I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile. As I move closer to my two-year anniversary with Dan, I’ve been reflecting more and more about how becoming a travel couple has changed our relationship.
Interestingly, I feel like Dan and I have only experienced the extremes when it comes to relationships.
First, we had a long distance relationship for three years in college, where the cost of flights between Ohio and Boston meant we usually only saw each other on winter and summer breaks. In 2013, our study abroad programs lined up in the worst possible way and we spent about two weeks together in total throughout the entire year.
Then, we were thrown into the deep end.
When we graduated in 2014 we went from never seeing each other to moving across the world, living together, and relying on each other solely for support as we jumped into our teaching jobs in the United Arab Emirates.
Through it all, we’ve definitely had our share of struggles but I never had any doubts.
Now, Dan and I both work remotely and we travel full-time, moving to a new city every month. Looking deeper, I can tell there are a lot of things I’m used to in our day-to-day life that are totally abnormal in most relationships!
If you’ve ever been curious about this lifestyle and the impact it has on our marriage, here are 6 of the biggest ways (both good and bad) that traveling long term as a couple has changed our relationship.
1. Gift giving is even tougher than usual.
When you live out of a 55-liter backpack and every inch of space is accounted for, exchanging gifts is hard.
Instead of buying things for each other, we have to get a bit more creative. Last year for our birthdays (which are only 4 days apart) we splurged on an ice-climbing experience up Nevado Mateo in Peru and it’s one of my favorite memories from the trip. For Christmas, instead of exchanging gifts we went to dinner and then dressed up to see the Nutcracker Ballet.
Giving experiences instead of things is all we can do, and I love it. If I want to give a gift and show my appreciation throughout the year, buying something off Amazon just won’t do. Instead, I have to stick to the little things like doing Dan’s laundry while he’s at the gym or picking up a piece of cheesecake to surprise him with when I’m out.
When you travel long term as a couple, thoughtful gestures and experiences are the only gifts you can give in a relationship.
2. We’ve grown closer with each other’s families.
A lot of people ask me how I deal with not seeing my family for so much of the year and I find it kind of funny. What most don’t realize is that I actually spend more time at home than almost any of my five siblings!
Dan and I usually stay with our parents (who only live 40 minutes apart) for two to three months out of a year. Because of that, I actually feel more connected with our families and spend more time with them than I would if we lived in the US.
3. We fight less and communicate better.
Imagine if you were on a road trip with your spouse. You get into an argument about something kind of dumb, and both sit in silence for a bit. After awhile (even if you’re still annoyed) you push it aside and strike up a conversation because you’re bored, and you’re together, and there’s nothing else to do.
That road trip scenario is our life.
When you don’t have friends to hang out with, a job to escape to, family members to see, or any other life at all outside of each other, fights get resolved much quicker due to the simple fact that we’re all each other has for the time being.
This has also helped us learn how to communicate better and keep arguments from starting in the first place because we spend so much time together we’ve both learned how to spot the red flags early and diffuse the situation before it gets out of hand.
4. We’re co-dependent.
When I’m home, this isn’t an issue, but I’ve found when we’re traveling that we definitely become a little (ok a lot) co-dependent on each other. Honestly, this is probably the worst side effect of becoming a travel couple. I seriously just had to struggle to remember the last time we did something, anything, apart.
We wake up together, work together, eat together, go to the gym together, watch TV together, go to bed together, and then repeat it all again. We go out together, go on walks together, take weekend trips together, go to meetups together, get dinner and drinks together, and everything in between. I feel kind of exhausted just reading that and I’m sure you must too. It’s really, really hard to have any separate life outside of each other when we move around so often and never put down roots.
It’s something I’m aware of and working on, but I haven’t found a solution yet. If you’re one half of a travel couple as well I would love to hear your advice!
5. We take each other for granted.
After reading the last section, you may be kind of surprised about this one.
The other day as we were getting ready to go out in the evening I realized that we hadn’t touched each other at all yet that day, despite spending all of it together. Not a hug, not a kiss, not an annoying slap as we pass by each other or even an “I love you.”
We spend so much time together that it’s really, really easy to take the relationship and the other person for granted because there’s never a moment in a day where I miss Dan or wish he was here or laugh at something and think “I gotta remember to tell him about that later.”
If absence really does make the heart grow fonder (at least one study confirms that it does) then this is going to be a problem as the years pass by.
6. We’re masters at compromising.
This is probably one of the best ways that long term travel has changed our relationship. Traveling as a couple rather than alone has helped us both become masters at compromising – after all, we’ve been forced to do it in every aspect of our day-to-day life!
At most of our apartments, we have only one set of keys. Plus, only Dan has data on his phone and for over a month we only had one debit card to share after he was pickpocketed in Bucharest. All of these inconveniences make it so it’s just easier to spend our weeknights and weekends together… always. The little decisions on what to do, see, eat, and even where to move next and which apartment to rent and how to spend our money ass up fast.
We’ve been a travel couple for so long now that it’s second nature to stay openminded, compromise on our plans, and never get dead-set in our opinions before we discuss something together. I think is a healthy habit to cultivate and will keep our relationship strong in the long run.
Becoming a Travel Couple Will Change Your Relationship
It makes sense, but it’s still surprising for me to stop and think about just how very different our relationship would be if we had decided to settle down in the United States and live a more “normal” lifestyle instead.
Traveling long term with my husband has changed our relationship in both good and bad ways, but one thing has definitely stayed the same. I’m still just as in love as ever (I know, I know, so sappy) and I think looking at the past and reflecting on where we’re at can only make our marriage stronger in the future.
I can’t wait to see what’s next!
Ready to hit the road long term with your partner? Get started with the complete digital nomad lifestyle guide Digital Nomad and learn how to make money on the road with the in-depth guides in the Working Abroad Series!