Traveling the world for a year with my girlfriend taught me a major lesson about relationships - and it's something every couple should know before they go on a trip together
- A year ago my partner and I left New York to travel around the world as Business Insider's international correspondent. Over that time we visited over 20 countries.
- Traveling as a couple can be difficult, tiring, rewarding, and amazing, depending on the day.
- I have found that the best way to reduce the number of arguments while traveling is for both partners to pay attention to each other's basic needs like hunger, tiredness, stress, and needing to use the bathroom.
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Usually, when I tell people that my partner and I have been traveling the world together for the past year, I get two responses.
The first - "Oh my god! That sounds like a dream." - is usually followed by the second response: "But wait, how do you not kill each other?"
For a new couple, traveling together for the first time can be scary. When my partner and I first traveled together six years ago, I remember having the intense fear that I might suddenly discover that I can't stand my partner - or she might not be able to stand me. Thoughts run through your head like, "What if I end up hating them because they are too cheap, too loose with money, don't like museums, don't like the beach, or hate trying new foods?"
Travel has a way of putting relationships into a pressure cooker; it takes away the usual relationship release valves, like friends, family, time away at work, and the comforts of your own home. When you get into an argument, it can be difficult to find the space or time to recover. An idiosyncrasy that didn't previously bother you could start to grate when you spend a week or a month together uninterrupted.
When my partner and I embarked on our year around the world, it was far from our first trip together. We've been taking trips together since we first started dating and had already been to over a dozen countries together. Throughout those trips and our world tour, we've learned to follow one simple rule: Listen when one person expresses a basic need.
It may sound intuitive, but you'd be surprised how many people don't think about this. When I say "needs," I'm not talking about being on the same page about whether you both want a beach vacation, though that's important too. I'm talking about even simpler things: hunger, sleep, stress, and needing to use the bathroom.
When people are traveling, I have found there is a tendency to ignore basic needs. You only have one day to see Paris so, even though you are jet-lagged and hungry, you rush to get in line for the Eiffel Tower.
Or perhaps, the two of you are visiting the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Your partner is hungry now, but you have reservations for a fancy restaurant in a couple hours. Do you go grab a snack or encourage your partner to hold out?
In our case, the answer is to always fulfill the other person's need. If one person is hungry, we both stop what we're doing and go eat. If one person is tired, we find a cafe to grab a coffee or head to our hotel to take a nap. If someone needs to use the bathroom, that becomes the immediate problem to solve, even if it screws up our shot at getting into the museum or making the next bus.
In my experience, the vast majority of arguments that occur while traveling with a partner are the result of one person or the other ignoring a basic need so as not to be a burden or to not mess up the day's plans. Even people who have no problem expressing or taking care of their needs in regular life can become timid about it while traveling. No one likes to be the reason why you have to leave the thumping Berlin club at 2 a.m. due to a migraine.
But when people are tired, hungry, stressed or need to pee, they become irritable and small issues easily snowball into big ones. Fights break out over the silliest details.
While taking care of those basic needs doesn't solve every issue you might encounter with your partner while traveling, it makes it a lot easier to be calm, collected, and rational when other issues arise.
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