When You Both Suddenly Realise You’re Compromising


Travelling full-time as a couple can be hard.

I’d been travelling solo for four months when I first met Dave. We’d been chatting online for the better part of a year when I flew to Chiang Mai to see him. We had our first kiss at the airport and I moved in with him half an hour later.

Strangely, it felt like the most natural thing in the world.

Lauren and Dave in Lampang

I reasoned that we were just two travellers who were making the most of our freedom to be anywhere and do anything, and we were choosing to spend our time with each other.

The problem came when we discovered we were two travellers who had the freedom to sit in front of their laptops for days on end.

We were two travellers who were spending every second of every day together in a tiny studio apartment.

Weirdly, we didn’t even argue. But we did feel claustrophobic.

Lake in Phayao

I’ve been getting a lot of reader questions about why Dave and I choose to spend so much time travelling solo. Any other full-time travel couple I can think of doesn’t typically spend three months of every year apart. It comes down to a few things:

Our travel styles are actually pretty different: Dave and I are laid-back about anything travel-related and we’re usually happy to go anywhere the other wants. If we were single and making our own travel plans, though, our trips would look very different.

After four years of doing this full-time, Dave is road weary. He’s craving a base from which he can take several trips a year and focus more of his energies on building a business. He no longer experiences a huge rush of euphoria at the idea of taking multi-month trip to many new countries and would much prefer to plan his trips around where his friends are going to be.

I tend to also suffer from travel fatigue, but I get over it in about a month. Last month, I travelled to 14 cities and claimed I was done with travel for the rest of the year. Three weeks later, I’m trying to put together an itinerary that will see me visiting just as many places in September. I’m still consumed by the drive to visit new countries as often as I can.

Having solo travel stints means that Dave can hole up somewhere to work on a project while I rush around seeing places I’ve been desperate to visit. It keeps us both happy.

We both started out as solo travellers: Travelling as a couple is vastly different to travelling alone. You don’t meet as many people; you stay in apartments and guesthouses rather than hostels; and you’re often having to worry about what the other person wants to do. Of course, couple travel has just as many advantages: You get to share the wonderful experiences with someone you love; you can stay in nicer places because you’re splitting the bill; and you’ve got someone else to help you problem solve and, in my case, steer you away from yet another near-death experience.

I enjoy having a mix of both.

We need space: Honestly, sometimes we just need some time apart so we can actually miss each other. I never get the chance to miss Dave because he’s always there. We’re always hanging out in the apartment working, or heading out for dinner with mutual friends, or exploring a city hand in hand.

Whenever we’ve split up to travel alone, it’s been at a time when I’m pondering being single again. The feeling usually lasts through the first week and then I start missing Dave and brainstorming how I can cut short my trip to see him.

Lauren and Dave in Vietnam

Where am I going with this?

I’ve felt like 2015 has been one big compromise. If it was down to me, I wouldn’t have spent this past year in Europe. No matter how hard I try, it always fails to excite me in a way that places like Southeast Asia and Latin America do. It’s not that I hate being here, of course — far from it. It just feels too familiar and I understand how most things work. I’ve been visiting a European country close to every year of my life while growing up in the UK, so it feels pretty… normal.

For me, Europe is where I want to eventually base myself and live. It’s not where I want to travel for the better part of a year.

Dave’s the opposite: New Zealand is far away from everything and, to him, Europe is an enthralling continent full of history and culture and churches and ruins. As someone who studied classics, Europe has everything he could want from a travel experience.

Library of Celsus, Ephesus

I know this, so I always take care to plan long stints in Europe. It’s why we’re spending nine months of 2015 here.

Side note, because let’s be honest: this is hardly a hardship. I’ve spent four months evolving into a slice of jamon while living in Spain, I’ve explored places in the Netherlands that few tourists visit, I travelled to the Baltics and Scandinavia for the first time, and in a month’s time I’m going to be transforming into a cube of feta cheese as I island hop my way around Greece. As far as compromises go, I’ve got it pretty damn good.

But it still feels like a compromise. I’d rather be in Mexico, or Vietnam, or Sri Lanka, or New Zealand, or Taiwan.

Lauren at Shwedagon Pagoda

The other day, I finally confessed my feelings to Dave.

“I think I want to go back to Central America next year,” I told him. “I feel like I’ve been compromising this past year by being in Europe and I want to do something that I want to do next year.”

“Wait, what?” he spluttered. “You’ve been compromising?”

“Yeah.”

He eyebrows drew tightly together. “But we’re only in Europe because you want to be here.”

“What?”

“We’re in Europe because you said we should spend a year here. I figured you wanted to be here so you could be close to your family. I’ve felt like I’ve been compromising this whole year so that you could be here.”

