Meeting people from all over the world is one of the most rewarding parts of traveling, but it’s something that a lot of couple travelers miss out on. Most people seem to have no problem approaching solo travelers or even groups of friends, but often hesitate when it comes to couples — maybe worrying about becoming a third wheel or interrupting the couple’s private time together. Whatever the reason, the result is that it’s easy for couple travelers to become an isolated unit. Here are a few tips for preventing the couple bubble when you’re traveling with your SO.Stay in Social Places
Staying in hostels is pretty much the top piece of advice for solo travelers interested in meeting people on the road, but it’s equally good advice for couples. Sometimes my husband and I stay in dorms and other times we opt for a private room, but in either case, we always take advantage of the opportunity to meet other travelers in the common areas and join in hostel social events.
Lately AirBnB has been replacing hostels as our go-to type of accommodation, so we typically choose private or shared rooms rather than renting an entire home/apartment. This gives us the opportunity to interact with the hosts, as well as other guests if the home has more than one room. When the dynamic is right, we’re able to form a little family with our hosts and the other guests for a few days, sharing stories and cooking meals together, and it can be a really wonderful experience.
Couchsurfing is another awesome option. Of course, it doesn’t really work for couples if the host has a literal couch (although if there are couples out there that can make that work, I’d love to know!), but tons of hosts have sofa beds or standard beds. The added perk is that there are regular Couchsurfing meet-ups in tons of cities around the world, which can be great opportunities to socialize with local hosts as well as other travelers. Even if you’re not Couchsurfing in a certain city, you can still attend an event there if you’re part of the network.Be Outgoing
Other couples will occasionally strike up a conversation with us, but for the most part, we’re usually the ones to initiate conversations with other people. As I mentioned above, people often seem to assume that couples aren’t interested in socializing with others, which means you have to make the first move.
It’s not always easy. I know how nerve-racking it can be to simply say “hi” to a random stranger. I wish I could say I’m fearless about introducing myself to people whether I’m alone or with my husband, but frankly, I find it easier to be outgoing when we’re together. If the person doesn’t respond well or doesn’t seem interested in chatting, being able to simply go back to talking to one another kind of takes the edge off the rejection!
When it comes to connecting with locals, learning a few words of the local language is always helpful. I’m the first to admit that speaking a language you hardly know can be intimidating, but that’s exactly what makes it a perfect ice-breaker. Stumbling over words definitely makes you come across as more approachable, and the fact that you’re trying to have a conversation despite your less than stellar language skills demonstrates how eager you are to socialize.Get Involved in Group Activities
Group activities are a fantastic way to mix-up the routine of doing everything as a pair. Tons of cities around the world offer free walking tours. I love them because in addition to socializing with other people on the walk, the tours usually provide a nice overview of the city and a sense of the areas we might want to explore in depth later.
If you’re visiting a place for a bit longer, language classes are one of my favorite options. Not only do you meet people in class, but learning the local language increases the number of people you’ll be able to communicate with in the future. If you don’t want to sign up for a formal class, you can usually find free language exchanges through hostels, Facebook groups, or Meetup.
Group activities that involve learning a new skill are always a safe bet. There’s something about a shared learning experience that naturally brings people together. Depending on the destination, you can take lessons cooking, diving, surfing, flower arranging — you get the idea.Make the Effort
It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but whenever my husband and I find that we’re not meeting people on the road, it’s because we’re just not trying to. It’s so much safer and easier to lazily retreat into the couple bubble instead of putting ourselves out there. Ultimately, the key to meeting people while traveling as couple is continuing to push outside your comfort zones. Keep reminding yourselves that it’s worth the effort, because travel takes on so many incredible new dimensions when it’s shared with new friends.
Traveling with someone you love is fantastic in so many ways… until it’s not. Close confines and stressful conditions mean that bickering is pretty much inevitable and, if you’re not careful, it’s easy for silly conflicts to mushroom cloud into nuclear arguments.
