Scientists and academics increasingly work on collaborative projects and write papers in international research teams. This trend is driven by greater publishing demands in terms of the quality and breadth of data and analysis methods, which tend to be difficult to achieve without collaborating across institutional and national boundaries. Yet, our understanding of the collaborative processes in an academic setting and the potential tensions associated with them remains limited. We use a reflexive, autoethnographic approach to explicitly investigate our own experiences of international collaborative research. We offer systematic insights into the social and intellectual processes of academic collaborative writing, identifying six lessons and two key tensions that influence the success of international research teams. Our findings may benefit the formation of future coauthor teams, the preparation of research proposals, and the development of PhD curricula.