“…”

“…”

IMG_9570

So, what happens now?

I’m leaving Europe in a month

I have a couple of weeks left in Madrid, and then I’ll be heading home to London for a week to say my goodbyes to family. From there, I’ll be island hopping my way around Greece, before travelling back to the Maldives.

This will be yet another round of solo travel, because Dave’s going to be spending this time walking the camino!

We’ll reunite in our beloved Southeast Asia, where we’ve plotted out a week in Bangkok to see friends followed by two weeks spent returning to my favourite Cambodian beaches. We’ll head to Northern Vietnam soon afterwards (my first time in the north!), where we’ll be meeting up with Dave’s parents to show them what we love about this beautiful country. Rounding off our time in Asia will be a return to Taipei to eat everything in sight.

Christmas in Melbourne 

My one constant in my travel calendar is the alternating Christmas festivities between London and Melbourne. After spending last Christmas with my family, Dave and I will be back in Australia in December.

Lauren in Belize

Back to Central America

Latin America and I have some unfinished business. I’d only just begun to scratch the surface of this new region when I was offered a book deal. I cut short my time there when I was three countries in, and I’ve been itching to return ever since. Next year, we’ll be heading to Guatemala to work our way south like we should have done last year. Maybe. I should probably check to see if Dave wants to do that first.

Dave and I are probably going to start having conversations or something

Who knew communication was so important in a relationship? I just can’t believe it took eight months in Europe for us to discover we were both wishing we were somewhere else.

 

Have you ever been in a situation like this? What are your feelings on Europe?

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47 Comments

  1. Diana Edelman
    August 6, 2015
    Reply

    The totally selfish part of me wants you both to NEVER LEAVE MADRID. But, when you put it like you put it, and have so many incredible destinations to visit, it makes me want to get someone to cat sit and hop on a plane and travel along with you. Will miss you, but living vicariously through you (as always).

    • August 6, 2015
      Reply

      Yeah. It doesn’t mean we won’t return to Madrid! I think it’s our best fit for a long-term base :-) I think what it comes down to is Europe is where I want to live and the rest of the world is where I want to travel to.

  2. Christine
    August 6, 2015
    Reply

    I am not yet traveling long term (my boyfriend and I saving up – so we should be soon) in the mean time though I do occasionally travel on my own. I like having my space, and being able to do things at my own pace. I agree a little distance helps me remember all the things I love about him. I have friends though that seem to think that is crazy sauce. They make comments about how things must be shaky between us if I am not sharing every moment with him, when that couldn’t be further from the truth. Its nice to see we are not alone in liking our alone time.

    • November 26, 2015
      Reply

      I think it strengthens a relationship to spend time apart — it’s important to have your own interests.

  3. I feel really fortunate that Tony & I are so compatible—we were before we started traveling and, thankfully, we are still in synch 3 years later. Maybe it’s because we now spend essentially all of our time together and are super codependent, but we tend to have the exact same reactions to places and crave the same things, so we generally don’t have any tension about where to go or the pace at which we travel. Of course, we do still compromise all the time because we aren’t actually clones of each other and a relationship is all about give & take, but thankfully, these tend to be small things rather than big ones.

    I think it’s actually pretty cool that you & Dave feel comfortable taking trips independently of one another when one of you really wants to do something the other isn’t that keen on. The key is finding a balance that works for the both of you rather than against you, and it seems like you’ve done that.

  4. August 6, 2015
    Reply

    I think it’s great that you guys do the stints of solo travel. People are different so compromise will always be part of any relationship. My fiance isn’t into travel as much as me and prefers to have a base so I will be continuing to do a lot of solo travel with him mmeeting me places along the way. Of course I would love it if he was keen to travel more but that’s our compromise and it’s working out well. I’m currently on a 3 1/2 month solo trip and although I miss him, I’m loving it

    • August 7, 2015
      Reply

      I can see that being a similar situation for me and Dave in the future. I can never stay settled for long! :-)

  5. I can totally relate and it’s great that you’re able to compromise and make it work!

    I’m American and my wife Bell is Australian and we met in Brugge while backpacking solo after college. We’ve now been married over 10 years but it hasn’t been without a lot of hardship and compromise.

    It was mostly great living in Europe for 6 years, as it was a new experience for both of us since neither of us grew up there. But now, even though we live in a different region of the US to where I’d previously lived, it’s just too familiar for me and while I still travel a lot, most of it is domestic, though I’m also gaining a much deeper understanding of the various regions in this very big and complex country.

