How to Travel as a Couple Without Killing Each Other

Happily traveling together fulltime for four years 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.

So as our Valentine’s Day gift to you, our beloved reader, we wanted to share our secrets for blissful (or at least less hateful) together travel.

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

  1. gabriellesoria February 14, 2014 at 8:34 am #

    Reblogged this on Up and Gone and commented:
    Everyone Once hit the nail on the head with these insights about traveling with your love. Take a read, and be good to each other!

    Like

  2. Tom February 14, 2014 at 10:19 am #

    Excellent post! We’re now finishing our first year on the road and plenty of things have gone wrong — some life-threatening — and the things you describe above are what have pulled us through.

    Like

  3. Charlotte February 14, 2014 at 10:43 am #

    We lived & traveled together on a 36′ sailboat for 14 yr. & are now a year into fulltime traveler’s in our 40′ Class A. Great advice , I have always said you need to share this lifestyle with your best friend that has the same interests & goals as you. We always look forward to the next adventure, rough roads & smooth.

    Like

    • Brian February 15, 2014 at 8:16 am #

      So cool. The idea of traveling around in a sailboat is always in the back of our minds. Now that you’ve been in an RV for a year, which type of travel do you prefer?

      Like

      • Charlotte February 15, 2014 at 10:07 am #

        Funny you ask…..we were walking the docks in a marina just yesterday reminiscing about our time on the water, We really miss it. I asked my husband if he thought we would ever feel about the RV life like we do the boating life. So far we love the boating life more, but that’s after 14 years. We’ll see how we feel in 13 years of traveling to places you can’t take a boat.

        Like

        • Brian February 15, 2014 at 4:27 pm #

          We’re not sailors and we often wonder if we’d feel a bit limited traveling that way. But it would be a worthwhile experience even for just a season or two.

          Like

          • Charlotte February 15, 2014 at 7:28 pm #

            We were life long boaters of some sort. There is more of a learning curve to handling a boat in all the different weather conditions that are thrown at you. Your biggest limitations are your abilities to handle the boat, the condition of your boat, and most of all, as with rving is the weather. Of course you can’t take the boat to Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, but then you can’t get an RV to the isolated islands we spent time at either. It’s a trade off.

            Like

  4. elizabeth mcmanus February 14, 2014 at 11:17 am #

    LOVE this post! Especially the part about spending time alone – that’s key for my fiancé and i when we travel. He’s the über-extrovert and i’m the extreme introvert, so we have to learn when we need space! 🙂

    Like

  5. marlawoodward February 14, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    Reblogged this on Cosmopolitan and commented:
    This is a great post! After taking some long trips with my husband, I know first hand just how hard it can be to keep the piece while abroad. Great suggestions, and very appropriate for Valentines day 🙂 Enjoy this post from Everywhere Once!

    Like

  6. pkphotooftheday February 14, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

    Excellent article!

    Like

  7. spotell February 14, 2014 at 6:24 pm #

    Spot on advice- those are exactly the reasons that my partner and I travel so well together

    Like

  8. Touring NH February 14, 2014 at 7:17 pm #

    Excellent advice, but it also pertains to couples in general, not just traveling companions. My husband and I are working towards out goal of living full time in our motorhome. We have set a plan in motion and are counting down to our new lifestyle! Always happy to hear of your adventures (and misadventures.)

    Like

    • Brian February 15, 2014 at 8:13 am #

      That rings true to us: the things that make a relationship work in general are the same things that make it work on the road. Doing it all the time is just a bit more intense.

      Like

  9. Tapashi February 15, 2014 at 1:34 am #

    Reblogged this on India on a Shoestring and commented:
    They say if you want to test your compatibility, take a road trip together. Well, these guys seem to have made it. And more.

    Like

  10. TonyJ2 February 15, 2014 at 1:37 am #

    Great reflections on your experiences. Particularly about doing your own special thing every so often, and allowing for some space between each other – physically and emotionally.

    Like

  11. Sam February 15, 2014 at 11:11 am #

    Oh my god, yes! Such good advice, especially the ‘communicate’ part. It surprises me just how many people seem not to communicate with their partner(s), like at all. Having time alone is the thing my partner and I need to work on most. We either have it at one extreme (travelling together 24-7 for 10 months) or the other (being in different countries for 2 months straight), but we need to find a happy medium somewhere. We’re on it!

    Like

  12. sheryl bright February 15, 2014 at 1:16 pm #

    Awesome Post! You are very right on.

    Like

  13. Latrecia February 16, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

    excellent post! We are asked about our strong marriage and traveling quite frequently as well. You have answered that topic perfectly!

    Like

  14. Catherine March 6, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

    Great advice here. Me and my boyfriend are starting our travels later this year, so will definitely take this advise on board.

    Like

  15. facchinaggio April 1, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

    It’s going to be end of mine day, but before finish I am reading this
    fantastic post to increase my know-how.

    Like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. How to Travel as a Couple Without Killing Each Other | Cosmopolitan - February 14, 2014

    […] This is a great post! After taking some long trips with my husband, I know first hand just how hard it can be to keep the piece while abroad. Great suggestions, and very appropriate for Valentines day Enjoy this post from Everywhere Once! […]

    Like

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