Guest Post: How Travelling Tore Us Apart: The Pitfalls of Moving Abroad with a Loved One

Guest Post: Thank you so much to Will for writing this brilliant piece about the other side of the coin – when traveling doesn’t always work out for the couple involved. We have always been super concerned about other couples wanting to try out the same thing, knowing how difficult it can be. Read on, Will is freaking awesome with his guest post below – How Travelling Tore Us Apart: The Pitfalls of Moving Abroad with a Loved One

moving abroad

Creative Commons via bored-now on flickr

Travelling: the single, most greatest, passion of my life. Thanks to it I’ve had many opportunities. It’s taken me as far as the classrooms and newsrooms of Southeast Asia, sleepy American college towns, culturally steeped European capitals and finally to where I found myself now, here in the barren lands of Extremadura, Spain.

All these experiences, however, have not been without their trials. Nor the fair-share of heartbreak either.

As a guy in his mid-twenties, with barely less than two months of singledom since the age of 18, travelling and relationships have always gone hand in hand. They’ve sometimes sustained themselves and come out unmarked, other times careened over cliff edges only to shatter into a thousand, tiny little pieces.

One of the main reasons I remain so interested in the stories here on Over Yonderlust, in fact, is that I admire Erica and Shaun’s ability to travel the world side-by-side, harmoniously.

I always find it jaw dropping to read about how they manage to share and indulge in the moments of extreme emotion that their travels bring. Especially when I know that others, including myself, would simply strike out, break down, and bring any idyllic pairing of bliss come crashing down.

Travelling in a relationship, undeniably, is incredibly tough. But knowing how to make it work? Even more difficult. After all, there’s no one-fits-all blueprint for success.

Hopefully, however, by taking something from the story I’m about to relay, you can help avoid some of the pitfalls that can happen over long-term travel with a partner. I don’t pretend to have any answers, but I do, at the very least, have experience.

One Passion Conjoined with Another

My story, just like Shaun and Erica’s, begins a fair while ago.

It begins on the eve of graduating University. I was 22-years-old and excited about the future that lay before me. I had just taken the decision to head over to Vietnam to do a CELTA, having long been planning to travel again after finishing my studies. I couldn’t wait to get out there.

At the same time I had just met a lovely girl, a fellow final year student, and we were enjoying the throws of a burgeoning romance. The time we were spending with each other was great, yet I knew, that after studies were up, that I was going out to travel the world again. I never once made that a secret.

Unbeknown to me however, she also had similar plans, and decided to share them with me one, unexpected, afternoon.

What happened next? Naturally we decided to go together, fusing and sculpting our plan so that it began to take shape.

When we finally found ourselves taking off on plane, to a place neither of us had ever been before, having only known each other 5 months, well, to the outsider, I guess it might have appeared a little insane. Certainly risky. Yet it never really seemed it.

Not to me anyway. I was in very much in the mindset that “life is all about stories like these”. Very Mills and Boone.

A Year Abroad

What we weren’t to know then, however, was that we were to spend the next year and a half together working, living, eating, spending nearly every waking moment, side by side, head to head, freefalling in face-off.

We did the 4-week CELTA course together, we got the same job, same timetable, sometimes even the same students. We got an apartment together, just between the two of us; we ate every meal together, we barely spent time with anyone else, rarely socialized with other expats or locals.

Our lives? They entered into an impenetrable bubble, two lives lived side-by-side as one. It’s a marvel that it worked out so long. That one of us didn’t crack, didn’t scream, didn’t hit, punch – maybe even kill – the other.

Naturally we got tired. Tired of being a double identity, tired of being recognized simply as “that couple” and no longer our individual selves. Tired, I’m sad to say, of each other.

Ironically however, the whole wild experience, the exoticness of Vietnam, the challenge of the experience, bound us further together. Our individual fears had become shared, our though processes marred by one another. We couldn’t escape the binds.

What’s worse is that we didn’t strike out, nor felt that we could. We didn’t even acknowledge the problem right in front of us staring us squarely in the face.

We had, for better words, become entirely dependent on one another. The experience of travel had made it so and had blinded us to reality.

The Final Nail

So how does this story end? I’ll save you any more emotional hum-drum by simply saying: not well.

She wanted to return to London, I rather reluctantly, followed, carrying with me the ugly weight of resentment for her not letting me to continue to travel, writing and doing what I loved.

Leaving Asia…

Silly I know, but hey, I’m being honest here.

We lasted another 5 months. Eventually we found the independence and the courage to say to one another that we’d had enough. We both broke out on our own, starting our lives afresh, moving to separate parts of London.

Perhaps it’s telling now that I’m back out on the road, with her, still rooted firmly, happily, back in London. Perhaps it’s not. Maybe it was my dream we were chasing all along?

The truth is that it’s easy to analyze, easy to make suggestions. Did she become entirely dependent on me (and I in turn) because she didn’t truly want the experience? Were we both clinging on to sustaining something, which at first – harking back to the end of University – appeared good? Something that meant we didn’t have to face the thoughts of travelling solo?

It’s all too easy to suggest all this and besides, it’s only one side of the story, mine, that you’re getting.

This is why I’d love to turn attention back to Over Yonderlust, where two very independent voices, seemingly compatible, provide us an example that travelling in a relationship can be successful, if approached in the right way.

With their refreshing mentality, maturity and level of independence they instill me with the confidence to try it again.

To that, fellow travellers, I can only take my hat off.

Will Peach is one of the site editors over at Gap Daemon, the gap year community website for backpackers and gap year travellers.

