Are you a good travel buddy? I read this tweet this morning and it inspired this post. I took me years to get to this point, but I am now comfortable enough to acknowledge that most likely I am not a good travel buddy. I am very set in my ways and preferences and only a very special individual can change my mind. I can alter my habits for a day or two, but then revert to default, which involves mainly being solo. Lets just blame it on my introversion…
But this post is not about me. The tweet instantly reminded me about the first trip I ever took with an ex-girlfriend named Odette. The destination was Thailand and being me, I wanted to do things a little differently. Visiting for 7-10 days lounging on the beaches of Phuket would not suffice. So I conjured up a 4 week itinerary starting in Bangkok, then taking the train up to Chiang Mai & Chiang Rai and over the mountains to Pai. For the second half of the trip we took a flight South to Surat Thani airport and island hopped between Kho Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao. Excellent place, brilliant itinerary and had a blast of a time. Except of course for the elephant in the room. We broke up after the trip….
To be honest the writing was on the wall towards the end of the trip, but I was not going to be one of those guys that breaks up with a girl during a holiday. Since then I’ve spent many hours analyzing where things wrong, what I could have done differently and possibly saved the relationship. I loved this girl, I was at a point where I could see us spending the rest of our lives together and then 4 weeks in Thailand annihilated our relationship.
So based on my experiences and the research I’ve done since the Tragedy of Thailand here is a list of things, it is not exhaustive, to keep in mind when travelling together for the first time.
1. Start with a short trip
Travelling together can be extremely stressful. Did you ever watch the Amazing Race? To help manage the stress start with a shorter, maybe weekend trip. If the situation becomes to hectic, calm yourselves, pack up and head home. Once back in your comfort zone, analyse the events and discuss. If you survive a weekend together choose a longer trip next time.
2. Make your first trip an easy one
Going to Thailand for 4 weeks, travelling all over the country sounded amazing and extremely romantic in our heads, but in hindsight it was too much. The distance from home, the continuous travel, always changing hotels, the different culture and food etc. all too much. Choose a more familiar environment, preferably closer to home. Leave the bigger adventures for later.
3. Discuss your accommodation, meals and travel preferences beforehand
I like a good deal and saving when travelling. I do this simply because it allows me to travel more and have money for activities. Your partner might not enjoy budget accommodation or local buses. Worst if she gets attacked by bed bugs on your third night in a hostel. Ensure you are on the same page with regards to your travel requirements/needs.
Not all activities will be enjoyed by both equally, but time and money should be spent equally. If she must go diving with you for an entire day, then spend a day in a spa with her. Just an example. Its only fair.
5. Allow for alone time
This is in my opinion is perfectly acceptable. Have a day or even 2 days a week where you go off on your own. Bearing in mind safety of course. Say goodbye after breakfast and meet again for lunch or dinner. Using the time at the table to tell each other about your day.
6. Relax and have fun
Don’t overdo the activities and travelling. Include days where you do absolutely nothing. This could be on the beach with a book or spending the day in bed appreciating one another. Travel can be stressful, so this is the perfect way to travel detox.
7. Spend time with other couples
Regardless of the outcome of the trip we had some memorable days spent with other couples. It can become exhausting being all by yourself all the time. So be brave and engage other couples.
This is always important, but even more so when travelling. When something does not make you happy or you do not agree with a decision speak up. I would suggest even making time on your schedule every day to discuss your feelings regarding the trip. Potentially, allocate breakfast every morning. There is no way that we can sense the psychological effect a trip is having on our partner unless we share with each other. So please do!
9. It is OK to disagree
To disagree is normal. How you solve your differences is what matters. More so on a trip. I would even suggest that you decide this before you leave. Have a safe word that calls a time out when one of you are not happy or go for a coffee and discuss. But do not allow emotions to simmer under the surface for several days as they tend explode if not tended to.
I hope this is new information to many of you and more importantly helps in planning your next trip. Travelling as a couple is one of the most rewarding experiences ever. Don’t ever allow it to destroy your relationship like it did mine.
Nick (who still is single) from Namibia 🙂 @5410Africa