Traveling With Your Significant Other: Chapter 1 Sneak Peak

Test their mettle with a super complicated trip.

Agnes Groonwald
8 min readDec 22, 2021

I’ve seen advice columns tell new couples to start small.

Well, they don’t know how I roll. I need to know what I’m dealing with right away, so I’m not wasting time with someone who won’t be able to participate in all of the adventures I want to experience in my life.

If I’m looking to avoid problems down the line, why not go big, instead? Seems like that’d be prudent for someone whose life revolves around adventuring.

So, I decided to follow the exact opposite advice.

When my husband was still just my boyfriend, I told him that I already had a love that will be a part of my life forever.

That love was travel.

A test for our relationship before moving forward in the customary levels of seriousness was an international vacation. So far, we were compatible when it came to how we liked to spend our time in our normal lives — playing with dogs, eating, watching high-quality televised dramas, watching high-quality dramas play out on street corners — but would we be compatible travelers?

It would determine the course of the rest of our relationship.

Travel was an important part of my life, and I wanted a partner that both respected that and had a similar yearning to see the world. I’m also a Type A personality, so it wasn’t just any type of travel I was after. I wanted to take the reins, and spend my vacations actually seeing and doing all the things I wanted to be seeing and doing.

On top of my requirements that my partner be a good traveler and the pressure that was placed on any initial trips we’d take, an added wrinkle was that I wanted that initial trip to be with another couple, too.

Yes, we were adding another couple into the mix.

Is that not how you take your first international trip with a new boyfriend?

And so it came to be that we began planning a trip to Peru. Yes, Peru. It was exotic, exciting, and full of possibilities for things to go wrong.

Our main motivation for going to Peru was ticking something off that was on everyone’s bucket list: Machu Picchu.

As far as when we’d go, I was a teacher at the time, so we could only travel on school breaks during the spring, winter, and summer months. That’s high season for everyone else.

We decided to go during spring break from those options, as it was over the birthdays of three out of four participants: me, my husband, and my friend Simonne, who was born just a day ahead of me. Jeff, her boyfriend at the time and now her husband, would be joining, sans birthday.

This was over 10 years ago now, so my planning skills/special powers were still being honed. I knew that traveling during a shoulder season, in this case at the end of a rainy season, was probably a good idea if we wanted to stick to any kind of budget to this ever-popular tourist destination.

Was it a good idea in any other sense of the word?

That was yet to be seen.

And so we booked our flights. Simonne and Jeff, a flight attendant and pilot, respectively, even bought actual plane tickets, so you know excitement was high. They’re usually flying on standby tickets, but that means they can’t always share the same itinerary as fellow travel buddies or get on flights during peak travel times, like spring break. We travel cheap, so had purchased non-refundable tickets.

As far as our loose plans to access Machu Picchu, we knew we wouldn’t be hiking the Inca Trail. We were too short on time, and, even in our youth, not interested in the camping aspects of that idea. We’d take the train up to Machu Picchu instead, still expecting some traipsing about once we were up there. We made vague plans to figure out altitude medication once the date approached.

Simonne also had a friend living in Peru at the time who promised to show us around Lima, where we’d be stationed for the first few days of the trip.

We settled in for the anticipation of this grand adventure, counting down the days when we’d be in one of the most awe-inspiring sites in the world.

Then the mudslides happened.

From the comfort of our homes, we watched evacuations of tourist after tourist, each more harrowing than the next. As we were all adventurous spirits, we looked at the news with some positivity intact. This was something that happened there, right? Sometimes you go somewhere and need to be evacuated, but it’s a good story, and a good time was still had by all.

Then we learned that the mudslides weren’t only a massive inconvenience.

They washed away people’s homes in the surrounding areas and destroyed part of the railroad we’d be taking to get to Machu Picchu. People died. This was no joke.

As our trip was booked on non-refundable tickets, we had to plan a new course of action. We didn’t want to just hang out in Lima for a week, so we planned to go to Lake Titicaca, one of South America’s largest lakes, on a side trip instead. It was no Machu Picchu, but we could still have a great adventure there, and the name made us all giggle.

We were so young back then, but age hasn’t prevented a smirk escaping my body when I hear “Lake Titicaca.”

Regional tickets booked on Star Perú, we set out for our first trip to South America.

We arrived at the airport on the morning of our flight to Lake Titicaca, and that’s when we found out that our flight had been canceled. When I booked the flights, I forgot that they weren’t able to accept Gmail addresses as a point of contact for whatever reason. I offered them my work email, instead, something I don’t regularly check on vacation or even at work at the time.

