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
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.
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.