Does Traveling as a Couple Make or Break Your Relationship?

When I was 21, someone who I really looked up to told me that traveling with someone is the best way to test a relationship and see if it works.  Steph at Twenty-Something Travel wrote about this recently, right before I left for Argentina, so obviously it got me thinking, and maybe even had me a bit worried that the trip would be a make or break for my relationship.

As we began our trip, I realized it was all just silly buildup and unnecessary worry. I was traveling with someone I knew extremely well, and there weren’t any surprises for either of us in terms of how we reacted to certain situations. Plus I think we passed a few tests that made me realize that there’s a good chance I may have found myself a permanent travel buddy:

Test #1: Determine what you want out of your travels:

Matt and I love the beach, but neither of us want our main vacation for the year to be a relaxing trip to the Caribbean. We both want to see as much culture as possible, spend our time meeting people and exploring interesting places. We want to eat delicious food. We want to experience the entire world and do everything there is to do.  The night we went to Bomba de Tiempo, my back was killing me, we were tired from being up early to go to Uruguay that morning, and we had reached the point of exhaustion. I kept propping my back up against a concrete column to give it support as I listened to the music and watched the show. Matt asked if we needed to go back to the hotel, but despite my backache, I REALLY didn’t want to leave and I could tell he didn’t either. We both wanted to wait it out despite our physical exhaustion, and we’re so glad we did because that was one of the most fun experiences we had on the entire trip.

Test #2: Know and accept your partner’s limits:

The one thing we didn’t see eye to eye on was determining what was “safe.”  I am used to traveling with other girls, and when girls walk down a foreign city street that’s abandoned, we are automatically on super alert because we were raised to watch out for our safety – maybe even a bit too much. Not that boys aren’t raised to be safe, but it’s on a completely different level. Matt is used to traveling with boys, who just want to wander around, explore and purposely get lost.  The two times I felt a bit unsafe, he did a good job of easing my nerves – when we got lost in Mendoza’s San Martin park after being warned not to stray too far from the lake, he pointed out that there were other people around – and as he did so, a group of young schoolchildren walked by, and we both laughed.  Another time, late at night on a street in Buenos Aires with no other people aside from the two of us, I thought back to an email I had received from a friend who said that many travelers are susceptible to pickpocketing and mugging. Naturally, my nerves kicked in as we walked down this abandoned street. Again, Matt offered to go back to the hotel, but I didn’t want to, I just wanted to find other signs of normal people in the vicinity. As if on cue, an elderly man walking a tiny white poodle came strolling around the corner. Again, laughter ensued and nerves were calmed.

Matt also knows I’m not super outdoorsy, and though he might want to do a fun hike up the mountains or an outdoor rafting adventure trip, he knew I’d be miserable and didn’t push me to go with him. I scheduled some time in the hotel spa, which had no interest to Matt at all. (Although after a few glasses of wine that afternoon I was able to convince him to go into the outdoor pool with me.)

Test #3: Compromise.

I’m so Type A it’s ridiculous. I could plan out every minute of every trip and be thrilled to do it because it means we’ll be able to see everything that was recommended and everything we “need” to see.  (Ask any of my friends about our trip to Italy in 2009. I had things down to the minute, including bathroom breaks – no exaggeration) Matt just wants to go and explore and decide on the fly where to go and what we should do. And I’ve learned to appreciate that, as I think he’s learned that it isn’t always a bad idea to plan a few things in advance. We knew about Casa Mun, Bomba de Tiempo, and the day trip to Uruguay because of pre-vacation research and making reservations well in advance (I actually received several emails from these places telling me I was trying to make reservations way too early and to check back when our trip was less than a month away. Yes I realize how completely insane I am.) But I also left a few days open, and we were able to walk around and explore neighborhoods in Buenos Aires that I’m sure many tourists overlook. To be honest, I’m not even sure of the names of half these neighborhoods or what streets we walked around, but it was nice to have this free time to wander, to be flexible, and to stop into random restaurants we saw along the way that certainly aren’t in the Lonely Planet books.

I think the biggest test of all though, was how we felt after the trip. And we both came back with a big appreciation for each other, we weren’t annoyed and we weren’t sick of each other. In fact, over a few glasses of red wine and a huge Argentinian steak, we decided to move in together.

Did the trip define us as a couple and make me see anything differently? Not at all. Maybe it made us a bit closer because we have this new shared experience, but in terms of “testing the relationship,” I’m going to say no. I have a few people I know I can travel with – Randi, Joya, and now I can very happily add Matt to the list.

Do you think traveling as a couple will make or break you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Buenos Aires Beats: La Bomba De Tiempo

We were exhausted after our day in Uruguay. All we wanted to do was go back to our hotel and throw ourselves into bed. But we had heard of this supposedly cool drum show that only happens on Monday nights in Buenos Aires, and this was our last night there. So we carried our tired bodies off the Buquebus and over to the Konex Cultural Center where we entered what looked like a parking lot.

