Travelling can be stressful. It can also be really awesome. Which path your holiday takes is largely dependent upon who you bring with you (or collect along the way). How you travel with your partner may just define your relationship going forward.
Boyfriend. Girlfriend. Wife. Husband. Soulmate. Illegitimate lover. The person you just met in the lineup for early morning airport coffee. Whoever your ‘person’ may be, there is nothing quite like the highs and lows of travel to test out even the longest and strongest of relationships. Because when you travel with your partner – you tend to get a pretty good indication at what the rest of your life together might look like.
I remember an early morning at Gatwick Airport (London) back in 2015, when Maggie and I dragged our half-awake bodies to check in for a flight to Slovakia. In front of us was a couple of similar age who were absolutely RAGING at each other.
Naturally, we did what any other innocent bystanders would have done in that situation – carried on a dull conversation as a cover and leaned in closer to eavesdrop on their argument. The guy was blaming his girlfriend for taking too many clothes, which made their luggage a few kilos overweight. The girl was blaming her boyfriend for making her do all the packing and taking no responsibility.
Ultimately, they got cast aside by a diligent and emotionless Easyjet staff member to the one line worse than check-in, the overweight baggage payment line.
Needless to say, they had set themselves up for an absolute shitty holiday and would probably spend most of the flight (and potentially the rest of the trip) bickering with each other.
Lucky for us, Maggie packs light and I’m way too much of a control-freak to let her do all the packing. I’m a bit OCD with organisation so packing is one of those things that weirdos like myself actually enjoy.
We have been travelling together since the very beginning. In fact, some of our biggest relationship moments have taken place in different countries and we have learned a lot about each other through travel.
We’re certainly not experts, but the following are the 16 things we think are the ‘make or break’ things that you might discover only when you travel with your partner.
So, from farts to fights – here we go:
1) Their annoying habits
How could you have missed your partner biting their toenails before going to bed each night? Or, that they hum along to EVERY single note of Bohemian Rhapsody during their morning shower? Do they keep overusing phrases like “When in Rome?”… Habits, good or bad, will rise to the surface like a pimple after a post-Christmas Cadbury binge. Prepare for anything.
2) Their taste in music
“I can’t get on the plane before listening to the full discography of U2” is hopefully a sentence that you’ll never have to hear while you travel with your partner (you WILL miss your flight). Maybe you’ll get lucky and they’ll like the same type of music as you. Or maybe you’ll have to endure the soundtrack from Season 1 of Glee seven times as you drive across the Nullabor. Even if you do secretly like the cover of Don’t Stop Believin’.
3) How they manage boredom
This one is crucial. When you travel with your partner you will likely experience a lot of long lulls. We’re budget travellers so we often take the cheapest flight even if it has a 10-hour layover in Guangzhou. As freelancers, we generally just get to work during our layovers so the hours go by quickly for us. However, even if you don’t utilise it like we do – long, boring waits are inevitable. What your partner does during this time is a serious ‘make or break’ test. Do they read thought-provoking books? Or have they just spent a 12-hour layover yodelling the alphabet? They might also be really good company during boredom, let’s hope.
4) If they secretly collect really annoying shit
Oh, you didn’t know that your partner collected heavy snow globes? You certainly will after carrying their cement-laden bags around on a 17-country Contiki tour. Where will this prized snow globe collection be displayed when you arrive home you wonder? Stamps would have been much easier. When Maggie first started backpacking she decided to collect shot glasses. Luckily she stopped this before we met, otherwise 70+ countries (and shot glasses) later we would have been in deep shit.
5) If you have things to talk about
There’s only so many times you can have the dreaded weather conversation before you realise you don’t have anything else to talk about. Or perhaps you will both discover some awesome new facts you never knew about before you went away. Starting to travel with your partner can be the perfect catalyst for both important and completely nonsense conversation topics. You will never have a better opportunity to learn about your partner than when you’re both catching an overnight bus in Vietnam, cramped, tired and with no wifi. If you experience that when you travel with your partner and you’re still in love afterwards then you have our permission to get married.
6) If you actually enjoy the same things
I knew Maggie and I were great together when we were both completely okay with watching 5 seasons of Game of Thrones in a row during a 3-week staycation at an Airbnb apartment in Bratislava. Whether it’s a mutual appreciation of fine art museums or Mexican restaurant chains (mmm, Chipotle) – finding stuff you both have a bit of love for is important when you travel with your partner.
