When planning the ‘trip of a lifetime’ with a lover, you can be forgiven for skipping ahead to the wonderful memories you’ll stock-up on – the ones that will surely strengthen the foundations of your relationship and one day be used to convince your brood that you weren’t always boring old dry-shites. Right?
Well, yeah, if you don’t mind squeezing the rainbows and unicorns into the front half of your prospective memory bank. Realistically, this is what the back half will consist of: barely concealing the ricochet of watery poo-pellets from behind the paper thin walls of a cramped guestroom ensuite after scoffing a dodgy batch of street food; growling at each other beneath the crippling mixture of tropical midday sun and mammoth backpacks, while attempting to find the cheapest hostel in town… Doesn’t sound too bad? Consider the finer moments, that will subtly lace all those memories together: the mind rotting silences that go beyond comfort and expand after spending every waking second with your ‘one-and-only’, together, ploughing through heated hangovers, sweaty PMS and obscure upsets resulting from the hideously magnified caricature of the person you thought you were dating…
These are, of course, mere moments, extremities of the norm that occur when there’s seemingly no escape. But, they are all part of the experience you are buying into when travelling with a partner, albeit 50 per cent of it. Perhaps this is why we all know someone who has galloped off into the sunset as a duo and returned a soloist? These instances shouldn’t be surprising, really. Not only is it fairly unnatural to spend so much time one-on-one, travellers are placed in unusually high-pressured situations. Let’s not forget the exacerbating universal truth: we save our worst behaviour for our loved ones.
Face it, travelling with anyone for even a two-week stint can be detrimental. So the existence of hundreds of blog posts on ‘travelling with your girlfriend’ or ‘travelling with your boyfriend’, offering a range of survival tips and anecdotal cushions, are justified. The bottom line is that the sustained exposure of your partner’s quirks, at best, dark-side, at worst, is enough to seismically shift your perspective with potentially dire consequences – this works both ways. Take it seriously.
Throw into this mix the pinch-yourself scenes of paradise, beautiful carefree and barely clothed backpackers and the growing understanding that there really is much more to life than the monotony of city commutes to desk bound boredom and grotesque arse-licking… Yep, once the inspiration sinks in, you could be in trouble. Travelling as a couple tests your commitment to each other, and to the place from which you came. If you boomerang right on back, you may proceed to the next level…
Despite all this negativity, sharing the experience of travel with someone you love really can be delicious – so much so that you want to eat those golden moments and absorb them into your very being. I know, because I tried it: we shared Mekong sunsets together, adventurous nights in the bent streets of Hanoi and finely crafted feasts in Hoi An. What do I have to show for it? Four thousand photos of my ex in pretty places… For all the fun and excitement we shared, four months into our little expedition, our mojo was fizzling fast. We decided to stay on in Cambodia, where three-and-a-half years into our relationship, it died. Regardless of those black moments when it all unravelled, if you asked: was it worth it? I would say: absolutely. If I could, would I change my decision to travel with a partner? Nope. Sure, I’d probably do it again.
As a couple, we enabled each other to achieve our goal, to travel. We did, for much of it, enjoy each other’s company and it was great to be able to share those experiences, that is, the glittery 50 per cent of the memory stock! However, our bond did not stand the test. When you choose to travel, you are choosing to live, which means leaving behind the things you thought you needed, that anchor you in ordinary life — and one of those things may turn out to be your partner. It is a risk, but there can be no regrets because in the end, either way you will be travelling lighter, loved-up with your ‘one’ or on your very own adventure. Travelling just fast-tracks all the shit in between.
So, ditch the desk, drag your love to paradise and hope to god you’ll bring them back. Give each other space, stake your claim on your identity and don’t let ‘two-become-one’. Embrace the challenges of travel and work as a team – try to keep the ‘ex’ out of sex by being flexible and adapting to your ever-changing living arrangements. Ride the rainbow-times, accept the bum-times. Most importantly, travelling will open your mind, consider that light, spritely sensation: freedom. If the snap-crackle-and-pop goes flat and there’s no reviving your soggy relationship, chuck it. Life’s too short to live in a cage, so be kind, release each other from the misery of a failed love – discover the world as a soloist and your adventure will be turbocharged.