Everyone has probably heard this piece of advice – travel with your significant other before getting hitched – passed around in their social circles once, twice, thrice. As expats living in Southeast Asia, L & I enjoy the freedom of picking up our weekend bags and meeting across borders.
Our first solo trip together was four days in Taipei and we planned to eat like there was soon going to be a shortage of xiao long bao (小笼包). We had only started dating a few months prior to booking the trip so I was a bit bat-shit nervous.
From booking the flights, picking a hotel, choosing which destinations to visit, to actually being together in Taiwan, I realized why that particular piece of advice is so true.
What happens when you travel with your loved one? Let me try to tell you.
You understand the value of the C-word
As the saying goes, travel brings the ugly out, and expect the butting of the heads to come early.
You probably enjoy different things from your partner and if so, please familiarize yourself with this word: compromise. This means if he wanted to visit the Beitou hot springs for a day, I traded him a night at the famous Shilin Night Market or if the supermarket can’t process either of our credit cards, he gave up one of his pineapple cake gift sets so I could buy two.
Luckily, we discovered he and I fancy very similar things and didn’t get flustered prioritizing activities. Keep the pouting, complaining and sulking to a minimum – you’ll find that you can enjoy doing anything together.
L is a natural planner and I usually do it when no one else will so he was upset that I didn’t contribute early on. Don’t expect the other person to do all the planning as your input is valuable to them. Remember, communicate and compromise.
You’re forced to talk about taboo subjects
Everyone has different spending habits and income. Discuss this earlier than later and choose a hotel or AirBnB, that stays within both budgets.
Money is hard to talk about but a must have conversation before pursuing any long-term relationship.
For small trips like these, it’s easiest to split expenses 50/50 at the end or if that’s uncomfortable, bring your own allocated dollar amount. Whatever your preference, talk it out before you go.
Taipei is similar to Hong Kong in the sense that housing is small yet pricey. Don’t expect even a normal sized apartment in the city center unless you’re paying top dollar.
We stayed in a cozy apartment conveniently located near Ximen and Beimen MRT stops.
You learn about their strengths & weaknesses
Depending on how long you’ve been together, you most likely know your partner’s strengths and weaknesses. Pinpoint what they are and assign ‘tasks’. I suck at maps whereas L is amazing with directions so naturally he led our bike tour around the city.
I speak the language and am less forgetful so I was in charge of expenses, purchasing train tickets, inquiring about food items, etc. He also can eat more than I can so he was in charge of polishing off the 24 pork/mushroom baos, beef roll, 10 fried dumplings and boiled cabbage we ordered.
Taipei has an amazing public system called YouBike where anyone can rent a bicycle to take around the city for an affordable price. Rates are per hour and there are plenty of drop off, pick up kiosks making it a breeze to get around Taipei.
You overcome stressful situations together
And things will go wrong – remember to laugh it off. We were unable to book proper train tickets to Taroko National Park because it was Mother’s Day weekend and found out only after waiting in a long line speaking with an annoyed employee who couldn’t be bothered to help us figure out an alternate route.
We ended up with tickets that didn’t have assigned seats for a 2 hour trip and an impatient man in line egging us to ‘speed it up’. No matter what happens, don’t be like that guy.
L hates inefficiency and impoliteness so I could tell from the vein on his neck that he was extremely unhappy with the situation. Although equally frustrated, I told him it was no biggie and that we would get a humungous breakfast to make up for the sucky tickets.
It is almost guaranteed you’ll face unpredictable events in your life, some good, some terrible. It’s comforting to know that as a couple, you can overcome them by lifting each other’s spirit with even a smile.
You love each other better
Exploring a new part of the world with someone you love is an experience you cannot replicate. It will strengthen your bond, teach you to appreciate the other person’s company, surprise you, scare you but overall reveal if you can overcome the unexpected together.
Alone or with someone special, just travel.