The show didn’t even take place there. We were led behind the parking lot to what almost resembled a dreary looking alley with concrete pillars. In the alley, a handful of girls dressed in ordinary cotton t-shirts, tank tops and cargo pants, one wearing a jean skirt with leggings, walked out to the center of the crowd. There was no way to know until they took their places behind the various percussion instruments that these were the evening’s performers. Leggings girl gave a little howl and they were off. Once they started playing, beating the crap out of these instruments to make the most awesome rhythmic experience for everyone around them, we understood the big deal about this show. I also loved that it was all chicks – one girl playing drums is somewhat of a rare thing to see but a dozen amazingly skilled ladies conducting and playing synchronized percussion? One of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. Check them out – the ladies of Bomba de Tiempo

Watching the leaders as they took position in front of the group was another thing that captivated us, we couldn’t stop watching as they used the most simple hand motions to direct the whole thing, speaking their own language to each other and allowing us the audience to witness the beautiful music that came from it.

After about an hour the ladies were done and another group took the stage – all men, dressed in professional, matching uniforms, doing the same thing but on a much larger scale. By then the crowd had nearly doubled (I guess locals don’t come for the opening act) and the vibe of happiness and excitement in the space was palpable. Our exhaustion hadn’t completely gone away, but we just kept dancing, too busy getting caught up in the whole experience to care about how tired we were. The men put on an amazing show but the ladies who kicked it off deserve a ton of credit. I walked away thinking I should do everything in my power to bring this show to the states. But maybe it belongs here, in this alley in the back of a parking lot in Buenos Aires, where every Monday night, locals and tourists get to experience what is likely the best drum show in the world.

One Day in Uruguay

On our last full day before departing for wine country, we woke up super early and boarded a ferry called the Buquebus to Uruguay. The fact that we could add another country to our itinerary made it a no brainer decision to make the trip there. Patricia, our favorite concierge, booked the whole thing for us, and we boarded this boat that looked like a casino/cruise ship/night club and was so massive that you sort of had to wonder “how does this thing float?”

On the other side of the Rio de la Plata in Colonia, Uruguay, we wandered around and explored the coastal beauty of this little town before stopping to have a quick bite to eat. At the restaurant, a really adorable and seemingly well cared for stray dog laid himself down in front of our table. I fed him some of my sausage, and he inspected it carefully before eating it. He sat with us for the rest of the meal and when we got up to leave, our new pup friend, who I named Muchacho, stood up as well. We started walking, and he followed suit. Muchacho loved us and walked around with us for awhile longer. We loved him too, and entertained the brief thought of bringing him back to New York before admitting that such a thing would be logistically and financially impossible, and likely illegal.Image

We parted ways with our beloved Muchacho who we had grown so attached to, and rented a vehicle that looked part golf cart/part ATV. I wanted to rent a motorbike because I’ve never been on one and I knew Matt had driven them around during his trip to Asia, but he was afraid of me getting hurt (which I certainly appreciated – I am a bit injury prone.) So we took off in our Uruguayan golf cart, which apparently you’re allowed to drive down major roads and highways in. We followed the map to an old bullfighting ring, which despite being very cool looking, wouldn’t let tourists inside. Then we kept driving, getting lost, meeting more well kept stray dogs (though none as amazing as Muchacho), and eventually came across an old horse racetrack. The entire area seemed somewhat abandoned, aside from a gardener and a few horses rolling around in the mud. We stayed here for quite awhile, it was incredibly peaceful and serene, and we felt like the only two people in this tiny little country.

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An Overlooked Argentinian Delicacy

We expected to eat a lot of really delicious steak in Argentina. And we absolutely did. But with all the hype about Argentinian steak, there is one really incredible dish that just doesn’t get enough attention. So after always playing second fiddle to steak, I dedicate this post to the often overlooked Argentinian delicacy: The Empanada.

On our second day in Buenos Aires, as we were wandering around downtown and intentionally getting lost in the city, we stopped into a restaurant on Puerto Madero that came highly recommended (though I wish I could say we stumbled upon it accidentally. But really, there are reasons people recommend places and guidebooks write about them. It’s ok to be unoriginal). At Cabana Las Lilas that afternoon, we sat down at a table in this massive establishment that overlooked the brownish waters of the Rio de la Plata (still pretty though!) and ordered. I wasn’t super hungry, so I went with the veal empanada appetizer as my meal. I’m not sure what I can say about these empanadas other than – they were among the top things I’ve eaten in my life. Biting into that super flaky bread and tasting the warm juicy meat inside was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I savored every single bite of those empanadas, and was even generous enough to share one with Matt. He was super jealous because his pork tasted like cardboard after comparing it to my empanadas. And so began one of the greatest love stories of our time.

