How A Trip Around The World Threatened Our Relationship

Taking a trip around the world should be a romantic experience for any couple in love, shouldn’t it? Well we can’t speak for other couples, but it was no romantic getaway for us, at least some of the time – ok, many times. In fact, it was quite the opposite. We’d never fought so much in the seven years we’ve been together. It’s safe to say that by the end of our trip around the world our relationship was strained and apparently not aging well, so much so that if it had a face it’d look like Michael Douglas.

What happened?

Did we take a break? A moment of separation? Is our marriage heading toward divorce (not that that’s legally possible as our country does not recognize our marriage)? As Julie Andrews once infamously sang, “Let’s start at the very beginning…”

Before we left Chicago last year to travel, we had been together for a little over six years. Our relationship had always been simple. We rarely had to put much work into making it work and weren’t an argumentative couple, but we talked a lot. Conversing has always been one of our main strengths and has really helped us avoid many common issues in relationships. There were a couple years where our age difference (almost 5 years) was a bit of an issue. However, once I graduated from college and began contributing an income, Auston was finally pleased and it was in the past. We saw eye to eye on most things and when we did disagree, we never screamed or yelled. We just talked about it rationally (most of the time). We were mellow. It was easy. And we expected it to stay that way.

Relaxing in Caye Caulker, Belize

Relaxing in Caye Caulker, Belize

Then came our first stop on our round-the world trip in Mexico City. Within the first week we were yelling at each other in the middle of the street. We were so worked up and the conversation was so heated that we just had to walk away from each other to cool down. Not like us at all. The fight revolved around caring for our belongings in the hostel. I was a little carefree about securing my bag every morning and Auston did like we were living with thieves in a halfway house. That’s just the beginning. Throughout the rest of the trip we argued about how we’d spend our day, where we would stay, how much money we’d spend, where we would eat for dinner, whether or not we’d go out that night, how much money we were spending, etc, etc. The list goes on.

We argued about everything and anything. If there was a decision to be made, you could almost guarantee we’d take opposite sides. This was so unusual for us and it sucked. It sucked bad. I was so exhausted by arguing. At the point of our trip when we were in India for a month, Auston wanted to stay put in New Delhi and I wanted to travel around. This is finally the moment when we realized we didn’t have to do EVERYTHING together. We’re perfectly capable of splitting up for a few days if it meant we each get to do what we want. After all, how often do you get to visit these incredible places? We both compromised a lot, but at some point we figured there’s no harm in us both doing what we want. The week apart was great. It gave us time to miss and appreciate each other. It gave us time to do what we each desired without having to consult the other.

You have to remember we spent every hour of every waking day together. We were just so not used to it. Before we left, I was working second shift and occasional weekends while Auston had standard work hours. We never spent this much time together and really didn’t know what we were in for.

Rafting the Ganges River in Rishikesh

Rafting the Ganges River in Rishikesh

What did we do about it?

Well firstly, we acknowledged the extraneous variables that complicated our relationship. We were constantly on the move. That can take a toll an a person. Always in a new place. Leaving just as soon as we knew our way around. We also had zero privacy. A majority of our nights were spent in hostel dormitories with 10 other people. Or we were CouchSurfing in someone’s living room. We barely had private moments to converse let alone do the deed (that’s a subtle hint to having sex without having to say sex). Then, as I mentioned earlier, we never really had free moments to be individuals and make decisions without consulting each other. Just tiny ones like what we’d eat for lunch had to be discussed.

We had to realize two main things to get through the rough situation. First, we had to not just continue to work at compromising, but be more willing to let the other have his way entirely. This mostly meant not sweating the small stuff. What’s the point in bickering over a sandwich at lunch? We just needed to shut our traps sometimes and go with the flow. Second, we needed to be more independent. We needed to go out and do things solo so that we could enjoy other things together more. Plus, it can help you to meet people more easily when you’re on your own. You’re more approachable and more willing to approach others yourself because you have no one else to talk to. That’s just how it works.