This is something I know a thing or two about. For over six years now, pretty much our entire relationship, Mike and I have been traveling together. Like they say, it’s the best way to truly get to know someone. While we make pretty great travel companions now, that first year was not always easy. We argued our way through China, Thailand and Vietnam, then the next year through South America. The good times outweighed the bad by FAR, but I think we could have saved ourselves some long, silent bus rides with a little better knowledge of how to deal.
So while I’ve written before on how to survive travel as a couple, I wanted to talk about something a little more specific: The inevitability of the travel fight. Here is what I’ve learned about how to keep a little disagreement from turning into a big one, and how to still love each other even when you feel like murder.Check Your Blood Sugar
Seriously, this is my biggest piece of relationship advice on the road (or maybe even not on the road). Hangryness is real, and it effects us all.
It took me months to figure out that 95% of the time when Mike was cranky or angry, he was really just hungry. Some people go total Jekyll and Hyde when their blood sugar drops, and my husband is one of them. I on the other hand, get overly-emotional when hungry. That’s a great combination as you can imagine.
Now at the first sign of unreasonable crankiness I insist we eat something. When we travel I usually carry snacks in my purse- granola bars work great, and it has made all the difference in the world when it comes to avoiding pointless spats.Other Stressors
In my experience, 99% of all travel fights can be traced to one or both parties being hungry (see above), tired, or stressed. Travel is so fun but it can also be really stressful, especially in more difficult countries. It’s really easy to channel that annoyance are your surroundings into annoyance at your partner.
When I find myself getting irritated with Mike on a travel day I try to check myself: Am I annoyed at him or annoyed in general? Sometimes a quick stop for a coffee or a beer, or maybe a nap, can save a mood that’s otherwise circling the drain. If you’re constantly at each other’s throats, consider the idea you may be traveling too fast, and slow down for some relaxation.Practice Alone Time (Even Together)
Spending 24 hours a day together, every single day can make even the best relationship crack under the pressure. All of a sudden your partners adorable quirks are just infuriating and literally everything they do is annoying as hell.
The best way to stay off each other’s nerves is to find some time to be alone. Split up for the day and spend a few hours by yourself. It may seem counter-intuitive, you’re traveling to be together after all, but it allows you to regenerate some of your good will. Plus you will have something new to talk about at dinner!
If it’s really not possible to spend time apart, learn to practice alone time together. Mike and I can sit in the same room for hours, each doing our own thing, not speaking. He’ll play a computer game maybe, I’ll read a book. Is that sad? It can be a valuable skill when you’re trapped in a tiny hostel room together.Communicate (when calm)
Sometimes you will have serious issues that crop up during travel and need to be hashed out. Try to have these conversations while calm and ideally, while sober. Nobody wants to be that drunk couple screaming at each other outside the hostel.
Instead of hurling accusations, work towards resolving the problem with a compromise or a solution.
Keep Things in Perspective
Otherwise known as choose your battles. Are you super pissed off that your partner ate the last granola bar/ didn’t check the opening hours for the museum/ had a total directions fail and now you are hopeless lost? Understandable, and maybe worth some quiet stewing, but once your blood pressure goes down a bit, remind yourself that you are on an amazing adventure with someone you love (who probably has some redeeming qualities despite their inability to read google maps)- how lucky is that?
You can’t control how other people act, but you can choose your response. You shouldn’t bottle up your feelings, but you can choose a measured response, or a sense of humor, over anger. Ultimately your attitude is going to dictate your trip.
When things just seem too much, there’s always tomorrow. A good night’s sleep can cure most disagreements, then you can get back to enjoy your vacation, and each other.
I never got into blogging to write about couples travel, and I’m obviously a pretty vocal proponent of solo travel in all it’s forms (even while married). That said, I travel with Mike frequently so I guess I know as much on this subject as anyone.
This week I have a great guest post by former staff writer Jessica Dawdy on How to Meet People While Traveling as a Couple. Then, I have a post I wrote myself on How to Fight on the Road. Believe me, I’ve racked up plenty of experience on that subject…
“Just go with the flow.” If anyone has ever given you tips for travel in India, you have likely heard this phrase. It means that unexpected things are bound to happen and you should just roll with it.
