6 things I’ve learnt travelling as a couple

Since we’ve been married, the Married Woman and I have travelled to multiple destinations covering a wide range of activities. From multi-days outdoor adventures, city shopping sprees to romantic beach getaways, it has not always been an easy feat trying to adjust to each other preferences and needs.

This is because of some fundamental differences in our travel expectations. At least, during the initial years of our marriage.

For him, he prefers outdoor adventures, finds more fun travelling in larger groups, and tends to go budget on accommodation.

For her, she prefers urban travelling, sees travel as a couple’s quality time, and don’t mind spending on accommodation for comfort.

Despite these differences, over the years, we have managed to understand and been influenced by each other, making every travel experience something that we cherish now, be it by ourselves or with when travelling with our friends.

Looking back, below are some important things that I have learnt over the years from travelling as a couple. Hopefully it will be of some use if you are trying to balance your own travelling needs with that of your spouse.

1. Communicate and talk about your travel expectations

Remember, the aim is to understand each other’s preferences and not to persuade your partner into abiding by your travel style and plans.

A couple keeping engagement going through constant communication
Communication is key. Keep the conversation going between both of you.

I remember the days when we will talk about our travel aspirations over meals or coffee. We will share about places each of us have always wanted to go, things we want to do and see. Though the conversations never always ended in agreement, it was an important part of helping us understand each other’s expectations, and rethink how our travel plans can fit both our needs.

Do you know what are your partner’s travel aspirations, comforts, discomforts and preferences? Have you ever told your partner about your travel desires? If not, such conversations might be useful to have, as long as you both keep an open mind when listening to each other.

2. Develop a travel plan collaboratively with your partner

Talk to your partner and think of ways that you can accommodate each other’s travel needs. It doesn’t have to be far, or costly, if you know what matters to your partner.

A couple conquering the challenging Rinjani trek
Engaging in each other’s interests, Married Woman going through the Rinjani trek with me
Couple enjoying and relaxing at the beach of Gili Meno
But making sure that we also spend some time relaxing and enjoying quality time in Gili Meno.

A travel plan should factor the needs of both partners. There are many ways that we have structured our travel to meet both our needs. Some practices include having two trips in a year, with each trip focusing on one partner’s needs. For us, we will usually have a city and an adventure travel each year. Remember, you don’t need to squeeze and meet all the needs within a trip. If travelling with friends, we might also extend our trip such that we can have some quality time together, be it at renown beaches or stopover in cities on our transit back.

3. Helping each other open up to new experiences progressively

Be sensitive to the needs of your partner and help him or her adjust to the new experiences.

Taking a hike up Keelung hill in Taiwan
Squeezing in a half-day trek around Taipei for both of us.

That said, there are things that you can do to help ease your partner into the new experiences. Instead of jumping straight into a rugged 1-month backpacking trip, or schedule a 14 days camping trek with your partner who is totally new to such experiences, try to be progressive in your plans.

Throw in activities that you know your partner enjoys as well, or perks that can motivate both of you to look forward to the trip. Instead of a 5 days city tour, schedule a half-day hike in a nearby park, or end off the trekking trip with a beautiful beach getaway. At the end of the day, it is important to keep an open mind to new experiences and challenges as you embrace the activities that your partner enjoys.

4. Allow space to grow and experience, but assurance and appreciation is key.

Always show appreciation for your partner’s effort in trying out new experiences with you, before, during and after the trip.

You don’t need to feel like you have to be overly responsible or overly protective because your partner is going out of his or her comfort to join you in your activities. The last thing you want is to feel guilty for making your partner to do something against his or her will. Always remember that this should be a joint decision.

Allow your partner space to grow, experience and learn to see the fun and beauty of the activities. Sure, there might be some grudges or frustration at times, we’ve both experience that before, but that is all normal. Instead of confronting these emotions, be patient and be there to provide assurance.

5. The process is more important than the outcomes

A couple's quest to conquer the Rinjani Summit
On the way to Rinjani Summit, we were the slowest but it didn’t matter. It was more about the journey together than about reaching the summit.

We all have goals we want to achieve during our trip, be it places we want to see, food we want to try or mountains we want to conquer. So often, these goals determine if our trip has been a satisfactory one. I have travelled and seen many people who felt frustrated when they can’t find that favorite local stall, anger when their travel plans are disrupted by companions, or disappointment when they fail to ascend to the summit of the mountain.

These experiences have taught me that it is often the flexibility and process of travelling that really makes travel such a memorable experience. You can be searching for the well-known street food, but came across a local bazaar instead, missed the summit but spent your first night watching the stars together in a tent or met someone kind who stood out in your travel. These are processes that are equally, or if not, more important than the outcomes.

6. It is alright to take separated trips without one another, sometimes

At the end of the day, there are just some activities that your partner might not want to take part in, and prefers that you do it alone.

That is alright. Go ahead with your plans as long as you have talked to your partner about it. Do not feel like you should give up on your own dreams if it is something that is really important to you. After all, being in a relationship is to support each other’s in the pursuit of their aspirations and to bring out the best in one another. Though your partner might not join you, at least he or  she does not stop you from pursuing what matters to you. Go back to step 4, be grateful and show your appreciation to your partner, before, during and after the trip.

A couple's dedication to each other on the beach
Be grateful and appreciative of your partner always

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