    Best of luck with everything and huge congrats on your book! :-)

    • August 7, 2015
      Reply

      Likewise! :-) And thanks for the congratulations!

  6. August 6, 2015
    Reply

    The “so what happens now?” photo of you made me giggle. I hope everything works out in your favor whether it’s solo traveling or couple travel in the long term! And hey, I’m headed back to Central America as well. Maybe I’ll catch you there!

    • August 7, 2015
      Reply

      That would be wonderful! :-)

  7. Shahbaz
    August 6, 2015
    Reply

    hatd times but that’s part of relation :)

    • November 26, 2015
      Reply

      Yeah, if that’s our biggest problem, I think we’re doing pretty well! :-)

  8. Michelle
    August 6, 2015
    Reply

    Am I the only one who thought this story was heading in a different direction? Lauren, don’t do that to your readers! I thought you were talking Splitsville and it was ruining my morning! :-)

    • August 7, 2015
      Reply

      Ha! So sorry, Michelle! I was worried about that, but wasn’t sure how else to title it! “That Time When Dave and I Both Realised We Were Compromising (But We’re Not Going to Break Up)” haha :-)

  9. Ali
    August 6, 2015
    Reply

    Andy and I talk ALL THE TIME about all kinds of things, and we still have this problem more often than you’d think, where I’m trying to do something I don’t really want to to make sure he’s ok, and he’s doing something he doesn’t really want to for me. And then we realize we really are on the same page just being idiots. We both work from home and we’re around each other almost 24/7 so I imagine we just shorthand and skip over things without realizing it. But the key is definitely to keep talking and let your opinions/thoughts/goals be known. There will always be compromises, but hopefully they’re the good kind. I’m probably aiming at doing some more solo travel because I have the urge to see more new places that Andy does, but when it comes to most trips, he’s happy to go wherever and let me choose destinations. Anyway, I’m glad you guys had this talk and realized what needed to change. It’s never as dire as you think it is.

    • November 26, 2015
      Reply

      Haha, that’s amazing! It’s good to hear there’s another couple out there that are exactly the same! :-)

  10. Anand BV
    August 6, 2015
    Reply

    Me n my gal friend have compromised a lot in life to raise our kids. Traveling was passion to both of us once and due to complications in life, it has stopped all of a sudden! But never the less, as the saying goes – Live your dreamz now and we can alwys melt the ice.
    Pics are really amazing and inspiring for many of us behind the computers and wondering how can we make it happen just like you guys.
    Keep Rocking!!

    • November 26, 2015
      Reply

      Thank you! Feel free to drop me an email if you have any questions :-)

  11. August 7, 2015
    Reply

    You’re coming to Melbourne?
    That’s so cool! I feel like such a fangirl right now, because I live in Melbourne and I read everything you put online (sounds almost stalker-ish).
    Anyway, Melbourne for Christmas is great. Hope you enjoy it as much as you have in the past

    • August 7, 2015
      Reply

      Yes! I’ll be in Melbourne for all of December, and I can’t wait! Last time I visited, we were stuck way out in the suburbs, so I’m excited to explore more of the inner city areas this time around :-)

  12. Luis
    August 7, 2015
    Reply

    Lauren, why haven’t you planned a visit to Brazil or some of the other countries in South America?

    • August 7, 2015
      Reply

      I did plan a visit last year, but had to cut it short because I got a book deal and couldn’t travel for the next 18 months. The simple answer is that I’m only one person and I only have a limited amount of time — I can’t visit everywhere and some places are going to be left for later. I’m sure I’ll get there eventually.

      • Luis
        August 13, 2015
        Reply

        Well I can’t wait until you detail your trip from Antarctica. Hope that happens this year or next!

        • November 26, 2015
          Reply

          Maybe 2016 — we’ll see! :-)

  13. August 7, 2015
    Reply

    I loved this post. Justin and I are exactly the same! We’re currently trying to plan our wedding and despite talking about it all day long, often seem to come to separate conclusions in our heads. There’s clearly a difference between talking and communicating – especially when it comes to men! Like you guys we also love solo travel though and often go off for our own mini adventures. I think having the chance to miss each other is what makes our relationship stronger.

    • August 7, 2015
      Reply

      Yeah, absolutely! A few people have told me it’s strange we often head off to do our own thing, but it’s what keeps our relationship healthy.

