The secret sauce of traveling as a couple

Posted by Kadri Uljas on  June 1, 2015 |
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The question most frequently asked from us, after “Where are you now”, is: “Are you two still together”? Well,  personal drama is always somewhat more interesting and compelling than yet another travel story, but what about the fact that we have been able to make peace with each other even after spending 290 days (and counting) every waking and sleeping minute side by side?

Today, in our 6 years mini anniversary of dating and almost 10 months of living our dream, we have learned a thing or two about the good, the bad and the ugly of traveling as a couple.

Sharing the same dreams

While some couples dream of owning a house or a new car, we dreamed about year or two off exploring unknown paths, sleeping under the stars and meeting random people around the World.

For travelling with your significant other, it will mean taking on the rocky road together. It will mean missing out from many concerts and fun nights with friends, to save some extra bucks for that next plane ticket. You will, however, find yourself in fights and arguments on planning the dream. Of course there are many concerns to overcome, but if you are both are on the same page with it at the end, it won’t feel that bad after all.

You will, however, find yourself in fights and arguments on planning the dream.

For us it took 4 years of dreaming and visualizing before actually making the decision and packing our bags. It started from setting up a big map on our living room wall; taking mini-vacations to the countries we found exotic and affordable; hosting Couchsurfers all over the world for getting connected and just learning about fascinating places that we have never heard off.

We often shared cool pictures and videos with each other which we had found from internet, and spent hours on just discussing what could these places actually look like. We surrounded ourselves with seasoned travelers and learned from their experiences while doing mental notes on some good tips and ideas. The stories you hear from others are often very inspiring and fuel the dreams if you don’t.

We fought and argued on when to go, how to go and why to go. We also chickened out, and lost the sight of the goal, but finally motivated ourselves back on track and tried even harder.

If you can dream it, you can achieve it – and doing it together is much more rewarding in the long run.

Having the same wanderlust gene

Traveling with a buddy is great! But does it actually mean the same thing for both of you?

When one considers traveling only with packaged holiday, filled with sightseeing and city tours, the other might be horrified of the fact going overseas in big organized groups. Before actually heading for a long term trip, it might be wise to back up a few adventurous trips with a return ticket, to see how you cope with each other.

We are not big fans of sunbathing

We are not big fans of sunbathing. (Thailand 2010)

On 2010, we did our very first backpacker trip to Thailand. We did not know much more than Lonely Planet taught us.

It was the first time in Asia, first time in culture so unknown, so we did much by the book.

We discovered that we share about the same level of adventurousness and willingness to take steps out of our comfort zone. We loved the street food over fine dining, and took advantage of cheap sleeping arrangements over overpriced hotels. We fancied walking around or driving a scooter to lounging at the beach. We shared fascination towards the Asian culture and fell deeply in love with the local people.

For the first trip together we thought we did good enough, which encouraged us to travel some more and longer over the next years and to do some more test runs before taking off for good.

Compromise is everything

Who could have guessed, but there are tons of things we disagree and argue about when we are on the road. Being together 24/7 gives us many opportunities to learn that we don’t always share mutual vision, ideas and excitement. Only way to survive this madness is to make compromises on the go.

Some might find it weird as we say that money is not a big source of our arguments. Not because we have endless budget, but because we both know that we have 25-30€ a day to spend for two of us, and all the decisions we do need to help us sustain the budget.  Our daily nagging can come from much simpler things such as:

Sneaking into back alleys can sometimes be very rewarding

Sneaking into back alleys can sometimes be very rewarding. (Slovenia , 2014)

  • When Andre enjoys peeking into darker alleys and abandoned looking buildings, then Kadri prefers standing in more crowded streets anxiously waiting for him.
  • While Kadri relishes more walking to places, Andre gets a thrill from taking local public transportation, which can sometimes be quite extreme.
  • If Andre could easily chill few days in a row in a hammock reading a book or losing himself in a computer, then Kadri starts going crazy just after a few hours of just being in the relaxed mode.
  • As Kadri love Pho soups and Andre prefers places that serve chicken and fried rice (even if the chicken could be a pigeon instead), we might have an argument over our empty stomaches.

All these things can seem pretty harmless, but there are days when even these tiny preferences can cause a lot of turmoil if not dealt with.

So how do we compromise? Understanding each other gets easier over time as you learn to deal with your partners temper.

Learning about the little mood monsters

We do not always agree on everything

We do not always agree on everything. (Indonesia, 2015)

There is nothing worst than a moody travel companion, but you will gain great expertise of noticing the telltale signs of one’s bad fuss creeping up.

As an example we picked a really nice hostel in Hanoi, Vietnam, that unfortunately had nightclubs on the 1st and 5th floor and we got beds in a dorm with partying staff on the 3rd floor. Even with the earplugs, Kadri slept about 2 hours altogether, which meant a really rough day for Andre who had to keep her from snapping at hawkers selling stuff on the streets.

Every couple have their own problems and solutions, here are a few of ours:

Number one mood crisis offender is FOOD

Let’s be honest, we all can be quite bitchy when hungry. No wonder that Snickers has made a whole commercial about it, when stating we are not quite ourselves when we are hungry.

There is even an ode to a Snickers made by couple from US !

  • Lessons learned: ALWAYS carry a pack of others favorite snacks in the bag, and you will be the hero of the day. Nuts for me, Snickers for Andre – and we can live peacefully ever after. Also, whom ever is the hungriest usually gets to choose a place to eat – for example either the Pho or the rice.

Second mood cracker is the lack of SLEEP

Kadri considers herself a really light sleeper and even earplugs don’t help much, while Andre has hard time with some of the rough sleeping surfaces that make him roll around the whole night.

