I often say that I couldn’t have made it to Europe without my boyfriend.
Moving there had been such a hassle that many times, I wanted to simply drop the project and curl up under my covers. But we were a team. My defeat implied his defeat. Although many things have not gone the way we hoped they would, we still managed to get on the plane to London and build a life there for a year. Many people told us this adventure was either going to break us, or make us stronger – I’m happy to report that it definitely made us a stronger item, but it wasn’t all that easy. Here’s a few chapters of our story as a couple abroad.
Lack of personal space
Having lived together before moving to London, we had already sorted the bathroom situations and had created many means to maintain our private individual moments, hum, private, so this chapter does not have anything to do with bodily functions. It is instead about the lack of space in a studio flat. Let me explain.
When a couple lives in a 10 m² flat 24/7, occasional quibbles are only natural. But some days were worse than others and on quite a few occasions, doors needed to be slammed and sulking had to be done (he told me I talked like my mother, what else was I supposed to do?). The question is: how exactly do you sulk in a studio flat? How powerless are you when the only door you can slam is the bathroom door? I had no other choice but to stay in there for as long as it would take to make him feel bad. But trust me, once you’ve manicured your nails and showered, there isn’t much to do. On the other hand, our shower curtain was a huge world map, so now I can tell you the exact location of Djibouti. And Severnaya. And Uruguay’s capital.
Travel is all about meeting new people. While being a couple abroad certainly has some advantages, it’s quite a bummer in this topic because of two things: difficulty to socialize and lack of individuality.
It’s not easy for couples to meet new people. Being one-on-one often creates the illusion that you do not need or want to socialize with the people around you, even though you are in fact you are dying to. Couples really have to make an extra effort to mingle because people will not go to them naturally like they would with individuals. And most of the time, people that approach couples are most likely in a relationship as well.
That’s exactly what happened to us. The people we really got along with were couples, and more often than not, Canadian couples. Hello, travel experience.
Couples tend to befriend other couples for obvious reasons. If however, you happen to overhear one of their conversations, all you will hear is ‘we’. We are from there, we just visited this museum, we sleep at that hotel. Everyone gets referred to as a we rather than as separate I’s. And sometimes it can get blur the limits of individuality of each person. Most travelling couples create a merging bond that keeps them stronger as an item on given situations, but that bond needs to be loosened up on social gatherings.
Let yourself be for one minute!
That problem is not avoidable whether you travel with your partner, your friend or your parents. At one point, someone is not going to agree with your ideas.
Of course, travelling with your significant other probably means that you have the same, or at least similar interests. But when the day comes that you won’t agree on something, and trust me, it will, it’s crucial that you seize up just how much you are sacrificing. Because as opposed to a friend or a parent, you will be with that person 24/7 during the trip and, most importantly, after. In other words: don’t give up something that is super important to you if it’s going to make you hold a gruge against your other half for the rest of the trip, but be open-minded.
My tip is to always have a first look at your itinerary beforehand. It’s what we (see, I don’t even follow my own rules) did when we planned our trip to Dublin. I don’t like beer and needless to say, I wasn’t to keen on spending a whole afternoon at the Guinness Factory. I went anyway to please my beer-obsessed-but-not-alcoholic boyfriend. And guess what? It ended up being one of the best activities of my whole year abroad.
Planning is the key. No need to have a tight schedule, but at least have a rough idea of what you will be doing. That way, shall there be an argument, it will happen before the actual trip and save you lots of time and energy on location. Spontaneity is overrated anyway.
Have you travelled with your other half? Have you experienced difficulties or challenges? Do you have tips or anecdotes? Speak up!