Machu Picchu in Peru

Machu Picchu in Peru

Where do we stand now?

Honestly, this past year was like a workout for us. I know we’re better now than we were at the beginning. We tested our marriage. It was strained and bent. Pulled and stressed. And it’s proven that it’s strong. It was kind of encouraging because, though it was one of the best years of our lives as a whole, it was also the roughest year we’ve had together relationship-wise. It was the first time I felt like it was actually threatened. But relationships constantly change. Whether a couple moves from their hometown, has kids, goes through financial hardships, buys a house, or encounters a medical condition – it can all add stress. I know there’ll be more for us down the road. But I’m encouraged by this experience together, knowing we can handle unexpected difficulties.

This has also changed the way we’ll travel the next year. It’s partly why we moved to Spain. We are excited to have a home base again. To have a place that we can travel around regionally instead of hopping country to country like last year. It’ll be a very different way of learning about the world and I think it’s a sort of break that we need right now. Though I’m sure it’ll come with it’s own challenges. No one says relationships are easy. In fact, we knew it’d be work. We had just yet to experience any of that hard labor and it’s probably good that we finally did.

Celebrating Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Celebrating Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

It’s been an incredible seven years together. We left Phoenix for a new life in Chicago. Ditched Chicago for a backpacking adventure around the world. The world showed us opportunities in Spain and now we're here, madly in love with Madrid. Our plans are open ended and we have no idea what the next year will bring. But we’re incredibly grateful to be doing this together and now feel even more capable of managing life’s opportunities and challenges.

*Please note that I hate writing sappy, love crap about Auston and me. Yes, I love him to death and I know he feels the same, but we’re just not that romantic. We’re terrible at celebrating anniversaries and often view them as just excuses to spend lots of money getting drunk. And one of our favorite past times is making fun of other lovey-dovey couples because we’re mean and find humor in things that are often not humorous. Just call us TwoBadRomantics. TwoEmotionallyImpairedHusbands. TwoHatefulBitches. I'm just thankful we found each other!

Have you ever traveled longterm with a friend or partner? How did that impact your friendship or relationship? Share with us in the comments below and let us know we're not the only ones!

49 Comments on “How A Trip Around The World Threatened Our Relationship”

  1. Talon says:

    Two hateful bitches. I like the ring of that. :)

    1. Yea, that was one of my favorites too Talon. And it’s an accurate way to describe us sometimes!

  2. Miles says:

    Great story! Gotta say, just ended a 2 year relationship the weekend after returning from a 3-week trip with my partner. You guys realized you were still meant for each other while we realized we definitely weren’t! Lol. Thanks for the entertaining post :)

    1. Sorry to hear that Miles, but I’m sure it was for the best. Traveling together is definitely a good way to determine compatibility that’s for sure! Thanks for reading. :)

  3. Sam says:

    Great article! It is really hard, isn’t it? My partner and I (there’s 12.5 years between us!) are finding we have had similar problems, and I think the spending some time doing separate things and being more independent is a great answer. All the best of luck in Madrid; looking forward to reading how that goes for you!

    1. It sure is Sam, but totally worth it! We’re learning how to manage this traveling life together as I’m sure you understand. Auston always says traveling can bring the highest highs and some of the lowest lows. It’s a good reminder to not take those crazy ups and downs out on each other.

  4. kevinrez says:

    Robin totally does all the bending.and giving in. I definitely need to shut my trap more!!! Thanks for the article and the encouragement!!

    1. As long as you have a dynamic that works for you two, Kevin. But I’m sure she wouldn’t mind getting her way now and then! Haha. Thanks for the comment. :)

  5. Sofie says:

    Great article. I think there’s a huuuuuge difference between living together but working separate jobs and traveling together. All. The. Time.
    My boyfriend and I have been together for almost 7 years now and alhough we haven’t embarked on a long term trip yet, I’m sure we’d be going through quite some arguments as well. We’re actually very different people and although we don’t fight a lot, I know that travelwise we would disagree ofen.
    Actually, I’m totally into traveling, while for Boyfriend it’s the only way he gets to do his passion, which is snowboarding.
    So no long term trips planned at the moment. But who knows, someday. And as you say, you don’t have to do everything together.

