I recently took a 5 week trip to Europe with my boyfriend of 2 years. It was the most incredible journey of our lives and going on such a trip with my best friend, who also happens to be my love was very special. I thought it might be helpful to give some points of advice for those of you 20-somethings considering traveling with your significant other. Now, this isn’t the first trip out of the country Zak and I have taken together, but it definitely was the longest and let me tell you one thing: a trip like this will either make you much stronger, or break you.
1. Be patient with each other
It should go without saying, but be patient with one another. Don’t take out your frustrations on each other. For example when we were in Poland and couldn’t find where to catch our bus, we were both running around the train station so incredibly frustrated. But we realized in our heads that it wasn’t the other person’s fault that we didn’t know where to go, and getting frustrated with each other was not the right thing to do.
There were times where Zak and I couldn’t decide on a place to eat, so we would roam around with (me) getting more upset with each step we took. (“You’re not you when you’re hungry.”) Rather than get angry at each other we would both try to be calm and understanding of the other person. Once, Zak even ran into a shady looking pastry shop in China town and bought me what he understood was a “lemon tart” only to be severely….surprised when he (I was not a fan) bit into it to find out it was an “egg tart.”
I also went on this trip with a torn meniscus and sometimes (especially by the end of the day) walking was difficult and very slow. Zak never once complained, instead he would just hold my hand and walk equally as slow next to me. He wouldn’t get annoyed when I would have to stop and sit on a bench or go in a coffee shop because I just needed a rest. He was so kind and patient with me, I felt very lucky to be on this trip with him.
2. Realize there will be zero boundaries between you now
If you and your boyfriend/girlfriend aren’t yet living together be prepared to know and see every single thing about them. Trust me, you think you knew all those things about a person before but not until you go on a trip like this will you know what I’m talking about. From the sound of them pooping in the bathroom to how they “glue their eyebrows.” You are about to enter into a whole new realm of completely knowing everything about each other.
3. Learn from one another
This is great opportunity to learn from one another. One of the wonderful parts about this trip was how I got to see things differently through Zak’s eyes. Having been fortunate enough to travel quite a lot in my life and been brought up in a different country there are certain things, I have realized, that I take for granted. For instance when we were walking through Poland one day Zak pointed out to me the heavy labor that must be done in order to pave the streets with stone like they were doing in Poland. He said to me “In the US we just put a bunch of cement on really quick and that’s it, but here they have to cut each stone and pay people to stand in the hot sun for hours on end to lay them down in a certain design.” I had never, ever thought about it like that. I never once stopped to look at the paved streets in Argentina to think about the work it was to put those stones down, I just took for granted that that is just how things are.
I loved seeing his intense appreciation for all of the history throughout our trip. Reading all of the signs in the castles in Poland, wanting to soak every single thing in. I really enjoyed his gratitude for all of the art in the National Gallery in London, his thirst for the theater and his awe of all the new food.
4. Have some quiet time
You guys have been together all day, for multiple days. It is okay (and normal) to have some quiet time. It is in no way awkward nor does it mean something is wrong with your relationship. But when you are both exhausted and get home and just lay on the bed to do your own thing for a while, that’s okay. Zak and I are both calm people who are very used to being alone, therefore quiet time is something that is very necessary in our relationship. We still manage to love each other and have a good time even when we are laying next to each other checking our emails, “whatsapping” with our family or whatever. You guys are living life together, it is normal to have periods of peace and silence.
5. Treat yourselves to a date
Our favorite choice was Duck and Waffle in The Herron Tower in London. It is in the financial district on the 40th floor and the view is incredible. Not to mention the food. It is expensive but for what you get it is totally worth it, a once in a lifetime experience. We first went for dinner with two childhood friends of mine from Argentina and were blown away by the food and ambiance. We decided to go all out, live life because we are young and in London and if not now when. We had a feast of food and had the most amazing time so Zak and I decided to go back and have breakfast a few days before we were due to go back home. It was such a treat, and really a special place to go on a date with your loved one.
6. You will get into arguments and still have to be around each other
It won’t be like when you’re home and when you get into an argument and “need your space” you can just go off somewhere or he can go to the gym. You guys will, most likely, still have to be around each other and let me tell you, throwing corn in Chipotle at the other person is not the answer. (Oops- I’m not me when I’m hungry!)
Try to not let your anger consume you and don’t let those negative thoughts in your head keep feeding off of each other and making things worse. Pick your battles and think to yourself if the argument you are having is really worth all of the drama that is about to happen. Remind yourself that you love the other person, rather than think in your head how much you can’t stand them right now.
Someone once told me the mark of a true, good relationship is when there are more good times then bad. If that is the case then don’t worry about your silly arguments, they are normal. However, if you’re fighting more than loving, maybe it’s time to think about things.
7. Make a list of things you would each like to do
Zak and I are very, very similar people but very different at the same time. (If that makes sense.) Make sure you compose a list of what you would each like to do. For instance some of the things Zak wanted to do were go to Evensongs in St. Paul’s and Westminster Abby. I wanted to go shopping and go to Czestochowa. Accommodating things you each want to do will make for a more enjoyable trip and luckily for both of us, we always really enjoyed the activity that the other person wanted to do. (Well okay maybe Zak didn’t love going to Topshop all those times, but he never let me know it!)
8. Be spontaneous & go with the flow
One day we were walking to Broadway Market before going to the London Eye and came across Shakespeare’s Globe. Both of us being English Majors talked about how we would love to see a play there, but we were leaving in 3 days and it probably wouldn’t happen. “Let’s just go in and check” I said. Before we knew it we had 5 pound standing tickets to see Julius Caesar the next day.
Remember that (as with life) when you are traveling, things don’t always go as planned (like when you miss your flight to Poland.) Try to keep as open of a schedule as you can in order to be able to do things like taking long walks as opposed to taking public transportation. With the exception of when my knee was really hurting, we walked throughout most of our trip and it made for a much better experience. You are better able to see the place you are visiting and this way you can stop or pop into shops you walk by which interest you.
9. Double check the travel itinerary
Listen I don’t care how proud or confident your boyfriend/girlfriend is- double check the itinerary! I cannot stress this enough. If one of you has made the travel plans, the other one should check to make sure everything is in order (and to make sure you’re going to the right airport!) Mistakes happen and two pairs of eyes are better than one.
10. Take photos of both of you together
Having someone to take pictures of you while you’re seeing all these new places is a definite plus of traveling with someone. However, don’t forget to take pictures of the two of you together! Don’t be too shy to ask people. Who ever says “no” when you ask them to take a picture of you? When we were in Prague we saw a couple around our age looking around trying to approach someone to take their picture. I walked up to them and said “We’ll take one of you if you take one of us.” They laughed and both couples got their pictures. If there is no one around, there is a great app on the iPhone I always use for this called “Timercam.” It is a self timer for your iPhone which works perfectly. The only thing you have to worry about is finding things to put the phone on. Zak is no longer phased by my stopping him to put my iPhone on a ladder, sweater, rock, juice box, whatever to snap a picture of us. Trust me- you will appreciate having pictures like this later!
Have fun and enjoy this great experience and journey the two of you are about to embark on! Traveling together will make you bond in ways you would otherwise be unable to and what’s better than exploring the world with someone you love!
If you need inspiration on where to go on your next destination with your love, check out my deck of 50 cards! You are bound to find an exciting location to explore. http://www.deckopedia.com/50-must-see-destinations.html