I don’t know how this travel tip has become so unanimously supported as the single piece of advice given to first time travelers to India. I mean, this is India we’re talking about. It’s just not that simple.
Leading up to my trip, I received many warnings that India would be too hard, too polluted, too dangerous. I was not to be discouraged, though. I was a traveler, after all.
I thought I would be immune to the culture shock of India because I thought I knew what to expect. I’d traveled to all kinds of places without difficulty. I’d read the guidebooks and followed the blogs collecting India travel tips, preparing myself for the chaos. I could even order vindaloo at a 5/5 heat level without breaking a sweat.
“Bring it on,” I thought, “I was made for this.”
Well, I was over-confident. And chances are, so are you. If you’re thinking, “Psssh, it can’t be that hard. I’ve traveled to all kinds of places, this advice is just for newbies,” then listen up!
No matter how much you’ve traveled and no matter where you’ve been, unless you’ve been to India, then you are a newbie.India Travel Tips for Over-Confident Travelers
- Don’t force yourself to “go with the flow.”
In India, your senses will be assaulted in every way at once. Assume you will be jetlagged, crabby, possibly sick, and almost definitely hot and sweaty. People will be staring at you – a lot – and taking your picture with or without your permission, and you will be followed persistently by beggars.
The smell of burning trash will be permeating your nostrils and the dust kicked up from the circus-like procession of motorbikes, rickshaws, and cars will be caked to your eyelids. Does that sound like a scenario where you’ll be in the mood to “go with the flow”?
Let’s be real, here.
Really think about it, and evaluate yourself honestly. Don’t think about the Instagram photos you’ll post of you doing yoga poses at the Taj Mahal or taking selfies with street cows. Think about the version of yourself that is real, vulnerable, and human. The version of yourself that likes things like air conditioning and toilet paper.
I was way overconfident.
I wasn’t honest with myself about my own limits or needs for comfort. When I had completely overextended myself, and tried to do way too much, culture shock reared its ugly head as I gripped the seat of my swerving auto rickshaw with one hand and wheezed through a Kleenex held in the other. I was not in a mood to embrace the culture and “go with the flow” at that point. I was in a mood to just stop.
I wanted to find a magic soundproof box in the middle of the city with clean, cool air, a glass of potable water, and a chair, and just sit in there alone for an hour.
When I get in that state, further immersion and embracing the craziness is never the answer. But you know what does work?
- Slow down.
If you’re used to traveling in Europe, Southeast Asia, or even Latin America, it’s easy to think you can flit from city to city, soaking up as much of the culture as possible in your limited time. Just about anywhere in the world, that would work. But in India things will not always go smoothly and they won’t always work the way you expect.
If you put too much pressure on yourself and try to do too much, you’ll just wind up disappointed and miss out on some really incredible experiences.
I know it just kills you to have to cut something out of your trip, let alone an entire city or region. So you’re really going to hate me here. I want you to cut your number of destinations in half.
I’m not saying this to be annoying or to burst your bubble. And I get it – traveling to India is such a big deal. It is so far away, and you want to see as much as you possibly can to make the most of it. But the more stops on your itinerary, the more time you’ll spend in-transit dealing with some of the hardest aspects of culture shock.
But if you slow down and give yourself time to breathe, you would be amazed what a difference it can make. Suddenly everything will seem a lot easier and you’ll be able to appreciate all of the wild, unique and incredibly beautiful aspects of India.
That is what you came for, after all, isn’t it?
- Take the upgrade
Upgrade your accommodation, travel, meals, really anything if it means you’ll have an easier time. If you normally stay in hostels, consider private guesthouses in India, or if you normally stay at budget hotels, spring for luxury. If you typically take sleeper trains or long-haul buses to save money, consider spending a little extra to fly between cities. If you’re a public bus kind of traveler, pay the few dollars for a taxi.
