Backpacking was such an adventure for me, but made even more so because I was travelling with my partner in crime The Beard. I take my hat off to all those fierce and unstoppable solo backpackers we met along the way, who were brave enough to jet off on their own into the unknown (ooooh, I did a rhyme!) But for us, backpacking as boyfriend and girlfriend was incredible, it was easily the best thing we have ever done, and will no doubt do again.
Everyone’s journey is different, and if your travelling as a couple I can in no way predict the outcome, but you will definitely learn so much about each other, things I don’t think you would learn in your normal day to day life; some good, some bad. So with that said, I just want to pass on some advice and ‘words of wisdom’, if you will, in regards to travelling as a couple.
[On a side note I also think this also applies to travelling as best friends or in a group]
MAKE FRIENDS As a travelling twosome, it’s easy to hide behind each other. But I highly recommend approaching other backpackers and making friends. Both The Beard and I were quite shy when we started our route, no one tells you the protocol on introducing yourself to an absolute stranger that is suddenly your bunk bed buddy. We naively assumed other backpackers would approach us, but if all backpackers thought that then no one would ever talk to each other. It took us a while to pluck up the courage to just start talking to our room mate, or to join in that game of cards, or tag along uninvited to a beach trip. But I’m so glad we did, as amazing as it was being ‘just us two’ you might not want it to be ‘just us two’ for the entire four month leg of your journey (or longer, depending on your trip). We made lots of friends along the way, some we came to travel with for weeks onwards, which then left us to treasure the days it actually was ‘just us two’.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO GO SOLO Although this is a joint adventure and you’ve (possibly) planned it all together, it is still a dream trip for YOU! Don’t forget about you! You don’t have to agree on everything and don’t be afraid to go solo on certain expeditions if your partner isn’t up for it. When we first arrived in Vietnam I was suffering from exhaustion and constipation – not exactly an ideal scenario, but it happens – but there was no point in The Beard staying indoors and suffering with me. Instead he went on nights out with other travellers, made friends and had some fun, whilst I got the rest I needed. Similar to when on the Island of Koh Tao, The Beard wanted to do a three day diving course, something that did not interest me at all (cos I’m a scardy cat!) so whilst he went off and got his diving license, I spent three days beaching it up and wining and dining with Koh Tao residents.
IT’S NORMAL TO ARGUE You may have it in your head that your going to be best buds throughout this whole trip, but even in Paradise there can be trouble; there will come a point you will want to kill each other (don’t worry, it’s normal). Nine times out of ten it won’t even be your partners fault, or even slightly related to your partner, but because they are there you take it out on them. It could be that you overslept/are exhausted/lost your key/lost yourself/your suffering sunburn/suffering a hangover, whatever the reason, it seems we take our crap out on the ones we love the most. So when your travelling with the person you are no doubt the closest to, your going to argue. I can’t even begin to list some of the stupid things we argued about. To make matters worse these teeny tiny dramas – that would normally be over in a matter of seconds back home – can often seem magnified when your travelling, because your in a strange place and your not in a normal situation.
Chances are, even if you lived together prior to travelling, you probably haven’t spent 24 hours a day, seven days a week, four weeks of the month solidly in each other’s company, so it’s going to be a bit of a shock to most, and a true test of your relationship. Just bare with it, power through and remember that you love each other. Soon enough you will have the opposite problem and get so used to each other, you will be panicking about how you are going to cope back in the real world without this person stuck to your hip.
BE HONEST WITH EACH OTHER If you really don’t want to do something, or feel uncomfortable about something, or your homesick, whatever the problem, or whatever your feeling, just be honest with your partner and tell them. Despite being on an incredible journey, that I assure you will be amazing, sometimes you can still get down or lonely whilst travelling. Your not around your usual friends, or your family, or even work colleagues. But talking to each other will help. In Australia, The Beard and I went through a few tough patches when we were either homesick, or bored of the city we were currently in. We learnt the best thing to do is discuss how your feeling with the other so that you can work out what to do, or where to go next. Sometimes just a chat and a cuddle can make you feel better. But whatever you do don’t suffer in silence, not when your so far away from your regular life, friends and family.
As I said earlier, travelling as a couple, or with your best friend, or a loved one, will definitely test your relationship, but it is also the most wonderful thing. To be able to travel, and share so many amazing adventures and memories with the person you love most is awesome and magical all at once. It certainly was for The Beard and I, and we definitely aren’t short of amazing stories to tell our Grandkids one day.