I'd never given a thought to travelling with someone other than my boyfriend, Lee, mainly because the situation never presented itself. Once upon a time there were vague ideas about doing it alone, but I obviously had more important places to spend my cash, like in Topshop and the pub. When we decided to take the plunge, it just seemed right and it never occurred to me the difficulties we might face as a couple. In the months running up to our departure, I was full of excitement and fantasies about the passion and the experiences we were going to share. I'm ashamed to say I even entertained the idea of a moonlit proposal and an impromptu beach wedding. Oh, the spontaneous romance of it all! Well, how things change.
Life is not a beach, even when you spend all day on one, and travelling is not easy, even with a partner. Although I don't think there's much we could have done to prepare for the trials we have since faced, it might have been easier knowing we were going to face them at all. I'm not saying a partner is the worst travel companion to choose, not by a long shot. In fact, if I was travelling alone, or with friends or family (doesn't leave many options, does it?), then this article would be a lot longer. That's not to say I still can't have a moan because that is exactly what I'm going to do. But I'm also going to impart some advice to you, covering the three most important considerations when travelling with a partner; companionship, privacy and money.
My boyfriend makes for great company, don't get me wrong, but even the most endearing of people become annoying when you're with them 24/7. Lee and I lived together back home, and we got on swimmingly, but in hindsight that's because for the majority of the day we were in different cities. The few hours we spent together in the evening and at the weekends were probably just enough to stop us clawing at each others throats. It dawned on us a few weeks into our trip, that the constant exposure to each other was going to be a challenge. At the same time, we weren't comfortable not being together either. It took a while to find our travelling feet, but when we did, everything got easier. He would go to the pub on his own and I could get a massage without him holding my hand. We still spend the majority of our time together, but we learnt to adapt and not rely solely on one another for entertainment, which brings me to my next point... friends. Or lack of.
Despite the fact I have company nearly all the time, I get the occasional pang of loneliness. Lee can't do girl gossip half as well as I'd like him to, and my pretending to be interested in football isn't enough for him either. We are great friends as well as partners, but we are no substitute for each others mates. I thought meeting people whilst travelling was a given, but so far, third party company has proved elusive. Both of us being chronically shy probably doesn't help, nor does my BRF (bitchy resting face - it's a disease), or the stench of our desperation. I think the main problem though, is that together, we just aren't very approachable. It's like being a couple gives off a constant, impenetrable aura of 'private time', and no one wants to interrupt that. Someone please interrupt! We're so bored of each other!
Lack of privacy; the problem I was least expecting, but in hindsight is the most obvious. There are things that you learn to hide when you're at home, in an effort to not to 'let yourself go'. Everyone has their limits, but the line has to be drawn somewhere, and for me it's always been gas, dirty knickers and unruly body hair. Five months in and Lee hardly even acknowledges when I let one go, he's washed my knickers with his bare hands and he's helped me wax said body hair. Have we gone too far? Are we too close? Will I ever get back the smell-free, hair-free illusion that I had mastered before? Probably not. There is nothing subtle about me now, and what has been seen, cannot be unseen.
However, with grossness, comes closeness. We understand each other better now than we ever have, so much so that we've almost mastered mind reading, and that's a pretty neat trick to have. We can tell when one of us needs space, is hungry or just needs a poo. So our boundaries have changed and there's now only one thing I can't bring myself to do... and believe me, he does ask. Squeezing each others spots. If you catch me doing that, you have permission to kill me.
I've saved the most serious, and the most boring, problem for last; money. There are two points to consider here; saving and spending. If you're not on the same page with both, it's never going to work. Luckily, Lee and I had this down to a tee well before we came away, but it still occasionally becomes a bone of contention, and so our unwritten agreement gets tweaked as we go along.
We've always shared money. It's not for everyone, but it works for us. We saved together and we spend together. Food, travel and accommodation bills all come out of our joint account. Of course, when it comes to extra-curricular activities, we're bound to have different priorities, and this is when we have the odd disagreement. Lee likes a beer in the afternoon, which can quickly turn into ten. I like the occasional massage and have a weakness for shopping. This usually works out fine, as long as we are considerate of each other and the budget. When one of us slips up, we try really hard not to make it into a big deal. Some couples prefer to go Dutch, or carefully calculate each item on the bill, and both work fine if everyone's happy with the arrangement. For us though, sharing is caring, and we'd hate to be one of those couples arguing over who bought the last beer.
In the end, travelling isn't easy, and it can make or break a relationship. If you're a weak couple anyway, the pressure and constant farting will probably break you. That's not to say you can't still have a good time though. We met a young couple in Thailand who were together for a year or so previous to going away, but had broken up a few months in. I had a lot of respect for them, because even though it was an awkward situation, they didn't let it ruin their fun and they continued as friends. If you can manage your expectations, learn to adapt and respect each others space, it will make you. Lee and I are halfway through our trip now, and if I can take my own advice, we'll go home with a strong foundation to build our future on.