Just one upgrade in comfort level can make extreme changes to the outcome of your day. It did for me. And in India, where most things are quite cheap, most travelers can spring for luxury without breaking the budget.
- Enjoy the food!
For western travelers, India’s food scene will give you some of the most unique experiences of your travels. Each region has a completely different cuisine, and it’s worth a trip to the subcontinent if only to experience the food. There are, however, some things you need to look out for as a traveler.
It’s pretty easy to avoid getting sick as long as you follow these tips for eating in India:
- Eat only food that is fresh and cooked.
- Avoid street food, but if you must try it, find the busiest cart and make sure it looks clean.
- Avoid raw fruits and vegetables, as they are washed with tap water. Only eat these if you peel them yourself. (Pomegranates are a great option because the outer skin protects them from contamination!)
- Avoid juices and drinks from street vendors, except for coconuts. They will hack open the coconut with a machete and you can drink straight from the coconut, without risk! Just make sure the straw is clean.
- Drink and brush your teeth with bottled water.
- Avoid drinks with ice.
Also, don’t be worried about the food being too spicy! I think this myth has sort of spiraled out of control. The food in India has tons of spices but they make the food flavorful, not the hot kind of spicy. If you can handle medium heat at an Indian restaurant at home, you’ll be fine. Also, as a general rule, the further south you go in India, the spicier the food.
If you remember to follow these India travel tips and check that over-confident traveler’s ego, you can have a really incredible experience traveling in India. Just please don’t delude yourself into thinking you can speed through the country or rough it like a local!
India is not all magic and mysticism. It’s a real place with real people and real problems. Take it slow, give yourself some opportunity to adjust, and don’t make things more difficult than they need to be. Only then, will you be in a state to use the #1 India travel tip: “Just go with the flow.”
I’m Sonja Riemenschneider, a PhD chemical engineer with a dream to make travel guides. On my travel blog, Breadcrumbs Guide, I create in-depth guides to inspire people to travel independently. I tell it like it is, and will do anything to help you have the best experience possible! Subscribe here, and see where else I’m traveling on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Visit Breadcrumbs Guide for lots more India Travel Tips.
India can certainly be overwhelming for first-time travelers. It’s complete sensory overload—loud noises; bright colors; various smells ranging from beautiful to horrid; enough spices to last a lifetime; and crumbling ruins, beautiful silky saris, and more. Despite all of that, there are several things you can do to ensure you stay safe, stay cool, and don’t get sick while in India.Staying Safe
Traveling in India can be a bit intimidating, especially if you’re a woman. The news seems to inundate us with stories of rape, acid attacks, and many other types of violence against women. While India is certainly behind the times regarding women’s rights compared to more westernized countries, things are getting better there.
The advice for staying safe in India is similar to staying safe in other countries, with the addition of a few things. You should always keep an eye on your bags and pockets, especially in large crowds and in tourist hotspots. Because you’ll stand out, people may follow you around to take photos with you or shove their babies and kids at you to take photos with them. Be sure to mind your things then.
As already mentioned, you’ll stand out quite a bit just because of being a foreigner. To ward off some of the stares, be respectful of local traditions and customs. If you’re a woman, wear clothing that covers your shoulders and your knees. Be sure to pack a scarf with you as well to cover up when you may feel some unwanted attention. Also try not to smile to men, as this can sometimes be misinterpreted.
Lastly, when taking public transportation, be sure to work things out up front with the driver. Be specific about where you’re going, negotiate the price, and know beforehand about how long it should take to get there. If you’re unsure about hailing a tuk-tuk on the street, pop into a hotel or a shop and have someone there call a driver or get one for you. Also be sure to have close to the exact monetary value in your pocket, ready to hand to the driver upon arrival.Staying Cool
If you’re not spending time in the mountainous areas of India, chances are you’ll be somewhere warm. The temperatures, even in the northern cities, can top out over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summertime. Also bear in mind that the humidity can be unbearable in some cities!
