In September 2019, we gave up our jobs and hopped on a one way flight to Singapore to start a Southeast Asian adventure. As we sat eating a celebratory fancy pre-flight breakfast at Heathrow Airport (as you do), all we could talk about was how excited we were to get away from the UK and start our new lives. From that moment on our days would involve a whole lot of fun, a whole lot of adventure, and most importantly of all, a whole lot of EACH OTHER!
We’ve been together for nearly seven years (we’re ashamed that we actually had to work this out before we wrote this ‒ we’re not very good at anniversaries and so on), and as you’d expect after all this time we know each other rather well. We’ve lived together, holidayed together, partied together, looked after one another when we’ve been sick, cried together, laughed together and had our fair share of disagreements as well as magical, memorable moments. However, we’ve learnt a hell of a lot more about each other and our relationship during these first months of travelling than we had ever done before.
One month into our adventure, we sat down and ordered some suitably tongue-loosening happy hour cocktails, and wrote a list of everything we had learned so far from travelling as a couple.
A Whole Lot Of Decision Making Means A Whole Lot Of Communication.
When you’re travelling, you have to make an incredible amount of decisions every day. Back at home, our routines dictated much of our daily decision making, and even then, spending most of our time apart meant that many of the decisions we made were personal ones. When we think about it, the only thing we decided together on a work day was what time to head to the gym, what to eat for dinner, and what to watch on Netflix.
On the road, we have to decide when to wake up, what to do, how to get there, where to eat, what to eat, where to stay, and the list goes on. That’s before we’ve even got to decisions about the future, like where to travel to next, how to get there, how long to stay for and which hostel to stay in.
So not only has our daily decision making gone through the roof, but ALL of these decisions have to be made TOGETHER! And this means our communication skills have really been put to the test.
We’ve had some hiccups for sure, from hilarious miscommunications to pretty tense discussions. From these we’ve learnt that communication and managing expectations is crucial to maintaining sanity, and avoiding unwanted disagreements.
You Can Never Assume You And Your Partner Are Thinking The Same Thing.
Now you may be thinking ‘well, duh’, but let us explain. Again this is all about communication, but for us it deserves its own point.
With all the decision making we have to do as a team, and the fact that we spend nearly every waking moment together, we’ve had to make sure that we’re properly explaining ourselves.
For instance, Hollie regularly makes decisions inside her head and then says them out loud without any explanation. She then gets confused as to why Nick doesn’t know why we can’t eat at a certain restaurant because we’ve already decided that it’s a bit crabby. There have been other occasions where we’ve found ourselves talking at cross purposes because Nick’s interpretation of words like ‘later’ or ‘this afternoon’ isn’t the same as a normal person’s. Anyway, we digress.
Our point is that to avoid stumbling into an unnecessary bickering sesh, it’s far easier just to be clear about what you mean and what you’re thinking. It’s taken a bit of patience and some willingness to change our habits, but we’re getting much better!
Honesty Is The Best Policy ‒ You Can’t Keep Feelings Bottled Up Inside.
We’d like to point out that this goes without saying for everyone, no matter who you are, where you are, whether you’ve been married for 30 years or have been dating for a month, whether you’re single, male, female, whatever. Never hide your feelings! Anyway…
In that first month on the road we realised just how easy it is to keep a feeling or an opinion bottled away because we didn’t want to upset one another, or appear like we were being difficult.
The first few weeks of travelling seemed a little bit like a short holiday, and we found ourselves being super polite and considerate and saying things like ‘no I really don’t mind where we go today, you can choose’ even though we had a strong opinion on it. We were in a new place, far away from home, learning and experiencing a whole load of new things, so we were keen not to have any disagreements or tense discussions.
Now, that whole polite, considerate thing has gone out of the window. Okay, not completely ‒ we do still love and respect each other, but we’re far better at standing our ground and saying what we really think.