The other time we were sleeping in a tent somewhere in Bulgaria and Andres mattress broke, so he found himself waking up sleeping on a cold ground. A night of staying partially awake meant trouble for the next day, as the sleep deprivation was catching up on every step.

  • Lessons learned: Unfortunate thing is that there isn’t much that other can do about this crappy day. Just turn a blind eye, breathe deeply 10 times before arguing back and share your compassion for the other. After all, one of you is well rested and sees the life with much brighter colors. It’s also a good day to do some silly cute things to each other that make even the most grumpy cat smile.

Last but not least is WAITING

Waiting a car, waiting a bus, waiting a ferry, waiting someone or somebody to make sense and give you answers, just waiting generally with a purpose of getting somewhere, can become agonizing.

Lets say you have to wait a car for unknown time, and you know that it’s getting dark within couple of hours. If after an hour there are still no cars picking you up, the place is probably not ideal for hitchhiking. In worst case scenario you are also getting pretty damn hungry. One thing you can be certain of is the fact that all the trouble is most likely your partners fault. And likely your feelings toward each other will be mutual.

You might be finding yourself explaining to each other why the other spot 100  meters South is much better. And somebody has to be responsible for the the sign is not big enough to be seen from 500 meters away! What could be better than argue your way out of this situation?

  • Lessons learned: There will be a day when you discover that waiting 1 or 10 hours does not have any difference. The more you get used to being on the road, and mastering the skills of bringing something with to keep yourself entertained, the less taunting it will all feel. Buying a harmonica, a book or making up a stupid dance while waiting, can be all very rewarding. If not bugging the crap out of each other.

Also sometimes the 100 meters down the road can make a huge difference 🙂

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

It is true that traveling brings out the worst in us. There are days when you can’t get your head around anything and the situations become overwhelming. Beds might have bugs, food might be spoiled, the guy in the other table is looking suspicious and the weather is too hot to bare. It’s just too easy to spill everything you feel on to the person who is closest to you. The one that probably tries to do everything in his/her power of making you feel better.

Semi-automatic washing machine is better than nothing.

Semi-automatic washing machine is better than nothing. (Georgia, 2014)

Luckily there are only 24 hours in the day and the bad ones are soon to be forgotten, or remembered with a smile as the problem was pretty silly to start with anyway. Remember to stay childish, as adults tend to think too much and overreact in many situations.

Traveling is a huge learning curve for both. Every day makes you discover something new about yourself and puts you in the situations that cannot be described on pen and paper. You will learn to adopt in each situation and for every mood of your partner. This pretty much happens for everyone on daily basis, but traveling just gets it happen faster.

You will learn to be a cheerleader for times when the other one is feeling low. You will be ready to act as a solid rock, if the partner might be falling apart. You find yourself utterly hating your travel buddy in no apparent reason, and then loving him/her endlessly at the next minute, when the problem is resolved.

Then again you will discover the ability to wear the same socks for 4 days in a row, and your partner still smells decent without taking a shower for a few days. And that the bit stretched and worn clothes don’t make your significant other not even a bit less sexy. Of course, having access to cold shower after these days and putting on your perfume feels the best thing ever.

After all, all these weird situations you have to be in will make your travels worthwhile. There will be no shift in values if you do not experience anything uncomfortable, therefore you should embrace the peculiar situations you find yourself in.

Mandatory prerequisites

Getting advanced licenses for diving

Getting advanced licenses for diving. (Slovenia, 2014)

The above might not be true for everybody, there are some things to keep in mind. Ideally both of you should have similar hobbies and value similar things to make it work. Although it is possible for one to be scuba diving whilst the other is rock climbing, it might be better if you can do these things together. In long term, it might not be possible to spend all evenings in the bar when the other is having a dinner alone in a restaurant for example.

The pleasure of achieving common goals is double, as you can cheer for yourself and the one beside you. Both of you need to be open and crave for same experiences, else the roads might just part.

We have heard stories from many single nomads who just haven’t found their perfect travel partner yet – but what could be the a better way to find one if not traveling itself? Then again, kudos to those who prefer traveling alone, you are independent and having the time of your life. Traveling as a couple is definitely not for everyone.

Our two cents

To be honest – traveling with a partner can be the best thing you can ever have. You will always have someone to talk to, someone who will understand you a lot more than the others. Someone who will share the need to go out and find a restaurant that prepares dishes that taste like home. Someone who gets as excited when receiving a package from back home to share the candy mom has sent you.

Its about building memories, sharing same stories, feeling likewise emotions and later on reminding them all together.

This is our secret sauce – what is yours?


If you need bit more encouragement traveling together, check out other couples who we have met during our trip:
Britnee and Mark from US, who just finished their One World One Year trip.
Vitaly and Lesya from Russia, who have hitch-hiked their way to Africa by now.
Ben and Johanna from Netherlands, who are nearly at the end of their year long journey, but ready to move to Tallinn!! (take them out for a drink, they are adorable)

2 comments on “The secret sauce of traveling as a couple”
  1. Nina | | Reply

    Hi there!!! I’ve found you from Mark & Britnee, theguys from Utah….We met them in Chile one month ago, during or world trips 🙂
    Congrats for these words, your post was one of the best I’ve never read about traveling as a couple!
    We’re doing the same, but we are only at the beginning 😉
    Have a good life!
    Nina and Giuse, Italy

    • Kadri Uljas | | Reply

      Hey guys! Thank you so much for the comment and the positive feedback.
      What we can tell from our experience – you are doing a great thing and it has been the best decision have you ever made. We wish you all the best in your travels and we keep and eye out for you.
      Its a small world, so who knows where we will meet:)

      PS- you were really lucky to meet Mark&Britnee, they are just hilarious couple.

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