    1. Thanks Sofie! You are so right – traveling together adds a completely different element to the relationship. One we totally didn’t expect! But in the end I think it was good for us. Perhaps it would be good for you two as well if you ever travel long term together. Though, through this experience, Auston and I have realized there’s no harm in traveling solo when it’s best. After all, just because you’re a couple doesn’t mean you’re not still individuals. I think that can be easy to forget after so many years together.

  6. Eric says:

    I can understand what you and Auston have gone through. It is hard, especially no autonomy and privacy. It always helps on my trips to take even a few hours apart. I can have the lunch I want, spend as much time in the store as I want. We need that time too. I also don’t envy spending so much times in hostels. Sex and intimacy is a very important part of a healthy relationship, and a great way to help end arguments. But having Thor from Germany in the next bunk listening…not too intimate, unless you are into that!
    I hope your travels in Madrid with a good home base helps bring a less hectic dynamic to the relationship.

    1. Agreed Eric. Just a few hours apart can be important sometimes. Especially since that’s what our relationship was used to before when we both had jobs back in Chicago. It’s been an adjustment but finally having a home base in Madrid has been a huge help to managing some daily frustrations. I love sharing my room with only Auston instead of always being in a hostel dormitory with “Thor from Germany”. Haha.

  7. Adam says:

    My boyfriend and I had some challenges when we travled together (just short trips) but while we might argue during the vacation, after the fact we realize we got along quite well and we’re just focusing on silly, little problems.

    Thanks for sharing the story about your relationship while traveling long-term. I’m always quite curious about this subject since I traveled solo for my entire backpacking trip.

    1. Thanks for sharing Adam. It’s good to know we’re not the only ones who bicker over silly little problems. I’m just as curious as to how people travel solo for so long. I always admire their bravery in being able to do it all on their own. I think Auston and I both wouldn’t mind giving that a shot one day for a shorter trip apart just to experience it. But mostly it’s comforting to know we always have each other when were in a new, unknown place – even if that means making some compromises.

  8. This made my day and brought a smile to my face. I’m glad I have you amazing two guys to learn from and admire. I definitely learned a lot from this.

    1. Thanks Josh! We really appreciate the kind words. On the other hand, there’s probably a lot you wouldn’t want to learn from us! Luckily it’s our blog and we can make ourselves sound as amazing as we want. Haha.

  9. The Boys' Travel Blog says:

    The longest we’ve been on the road at once is just over a month. It seems the tension is directly correlated to the degree of development of the country. The more it’s in the third world, the harder the travel is and the more we get on each others nerves. India was a killer.

  10. Shay says:

    David- you recently read our blog post about our first tiny Asian apartment which included a great lack of space and, especially, a lack of release from one another, so I can absolutely relate to this. The added pressures of being in a new environment are stressful enough, added to the nonexistence of privacy and the attached-at-the-hip attribute that comes with traveling with someone. That’s great that you both were finally able to go your separate ways for a bit. I’m sure that time away from one another changed the game completely. At least for us, we have a home base with a group of friends to run to if we felt the need to escape. But, in the end, sharing this experience with another person is the most incredible form of bonding we’ve had yet. Great post!

  11. This was an uplifting article that I needed to read. My husband and I did the same thing you guys did. (In fact, we’re in Barcelona. ) We left everything behind in Hollywood with our backpacks and a little money . We are having our bad moments now from all the stress and financial issues and worries about what to do next, but I know it’ll be worth it for us. I know that we’re strong enough to make it though anything. Thank you for that little encouragement that my husband and I needed. It meant a lot.

