It’s Like Romance… But Cheaper: How to Survive Dating as Backpackers

Congratulations, we’ve all scraped through another Valentine’s Day unscathed, if slightly poorer. Alex and I had the extra challenge of it being our first V Day together while trying to adhere to our very strict travel budget. We discussed giving it a miss, but felt like it would set a bad precedent; missing out on the Western Worlds biggest consumerism scam?! Not us!

Before leaving we were warned by another couple that after a few months together 24/7 in travelling conditions, there would be nothing considered private anymore. Indeed, in the five months we’ve been away we have seen each other through some pretty rough times – a recent bout of food poisoning only scratching the surface! It did get me to thinking though, how does a couple keep the ‘spark’ alive when bowel movements have become an acceptable breakfast conversation piece?

Fortunately (soppy comment alert), I’m lucky enough to be dating the most considerate person I know, and he is a natural at making me feel lovely and beautiful, even when I’m grouchy and stinky. Having learned from the master, I feel it’s only fair to share our tips for romancing over a rucksack, and I hope other travellers can make use of them!

Clichéd over the top, loved up picture

Avoid Material Gifts

wp_20161019_05_05_51_richThis is an obvious one to start with. We all have enough trouble squeezing our toiletries and new elephant travel trousers into our bulging backpacks, with the addition of heartfelt, but bulky gifts. We tend to purchase experiences rather than presents for one another, and when we do get physical gifts we are very size conscious; some of the more observant of you may have noticed Boon, the orangutan keyring in Alex’s Climbing Mount Kinabalu post. He traipsed up the mountain with Alex in my absence and was a sweet, thoughtful gift when we were reunited which showed Alex had been thinking of me, but which mercifully didn’t push me over the 15kg baggage allowance.


Love Letters

“Shall I Compare Thee To A Summers Day…” all means, but don’t blow the budget on a celebration specific card to do it! I spent $3.50 of our $20 agreed allowance on a Christmas Card for Alex in Australia, only to be presented back with an equally heartfelt message on a 20c postcard – why didn’t I think of that?!

Agreeing Budgets

This is a crucial one, especially if like us, you’re a little competitive and like to outdo each other. By setting realistic budgets you don’t break the bank, you both know where you stand and we’ve found it actually results in more personal, meaningful gifts. Again, referring back to our Australian Christmas, Alex made me a Christmas Stocking because he knew I’d be missing mine from home (I’m spoilt there too). Knowing he was lamenting missing out on the Christmas Pudding and Brandy Butter of his holidays at home, I put together a little traditional English Christmas hamper for him. Both simple, cheap ideas, but sometimes it really is the thought that counts.

Take Time for Yourselves

It’s easy to lose sight of a relationship when constantly stuck in hostels, joined of a night by a snorer, a fidgeter and a late night partier. It’s important to balance this out with time to yourselves in privacy, even if this does mean spending a bit extra to do so. Be realistic and account for this time when you budget and your relationship (and sanity) will thank you.

An escape from backpacking life in Lake Taupo

Make An Effort

My straighteners remained at the bottom of my bag for the majority of our adventures, and have now made the journey back home with Alex’s mum Anita. Nonetheless, there was a rare occasion where I’d drag them out, and even find a bit of make up from somewhere for an evening just the two of us. This works both ways, and even if it’s not through getting your gladrags on, make sure you take the time to appreciate that you’re still a couple: go out on a date or have a movie evening in, just as you would in the real world back at home.

Date night in Sydney

Think Free

The best things in life are free, and this is doubly true for backpackers. From making gifts, romantic nighttime wanderings together or even just getting your better half a coffee in the morning, there are so many easy ways to say ‘I Love You’ without paying for the privilege.

With such beautiful backdrops there’s no need to spend money!


There is a fine art to organising a surprise for someone who is always by your side, but totally worth it if you can pull it off! On our first flight out and to celebrate the start of our travels Alex gave me a little care package from one of my favourite shops back home, and despite our hectic schedule managed to squeeze in an awesome, unexpected trip to Puzzling World for me in New Zealand. With a little help from friends in Melbourne I booked us a meal out unbeknownst to Alex for his birthday (the actual day we spent being evacuated from Kaikoura). While he was a bit perplexed that I bullied him into putting his best shoes on on a random Wednesday afternoon the look on his face for the big reveal was worth it! It’s a particularly special way of showing your partner how much they mean to you, and a little effort goes a long way.


With these tips you have all you need to become the Beyoncé and Jay Z of the travelling world (had to have a hasty google to make sure they hadn’t split up since we left, but you get the sentiment). Travelling is amazing, yes, but don’t forget about the amazing person you chose to bring with you.

Me and my amazing person

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