If you’re in a long term relationship, I am going to guess that one of the things holding you back from travelling is your fear that you will break up as a result of it. And when I say you’re going to break up, I really mean you’re afraid that your significant other will find someone else and cheat on you or dump you (or both) while you’re gone.
Completely understandable, you’re human after all. As much as you hate to admit it, there’s a part of you that wants to keep your partner at arms length to prevent the scenario above from happening.
The ugly truth about long term travel and long term relationship
The truth of the matter is, most long distance relationship doesn’t work. It simply doesn’t. Unless your relationship has a solid foundation of VERY OPEN and HONEST communication, it’s not going to work out.
If one of you is thinking that you want to break up or want to meet someone else, well guess what, your wish will be fulfilled because that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
Honestly, it’s probably better you break up before you travel because at least there’s no hard feelings when one of you leaves. Best case scenario, you’re both still single upon return and you can resume where you left off.
What if you really want to make your long term relationship work despite the fact that you are travelling long term?
Still determined to make your relationship work and fight against the odds stacked against you? That’s great, let’s see what we can do to help you in this situation.
The first and most important thing is you and your partner’s desire to stay together. If you both really want to stay together and you really don’t want to break up, then you’re off to a good start.
Which leads is to the second thing you need to do to keep your relationship somewhat healthy as one of you travels (I say somewhat healthy because your relationship will still be strained because being physically apart for so long is simply not good):
A famous book called “The Five Love Language” by Gary Chapman states that everyone feels love in different ways. Everyone has one crucial love language, a second important one, followed by a third okay one, fourth not-so-much one, and a fifth non-existent one.
For me, my five love languages are (in order of important to not important):
- Quality Time
- Acts of Service
- Words of Affirmation
- Physical Touch
As you can see, the most important thing for me is to spend time with people I care the most. The more time I spend with someone important, the more I will feel loved by that individual. Acts of service is also important to me and if my partner is always helping me, then I feel happy. Words of affirmation and physical touch somewhat makes me feel happy but it’s not a huge importance. Finally, I feel nothing when someone gives me a gift (unless that gift is a vacation together – see how that works?).
Let’s take Karen (my girlfriend) and see what her five love languages are:
- Words of Affirmation
- Physical Touch
- Quality Time
- Acts of Service
As you can see, it’s very important for Karen to get verbal validation. Whenever I tell her I care for her, she feels loved. Whenever I give her a compliment, she feels happy. But, if I say something negative to her, she will get really upset. Physical touch is also important to her and she loves hugs, holding hands, and cuddling. Quality time and acts of service is also nice but not crucial. Finally, gifts does nothing for her (unless the gift you give her has words written on it – see how that works?).
What worked for me
During my 380 days of travel around the world, Karen and my sisters decided to start my trip with me. They joined me in Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. When my sisters left, Karen continued with me to South Africa and surrounding countries. Finally, we went to Asia together for a few weeks before Karen flew back home to Canada.
I remember speaking with a Swiss guy while I was in Australia about this. And we both agreed, there are many times, you wish your girlfriend was there to see what you are seeing. The world is a beautiful place and it’s best explored with someone special than to do it yourself.
Because Karen took the time to fly out and spend time with me, it made a huge difference in our long term relationship.
What worked for Karen
During the first 8 months of my travel, I spoke to Karen nearly everyday. We spoke via whatsup or I would call her and we would have a lengthy chat.
This made a huge difference for Karen as talking to me was very important to her.
What didn’t work for me and Karen
The last 4 months of my trip was a different story. As soon as I started travelling to more adventurous destinations in South America like Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana, it became increasingly difficult for me to talk to her. Wifi wasn’t always readily available and I was often exhausted from travelling at such a rough condition.
After I was done with South America, it was the same story in Europe. I was travelling so fast that I didn’t get many moments where I would sit and chat with her on the phone. Because I was determined to visit as many countries as possible, I was zooming all over Europe via train with no wifi access meaning it was hard for me to text or call her. By the time I reached my accommodation, I was usually dead tired and went straight to sleep.
This caused a strain in our relationship because Karen wasn’t getting her needs met which is words of affirmation. I was also getting annoyed being constantly pestered by her that we NEED to talk. At that moment, I felt she wasn’t being understanding at how exhausted I was and talking to her the entire day was going to be difficult for me.
It wasn’t until Karen flew out to Europe near the end of my trip that she realized how exhausting travelling between cities was. Thankfully, she was able to see things from my point of view. At the same time, I was also able to see things from her point of view when she explained to me how she felt when I was unable to call and talk to her.
Benefit of long term travel on long term relationship
If for some reason your long term relationship manages to survive while you’re travelling long term, then congratulations. Because now you’re going to reap the benefit of long term travel on long term relationships. There’s a saying…you can’t have fire if you don’t have air. And you can’t have air in your relationship if you are together all the time. You need that space of being apart, and with that comes a rekindling of the flame you once had.
Your time apart will give you the necessary time to miss your partner more. To remember the good times you had including the small routines that you enjoyed doing together like going grocery shopping or cooking together.
So when I came back to Canada and Karen and myself had our reunion, things were better than ever. Sure, we needed time to get used to being around each other all the time again but that’s really a small thing.
So, if you’re determined to make your long term relationship work despite the fact you won’t be seeing much of your partner while you travel long term, then do heed my advice.
Even while travelling, don’t forget about your partner’s needs. Here are some examples:
- Quality time partner – Make sure your partner is flying out to see you, or you are flying close enough from home so you and your partner can meet and spend time together.
- Words of affirmation partner – Make sure you have plenty of lengthy chats over the phone.
- Acts of service – Make sure you’re still helping each other to the best of your ability even if you are apart.
- Gifts – Send your partner a thoughtful souvenir.
- Physical touch – Same as quality time, make sure you’re making that time to be see each and be together in person.
You get the idea. And finally, the most important thing is you try. Because as long as your partner sees that you are doing your best, that itself counts for a lot. So do what you can and make the best of it.
Remember, you’re both human so cut each other some slack. And finally, don’t let being in a long term relationship prevent you from seeing the world. One of the worst crimes you can commit is fighting with your partner because he or she was the obstacle to your happiness. If travelling is a must for you, then just go for it it. Go travel and communicate with your partner how you’re going to make it work.
If your partner is not very supportive, then perhaps your relationship has run its course and you need to break up. But, if you have a supportive partner who wants to see you be happy and make your dreams come true, then I think you owe it to him or her to make sure to make things work while you’re out exploring all the world wonders.
Or better yet, travel around the world together. But that’s a different blog post article for a different day.