From Hollie explaining that she really really can’t eat noodles again tonight otherwise she’ll be sick (even if this results in a very sad Nick), to Nick telling Hollie that he gets super angry when she reminds him again and again about keeping the passports safe (even if this could get us stranded in a foreign land) ‒ feelings like these have to be shared, not bottled up. When you’re travelling, your happiness and that of your partner is of paramount importance. So say exactly how you’re feeling. At worst it will cause a heated discussion, but it’s in both of your interests to work through issues and come to a resolution, and compromise is a wonderful thing.
You’re Each Other’s Favourite Person, And That’s Okay!
Before you go travelling, everyone you talk to alludes to the millions of friends that you’ll make fromall over the globe, and all the super-social things that you’ll be doing on your big adventure. However, we found that for us, this couldn’t have been further from what’s actually happened.
Yes, we did travel through Malaysia in the first month of this trip, and no, Malaysia certainly isn’t Thailand in terms of socialising, partying and offering the stereotypical ‘backpacker scene’. We’re actually in Thailand at the time of typing up this blog, and our experience still hasn’t changed.
During that first month, and since, we’ve felt somewhat pressured (not by anyone else, just by ourselves really) into booking a social looking hostel ‒ yes, one of those hostels that advertises their bar crawl and whose profile picture on booking.com shows twenty young people dressed in elephant pants holding cans of Tiger beer ‒ to meet new people and socialise. We’ve also felt like we should be spending our evenings at lively looking hipster bars in the hope of striking up conversation with the backpackers on the table next to us. This, as it turns out, is bloody difficult to do if you’re not going to get that delightful ‘I’ll just talk to everybody’ kind of drunk, which a backpacker budget doesn’t often permit.
The truth is that we’ve met a lot of people on our travels who have had a big impact on our experience, but they haven’t always been backpackers. From the friendly taxi driver who filled our journey with his enlightening life and relationship advice, to the group of British expats we met in Langkawi watching the England rugby quarter-final ‒ these people and these conversations are the ones that we’ll remember in the years to come.
One month into our travels we felt a little guilty about not having met our lifelong backpacker friends, but we realised that the main reason we came on this trip was to spend more time together. We came to accept that it’s okay that we enjoy each other’s company more than anyone else’s, and it’s okay that we’re happiest when snuggled in bed together giggling at an episode of Modern Family.
You’ll Realise How Little Time You Spent Together Before You Started Travelling.
This is kind of sad, but it’s a sad truth. Okay, we were aware that we wanted to spend much more of our time together, and that’s one of the main reasons why we decided to travel ‒ what we didn’t realise was the extent to which we were living separate lives.
The saddest thing is that we had accepted that this was okay, that it was normal. Working 9-5 means that you’ll see very little of your partner, unless you work together, or your offices are near one another’s. Our work lives were vastly different ‒ Hollie left the house at 7am to catch a train to London, and didn’t get back home until 6.30pm at the earliest. When Nick woke up, Hollie had already left, and he went about his own morning routine alone before settling down to work from home. In the evenings, we’d perhaps squeeze in a gym session before heading home for a hastily prepared meal and then, exhausted, we’d fall onto the sofa and absent mindedly gaze at the television before heading to bed. The next day would be the same, and the same again, before the weekend, which brought us just 48 hours of bliss.
In that first month of travelling, our lives re-intertwined as if they had never unravelled in the first place. We started questioning the very nature of our lives back home ‒ what is the point of a relationship when you can’t be with each other as much as you would like? What we were experiencing on the road was real life, real happiness and real love, and in just one month we’d accepted that life at home could never go back to how it was.
So, if that last point hasn’t made you depressed as hell, then let this article encourage you to save that coffee money, say no to that night out, and find a way to temporarily or permanently leave that life behind.
Travel the world and be with the person you love, even if that person is just yourself! You’ll learn a hell of a lot about yourself, your relationship and your happiness. Go on, do it!
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