  14. August 7, 2015
    Reply

    It was good to read your honesty. I have spent a good part of the last 10 years traveling solo. Earlier this year I travelled 4 weeks with my partner and found it soooo hard. We both have travelled extensively, but I can’t believe how different we travel. I like going where the wind blows, but he likes planning everything to the n th degree. It drove me a bit crazy and our different travelling styles nearly destroyed our relationship. We learnt a lot about each other during that trip and I’m sure next time it will be better. However, in the meantime I am planning a short solo trip, to do the Overland Track in Tasmania, as he is not a keen walker. After reading your article I don’t feel so guilty about going solo :-)

    • August 7, 2015
      Reply

      Travelling as a couple is so different to travelling solo that it can take a bit of getting used to. Separate trips are good for keeping the peace if you don’t have quite as smooth as an experience when you’re together, otherwise, I guess, compromise :-). Maybe you could take a super planned out trip with him, and he can take a more relaxed trip with you, and you both could see if you can convince the other that your way is better :-)

  15. Ola
    August 7, 2015
    Reply

    It great that both of you feel comfortable with traveling independent! But I agree that it’s different when you travel with someone, I experienced that even when I travel with people who have similar expectations that there are still differences…

    • November 26, 2015
      Reply

      Absolutely! There are pros and cons of both :-)

  16. August 8, 2015
    Reply

    I think it’s great that you can look at and evaluate this honestly. Wishing you safe travels — so excited to see your posts about it! :)

    • November 26, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks, Deepti! It’s wonderful to be back on the road again :-)

  17. Dan B
    August 9, 2015
    Reply

    I’ve felt and thought similarly to this. For me I don’t think it’s the best mindset. What I mean is, constantly wanting to do more exciting things, not wanting to compromise etc. I feel like it’s connected to expectation and our expectations are perhaps a little too high? We want far too much for ourselves. Really we should lower our expectations and be happy with what we have? If we’re always looking for more then it’s like having an unquenchable thirst?

    I think it’s easy when long-term travelling to take it for granted. Eventually the excitement wears off a bit and you can start looking for more and more instead of focusing on what you have.

    I don’t know, that’s one of the things I’ve noticed about myself anyway!

    • August 9, 2015
      Reply

      Yep, I think compromise is good. I don’t think it’s good when you’re compromising on something without realising the other person feels they’re compromising, too.

  18. Monica @Pigletandbear.com
    August 9, 2015
    Reply

    Lauren I understand you perfectly!!!

    My husband and I were married for 1.5 years when he decided he had an urge to travel around the world and have some time on his own. We had to compromise in order for a marriage to work so we figured out that he could be 6 months away traveling but we would meet in the middle for a 2 week trip to Turkey and at the end for a 2 month travel through Europe. It’s funny how I’m from Mexico and excited to head towards Europe, while you’d rather be in Mexico or in South America! Long distance relationships can be hard but they are usually worth it. Contact me if you ever need a place to stay in Mexico City.

    • November 26, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks for the offer of a place to stay, Monica! That’s great to hear you and your husband were able to find a way to keep things working — I’ve had relationships end over something similar, so well done for finding a compromise! :-)

  19. Danielle @ EscapingEssex
    August 9, 2015
    Reply

    Really interesting read, quite funny looking back and realising that you both think you’ve been compromising… oops! Glad you’re excited about your upcoming adventures and I can’t wait to read about them :-)

    Danielle / http://www.escapingessex.com

    x

    • November 26, 2015
      Reply

      Yep, I couldn’t stop laughing when I realised!

  20. Christina Soong
    August 10, 2015
    Reply

    It’s so great that your relationship is healthy enough that you can have discussions like this and feel comfortable taking independent trips!

    • November 22, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks, Christina! It’s always fun to fit some solo travel time in our lives :-)

  21. August 11, 2015
    Reply

    Can I just say that you two are so sweet together? That compromise shows just how much you two really care about each other, in an awkward way. =)

    • November 22, 2015
      Reply

      Hahaha. Thanks, Andrew!

  22. I think it’s healthy to go on a solo trip when you’re in a relationship – you always learn new things about yourself.

    I went on a backpacking trip in Morocco in 2013 with a group of trekkers. My boyfriend couldn’t join me at the time for financial reasons. I made many new friends on that trip – if my boyfriend had to be with me there I probably wouldn’t have made any.

    I enjoy travelling with my boyfriend – we both look for the same things; adventure, culture, and food. But I also get thrilled at the thought of travelling on my own. Next month I’m going to Prague on a solo trip, and I really do look forward to exploring the city on my own.

    • August 21, 2015
      Reply

      Absolutely! I definitely feel the urge to travel ALL THE TIME more than Dave does, so our weeks of solo time keep us both happy. And yep, I always learn new things about myself when I have some time away.

  23. Anne
    September 27, 2015
    Reply

    Very inspiring post ! My boyfriend should read this :)

    • October 27, 2015
      Reply

      Haha, thanks, love! :-)

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