The Challenges of Being a Couple Abroad


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.

Photo by Lost.In.Time

Chapter 1 : The Bathroom Incident

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 (although me yelling at him to not look at me when I was being sick on the plane is quite funny). 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 done your nails and showered, there isn’t much to do. Luckily, our shower curtain is a huge world map, so now I can tell you  the exact location of Djibouti. What a girl’s gotta do to keep her pride.

Chapter 2: The Unit

Travel is all about meeting new people.  While being a couple abroad certainly has some advantages, it’s quite a bummer in this topic. That creates two problem: difficulty to socialize and lack of individuality.

It’s not easy for couples to meet new people. Being a team of two people often creates the illusion that you do not need or want to socialize with the people around you. Couples really have to make an extra effort to mingle because people will not go to them naturally like they would with individuals. And if they do get to talk with someone, that someone’s probably in a relationship as well.

That’s exactly what happened to us.  The people we really got along with are 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!

Chapter 3: Sacrifices

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 itinerary.

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.

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. But guess what? It ended up being one of the best activity 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!


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7 Responses to “The Challenges of Being a Couple Abroad”

  1. anonymous says:

    I agree that travelling with your partner can sometimes be really difficult. Usually, when you travel with friends or family, you will just keep it to yourself if they annoy you because you know that the trip will last only a week or two. So if after a week you realize that your lifetime friend is not your best travel buddy, well you just have to tough it a few more days.

    However, if travelling with your partner is hard, well there’s no “in a few days it will be over”. As always, communication is the key. As always, it is much easier said than done :P

  2. Margo says:

    It took us a while, but we figured out after a while that mutual respect was the key…. and always, always acknowledging that being the navigator is much more difficult than being the driver -both literally and figuratively…. Oh! And keeping each other fed, watered and w/ libations on a pretty tight schedule. (Kir Royales always trump another museum after 4pm :)

  3. Lauren says:

    I did quite a bit of traveling with my ex boyfriend-people alway say that if a couple can travel together, they can do anything. For me, the worst part about traveling as a couple (as you mentioned in this post) is that you lose your individual identity. And from the perspective of someone who is now single, I would be very hesitant to approach a couple during my travels, although I can’t exactly pinpoint why.

    On the other hand, I would also argue that traveling as two females puts you in the same “couple” category. When I was in Italy with my best friend last September, we socialized much less with strangers compared to when I traveled alone. I think people feel much less intimidated by one, instead of two.

    I really enjoyed this post so thank you for sharing!

  4. Your 3 chapters sound so very familiar.
    I used to travel solo, but since I got in a relationship I now also travel duo. The lack of personal time can really kill me, as you’re on each other’s skin 24/7. Sometimes I need to get out for a couple of hours, just to be on my own. But if your other half doesn’t feel the same, it can be quite awkward to propose a split for the afternoon.

    The first time we traveled together, it occurred to me after two or three weeks that I didn’t make a single new friend. When I traveled solo I made friends on a daily basis but then I really had to make effort to get into conversation.

    What sometimes scares me is that you have someting like an unbreakable bond. You HAVE to get along because you HAVE to stick together. When you have an argument, You need to remember that the next day you have to sit in the bus together for 10 hours so you calm down and don’t say what you would have said otherwise.

    But then again, traveling with a partner has great advantages too. You always have someone to talk to, you are less likely to feel lonely and you have someone to share the beautiful things you experience with.

  5. Dina says:

    I like it how you know exact position of Djibouti :)
    I’m traveling with my husband, and to be honest I can’t imagine traveling without him. But I agree with the bathroom, unit, and sacrifice problems. I feel like i have to sacrifice more than him in choosing destinations or what to do, but he might think the other way around. He’s into cheap traveling, and he is great in finding good deals, and he decides our destination that way. Since we are putting ourselves in tight budget (so we can prolong our journey), so he usually wins in deciding the destination. It usually ends up great though, either way, I love exploring new place. Could be here, or there.

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  7. Mike & Luci says:

    Yep…we wrote a whole blog on this! 1000 places to fight before you die….

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