Countless people told me and Michael that our 2 month around the world trip would be a ‘make or break’ for our then 4-year relationship. Unless you do it, you can’t imagine how hard it is spending 24/7 with the same person, being in foreign countries that have a different first language to English, having limited internet to find your way about and add to that carrying a 25 kilo backpack each, jet lag, mosquito and bug bites, sunburn and sometimes 24 hours of travelling, it’s definitely the most extreme test a healthy relationship can be put through. But I’m so thankful that we managed to get through every challenge that was thrown our way so that we were able to come home stronger than ever as a result of it.
Incase anybody is going travelling, or just wants to read about some of our experiences, I thought I would shed some light on the reality of travelling, especially the things you don’t really think about pre-travelling. It was the most amazing experience of my life and there is one million pro’s, but there’s a lot more to it than the stunning scenery, cute memories and happy times spent exploring new countries and sunbathing on the beach.
Be willing to make sacrifices and always compromise
When you are travelling across 4 continents, 9 countries and a whole lot of cities there’s bound to be things your significant other will want to do and see that you’re not interested in/ would rather spend your time elsewhere. In Bangkok, I made Michael come to a Unicorn cafe with me – it literally had Unicorn decorated walls and ceilings, Unicorn food, Unicorn onesies that you could wear and so many Unicorn teddies. I’m so glad I convinced him to come with me as it ended up being such a funny experience.
We spent a week in LA and although we done mostly everything we had planned to, I really wanted to see the read life Barbie house that’s owned by the creator of Barbie and to go to the Cupcake ATM (it’s built into a wall in the street and gives you Cupcakes). But I had to understand that Michael really didn’t want to be dragged about looking for these two things that he couldn’t care less about in a city thats alien to us. You should always be willing to compromise with your partner and meet them half way: if they do something you want to do, you should do something they’re interested in.
Arguments are inevitable
Although, our arguments were so small and petty we both can’t remember what we even argued about and why. I think when you spend all of your time with someone, some of the things they do start to irritate you. That can be said on behalf of both of us. Being with someone constantly is intense and you can end up taking your bad mood out on them if you have no other outlet (i.e. no access to a gym, can’t go a walk because you’re in an unsafe area, can’t speak to your loved ones because the wifi connection is terrible). During these times, you just have to remember that you love each other, you will soon make up and it’s just not worth being stubborn, holding a grudge or being annoyed.
Patience is key
Travelling is tough no matter where you go or how long for. If you’re waiting on your other half googling directions, if you’re trying to find somewhere good to eat or even if you’re waiting on your girlfriend taking 2 hours to get ready (sorry Michael), having patience is one of the most important things, especially if you want to avoid arguments.
You will help each other more than you think
Every time we went somewhere new I unpacked my backpack (I had packing cubes but it still wasn’t easy). I would then struggle to fit everything in when we were packing up again, which was every few days. Because he’s stronger than me and knew how to squeeze everything in, Michael had to do mines as well as his because I was hopeless. He also had to look after me when I got a bit too sunburnt in Thailand. And when I couldn’t even move or talk because of dehydration in Las Vegas. You do things to help each other daily, even if you don’t realise it. When it’s just the two of you, it’s so important to look after each other, especially when you’re at the other side of the world from home.
You might struggle to have alone time
Maybe it’s the places we went and because we were on a pre-planned schedule, but there’s not many times we did our own separate thing. Michael would go to the gym if we had access to one or would sometimes go for a swim while I got ready or read a book. But that is only one hour. You’re still spending the other 23 hours of the day together. It is definitely beneficial to take some time to just do your own thing, even if that’s watching your favourite series on Netflix whilst they listen to music.
