Nomadic Partnerships: How to make them work

Everyone has heard of travel partners that can’t stand each other after traveling. Or that friend that is a complete nightmare to travel with. What about that business partner that was really overbearing or lazy?

I think we have all been there… whether that is from traveling with a buddy, a romantic relationship, a friendship or a business partner. Or at least I have anyway. I have seen or had so many different relationships in my life that have been both amazing and a bit volatile. Over the years, I have done my bit to try and learn from volatile relationships and do my best to avoid them. My experience ranges from watching my parents’ divorce, a sibling relationship, a six-and-a-half-year relationship, various kinds of friendships, business relationships, client relationships and travel buddies. I can honestly say that all of them have been pretty intense in their own way… but travel relationships are one of the few that can escalate pretty quickly due to the constant contact and little space you have with one another. It might seem like all roses at first, but once there are cracks… it can all go Pete Tong.

After speaking to a range of clients about this, I thought I’d pull together a few key points to help you make sure your travels with your partner run smoothly. They may seem pretty simple, but you’ll be surprised how many people hide away from a problem, wishing it away. But instead it just gets worse and worse, and it just feels like no return. But the prevention and solution are so simple. Communicate. Apologise. Forgive. Set expectations right from the start. Spend quality time together and time apart. And most of all, enjoy the ride of your relationship.

1.      Communicate clearly and be honest.

It seems like an obvious one… but man, it seems to be the key trigger for most of the world’s problems.

No communication = You start making assumptions based on little or no evidence + No clarity + No resolution + Lack of trust + Unhappiness + Rumination + General bollocks. 

It’s generally a bit wack… especially when you are stuck 24/7 with someone traveling around the globe. In a Ted Talk called “the Mathematics of Love”, Hannah Fry says that people with lower pain thresholds have better relationships… mainly because they just nip the niggles in the bud as and when they happen. Although in this instance she talks about romantic ones, she does say that divorce is mathematically equivalent to a nuclear arms race. This suggests that assumption can be stretched to fit a wide variety of relationships.

I have learned to be honest in all my relationships about everything. Hiding things creates gaps, which then creates a downward spiral. Even it is something that your buddy doesn't want to hear. It is better to tell them openly so that you both know where you stand and can negotiate terms.

Constant, honest, upfront communication is the only way to achieve strong, healthy, balanced relationships... however tricky the conversation seems to be. 

2.     Apologise and forgive.

Another obvious one… but you’ll be surprised how many people I know STILL don’t talk to each other because they had an argument 5, 6 or even 10 years ago. It’s ridiculous. Get over yourself and your pride. Apologise for your actions, and forgive and forget others who have wronged you. Why are you causing yourself the pain and grief? You will have a lot happier travels (and life) if you realise that people are only human. They make mistakes, as do you. Know that mistakes happen from a place of fear or misunderstanding... let it go so you can enjoy the fun things in life. Life is too short for a lifelong sentence of silence treatment and pent up frustration.

3.     Set expectations.

Travelling is such a delicate process when you are traveling with another person. I have had several travel buddies in my life… and it’s surprising how much you learn about someone in such a short space of time… even if you have known them for 15 years. I remember traveling with a good friend of mine, but we were not on the same wavelength. I work at 100% most days… sitting can be a bit of a challenge for me, especially when I am excited! If there is a mountain to climb… I’ll do it. If there is a club to dance at, I’ll probably be there. Sleeping is for the dead. But the friend I was with had a more relaxed approach to life and to traveling. She likes to climb and go on adventures, but also values time to just be and take in life. She's much more risk adverse than me. That meant that although we got on most of the time, but there were points where I pressed her buttons by encouraging her to push boundaries she was not ready to push. If you know me or have worked with me before… I still do this sometimes. It’s in my nature… I sometimes forget in a moment of excitement. But I have the self-awareness to tell people I have this tendency so we can work around it.  

Setting this expectation with people before I work them or before I travel with them means that we get a clear understanding of how we fit. It means that we can find a balance. When I really NEED to climb a mountain, I can go do it and then meet up later for a chill, drink, and chat. No worries, no drama.

4.     Spend time together, but also time apart.

Time together must be fun, exciting, silly, emotional and authentic. Go do things you both like together. Create those lifetime memories that you have been planning for months… but at the same time, don’t overdo it. Remember to be independent… go take the time to be your own person and grow. Doing this means that you can give back tenfold the amount of energy and excitement when you catch up later. There is no point in restricting each other, especially when you are unhappy. Unhappiness can be a catch 22. All you want to do is solve the problem so you spend more time together to make it work. But instead, it is best to go on day trips by yourself, take a weekend to yourself, etc. One of the most empowering things I find about solo-travel is that you lose any form of identity so you reconnect with yourself again… even for a little bit before you become another role made by your surroundings. Take the time to go and find this strand of you and then chat about your experience with your partner. You be surprised at how much zest and energy you are giving back to the relationship.

5.     Enjoy the ride

 Remember life is ALL about having fun and personal growth. So enjoy it! Take what you can from your time together. Arguments will happen, but will good times. That is the beauty of humans: we have a wide spectrum of emotions. Having someone to share them with is invaluable. You have taken a big step by traveling together. Partnerships of any sort are a working progress. Constantly grow, change and discover new things. Don’t be judgemental and roll with it. Trust in yourself, your partner and the universe. You never know what opportunity could be around the corner. There is no point in worrying about what could happen tomorrow until it happens. Carpe Diem: Seize the day.

Having had plenty of experience in both business, travel and romantic partnerships, I would be happy to offer some freedom coaching around this.