Picture this: It’s our last night of our four day weekend in Budapest. We’ve walked our legs off, hitting every corner of this beautiful, historic city. We’ve eaten so much food, seen castles, got ripped off by a cab driver, drank at the Ruins bars, went to a music festival, visited the most beautiful cathedral, and had overpriced drinks at a “beach” bar, with literal sand all over the floor. We’re tired. It’s 6 pm.
How do we spend our final hours in Hungary?
Hanging out in our AirBNB, each of us doing our own thing: my husband, cheap Hungarian beer in hand, works on fantasy football lineups listening to a podcast, while I eat chips in bed watching a British comedy on Hungarian Netflix. We are both so absorbed in our own worlds, I know I for one totally forgot where I was or that I was with anyone. After three days of being surrounded by people, struggling with a language barrier, it was nice to not have to talk to anyone and just be alone.
That night we both crashed by midnight, and headed for the airport the following morning.
So why did we spend one of our few nights in a new place holed up in our apartment? Did we feel like we wasted that time?
Not at all! We had seen everything we had come to see, and already knew that we wanted to return one day. Skipping a few more hours of touristing, that would have exhausted us even further, wouldn’t have added anything to our experience. If we had pushed ourselves to go more, do more, see more, be out later, we would have been more tired, spent more money, and probably snipped at one another for no reason.
By allowing ourselves to have some down time at the end of the weekend made the return trip the next day smoother because we weren’t as tired, we weren’t as sick of each other, and we had refueled ourselves a little bit.
The older I get, the more I realize that I’m not the traditional extrovert I always assumed I was. I’m more of an extroverted introvert, or introverted extrovert (not sure which, exactly). I love people, I love parties, I love social events… but on my terms. And I refuel and recharge my internal batteries alone. If I’ve had to interact with a lot of people or be “on” for extended periods of time, I need to chill out, veg out, binge some TV shows, get lost in a book, play a dumb game on my phone, go down a wiki research rabbit hole, something where I can turn my brain off and not talk to anyone. Including my husband.
We live and work from home together. My husband is, technically, my employee. We spend more time together than most husbands and wives. But much of the time together is just in physical space, sharing the same house, since we often do our own things. It’s the only way living and working together works. We each have our own office, and sometimes, even when we occupy the same room or hang out in our gazebo, we’re off in our own little worlds, reading or thinking, enjoying quality alone time, together.
We’ve traveled enough together to know that we need to give each other space and quiet even (or especially) on the road. On our recent trip to Austin, we came back to our AirBNB rather early most nights; Justin would wind down researching sportsball things online and I watched Netflix in bed. By giving ourselves permission to decompress separately and on our own terms lets us be more refreshed for the following day’s adventures.
Our trip to Austin was particularly interesting in that we spent most of our time apart since I was attending a conference. In the evenings, we would meet for dinner and catch each other up on our day. Where did you go, what did you eat, who did you meet? It was nice to have some time alone to be in a new city, and have something new to talk about when we did see each other.
Giving each other time and space can also mitigate tension that builds up after frustrating travel experiences — language barriers, con artist cab drivers, getting lost, traffic, unexpected changes in plans. While we were staying in Holland, we did a day trip to Rotterdam, and because we weren’t clear on the Hague tram schedule, when we arrived back in the Hague that night, we waited half an hour for a tram that never came and ended up having to walk 45 minutes home from the train station, after we had walked 15 miles that day. Our phones were nearly dead, it was 1 in the morning, and I was literally falling asleep as we trekked home. By the time we crawled into bed, our feet were blistered and bloody, and we were annoyed and exhausted. The next day, we didn’t leave the house, we each did our own thing (I soaked my aching feet in the tub), knowing that we were foul moods and didn’t need to be snapping at each other. We got over the frustration of the previous night in our own time. By that evening, we were fine, laughing off the experience, and deciding where to eat dinner, together.
We’re about to embark on a 22-day road trip. We are going to be with each other ALL THE TIME, often in a small space. We will need some alone time throughout the trip, but I’m not worried because we always give each other the time and space we need to relax, recharge, refuel, and get ready for our next day together.
How do YOU travel with your spouse/partner without killing them? How do you give yourself alone time when you travel with other people? What do you do the recharge?