1. Manage Your Expectations
ASK: What Do You Expect To See/Do/Feel?
We all travel differently. My travel style is deeply rooted in the experiences i have with people, while other styles range from packed to-do lists or doing absolutely nothing at all.
Knowing what your travel style is can help you plan for days off, nights out, or sweat-soaked hikes up your favorite mountains without disregarding what your partner needs from their experiences.
ASK: How Much Money Are We Willing To Spend [Min/Max]?
Knowing your budget is crucial. I’ve traveled with friends who love to eat out daily. It’s not something that i do, and i hate when i feel socially pressured/obliged to spend money that i’d much rather shell out at an art museum, or time that i’d rather spend on a mountain.
Talking budgets before a trip helps you understand when and where you can afford to dive in, or duck out. It can also lead to better post-trip recovery. If you feel that you’ve spent less on a trip you’ve actually enjoyed, you’ll be more encouraged to step out into the world for another adventure.
3. Make a List
ASK: What do you want to see?
This can be a mental or physical list, but just having something to compare between train rides can make your days feel fuller.
Making a list also forces you to learn about your surroundings, experience people, and connect with your partner. Knowing that my friends and i wanted to see Machu Picchu gave our trip drive. We found tickets faster, and everything in-between was a tough, but much deserved bonus to our adventures.
4. Fuck the list
I have lived in Chicago my whole life and i’ve yet to see the whole thing. Embarking to entirely new countries for a few days at a time with 5-7 things on a wet napkin is an absurd paradox, but we try.
Learning to sometimes forget the list can lead to far more memorable experiences like: tasty street cuisine because the restaurant you planned to visit is on siesta, or diving into a sex shop in the rain and laughing because their’s a blow up sheep in the window. Cherish the moment without investing everything into your plans, i promise it’s worth it.
ASK: What’s Your Comfort Level?
Are you willing to sleep in a hostel, on a beach, in a train or bus terminal? Asking your partner these questions head-on will help you plan on your feet when you’re in a bind. It can also help you budget better down the line if you know that your partner will only sleep in hotels or travel via plane.
ASK: Are There Any Past Experiences I Should Know About?
I’ve been robbed, twice actually. On my first trip to Brussels i had all of my documents and cash lifted off me which now makes me eternally paranoid of leaving stuff behind or getting pick-pocketed.
Sharing this phobia helps your partner understand why you sleeps with your pack, or don’t inherently trust friendly strangers.
7. Safety Sucks
ASK: Is this a good idea?
Be safe and learn. There are 3 things i learned from getting robbed.
First, separate your money. I lost everything because i had it all in one place. Learn to put some money in your pac, smaller bills in your wallet, and the rest somewhere else. If you do get robbed, it’s not as devastating as losing at all.
Be confident. The best advice i’ve ever gotten was to walk with purpose. If i look unfamiliar, afraid, or unaware, it’s most likely how i’ll be perceived. That day, my Belgian friend was walking with her backpack entirely open and wasn’t touched, while i was disheveled, frantic, and wasn’t aware of my surroundings.
Although this method is obviously not fool-proof, walking with purpose, acting as i would in my own city, and foregoing huge maps by asking for directions or being guided by friends or couch surfing mates, has helped me through 23 countries.
Finally, trust yourself. Use common sense, ask, or walk away when it doesn’t feel right. Marianne Pearl once wrote that although her husband [Danny Pearl – see/read A Mighty Heart] traveled to dangerous places, he’d always make sure to take precautions as best as he could. Tell friends/family where you are, research, read reviews, read the news, be confident, and trust your intuition.
ASK: Are You Cool If We Separate For A Day?
However counterintuitive this feels, separating for even a few hours can revitalize your experiences, especially if you’re traveling for a long time. Separate, pick a meeting spot, stick to it, and prepare a plan B if one of you is late. When you do meet, you’ll be surprised to see how many new stories and adventures you’ll have to talk about.
9. Do At Least One Activity Together
ASK: What do you want to do today?
The difference between this question is intention. Reference your list and actually HAVE something to do just in case your partner says “i don’t know.”
If you agree, cool. If you don’t agree, at least it’ll start a conversation that’ll lead you somewhere good. If not, find a market. Markets are brimming with people to talk to, are near attractions, and most importantly, are filled with food.
10. Let It Go
ASK: Is Everything All Right?
Remember that travel, in most experiences, is a pressure cooker environment. We’re faced with mixed up plans, accidents, bad experiences, along with the highs that come with your adventure. Nevertheless, asking your partner if everything is all right gives you a gauge as to how they’re feeling.
If your partner is mad, give them space. If they’re sad, ask what they need from you. Good relations can quickly sour over something as simultaneously crucial/irrelevant as “what bus should we take today?”(Mostly because of built-up tensions) My best advice is, let it go.
Things angered over on the spot never lead to positive ends. Things are said that aren’t meant and since you’ve chosen a codependent route, spending 2 more days angry in the middle of paradise just isn’t worth it.
ASK: Am I/you having a good time?
Often, i like to reflect on my travels and make a mental note as to what went well, what could have been better, and how my next adventure can improve from the experiences i created today.
Reserve this thought-log for long train/bus/flights and enjoy the now. Appreciate your partner, your adventure, and the memories you’re creating. No fear my friends.