Our natural instinct as social creatures is to share most, if not all, of our experiences with those dear and familiar to us, be it family, friends, boyfriend or girlfriend. But backpacking is unchartered territory for most of us. There is no “normal” when you travel, and depending on how comfortable you are way outside your comfort zone, it may or may not be a good idea to share your travel time with a special someone. In one of my recent posts, I wrote about pros and cons of traveling with a boyfriend. Now, when it comes to traveling with a girlfriend, there is a whole other set of considerations, so if you are a guy who wants to travel and are not sure if you should take your girlfriend with you, read on.
Let’s start with the reasons against.
- If you are like me, you want to see and to do as much as possible on your trip. You probably want to do some adrenaline-packed activities, maybe do some rough hiking, surf all day – you name it. If your girlfriend is into the same things as you – great. If not, you will have to compromise. She might want to go shopping, or spend a day at the beach, or take a cooking lesson, or focus on eating – if those are not your cups of tea, you could end up fighting.
- A lot of women tend to nag as a means of controlling or at least influencing their men. So even if, in theory, you and your significant other are cool to do separate things during the day, she might not want you do to anything risky and could get passive-aggressive about it. Or about anything else, really – the way you throw your things into your backpack instead of folding them, whenever you don’t take your shoes off inside, or get a few too many beers. Maybe she is ultimately right about all those things, but do you really want to hear any of that on your travel?
- She may slow you down and as a result, you won’t cover as much ground as you hope. Her morning routine, for example, might be twice as long as yours. She might not walk as fast as you. All the normal differences of any healthy relationship, I know – but be prepared to seriously cool it and compromise your usual pace. A lot. Of course, some women are fast and some men are slow, but if you are the type that hates waiting for someone on a regular basis, make sure your partner is up to the speed.
- As a man, you will have a certain responsibility over your girlfriend or even just a female friend. If you are like me, her comfort and wellbeing would probably be your top concern. If you are fine crashing on a floor of an overbooked hostel, she might not be. You may be okay with a few spiders in your room, but she might freak out. You don’t give a shit about the cleanliness of a bathroom (no pun intended) – but women do. You might be okay eating crackers for lunch – she might not be. And as a man, you’d want to make sure she’s comfortable. Again, there are some tough women out there who would scuff and say they don’t need any more comfort than men do. Nevertheless, I’ve seen couples time and time again where a guy’s whole trip becomes one big worry about his woman’s comfort.
- If your relationship is casual or you two have been together for a long time and are, frankly, bored with each other, taking your female partner with you will put a damper on your amorous escapades elsewhere. In other words, you probably won’t hook up with any local girls or other female travellers and can’t even stare at some of those fit foreign hotties in tiny shorts while sitting next to your Alibaba pant-wearing girlfriend. Even if she’s just your female friend, she will probably share a room with you and it would be awkward to bring a girl over. Think about that – the whole “getting laid” part that is important for many backpackers will not even apply to you. Of course, if you go away with your girlfriend and these are the sort of things you start missing, your relationship clearly has issues.
- Conversely, you will likely have to deal with male attention to your girlfriend, especially if she happens to be hot. Locals in many countries are not used to seeing foreign women, so they might be ogling your woman 24/7 wherever you go. This could be completely harmless, but whenever you are at a party, club or a bar, you would have to be doubly vigilant as some men just can’t handle alcohol, and your presence might not seem like a deterrent to some inebriated types. You’d always have to be prepared to step forward and be firm. Now, there are some basic rules of safety in these situations, but let me just say this – there have been quite a few cases where male travelers were killed in fights with locals while protecting their female companions in countries like India or Thailand, just to name a couple.
Sounds like you should ditch your girl? Well, the pluses of travelling with your girlfriend are pretty solid, too:
- You will have, hopefully, a partner with you who will care about your wellbeing as much as you care about hers. If you get sick, she’d look after you. If you are feeling down, she’d hopefully cheer you up. A normal, healthy relationship is about give and take, and nowhere this should be as evident as on a backpacking trip. Of course, the caveat here is that she is a caring, empathic woman. Not everyone is, and if you girlfriend is not, more reasons to dump her before you go traveling.
- You will always have someone with whom to share those “wow” moments. When you are alone and you see Machu Picchu for the first time, for example, it’s great, sure, but you can really only say “wow” to yourself once and start clicking away with your camera. Our human nature is such that we want to share our excitement with others, and that makes it doubly exciting. Those moments will stay with you for a long time and become a special memory for the two of you.
- You could actually save money, as you would likely be able to afford cheaper hotels rather than hostels since you’d be sharing the price for the room – unless, of course, your financial arrangement is such that you are assumed to pay for everything. If that is the case, add that to your list of disadvantages. Meals can be shared, too, especially when you are not super hungry. And a lot of bars worldwide have 2-for-one drinks during happy hours that is just designed for enjoying as a couple.
- I know I mentioned missed chances of hooking up as a drawback of travelling with a girlfriend. Well, if you don’t want to sleep with anyone but your girlfriend, that might just be the biggest plus of traveling with her – having regular sex while all those single losers spend time and money trying to get laid. That is, of course, unless you are travelling with your platonic female friend who is just using you as a trip companion with no intention of putting out, and that’s just mean. Don’t be a dud – don’t travel with a woman that you are hot for just to get in her pants. Even if it happens, awkward and uncomfortable situations can arise so easily you’ll be on your next flight back home.
So there you have it. If your math is as good as mine, you’d see that the drawbacks outweigh the benefits, when it comes to traveling with a girlfriend.
I would say this. If your trip is a shorter one, under a month or so, the getting away from your girlfriend might not be such a bad idea. You will certainly cover more ground, see and do more alone. If, however, you both have been talking about taking 6-12 months off (or longer), go for it – go together. You will have plenty of time to get used to and adjust to each other, and do all the things you both want to do. And if you survive the trip and still have feelings for each other at the end – well, you might as well start planning the wedding.