Solo vs Couple Travel: Advice for Traveling with Your Partner

I can enjoy traveling solo on the right occasion. I did it for 5 years, in between boyfriends and travel buddies, because I had to. I wouldn’t let going alone stop me from taking the trips I needed to take.
For me, that started with two years of study abroad in Costa Rica and Italy during college, meeting friends locally after I got there. After graduation, I rewarded myself with three months backpacking through Central America, starting the trip with a friend and then meeting others along the way.
It was on that trip I learned that you’re never really alone when you’re traveling solo, or that you would really need to make an effort to stay alone if your purpose was to be alone. Travelers are naturally drawn to other travelers, like dogs in a dog park, you just can’t help but make friends.

Travel Buddies in Guatemala
Watching a Christmas lighting celebration with new fiends in Guatemala
Even though it’s easy to make friends on the road, it can still be intimidating to be a solo traveler. I was very confident in my travel savviness and I knew I had it in me to get through tough situations on my own, but it’s not the way I would choose to travel if I had a choice. When I make memories on the road, I want to have someone to share those with, someone to laugh with, to be in awe with, and ultimately to reminisce with in the future.
The last trip I took alone was to Brazil in 2008, and it ended in the biggest dilemma I’ve ever faced in all my travels, solo or not. I vowed never to travel alone again after that (that has already changed, but that’s how much it shook me).
Later that same year, I met the man who I would travel with for the next six years. Almost immediately, I made him move to Italy with me for what would turn out to be six months (he didn’t complain). It was the most incredible thing to travel with someone I loved, who loved me, and who could face challenges by my side. We were together 24/7 and I loved it.
It also proved to be a great way to challenge our somewhat new relationship (who am I kidding, we had only been dating 4 months). We came out stronger than we were going into the adventure, and it kicked off an exciting lifestyle for us, together.
Gelato in Italy
Nate and I, five months in to our six month European adventure.
I’ve been asked how it’s possible to spend so much time with someone on the road, and how it’s possible to stay sane while traveling with your partner (or anyone, for that matter).
There is a Latin folk story that I will never forget, because the moral of the story is that if you don’t show someone the real you from the very beginning, you’ll never be able to convince them otherwise later.
In my case, I started my relationship with Nate by traveling right out of the gate, because that’s who I am. We were able to learn and grow together as we traveled, which became second nature for us. We were in our element as a couple when we were on the road.
As for advice about traveling with your partner, if you have a chance to travel with your partner early on in your relationship, do it. Especially if travel is important in your life. If you are past “early on” and are wondering how you could stand to be with your partner 24/7 while you travel (without causing WWIII), I will still go back to the moral from the Latin folk story: Be yourself.
If you need personal space, take it. Don’t deny yourself that surf lesson just because your partner doesn’t want to do it. If it turns out that one of you ends up in a museum tour and the other takes a walk around the city, so be it. If it turns out that you end up always wanting to do the same thing, celebrate that with each other, because it’s truly special.
And remember that it’s not just about you. When you travel with your partner, you must respect their needs as well. If they need personal space, allow them to take it, etc. You signed up for this gig together, so find compromise where you need it to be able to get the most out of your trip.
Traveling is for everyone, and the result will be what YOU make of it.
Snorkeling Hawaii
Find activities that you both want to do.
El Pescadero Mexico
If you need space, take a walk or go for a run by yourself.
Travel is not all rainbows and butterflies. It’s not always sweet cocktails poolside or perfectly manicured, palm-lined beaches. It’s bus strikes, rainstorms, and language barriers, but that’s exactly what makes it an adventure.
Be prepared for challenges, because they will present themselves in many ways, just as they do in your life at home. Embrace the differences together, and celebrate your chance to travel to another country together. Because even on a budget, it’s a luxury that a lot of the world will never know.
Whether you have an opportunity to travel solo or travel with your partner, be yourself, be thankful, and make the most of it.