I got married in 2017, and the first time I ever travelled together with my husband Faizal was when we went for our honeymoon. Since then, we’ve taken more trips together, with each trip bringing about a better understanding of each other and of how we work together as a couple.
I feel like we are at a pretty significant phase of our lives, a phase where we are still settling into marriage and adapting to life as a duo, but before we start a family. It’s a pretty sweet spot, and one that I feel that travel has helped to enrich. While each new trip brings about new learnings and realisations, here are a few things I’ve learnt so far from travelling with my husband that I’d like to share 😊
1. Travel helps us understand each other better
There’s nothing like travelling together to help you learn more about a person. Even when you've lived together for a period of time, it's amazing how going on a trip together can help reveal new facets of your partner.
This was a picture we took in the flight from our very trip together (which was on our honeymoon!). I've come to learn that Faizal (til this day!) has a tendency to look at the wrong lens when we take selfies
Faizal likes to joke that travelling has taught him that there are two types of people in the world - those who like to be at the airport early when they're taking a flight, and those who like to rock up at the last minute, and while I agree that that’s definitely true (and we're happy that we are both be the type that shows up early 😂), I think that it also extends to other things. Like learning about each other's preferences, our likes and dislikes when it comes to travelling, and also how we deal with challenges. After our first couple trips together, Faizal and I quickly discovered that I can be a grumpy travel partner if I don't get a decent breakfast in the morning, whereas he's ready to roll after a cup of coffee. While I'm open to taking public transport, he would much rather take a cab or rideshare. And while I have a much higher threshold of tolerance when dealing with subpar service (Faizal can't stand this), I am also more likely to be the first one to panic when things don't go according to our plans. Having Faizal as a travel buddy has not only helped me learn more about him but has also been an interesting reminder of my own habits.
Travelling also presents opportunities to connect with your partner in a new setting. One of my favourite things about travelling with Faizal is that it is often a precursor to some great conversations - like telling each other about our family trips growing up, discussing where else we would like to travel too, talking about our plans for our life together, and encouraging each other to try new things.
2. Have a discussion on budget and financial responsibilities
Budgeting may not be the most exciting aspect of travelling, but it is definitely one of the most important ones. Sometimes in the rush of excitement in planning a trip, it can be easy to gloss over the cost, assume who will be paying, or presuming how much the other person is willing to shell out for a trip. That's why it's important to communicate these things up front so that you can avoid confusion or conflict later down the line.
Be frank about how much you are comfortable spending on the trip, and set a budget that's realistic (with some buffer incorporated for good measure!). It’s good to be clear about how the two of you will be paying for the trip, whether it's a case of going dutch, one partner treating the other, or splitting costs (i.e. one person takes care of accommodation while the other pays for transport, etc.), at least for the fundamental items - though please don’t nit-pick down to the last cent or each bottle of mineral water 😝
And while it's easy to say that we should budget and plan for a trip accordingly, I think what is also worth mentioning is that in some cases, your partner and you may have different ideas of what's financially practical and what's not, and that's something both of you will have to adjust and adapt to. For example, before I got married to Faizal, I would have never dreamed of ordering room service when staying in hotels or opting to upgrade my seats on flights with budget carriers - my family never did this, and I always saw it as an unnecessary expense. Faizal, on the other hand, sees it as a worthy trade-off in instances where it provides convenience and time-efficiency. It's been interesting for both of us to learn each other's views and reassess our own practices.
3. Be upfront about what you want to do during the trip
While I've already mentioned cost, I've also learnt that it's good to be candid with each other about what you want to do on a trip. If one of you is a history buff and wants to spend most of your time at museums and historic sites, while the other is more interested in theme parks and food hunting, there might be a potential tug-of-war in how you choose to spend your time throughout the day.