The notice of the cancellation went there.

I was so upset, accepting blame for one of the first times in my life while still knocking the company for their inability to send an email to one of the most popular email providers in the world.

There weren’t any other flights departing Lima that day for Lake Titicaca. The next one out was well into the next day, which would have meant an even quicker turnaround back to Lima.

I cried real tears at the desk of the Star Perú check-in agent, which, in the eyes of my group, were strategic. We were issued a full refund on the missed flight, in cash. They were paying us off so that I’d stop making a scene in the terminal.

We were now stuck in Lima for the foreseeable future, in this case, the rest of our bucket list trip. Thankfully, I was traveling with some of the most positive humans in the universe.

We had already seen what we thought we needed to see in Lima, as we were expecting to leave that day. Did we visit the Erotic Gallery, you ask? We sure did. I saw more pottery of phalluses than I’d need to see in a lifetime.

We went to Love Park and took smoochy photos with the very sensuous sculpture “El Beso” sculpture. We ate meals that cost us $3/apiece and toured the city center. We were ready to leave Lima.

And then we couldn’t.

My friends and my then-boyfriend got to work coming up with nearby alternatives.

We’d catch a visit to the Magic Water Circuit, a series of water fountains that light up in colors for a nightly show. We’d spend a day on Playa El Silencio, a passable beach where we could be one with our thoughts. We’d explore the ruins of Huaca Pucllana, a pyramid in central Lima.

I missed out on that last jaunt. I had some kind of illness by that point that involved a peculiarly intense aversion to papaya juice. It still smells like vomit to me to this day.

That’s right. This shit show of a trip also includes mystery illnesses. I had come down with some kind of 24-hour flu: fevers, chills, aches, general malaise, and the aforementioned papaya aversion.

The rest of the group had their own bouts of intestinal problems. All three of them, including Brian, my future husband, got the runs. We think it was after drinking shots of water served tableside at some coffee shop in Lima. Maybe it was the room temperature juice at the ceviche stand. It’s unclear.

What was clear was the intense gas everyone was breathing in for a good portion of the trip and the displacement of blame related to that gas.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom. The trip culminated with some hilarity.

Approaching the end of the trip, Simonne and Jeff returned to our accommodations after a night of drinking. I was in the throes of my illness at the time, and resting at the hotel room with Brian, who somewhat begrudgingly stayed behind with me.

As we fell asleep to Coyote Ugly, I heard a knock on the door. It was my dear friend, Simonne, asking Brian for his pants.

All of it is a good story today, and something we can look back on when we think about how far we’ve come since. I do way more research now when I’m planning travel, especially international travel, before booking anything. And there were some lessons learned, in terms of both how we travel and related to our relationship.

Travel Tip 1

We now make sure to book as much as we can that’s refundable, or at least on credit cards that offer refunds on travel purchases if something goes sideways. I’d be lying to you if I said I attach travel insurance to every trip we take. I’m not telling you not to. I’m not telling you that you should, either, as you’re probably an adult reading this.

What you do need to do before purchasing a policy is to read the fine print on what that policy would cover. Pandemics, for example, probably aren’t part of your policy.

As just one more quick side note, there are lots of folks out there telling you to purchase this or that alongside your trip. Know that they may be getting a cut from promoting certain products. It’s the nature of the business, you guys. The majority of travel bloggers I’ve interacted with are good, transparent people.

Trust, but verify. I learned that in journalism school, alongside the fact that if your mother says she loves you, check it out.

Travel Tip 2

Don’t fly Star Perú.

Travel Tip 3

If you’re going to a place where you really shouldn’t drink the water, that also means consuming the ice and anything that may have interacted with said water.

Relationship Tip 1

Go big or go home. You may think you should kick off a relationship with a mini-break somewhere close to home, but if you’re a frequent traveler, you want to know that your future partner can handle the big, bucket list trips.

Relationship Tip 2

You don’t have to invite others on that first trip, although it worked out in this case. It may also be helpful to have buffer humans there with you if things really go sideways and the trip doesn’t end positively for you two.

Relationship Tip 3

Keep your cool when encountered with a travel fail. My tears got us refunds on the airfare, but you don’t want to be a hot mess for the entirety of a trip. You want to show that potential honey that you’re not crazy, even if you are.

Want to read more? Get the full eBook, Traveling With Your Significant Other: A Decade of Misadventures and Tips to Avoid Divorce at Travel on the Reg. It’s available as a download or on your Kindle.



Agnes Groonwald

travel/humor blogger | content creator | survivor of Polish upbringing | teller of tales |