7) Whether you can survive spending 24/7 together
Travel has this knack of really stripping back a personality to its purest form. If you haven’t already moved in together or tried housesitting long-term, then you will get a good taste of what it’s going to be like in the future. At the end, you could end up closer than ever. You could also feel like Aron Raltson (or James Franco) from 127 Hours and want to saw your own arm off just to escape. Maggie and I both work online together as digital nomads, so we know the 24/7 couples experience all too well.
8) Their farting frequency
It’s one of the final frontiers of couple comfort. When that inevitable first squeak rears its ugly head (or flowers and rainbows if you’re a girl) how do you react? Once the barrier is broken is it like the earth-shattering collapse of the Hoover Dam every 5 minutes or is it something that you never talk about again? Farts are either fatal to a relationship or a total bonding experience. This could almost make the list of excuses not to travel with your partner.
9) Their scent
Potential deal-breaker alert, this follows on from our fart forewarning above. If you’ve ever flown long distance or even spent more than 10 hours on an overnight bus you will know that there’s only so much that Lynx Africa can cover up. Hygiene levels are important to keep intact whilst travelling, particularly when alongside your significant other. If they haven’t showered for 2 weeks then maybe they don’t quite care about your nose enough. You might just find yourself trying to find alternative accommodation.
10) Who’s the organisation alpha
Is your partner going to take charge or are you? Who will keep the passports and room key safe? Who is going to be in charge of holding the map and getting you places (and maybe taking the blame for getting you lost)? Will you take turns? How are you going to handle your money while you travel? This is important particularly if you’re in a couple where both of you are submissive introverts or dominant extroverts.
11) How they handle minor (or major) holiday emergencies
Will your partner leap across the reception desk ready to rip the heart out of the poor concierge’s chest Kill Bill style because your bathroom was missing towels? Or will they be cool as a cucumber under even the most stressful situations? Their calmness, or lack thereof, under pressure, will definitely be tested when something goes haywire whilst on holiday. This happened to us when we got a flat tyre in our rental car almost 5 hours away from Reykjavik during our travels through Iceland.
12) What their travel spirit animal is
Are they a sloth that sleeps until midday when you’d rather be exploring the city you flew all that way to see? Or a gazelle that hops in and out of museums not giving you a split-second to catch your breath? Let’s hope they turn out to be something cool like a panda or an otter. And definitely not a cheetah! See what I did there…
13) If they have any hidden talents or secrets
The drinking game ‘Never Have I Ever’, which gets introduced at almost every cheap hostel we’ve stayed at, is a great time to find out things you never knew about your other half. Maybe they can speak fluent Hungarian and they just forgot to mention that on your first date? Or they might be really, really good at Twister. Beware of the possible dangers of this game, there’s no coming back from the answers yours partner gives.
14) If they have an international alter ego
Sometimes people change whilst on holiday. Will your partner develop a tragic fake British accent the minute you touch down at Heathrow, like Kylie Minogue or Delta Goodrem? They might also stop wearing underwear and grow an enormous beard. If they do change we’re hoping it’s for the best. Some people embrace the nomadic life like ducks to water, others not so much.
15) If they’re adventurous
How much does your partner want to get out of his or her comfort zone whilst you are travelling? Are they willing to go skydiving with you on a whim in New Zealand? Or try menu roulette in China where you just point to anything on the menu and hope that what comes out is edible. Is your partner a risk-taker or risk-averse? Maggie and I are equal parts conservative and insane when it comes to being adventurous and we find that having a balance is pretty crucial. Ask yourself, does their crazy match your lazy (or vice versa)?
16) Who gets the window seat?
This last one is important. The window seat is a metaphor for every single compromise you will ever make on your upcoming trip and the rest of your life. Do you share it? Do they just let you have it the whole flight or bus ride? Are you going to let them see the view at least? Handle this one with care, my friends. Multiple decisions will need to be made every single day on your holiday and if you can’t agree on this one early on then it’s going to be a long, rough ride.
Travelling is about having fun, discovering new places and learning a bit about yourself. Who you share these experiences with has a huge impact on your enjoyment and the memories that you create – so choose wisely!