    1. Hey Josiah and Miguel! I’m glad you could find encouragement from this post. We can relate to the stress and financial issues of traveling and living abroad. It just takes some time to adjust and lots and LOTS of communication. You have to acknowledge that a traveling/expat sort of life is not something we’re normally taught to handle or have any experience with so of course there’s going to be a lot of strain put on a relationship and that’s no one’s fault. All that matters is how you handle it together. We’re wishing you guys all the best and hope you’re enjoying Barcelona. Let us know if you make your way to Madrid. :)

  12. Wow I loved this post! (especially your last paragraph, soo funny :) )
    It can be difficult to travel as a couple for sure–particularly when spending 24/7 together. My boyfriend of 2 years and I are road tripping Australia in a campervan at the moment, and that is very hard. Constant togetherness. It’s a challenge because he is an introvert and I am most certainly an extrovert. Sometimes, I just have to force myself to be quiet so that he can have some moments of peace. :) Great article, guys!

    1. Thanks Amy! I’m glad it entertained you. I think it’s great that you and your boyfriend both know yourselves well enough to know when it’s time for those moments of peace. It’s important to recognize each other’s differences which can stand out all the more when traveling together constantly. It’s all about finding the right balance!

  13. I loved reading this. I really believe the key to travelling successfully together is giving each other time apart. I learned this many years ago when travelling with a friend. I was planning out an entire itinerary of activities and she just wanted to chill (bake?) on the beach.

    My husband and I do quite well traveling together, but haven’t tried a full year-on-the-road…yet. We did spend a full month in Italy, mostly to visit his relatives, and that was simultaneously joyful and stressful. One of the most-healthy things we did was have time apart from each other. Often, he’d spend time with an aunt or cousin and I’d go wander a nearby village.

    Several years ago, my ex and I spent 6 weeks in Buenos Aires. Once a week we had a “free day” apart from each other. It worked wonders for us. Funny, though–sometimes we ended up wandering away from each other only to discover we both chose to go out and do the same thing. So we’d laugh and have a cup of coffee together, and wander away again on our individual adventure for that day.

    Hope you’re loving life in Spain/Europe!

    Randall Shirley, Travel Journalist &

    1. Auston Matta says:

      Couldn’t agree more. Time apart is super important and just understanding each others’ differences. So funny that you guys would end up at the same place. That would never happen to us! hahaha.

  14. I’ve traveled with artiness in the pst for up to three weeks only, and even that had its stresses. It’s the whole thing about compromising on things to do, where to eat etc that is a challenge.

    After traveling alone most of my trips since 2011 though, I am very excited this year to be going on trips with my boyfriend and start making those memories together!

  15. stefanarestis says:

    Oh dear- this just set off a few tantrums between us…I just lost our camera and Sébastien suggested a week apart…

    …just kidding, but we find that most arguments between us are usually down to fatigue and also being hungry (the “I’m booking a one way trip back to London/Lyon!” line being overly used…).

    Also, having some sort of more permanent base somewhere changes things a lot we found (and a good mattress!!)

    1. Auston Matta says:

      For sure Stefan. There’s no way we could ever be nomadic anymore. After a year of that shit, we realized we really need a home base. Best thing we ever did, but not something we’d do again…at least not the same way. Moving around ever 4-5 days and staying in hostels all the time is exhausting and gets old. Fatigue is definitely an issue. Oh ya, and David totally got drunk once at a wine battle in spain and lost our camera. I guess these things happen…

  16. michael says:

    Sarcastic humor is the best

  17. Austin – it just clicked – was this why you hate India?

    (I had to look up wine battle – before realising what it was, it conjured up all sorts of images of glass bottles and red wine being thrown around hysterically!)

