Make or break: travelling as a couple

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Travelling as a couple can present unique challenges (and advantages) on top of the exhilaration and standard stress that accompanies long-term travel. Will it make or break the relationship? What happens when one person wants to go to the Full Moon Party and the other wants to jungle trek?

Like solo travelers, couples have various travel planning, doubts and logistics to negotiate. But there are also a few, singular pre-trip myths that couples must confront, like 'that we’d kill each other,' according to Adam and Megan Seper, who spent a year on the road, visiting 11 countries and writing their World Travel for Couples blog. 'Most of our friends and family had that concern,' said Adam. 'They really thought spending 24 hours a day together for a year would do us in, but we were totally fine.'

Former corporate consultants Ryan and Jen Fuller, rather than hopping continents, spent six enviable months travelling and living in Argentina and Chile. The biggest myth they busted, they said, was that it's hard to quit your job and travel. 'So many people focus only on the challenges and risks associated with it. Turns out, it's actually quite easy. You just quit and go.' And the primary source of stress? 'The biggest stresses we had were things like "which cafe should we go to today?" and "malbec or syrah?"'

In most areas, travelling as a couple has notable advantages, the biggest often being budget. In many destinations a double room is the same price or only slightly more expensive than a single. You can also share dishes, as the Fullers often did while exploring the extravagantly meaty Argentinean food.

Then there are the intangible advantages. 'Honestly, my wife and I just really love to hang out,' Adam Seper reports. 'And when on a long-term trip, you do a lot of hanging out, on buses and trains, in hostels and parks, in restaurants and bars.'

Image by faungg

The Sepers also routinely employed the 'divide and conquer' approach to their travels, where they could split duties, allowing the person with, say, organisational strength to handle planning itineraries and booking rooms (Adam) and the person with bargaining skills to haggle over tuk-tuk fares or purchases at the market (Megan).

'Get ready to find out the worst of your partner,' say Two Backpackers (aka the soon-to-be-married Jason Castellani and Aracely Santos), who travelled Central and South America for 11 months, posting travel videos along the way. 'Will they whimper when sore, complain when challenged or blame you in despair?' They also note that any lingering privacy you might have had around your partner will be gone. 'Got traveller's diarrhoea? Loud noises and stinky stools in a crowded hostel are inevitable.'

'The primary advantage travelling as a couple is that you are with someone that connects with home,' Two Backpackers adds. 'It makes you less homesick during long-term travels.'

Like the Sepers, Two Backpackers also worked as a conditioned team while travelling, sometimes playing bad cop, good cop. 'This can help when negotiating a cab fare or tour. One continues to walk away disgusted by the offer, while the other begs the service person to come down on the price or offer more. Don't feel bad about negotiations, tourists are usually being overcharged.'

Jason and Aracely’s last bit of advice for couples is to embrace the freedoms. 'When people travel they are much more likely to experiment - hence travel tattoos and hallucination stories.'

This article was updated in February 2012.