I’ll never forget my first travel romance. My plan was to spend six weeks backpacking around Europe solo, discovering the local cultures, exploring the history and gorging myself on delicious food.
What I didn’t expect was to meet Dan on my very first night in an Amsterdam hostel.
I don’t know if it was his bright blue eyes, contagious laughter or the fact we had smoked something a little stronger than cigarettes, but after an hour of intense conversation I knew I was in love. Even the next day when the smoke had cleared and we woke up next to each other, blemishes and imperfections glowing in the morning sunlight, the feeling was still there.
“I have something really romantic planned for today,” he said with a smile. “Let’s go get kebabs and some of that 1 Euro wine we saw and go listen to the hippies playing guitar in Vondelpark.”
“Sounds like the best first date anyone has ever planned, babe.”
Things moved quickly, as they tend to when you spend every waking and non-waking hour with someone. And although there were some bumps in the road, we managed to travel together for the entire trip without killing each other, even making plans to travel again in the future.
But keeping romance alive on the road is no walk in the park, as countless broken hearts will testify.
Here are a few tips for doing it right.
Set Realistic Expectations
The trick to a travel romance is realistic expectations. Meeting a sexy stranger in an exotic land is always exciting, and can lead to heightened feelings of love and a quick relationship progression. Within a week you know each other’s deepest secrets, worst habits and embarrassing smells, but it only makes you love each other more.
Although this can be an amazing experience, don’t get your hopes up if it doesn’t last longer than the trip itself.
I’ve had travel romances that continued on after the plane ride home, as well as intense flings that fizzled out quicker than Alta Seltzer. If it works out, great. If it doesn’t, at least you enjoyed the ride.
Hostels Can Be “Romantic”
When you find a passionate travel romance, realize how lucky you are and embrace every second of it. If you’re a long-term traveler, don’t get frustrated about your low funds but instead work with what you have.
For example, you don’t need to stay in a private hotel room to get some action, as hostels provide plenty of opportunities for getting it on. Think the shower, rooftops or in the afternoon when everyone is out sightseeing.
Additionally, expensive restaurants and romantic excursions are overrated. For a romantic meal, have a picnic in the park with some cheap wine or head to a local restaurant where neither of you can read the menu.
These venues are usually cheaper and can be unforgettable — especially when you order something you can’t identify. Add to the affordable romance by getting lost in a city together, hiking to a scenic viewpoint or kayaking on a nearby lake.
Remember, you don’t need to work hard to make the relationship exciting, since everyday when traveling is a new adventure in itself.
Give Each Other Space
You’re already spending more time together in a month than most couples do in a year, so give each other some space. Splitting up for the day and doing some solo sightseeing will not only keep you from getting on each others’ nerves, but will also allow you some independence and personal growth.
Cut Each Other Some Slack
Nobody can be perfect 24/7, so cut each other some slack. In normal dating situations, both parties are able to hide their annoying habits and bad behavior for at least a few weeks, usually months; however, when you’re on the road full-time together everything comes out into the open.
So his breath isn’t minty fresh every time you kiss and he didn’t pay for your lunch, and she picks her teeth and takes an hour and a half to get ready. Accept your situation and relax.
Keep The Communication Open
That being said, if there is something really bothering you, speak up (nicely). The worst thing you can do when traveling with a romantic partner is hold your feelings in until you explode.
Let your new love interest know if you need space or if there is something making you unhappy. As long as you convey your feelings in a clear and respectful manner this should only make you stronger.
Roll With The Punches
While fun, traveling can be stressful. Uncomfortable situations, missed trains and language barriers can make you both cranky. Instead of letting bumps in the road bother you, roll with the punches and enjoy every moment of your time together. Keep in mind, most issues on the road turn into funny travel stories later.
If possible, pool some money together for a romantic splurge. It doesn’t have to be over-the-top, but one night in a private hotel room or a steak dinner can pull you both out of your routine. While everyday is exciting on the road, it can never hurt to add some ambiance once in awhile.
Trust Your Gut
So it’s been two weeks and you’re starting to wonder if maybe you rushed into things. If you start to feel like the romance isn’t what you want anymore, get out. Although it may feel like you’re in a long-term relationship, the truth is you don’t know each other that well, and you don’t owe this other person anything. Travel is selfish. It’s about having the experiences you want in a foreign land. Do what you need to make your travel experience the one you want.
By Jessica Festa
Jessie loves nothing more than her backpack. With a Masters degree in Communication she had a choice; find a steady job or live the dream. She was always going to choose the latter. On her blog, Jessie on a Journey, she covers lesser-known destinations as well as popular places from new and unusual perspectives. She also writes for Fodor’s, Gadling and the Huffington Post, among others. You can follow her travels and writing on: Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest.