Do you dream of traveling the world with your favorite human? Exploring as a couple has changed our life in so many ways, and we’ve met many other duos who feel the same. Every few weeks, we interview one of those intrepid pairs about their own global adventures. This series is called Love on the Road. Today, meet our newest pair:
Meet Michael & Halef of The Round the World Guys!
Hello! Please introduce yourselves!
We are Michael and Halef, and while we both live in the United States, we are from very different parts of the globe. Michael was born in Canada, while Halef grew up in Indonesia. We’ve been here since the late 90s. We’re avid travelers and have been to about 50 countries each. Michael is a Learning Specialist and Halef is a professional Landscape Architect. We’re avid scuba divers, too.
When did you first start traveling together?
We’ve been together since 2008. Our first big trip together was in 2009 to Hawaii for a wedding. Michael traveled a lot before this, but usually with a group of kids he was chaperoning. This was his first real trip without a group itinerary, so that was refreshing.
Halef was backpacking the world before Michael, and visited several exciting places that he would like to revisit together in the future.
For the past few years, we’ve not been able to take too many trips together, as we had an old dog that required one of us to be home. Sadly, she passed away in July of 2017. Since then, we’ve been taking weekend trips together to sort of get used to traveling with each other all over again. It’s been great.
How would you describe your travel style?
Tough question. We’re sort of frugal, yet thoughtful. Halef is a great planner and has an in depth knowledge of any place we go before we go. But we’re also open to doing something luxurious if it’s a must-do. For example, something like the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore is so far out of our normal travel budget. For us though, it was one thing in Singapore that we needed to try. And we got an upgrade! We have done several liveaboard diving trips that are not cheap
Other than rare times like that, we don’t over-do it on accommodations and we usually set up shop in a hostel. We’re also really big into Couchsurfing. We’ve hosted over 500 people in Atlanta and have surfed many dozens of places around the world.
Basically, our style is “Buy experiences, not things.”
What has been the most rewarding part of traveling as a couple?
For Michael, it has been Halef’s meticulous (yet flexible) planning. Before they met, Michael always had his itineraries planned out for him, so he never really learned much about that aspect of travel. Now, Michael is a fairly decent planner and regularly helps other people find good travel deals.
For Halef, it’s having someone to share travel stories with. While traveling alone has many advantages, traveling with someone – especially your better half – is rewarding. He likes to share an adventure together and talk about it in the future.
What has been the most challenging part of traveling as a couple?
As a gay couple, we don’t have travel stories about the discrimination we’ve experienced, because we haven’t, directly. That said, we’re very aware that we’re two married men when we travel – especially to parts of the world where it’s not accepted or even legal. While in the Middle East, we never really talked about us as a couple to locals. When he traveled through Iran, Michael left his wedding ring at home and just told everyone he was single.
That’s tough for us, because we never hide who we are otherwise.
Have you ever had a fight on the road/while traveling, and how did you handle it?
We don’t really have all-out fights. When we do clash, it’s mostly petty bickering, where neither of us wants to admit the other is right.
Every healthy relationship includes disagreement, and it definitely can be stressful while on the road. The key is to listen, and try to understand the other’s perspective. If you must, take a time-out from each other and do your own stuff. But don’t go to bed angry.
Can you share your funniest, most humorous experience traveling together?
Sometimes, the funniest moments weren’t even close to being funny at the time. While in Nha Trang, Vietnam, we went out to a restaurant. Halef ordered a sensible meal. Michael ordered the spiciest meal he could find – not unusual for him. That night, he was fine. The next day, we both had to dive. For the first ten minutes, everything was great. But that’s when Michael’s stomach started to stage a protest! We were down about 20 meters and about 200 meters from the boat.
Michael had to go. Badly. And the thing is, we weren’t alone. There were so many people in the water. So, pulling down the wetsuit and “going” was not an option. He went to the surface and swam the 200 meters – slowly, no sudden movements. Eventually, he got to the boat and pushed everyone out of the way to get up the ladder.
After that, he did something that he wasn’t supposed to do while the boat was anchored. He flushed the toilet.
We’ll stop there, if you don’t mind. ☺
Where have you been that you would recommend as the top destination for couples travel?
It really depends on your travel style and budget. We have friends who do Disney once or twice a year. We have other friends who’d rather pay $200/night to stay at a Marriott in the same place we’d prefer to Couchsurf! They don’t love each other any less than we do and they have just as much fun with each other on those trips.
For us, liveaboard diving trips are a great couples getaway. They are all-inclusive, and while expensive up front, you don’t really have to think about much except diving.
We love doing road trips around the U.S. when we can. We’ve spent a lot of time on the road, singing our hearts out to 90s songs or talking about exciting future trips while seeing the country.
How long have you two been together?
Since May of 2008. Halef was at a place where he was looking for more and Michael was out of a longer-term relationship for about three years. Halef randomly contacted Michael one day through a mutual friend. We met up at a bookstore and took it from there. We’ve been together ever since. In September of 2013, we went to New York City and got married, since at that time, the State of Georgia was one of the many states that didn’t recognize our relationship.
Do you think your relationship would be different if you didn’t travel?
Yes. Travel is the biggest thing we have in common. Our love for being on the road is what solidifies our relationship. Would we be together if we didn’t travel? Who knows? Michael wasn’t nearly as passionate about travel as Halef when they met, so perhaps if he never got into it, it wouldn’t have worked for Halef. But after nearly a decade together, we think we have a solid enough relationship that it could survive. If someone built a wall around Atlanta and told us we could never leave again, we’d just find other things to do!
How do you define love?
Love is when you have a great time seeing your partner being excited to be on the road (or anything, really). Seeing a new place together, tasting a new dish, getting lost on a back street, and taking a break in a coffee shop together. If you know your partner is having a good time, you will have a good time too.
What do you think is the glue that keeps relationships together?
Patience. Michael inevitably does something that annoys the hell out of Halef. Halef does the same. And to be honest, there have been times when we haven’t spoken to each other for a day. But in the end, we’ve learned that being patient with what we perceive to be faults in the other person has really allowed us to concentrate more on the good points of our lives.
What advice do you have for couples considering traveling together?
We’re currently planning a 2-year round the world trip. Generally speaking, we like the same things. Sometimes though, our interests diverge. You have to be ok with not doing everything together. Especially when you’re in such close quarters, it’s nice to get away from each other every now and then. The biggest benefit is that you’ll have different stories from your trip and it gives you more things to talk about. We expect we’ll go off in different directions at least a few times on our big trip, and we think it’s not only ok, it’s healthy.
Have a common goal for what you want to accomplish on each trip. Do you want to see a particular site? Do you want to do a certain thing? Understand what your partner wants and enjoys, and put that on the to-do list, too.