Faizal's reaction when I made him ride the cable car at Langkawi with me, even though the weather at the time was really gloomy and windy and we both have general trepidations towards being high up in a small box in such weather
Of course, this is not to say that you have to give in to one person's demands, but I think discussing it beforehand gives a better chance to find a solution that helps both of you do what you like - whether you compromise and choose to devote time between both types of attractions equally, or maybe spend one day where each person does what they want separately, it'll be a way to ensure both of you are happy on the trip 😊
4. Don’t be afraid to have some alone time This is
probably a good place to segue into the next thing I learnt - that it's ok for you and your partner to spend time apart during your trip. Let me preface this by saying I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with spending all your time together during your travels (Faizal and I have been on trips where I felt like we were attached at the hip and I was completely ok with that 😂). If that works for you, right on! But I think it’s important to also be aware that it’s completely ok if you and your partner want to have some alone time too.
Faizal and I are both introverts by nature, and while we love spending time together, it cannot be denied that we (especially me!) benefit from having periods of alone time to rest and recharge. This is true of our daily lives, so it completely makes sense that it would also hold true during our travels.
This weird picture is a photo Faizal took of me while I was zoning out playing video games in our hotel room (hence the look of concentration). I played two rounds of Katamari Damacy Reroll before we took on the day's activities
Having some time apart can be very helpful if you want to do activities that your partner is not interested in (for example, you guys could split up to do different activities in the afternoon and meet up again for dinner), but I think this principle also extends to having the awareness to respect your partner's need for solitude as well. For Faizal and I, sometimes it's something as simple as Faizal having some quiet time on the balcony to meditate or read while I go exercise or spend some time journaling, and then we get on with our day, all the better for having a moment of solitude for ourselves.
5. It helps to have someone take the reins of planning, but remember that it’s a shared activity
Planning a trip for two is often easier than say, planning a trip for a group because there are fewer people to coordinate as well as fewer preferences to cater to. However, I’ve found that it still helps to have someone take the lead for the logistical planning for a trip, be it booking flights and accommodation or doing research on activities that can be done. It can also be done as a shared activity (some couples I know use their free time on the weekends to sit down together
and plan a trip), or you can divide and conquer (e.g. one person books transport and accommodation, another plans itinerary), but Faizal and I have so far found that taking turns to lead the planning is often the most efficient way of getting it done (but we make sure to run it past the other before finalising bookings).
Either way you choose to do it, the important thing to remember is that this is a shared activity: don’t expect one person to take care of everything and just tag along for the ride. On the other end of the spectrum, don’t dominate the decision-making - make space for your partner to be involved.
6. Learn how to compromise and be flexible
No matter how well you get along with your partner, or how similar your travel styles are, make no mistake - there will be moments where you will disagree on something or get irritated with each other. During our travels, Faizal and I have squabbled on matters both big and small, from something as simple as choosing where to eat, to disagreeing over where to spend the day, to being annoyed with each other for not being able to find the check-in counter for our flight at the airport. It comes with the territory of spending a concentrated amount of time with someone, and it's never going to go perfectly smoothly all the time. The important thing is to learn how to roll with the punches, compromise with each other, and not blame the other person just for the sake of being right (but at the cost of dampening the mood of the trip).
This is a picture of us at Changi Airport after landing from a flight - it's probably a good visual representation of what compromise looks like
I think another good tip is to learn how to capitalise on each other's strengths. As we travel together more, Faizal and I have been able to better identify what each of us is better at doing. For example, Faizal aces at making sure we have all our tech gadgets in order during a trip, a task he assumed responsibility for after I once packed an adapter for a trip but failed to bring the cables needed to charge my devices. On the other hand, I'm far better at remembering to text our parents before and after flights, making sure we pack necessities and having spare cash on hand in case of emergencies.
I think we've also come to learn that as with anything in life, sometimes you get thrown curve balls that you can't control, and you have to choose how you want to deal with the issue at hand. T
here was one time, right before we were supposed to fly out to Langkawi for a short trip, where Faizal and I discovered that he had accidentally left his passport in the pocket of his jeans and I hadn't noticed it while doing the laundry, meaning that we washed his passport in the laundry machine. This happened the day before we were scheduled to fly out, and I think we were both worried about whether we'd have to cancel the trip and were starting to get snappy at each other out of nervousness. But we then realised that what was done was done, so the best thing to do was to move forward and come up with a plan B in case things didn't work out (if you're wondering what happened, we managed to dry out the passport and still get Faizal through immigration, so we got to go on our trip!).