To stay cool, avoid jeans! Jeans always seem like a good idea in theory, but when you’re in a country as hot and humid as India, all they do is stick to you in the most unpleasant way imaginable. To stay cool, pack light cotton clothing. T-shirts, maxi skirts or dresses, and ankle-length pants are great. Plenty of foreign men can get away with shorts, but it’s not the same for women. If you want to try something local, buy a kurti (a long tunic-style top that most women wear with leggings), shalwar kameez (a long shirt with loose-fitting pants), or, if you’re a bit more daring, a sari!
Also be sure to take along a hat or a scarf to block your head from the sun. It’s also a good idea to always carry a large bottle of water with you not only to cool you off, but to ensure you stay hydrated. You may also want to consider buying a folding fan or a handheld battery-operated fan for those really unbearable moments. And one perk to those pesky water heater outages is that you’re sometimes forced to take a cold shower! I found India to be one of those two-to-three showers a day kind of place.Staying Illness-Free
It seems like everyone who visits India has one of those Delhi belly stories. Unless you’re dying to add that to your travel bucket list or are looking for a “good” story, there are several ways to protect yourself from getting sick.
First and foremost, don’t eat uncooked vegetables or fruits that don’t have peels (bananas and oranges, for instance, are fine to eat). If they’re washed in local water, you’re likely to get sick from it.
Speaking of water, do not drink the water in India. Bottled water is ridiculously cheap and easy to come by. If you’re a green traveler, purchase a filtered bottle to refill or pack some water purification tablets.
Do not drink out of glass bottles—they are typically recycled and could have harmful germs on them. Request a straw or a cup to pour your sodas or beers into. If you get a bottle of water that has already been opened, request one that is still sealed, as it may have been refilled with tap water.
When it comes to cooked foods, your safest bet is to eat primarily vegetarian while in India. Don’t worry—it’ll be delicious. There are plenty of vegetarian dishes, making it difficult to get bored easily. If you want to have meat, my recommendation is to order it from a hotel or a higher-end restaurant. You might be fine eating it from other places, but I wouldn’t risk how they keep their meats (in a refrigerator?) or how long they keep them around.
I encourage you to eat street food, but again, make sure you’re careful where you get it. You can see people cooking, so always ensure that the food you order is fresh and is still steaming—that way you know it was cooked to a high enough temperature to kill germs and that it hasn’t been sitting around with bugs getting all over it. Also, drink the chai from street vendors and dhabas—it’s probably the best you’ll have in your life!
As far as sweets are concerned, do not purchase from street vendors. Find a reputable shop where they are encased and refrigerated. The last thing you want to do is eat some milk sweets that have been in the sun all day with flies crawling all over them. Reserve those sweets for your gifts to the Hindu deities.
Most people worry solely about the foodborne illnesses, but also keep in mind that there are other ways of getting sick. Don’t risk dengue fever or other mosquito-related illnesses—wear bug repellent, long sleeves and pants, and the color blue (apparently they hate it!). Be sure to carry hand sanitizer with you everywhere as well and use it as frequently as possible. It’s hard not to touch your face or your mouth and you don’t know what type of germs you’ve picked up as you’ve been touching things in the country.
One last tip: have medicine on hand for if you do get sick. Pack plenty of Advil, Tylenol, or pain killer of choice. For stomach issues, activated charcoal pills are great for taking immediately after eating to ensure you don’t get sick. You can also take Immodium or Pepto Bismol for when things really get bad. Another good thing to have on hand are rehydration/vitamin packets. Pour them into your water and chug it to feel better!
I hope all these tips help ensure you have the best trip ever to India!
Meganotravels is Megan Smith, a travel enthusiast who spends all her spare moments gallivanting around the globe. She packs in as much travel fun as she can while working a full-time job, running a blog and a non-profit organization. To follow along on her adventures, check out her blog, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Dawn is breaking, cool and pastel blue. Somewhere in the distance across the jungle valley, a relentless tonal recording has been echoing through the treetops for at least an hour. Blaring horns blend with unfamiliar tropical bird squawks and what sounds like a harrumphing call of a hippo, although I’m fairly certain there are no such creatures here. I’m in the middle of nowhere tropical India, at Sivananda yoga ashram, nestled beneath peaceful lush green palms in the Communist state of Kerala.