Don’t have money-related resentments
Before you leave, decide how yous will sort your money and pay for things. Some people like to put their money together, but we decided to keep our money on separate cards and we pre-paid as much as we possibly could (excursions, hotels, etc.) That way, if one of us wanted to buy clothes, or even if one of us wanted to get a dearer meal and a few cocktails whilst the other drank water, we didn’t have to stress about someone spending more money than the other. We used the Revolut card which was absolutely amazing. It’s contactless, you can easily transfer money onto it from your bank and you can also transfer money to other Revolut users on the app. This meant if I forgot my purse and Michael paid for my expenses all day, I could easily transfer him the money.
We actually didn’t worry too much about money. We had both saved up the same amount and were buying whatever we wanted – which is the way it should be when your travelling for a short period. There’s no point depriving yourself of simple luxuries – like 7 iced lattes from Starbucks over 2 days haha – because you don’t want to overspend. If you’re not on a strict budget, the most important thing to remember is to have money in your bank as a backup.
Don’t disregard fast food restaurants
This might be an obvious one but as a result of trying to be cultured, several things ended up making my stomach churn which put me off local food, so I basically lived off McDonalds and Subway salads. Its hard, especially when you’re trying to save money, to eat healthy and/or tasty meals 3 times a day. I literally lived off of burgers, but I had some of the most amazing meals of my life doing so! This is probably bad advice but unless you’re travelling long term, don’t get too hung up on your body or health, because realistically, you will eat at the first place you come across (which is usually a fast food restaurant) if you’ve been walking about all day and the hanger is starting to creep up on you.
For the most part, it’s definitely not glamorous or romantic
Imagine the following 3 scenarios:
1. You have just arrived in Hong Kong, carrying 25 kilos in weight each. Nobody speaks English. Nothing’s in English – not even signs. The humidity is 95%, there are thunderstorms and its 36 degrees. You have to squish onto an extremely packed subway, knocking people out the way with your backpack and everybody is staring at you because you’re the only pale, freckly, blonde person in the city (thats what it seems like anyway). You then have to wait 6 hours before your hotel room is ready; exhausted, sweating, hungry and actually missing Scotland for the first time ever.
2. You have hired a car for the day to drive about the island of Koh Phangan, Thailand. You spot the most beautiful beach, but first you have to make your way through horrible, thick, muddy sand. You convince your boyfriend it will be worth it once you cross the worst of it – just a short walk and you will be on a beach with water and sand so beautiful it resembles the Caribbean. After a good 15 steps, you realise you’re sinking further and further into the mud. Quicksand. You panic, scream, try to run back but the faster you run the further your feet sink. Your flip-flops break as the mud pulls at them while your boyfriend is shouting about the mud ruining his new shoes, but he has to pull you out because your legs are sinking deeper and deeper. The mud is up to your knees and it’s like tar; black, stuck to the surface of your skin. Still shaking and traumatised, you’re worrying about the rental car – the one you can’t get dirty or you’ll have to pay a hefty fine. A kind local man lends you his hose, but you have to walk around footless for the rest of the day (while exploring the island) because your flip-flops are long gone.
3. You’re in New Zealand. You’ve been drinking all night thanks to a very generous family friend supplying you with an unlimited amount of free alcohol at the bar he manages. You go home and have your alarm set for the early hours of the morning as you need to check out. You both wake up ill but have one hour to clean the apartment, get ready and pack your backpack before checkout time. It’s only 10am but your flight to LA isn’t until 11pm. You have to wait about all day and night until you can eventually make your way to the airport. You then have a 12 hour flight to look forward to; extremely hungover because you haven’t drank in months, claustrophobic because you’re squished in the middle seat on an airplane and you are fighting the urge to be sick as you take off for landing.
I know it seems like I’m complaining, I can laugh about these situations now but when you are experiencing those traumatic events and never-ending days you just have to remember that everything will be okay. For every really bad day there will be so many good days to make up for it! You just have to sleep it off and not worry too much about missing out, especially if you have at least a few days in each place where its possible to make up for lost time. Most importantly, make the most amazing memories ever. I would give anything to be back in Auckland just now, even with the hangover from hell, because at least that means I would be waiting on my flight to spend a week in LA again!