  18. Dana says:

    I can totally see how this could happen! Like you said, a completely different life with different variables. Really happy to hear that in the end you figured out a way to make the trip work for you guys. Happy travels :D

    1. Auston Matta says:

      Thanks! Yes its tough but like you said, we found a way to make it work :-)

  19. Franca says:

    I hear you! I know exactly what you mean, me and Dale had some issues too when we started travelling because as you said we weren’t used to be 24/7 together. It hasn’t being easy, we have been together for 5 years and travelling for 2 and half now. Travelling really made us know each other better and, even if it’s hard at times, made us definitely closer at the end.

  20. Jess says:

    When I was young (er) I loved to travel on my own for all the reasons that you found things tough, but my more recent trips have been with my husband and 2 children and although you may think that would be more stressful, it generally hasn’t been.
    We started off imagining that we would need to go off for days on our own along the way during the 4 month round-the-world trip a couple of years back – but we were having such a perfect time (until getting stuck in a bog at altitude but that’s another story!!) that we never did branch off in the end. We savoured every moment together, kind of knowing we were having a magical time that may never be repeated.
    We set the kids – then 8 and 10 – challenges (like climb a mountain, dawn at a monument, visiting a museum) without complaints with the prize of Orlando theme parks at the end – that really worked! (for them – not me!!)
    It’s not that we are the perfect couple/family – we have our moments, but that time some divine light was shining on us.
    We live in lovely Spain too! So coming home never feels like a hardship. Great post. All the best x

    1. Auston Matta says:

      Well it’s sounds like you had a good plan for your family…well done. Thanks for reading and all the best!

  21. Dan says:

    What a great article. It was so honest and certainly not sappy. Good job David! I love Madrid as well. I also like Barcelona…Anyway, keep up the good work guys.

    1. Auston Matta says:

      Haha…thanks Dan!

  22. Mark says:

    Great article. We have a 6+ years relationship as well, and so far travelling together for us is perfect when is just the two of us, the problem comes when we travel with our families or friends. So I try to avoid vacations with others in order to enjoy ourselves.

    Usually we plan in advance what we would like to see, and agree beforehand, food is not usually a problem since I am not the kind of person that has cravings for a particular thing, so I usually let him decide it. But something that is always key is that we need to have our privacy and intimacy, so we always book private rooms for us.

    1. Auston Matta says:

      Interesting! We don’t have any issues traveling with family but sometimes after a few days traveling with friends we just want to do our own thing :-) Totally agree about the privacy though. Private rooms all the way!

  23. Matt says:

    Sometimes the best thing for a couple to do is spend time apart. We do it every now and then. He has his favorite place to visit and so do I. I call it “decompression time.” We probably are NOT having any difficulties at that point, but it makes it nice to come home to someone you haven’t seen for a few days. When you NEVER leave the other’s side, it can get old. I’ve never understood how some couples never spend any time apart, but I’ve always been super independent in how I live. But I do wish more people would figure this out before they suffocate each other without understanding why.

    1. Auston Matta says:

      Totally agree. Decompression time is a great way to look at it :-) And very much necessary.

  24. Joao says:

    I really enjoyed reading your articulate.
    In fact long trips place n overdose of stress in relations, which in my case has already finished with one of them.
    Learned throughout life, that to travel as a couple with more friends, can be a good ideia, as it can reduce the level of stress, since decisions are shared by more people and the group can separate in some occasions during the trip, when the conflict seems imminent. Latter on the couple return together, both excited to tell each other what they did separately and to be in the arms of eachother again.
    Best wishes for the new life in Madrid

  25. Michael says:

    I love this post – especially the part about realizing you didn’t have to be together all the time. Halef and I have had this conversation ourselves. We travel a lot together, but we’re soon to embark on a 2++ year RTW trip. We already know we have different traveling styles, so we know it’s going to involve a bit of time apart.

    Over the past 4 years, we’ve traveled to a ton of places and we always do something that takes us in different directions wherever we are. It’s very healthy and I am glad you guys realized it before you broke up over something that there was a good solution to. Congrats!

    1. Auston Matta says:

      Thanks and good luck to you guys. Sounds like an amazing journey.

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