“Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures…”- Lewis Carroll
I’m four weeks in to (hopefully) a year of travel with my fiancé. This is our second trip together, after travelling across New Zealand and parts of SEA for over a year 2014/2015.
You see so many articles and blogs talking about why solo travel is the best way to travel and how it gives women power and makes them self-reliant. I’m sure it does, but NEWS FLASH I feel that way too and I travel with my partner.
Having a man (or woman) on your arm, doesn’t mean you’re missing out on the full travel experience. It’s just a different kind of experience- IMO, a better one. Here’s why…
1. You’ve got someone to carry all the heavy shit.
C’mon, don’t tell me sometimes you don’t just want someone else to take your backpack and haul it from the bus/train terminal to your accommodation. Especially when it’s so bloody hot and humid and you feel like you’re going to pass out at any given moment. Having my S.O is a god send as he just gets on with it whereas if I was carrying it… it’d take significantly longer with a lot more moaning.
2. There’s someone to help you when you’re ill.
Suddenly can’t leave the bathroom as you’re experiencing the worst case of food poisoning? You’re period arrived from nowhere and you desperately need tampons/chocolate/leaving alone? Made that rookie mistake of too much sun and not enough water resulting in sunstroke? Send your partner out to stock up on everything you need whilst you cry into your pillow/toilet bowl about having god damn ovaries/that dodgy street food/a nap in the sun.
3. You don’t have to do all of the brain work, all of the time.
Travelling can be hard work. You’re constantly thinking about how to get from A to B, via J. How long to stay in each place? What to see/do when you’re there? Where to eat? Can you afford it? Should you trust that taxi driver? Having someone with you means that when you’re hungover/tired/sick/just cannot be bothered, you have another person to pick up the slack. If both of you are feeling this way, you end up bickering for five minutes until one of you starts making decisions which…
4. Teaches you patience and to get over things quickly.
Travelling with a partner is harder than just living with them. You are with this person 24/7 and inevitably, you are going to bicker about things. You might even have a full blown row. But unlike at home, you can’t just pop to your friend’s/mum’s to rant about it. Or grab a duvet and sleep on the sofa. In some places, you may not even feel secure enough to storm off and cool down. Or, you could be on a little island with nowhere to storm off to. Travelling together means you have to face the issue head on and work through it. You’re over it quicker than you would be in your normal environment because you have to be. This then comes in handy when you’re faced with noisy hostel neighbours or kitchen hoggers or food thieves. You just don’t waste your energy on things out of your control. You learn to breathe.
5. Team work and communication are key.
Aside from working through an argument, you need to build on communicating with each other what your needs are. One of you might be up to trying every adrenaline sport there is whilst the other wants to sit on the beach with a book. One of you might love museums and the other only likes history via war films. It’s both your experiences that matter and so you learn to communicate and compromise. You might even end up enjoying yourself! Team work makes for dream work as they say. I am in charge of all of the documents, noting down all the bookings and costs. I keep hold of the money but Lewis controls the money- otherwise he’d lose it or I’d spend it… I’m a whiz with a physical map or no map at all, whereas Lewis is better at the old Google Maps. Figuring out each of your strengths and working to them helps make for a happier (and easier) travel experience!
6. You learn to love the others flaws.
To people happily in love, you think your partner’s perfect. Why else would you be with them? When you live with someone for the first time, you start noticing all of the little things that you hadn’t before. ‘WHY DO YOU SHAVE YOUR BEARD BUT NOT WASH AWAY EVERY LAST HAIR FROM AROUND THE SINK?’ Honestly, until you’ve travelled with them you’ll not even begin to scratch the surface of what can piss you right off. Drawing on patience (see above), you actually learn to love these things. What other option do you have? Just smile and wash the hairs away yourself; it makes life easier.
7. You get to share some of the best moments of your life with someone you love.
You can, in detail and over many months, describe to your family and friends at home the exact colour of that sunset, how brightly the stars shined, how pissed off you were when your bus was late and you were hungover, the smells of that new city etc. They’ll nod and smile and say how amazing/crappy it sounds, depending on the anecdote. You can describe the food and the people and the scenery and how you felt at that exact moment, they’ll smile some more or nod some more and make all the right noises. It doesn’t matter how much you explain it to them though- they’ll never fully understand. Your S.O gets it though. They lived it with you. They will laugh with you as you reminisce about being lost in a very Thai suburb of Bangkok with no internet or English speakers to direct you. They’ll close their eyes and remember that night in the natural hot pools, watching the stars appear one by one. When one of you forgets something, the other will remember.
So whilst I get that solo travel helps you to grow ‘as an individual’. Couples travel is both of you growing together, as an individual and a couple. If you can survive the bickering, humidity, being lost, food poisoning, living with no internet and still want to be together- you know you’re on to a good thing.