This is the picture of a couple on a beach in Langkawi, relieved that they were still able to go on holiday
7. Don’t expect flawless journeys
With all the travel inspo floating around and Instagram pictures of couples going on exotic vacations to Morocco or staying in private villas in the Maldives, it’s easy to have a preconceived notion of what travelling with your partner ought to look like. But the fact of the matter is, it probably won’t be like that most of the time, and that’s ok! Be open to the idea that travelling with your loved one might not be how social media portrays it to be, and that it may actually surprise you in other ways. An example of this: during our trip to Koh Samui, the resort Faizal and I stayed at had this area of their private beach where they set up a screen to play movies at night, with bean bags and lounge chairs laid out. The idea of watching a movie under the stars while cuddled up with your loved on the beach sounded ideal, so Faizal and I had gotten there early to make sure we got seats, and we were excited for this al fresco movie experience. That lasted all of 5 minutes, however, because as soon as the sun set, mosquitoes started swarming around. We had forgotten to bring mosquito repellant, and Faizal (who was wearing shorts) got eaten half-alive, which meant we quickly had to terminate our moonlight movie plans.
I think it’s also worth noting that you don’t have to go to far-flung locations or stay in swanky accommodations to have a great trip for two - sometimes it’s something as simple as exploring a neighbourhood neither of you are familiar with or taking a short road trip to a neighbouring town (like one of these routes!).
Faizal and I playing tourist in Singapore - this photo was taken from the rooftop garden at the Esplanade
8. Take more photos of the two of you together (and not just selfies!)
So I definitely learnt this lesson the hard way. And by hard, I mean that when I was looking for pictures for this article, I came to the surprising realisation that there weren’t many pictures of Faizal and me together during our travels, except for selfies! Which is not the worse thing - experiencing a place or enjoying your partner’s company is arguably more important than making sure we have the perfect couple shot of us there - but it would have been nice to have more decent pictures of us 😂
Therefore, I urge you to learn from us and hopefully be more prepared - consider some options that would allow you to take photos together, such as having a small tripod, using a selfie stick, or asking others help take a picture of you and your partner (though do be careful, especially in places that tend to have a high risk of snatch thieves or scammers, like when Suzana visited the Eiffel Tower). It’ll be nice to have these photos to look back on as you grow together as a couple.
Please do better than us and get someone to help take your picture who will actually capture you in decent lighting
I also highly recommend that you take photos of each other! While photos together are nice, don’t forget the importance of documenting each other too (read more about this in our article on reasons why you should be an Instagram Wife!).
9. Enjoy the experience and each other’s company This sounds like an obvious one, but I think it's worth mentioning, not least because I know it's something I've definitely needed a reminder for at times 😅 At some points, we can get so caught up in the planning,
executing, and documenting of a trip, that we lose sight of the whole objective of the journey (which is to explore a new place while enjoying the company of the person you love), or the fact that we are lucky enough to be blessed with the opportunity to travel together.
For all the times I have travelled with Faizal, I wish had taken more time during our trips to be thankful and express my gratitude to Allah SWT. I wish I had done less worrying over small details, and more enjoying the bigger picture, like the fact that I have the health and the means to travel, and that I have a wonderful travel buddy in Faizal. If I think about it, it's pretty amazing - I met Faizal (who turned out to be my first and only boyfriend) in 2014. If you had told me as recently as six years ago that I would be married and someday strolling through beautiful places I have never been to before hand-in-hand with my husband, I probably wouldn't have quite believed you. Alhamdulillah for the blessings that we receive!
Toasting to our travels together (and to the mango smoothies we had during this meal - they were delicious)
To end this article, I would just like to say this again: I believe travelling can greatly enrich a couple's relationship, and I can't recommend it highly enough. May we all continue to be blessed with the opportunities to travel with our loved ones, and may we always have fulfilling and enlightening journeys, amin 😊