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21 Responses to “Guest Post: How Travelling Tore Us Apart: The Pitfalls of Moving Abroad with a Loved One”

  1. Tawny- Captain and Clark October 7, 2011 at 1:37 am #

    Chris and I firmly believe that [long term] travel with a loved one will either make you or break you. We appreciate the honesty of this post. We sometimes forget what life could be like if we didn’t share the same passion and goals.

    • Erica October 9, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

      @Tawny: One of my very good friends went through a terrible break up due to her boyfriend refusing to travel. I think it is so important to realize travel is not for everyone.

  2. Cole (FourJandals) October 7, 2011 at 5:07 am #

    Awesome post. And don’t think that you are the only couple that goes along blissfully without the fighting. The fact you managed to do it all without fighting I think stands for something. We spend our time playing what I like to call the “Silent Game”. Great fun where we ignore each other while fuming until one of us realises the amazing place we are checking out and nudges the other one. Takes upwards of a day to work though haha (not sure why I am laughing…)
    Thanks for sharing though Will.

  3. Runaway Brit October 7, 2011 at 10:37 am #

    What a refreshingly honest post! It is true that travelling with a partner will either make or break you, and unfortunately for many it is a breaking point. I met my partner when I was working in Vietnam and he was travelling but he stayed to take a CELTA course and lived there with me until they refused to extend his visa any longer. We lived together in Sweden for a year afterwards and are now travelling together for the first time. Even though we have lived in foreign countries for 3 years, travelling is different altogether – you do not have an immediate group of friends and we have sometimes only spoken to each other for days at a time. It is hard and there is no formula for making it work. I only hope it does! I’m sorry to hear that your relationship did not work out but it sounds like you both had different needs by the end, but that only means you have more time to focus on finding somebody you can travel with!

  4. Will - Gap Daemon October 7, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    Thanks for the comments guys. Was gut-wrenching writing it. But glad to finally get it all out and in the open.

  5. Caanan @ No Vacation Required October 7, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

    Beautifully written post!

    We know the complications that come with traveling as a couple all to well. Heck, we know the difficulties associated with spending almost every waking moment together. But we also know the joy and peace that comes with having a companion that truly gets you and shares your passions and values.

  6. Lissie October 7, 2011 at 10:03 pm #

    Always said I’d never live with someone who couldn’t travel with me – seen way too many couples self-destruct on the road to believe anything else. The thing is that most “normal” couples spend very few waking hours together – 8 hours work 2-3 more hours commuting, 8 hours sleeping – compare that to travel 24/7 is how many couples spend their time.

    Frankly I’m glad that I travel with someone who is confident enough to go off on his own from time-to-time because 24/7 is tooo much even in a good relationshiup

    • Erica October 9, 2011 at 7:08 pm #

      @Lissie: Shaun and I used to work together as well so I knew the traveling thing wouldn’t be an issue. I’ve seen couples who only see each other a few hours a day. I couldn’t imagine trying to go straight into long term couple travel like that.

  7. Will - My Spanish Adventure October 28, 2011 at 3:00 am #

    Just a follow up for all you guys who took something from this post. I followed it up on my own blog with an update of sorts here: http://myspanishadventure.com/2011/long-distance-relationship-in-spain/

    • Erica October 28, 2011 at 11:35 am #

      @Will: Thanks for the heads up! 😀

  8. Hogga October 28, 2011 at 10:01 am #

    I am SO afraid to travel with a special someone… if it goes bad I don’t want to remember awesome places I’ve travelled with them there. I don’t want a relationship gone wrong to ruin a certain country or city for me. Because really, when you think about that destination you will think about that person and how great it used to me – or that place could give you an awful feeling as it could be where things went wrong.
    Thus, I will stay single forever and travel the world! Then I will get really old and have lots of cats. I like cats.

    • Erica October 28, 2011 at 11:38 am #

      @Hogga: I guess it depends on what your intention for the relationship is. If you can’t travel with them, do you really want to be with them? 😛 But hey, if you like cats… I personally like getting laid. 😛

      • Hogga October 30, 2011 at 8:56 am #

        HAHAHAHA… burn!

  9. Will - My Spanish Adventure November 10, 2011 at 4:06 am #

    Nah getting laid is overrated!

  10. Juno November 27, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    This is very well written one. Very good. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Donovan - The Mezzofanti Guild February 28, 2012 at 8:06 am #

    Thanks for sharing this.

    I met my current girlfriend working as an ESL teacher abroad and I’m glad to say things are still good after a year of travel together.

    • Erica February 29, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

      @Donovan: I think it is so important to share both the good and the bad!

  12. Daniel @ TeacherGig July 28, 2013 at 7:19 am #

    Will, thanks so much for writing such a personal story. It’s too bad that first expat experience didn’t work out so well in the romance department, but it’s great you kept going.

    I’ve been an expat, teacher, writer, and whatever else I can try here in Taiwan for over 8 years. I’ve seen a lot of couples come and go, and they all seem to follow the same pattern as your relationship: no matter what happens, how miserable a couple is, they stick it out. Then they break up shortly after going home. Usually after a year or two.

    So thanks again for sharing. It will be a huge help to anyone traveling with a significant other (I’ll be taking my first long trip with my girl and it may turn out to be pretty interesting). I’ll keep this post in mind.

    • Erica August 10, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

      It is crazy how things work out like that, right? Luckily I found my perfect travel partner and we didn’t even think about the “what ifs” of spending that much time with each other on the road. This is something everyone should think about – especially when there are many moments that aren’t glamorous and you realize how incredibly human your significant other is.

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