I feel like a statue in the stillness, a living pillar of non-movement. And it is painful. I wonder if the other 100 or so sitting yogis in the meditation hall feel the same.
Eyes closed, observing my own discomfort, I watch my mind react to the creeping physical numbness that can accompany extended periods of non-movement. Why is it always such a battle to make the unconscious conscious? It is the unconscious that tells me to take immediate action––change position! But it is the conscious––feeble and weak––that is attempting to cultivate the awareness that wills my body to remain immobile in meditation. I try to observe, to ignore my screaming mind, to stay still and wait it out.
Alas, the mind wins this time. I unfurl my legs and stretch.
Our teacher’s chosen topic of discussion today is what he refers to as one of the biggest challenges in life: the mind. Remember, you are not your mind, he says.
The mind can be our best friend or our worst enemy.
It is the mind that tells us never ending stories. It is the mind that expertly weaves a web of judgements, prejudices, and preconceived notions until we’re so wrapped up in the rambling narrative echo in our head that we can’t help but believe it as truth.
Our teacher says that the practice of yoga polishes our inner mirror allowing us to see the reflection of our true self. In this way, we can better understand the stories of the mind.
This is why yoga is useful: it is a systematized way to “control” the mind through awareness, to find the truth of who you really are by quieting the mind’s ceaseless chatter and by finding physical and mental harmony between body and soul. It is an ongoing practice, a constant search to touch what is true.*** “An ashram is a Hindu spiritual hermitage, a place of religious retreat that typically focuses on Indian cultural activities including yoga and meditation.”
This is how each day begins at the Sivananda yoga ashram:
A wake-up bell at 5:30AM before dawn, then almost two hours of required satsang, which includes silent sitting meditation, chanting, and a brief lecture on philosophical topics. Once the sun has risen, we roll up our mats and head to the jungle garden for steaming hot chai tea.
Next, it’s time for two hours of yoga. All this before eating any sort of meal.
This pattern repeats itself in reverse in the afternoon and onward into the evening. In between, after lunch, we are obligated to do an hour or two of seva, or volunteer work. It’s a good reminder that we are a living part of a larger community.
Ashram life isn’t for everyone, but maybe that’s the appeal.
While I feel physically energized after four hours of daily yoga, I admit that at first it’s not easy. Sleep deprivation catches up with me quickly, and the sparse meals trigger a persistent craving for an Indian thali and steaming fresh naan.
Spending time at an Indian ashram require you to adapt to less. It’s part of the reason so many people come; it’s a complete meditation. The ashram environment offers space and time to unplug entirely, and unravel mentally and physically.
One of the benefits of all this is that I begin to see things from another perspective. It’s amazing how much easier it is to appreciate the basics only after they are taken away. Hot water showers, toilet paper, spoons––in my normal life these things are hardly even noticed. In ashram life, they are greatly missed.
At the ashram I’m reminded: nothing can exist without its opposite.
Dedicating time for peace and reflection by visiting an Indian yoga ashram is well worth it. Of course, the challenge upon leaving is learning how to integrate all that is gained from ashram life back into your real-world life.Jessica Yurasek is a San Francisco-based global storyteller and social media strategist. She has traveled to over 40 countries on six continents and blogs about finding your heart and soul around the world on missjessrose.com. Follow her on Facebook here and on Twitter and Instagram @missjessrose.
I’m still drowning in diapers and pacifiers, but here on Twenty-Something Travel it’s India week!
I’ve never been to India and I confess part of me is extremely intimidated by it. It’s so big and busy and vast and complicated, it would be hard to know where to start. Luckily the three smart ladies who have posts this week have all spent time there and have excellent travel advice for you.
Please feel free to add your own helpful tips in the comments!