I had my second “this is the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten in my life” experience on that last day in wine country when the amazing people at the Giminez Riili winery served us empanadas while we were tasting wine. I was informed that the crust had butter in it, and as a lactose intolerant person I’m supposed to avoid foods like these, but after one small bite, there was no way I was going to be able to control myself and not eat the rest of that empanada. Matt went crazy over these guys, too. My vocabulary is too limited to find an accurate word to describe how strongly I felt about them. We had a lovely time at this winery and sampled amazing wines and looked out at the beautiful scenery in front of us, but eating these glorious meat pockets was the hands down best experience we had there. Tied with the Cabana Las Lilas empanadas, they were quite possibly one of the best things we ate during the entire trip.

So, yes, Argentinian steak is delicious and all, but when I think back to the cuisine of that country, my salivary glands long for the empanadas. Until we meet again.

Get Lost in Buenos Aires

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I totally get why people move to Buenos Aires. The city is intoxicating – it is vast, it’s architecture is phenomenal, it’s a melting pot of different cultures from all over the world, but it still maintains its rich history, albeit a fairly modern one. Before I arrived, I had heard that Buenos Aires is like France, like Spain, like New York, and while I understand these comparisons, it’s actually like none of these places; a city wholly unique in every way. And you could easily live here for an extended period of time if not permanently, because as with any of the cities mentioned, there’s just always so much to do – somewhere new to eat or some street to explore that you’ve never walked down.

We spent most of our time exploring this fascinating city, stopping at the must see tourist spots – Recoleta, the Casa Rosada, Plaza de Mayo, the obelisk, Cafe Tortoni to see a Tango show, La Cabrera for steak (more on that in an upcoming post), the San Telmo market on Sunday, Puerto Madera and La Boca. You’ll find all these places in a guidebook, your friends will all recommend them – and I would too, I mean it would be a shame to come all the way to South America and miss these landmarks, but my caveat would be to set aside an entire day or two to just get lost in this crazy city. Just wander and explore, because you will stumble upon the best food, perhaps some interesting people, and the most glorious buildings that are just like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Our many moments of getting lost brought us to Buenos Aires’ oldest bookstore, took us past beautiful churches, let us into a delicious pastry shop, and showed us some of the craziest street art I’ve ever encountered. So my biggest tip for those spending some time in Buenos Aires – get lost.

 

Arriving in Buenos Aires: The Glu Hotel

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After a Xanax induced ten hour nap on the plane to Buenos Aires (guys, I don’t know why I haven’t been taking this shit for YEARS – this was the first time I’ve slept on an international flight, and I was out cold for most of it – such a success!), we landed and went to our hotel. The Glu Hotel came highly recommended by a friend, and we liked it for it’s location, cleanliness, etc. but most of all – the amazing concierge service. We particularly loved this one woman, I think her name was Patricia, who sat us down upon arrival, drank coffee with us and told us all about the neighborhood we were in and the surrounding neighborhoods. She booked everything for us, from our ferry to Uruguay, to our nightly restaurant reservations. She showed us where everything was on the map, told us where to see the best tango show, and didn’t make us feel silly when we asked ridiculously annoying, American tourist questions.

The most amazing anecdote though, came at the end of our trip, when we left Buenos Aires to go to Mendoza. Matt bought this beautiful vintage print of the Boca Junior Soccer Stadium from a crazy looking antique store (read: store full of absoluate junk) in San Telmo, and we were really worried about bringing it on the plane because it wasn’t wrapped very securely. So we decided to carry it on. At 5 a.m. on Tuesday morning, when loading up the cab to go to the airport and fly to Mendoza, we apparently forgot to grab the poster since it was separate from the luggage, and left it in the hotel lobby. Which we obviously didn’t realize until we were boarding the plane. Total fail. Matt called the Glu to see if they still had found it – luckily they did, and they graciously offered to hold it for us until we returned to Buenos Aires the following Saturday before our trip back home.

That’s not the end of the story though – when we were unpacking at our hotel in Mendoza, Matt suddenly stopped and looked up in disbelief at me as he realized he left all his American cash (hundreds of dollars) in the safe at the Glu hotel, 1,000 miles away.

I offered no help aside from telling him to go downstairs and call them right away. And guys, when he called, our girl Patricia told him not to worry, she put him on hold, checked the safe, and retrieved his cash. She then held that AND the print for us, all of which was returned when we went back to Buenos Aires the following Saturday, and all valuable items made it safely back to the United States.

So, yes, in addition to having clean, big rooms, delicious coffee, and a great location, the Glu Hotel surpassed all of our expectations. On that day we returned to Buenos Aires and went back to the hotel to see our old friend Patricia, it legitimately felt like home.