Traveling As A Couple: A Three Tiered Coping Strategy
Traveling with your significant other demands a level of intimacy that supersedes anything your life at home together can possibly prepare you for. This isn't the kind of intimacy that you won each other over with in the first place, but rather zero privacy, sweat caked socks and underwear, diarrhea and fungal infection style intimacy. Gross.
The truth about long term traveling with your "better half" is that you start to wonder if it's the 24/7 exposure to them that's really making you sick, and not the Podunk street cart chicken gizzards you had for lunch. At home you have outlets to help balance out the demands of your relationship -- conflicting work schedules and differing social commitments that leave you feeling blessed by each other's hard won company. You do not enjoy this luxury when traveling together for long periods of time.
After five months with hardly a moment apart, the luster is dimmed and the jabs start flying. It always starts out with seemingly innocuous things -- petty criticisms and snide observations that quickly evolve into a venomous exchange, back and forth until one of you bellows out a dramatic finale before collapsing into a coma of sniveling.
There are, of course, a few ways to mitigate these bouts of bickering. I've found that the antidote to dramatic shenanigans can be expressed in a simple three- tiered plan of attack.
1. Don't Be A Sourpuss
It's so easy to toss jabs at each other after such a prolonged and heavy dose of togetherness -- but in all likelihood you're bored and frustrated with yourself, and anything your partner says or does is going to be shaded with that indiscretion. When the negative feedback loop starts sinking in, don't use it as an opportunity to drag your s/o down with you -- get some fresh air and do something productive.
2. Seek Out Group Activities
From free city walking tours to pub crawls to hostel bbq parties to couchsurfing meetups, there is always the opportunity to be included in a group while long term traveling. Even if you're in a place where you have zero contacts, these options will help you feel less isolated and dependent on that little slice of home you're traveling with.
3. Put Up The Dough For Those Magical Memories
Some of the best souvenirs you can pick up while traveling are simple things that can't be bought -- hilarious misinterpretations, sunset smooches on some far away beach, free beer anywhere for any reason...but often the memories of a lifetime have to be paid for with warm, infirm cash (have you ever rolled around Bali for a day with 6 million rupiah in your secret pocket? It never feels cold or hard). So splurge a little Romeo -- take the boat trip, buy the opera tickets, book the suite, eat something other than instant noodles! It'll keep things fresh and remind you what you're swinging around the world on a shoestring for in the first place.
I confess to often ignoring the advice that I've so sagely rolled out above, but it's highly effective on those occasions in which I heed it. I've completed an eight month round the world trip and am now in the fifth month of a second such voyage with the same lovely woman -- long may it continue, but with reasonable arguments and legitimate fights instead of jet lag and overexposure induced squabbling!