LOL, I love the title of your post. I’m Mr. Solo backpacker but having linked up with others and even traveling with romantic interests for a significant period of time I can relate to a lot of what you’re saying here. I think having some space every once in a while is the ‘key’ point 🙂

    Like

    • Brian January 14, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

      We all need time to ourselves, even if it’s just in our own heads. I think an important skill for anyone in a relationship is learning when to shut the $*@^ up.:-)

      Like

  9. Peace January 12, 2012 at 7:13 am #

    My husband and I have together 30 years. We spend a lot of time together because we enjoy one another’s company. Our friends think we are “weird.”

    Like

    • Brian January 13, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

      Funny how that is. Kind of like whenever someone makes a cliched joke about how all spouses are insufferable and I’m supposed to agree. Awkward.

      Like

  10. indiaphare January 12, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

    I’m off to India for three weeks with my boyfriend next month. I’m going to print this out and take it with me… just in case!

    Like

    • Brian January 13, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

      Three weeks in India sounds like an amazing trip. Have a blast!

      Like

    • Travel Updates November 14, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

      LOL. This might be quite handy, anyways. Good luck for trip to India, have a safe journey.

      Like

  11. Jane January 15, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    you’re looking so lovely!

    Like

  12. D.J. - The World of Deej February 1, 2012 at 8:06 pm #

    Shortly after I met the girl that is now my wife, I planned a trip for us to Europe. I knew if we didn’t travel well together the relationship was doomed. Thankfully, we passed the test… Great suggestions…

    Like

  13. Micki June 23, 2012 at 1:36 am #

    Love this!

    Charles and I took a year-long trip about a year after we first met.We were engaged in Thailand about 5 months in, and married in New Zealand before our trip was through.

    That was eight years ago, and I still think we’re better on the road than at home. Travel has a way of lulling us out of our complacent routine, and teaches us, all over again, not to take each other for granted.

    Like

  14. Samara November 4, 2012 at 9:54 am #

    I love this. I am considering writing a post on the same topic for my website, but don’t know if I need to now! You pretty much covered it, especially about having alone time while being in the same house. My partner and I have been traveling for about 8 months now and we both agree, that being able to be in the same room ignoring each other is key:)

    Like

  15. LizzS December 27, 2012 at 1:38 am #

    This is great! Not addressed to often. Glad to see it acknowledge that traveling with anyone can be a ravaging experience!
    Thanks for sharing. I’ll have to save this 🙂

    Like

  16. karinschiller December 30, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

    Yes it is true, traveling with a good partner makes it more valuable, more beautiful and safer. Like at diving, there must always be a buddy 🙂
    I love this couple and this blog. Thank you for sharing your adventures with us!
    Thank you for liking my post as well.
    Wish you all a great travel-year 2013
    Best regards from Germany, Karin

    Like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Best of the Blog: 2012’s Top 10 | Everywhere Once - December 26, 2012

    […] 7) How to Travel as a Couple without Killing Each Other […]

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  2. Avoiding Potential Stresses of Independent Travel | MissAdventure - May 2, 2014

    […] or break’ a relationship – traveling somewhere unfamiliar with your partner will put even the strongest coupling under pressure. Testing a fragile relationship will lead to unnecessary stress and heartbreak. Before you leave, […]

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