Many of us have been traveling at some point in our lives; holidays; work trips; backpacking – it’s all valuable experience that teaches us more about the world around us and most importantly, about ourselves.
The places we see and the people we meet stay with us for the rest of our lives. A life on the road teaches us to live, to love and to let go.
But what if you’re in a relationship – should you leave the one you love, or ask them to wait while you discover yourself? Is it justifiable to risk a happy, loving relationship for the experience of traveling the world on your own, or is it even fair to ask someone to wait for you?
Meet Kach, Jon’s fellow long-term traveler
Read her work: Choose your career or go travel? Why not both?
There is no right or wrong answer to any of these questions. Only you can answer them, if you want to answer them at all. But the good news is that there is an alternative, another transformative by-road to take that’s full of challenges and can change both of your lives forever, without sacrificing your relationship in the process: travel together!
My girlfriend and long-term travel partner, Kach and I actually met while we were traveling in Southeast Asia; she was backpacking with her brother and sister, while I was on a motorbike trip with two of my best friends whom I’ve known since school, so this makes our situation a little different. (READ: What I’ve learned from dating a Filipino woman)
But, although we weren’t together from the start, we had both left friends, jobs, family and relationships behind in order to pursue our dreams of traveling the world.
We met briefly in a small town in Laos, sharing two days together before saying goodbye and going our separate ways.
We knew that there was something there, but we also knew that part of our life on the road was being able to let go and say goodbye, trusting that if it was meant to be, then our paths would cross again in the future, which they did several months later. We’ve been together ever since!
Since then we’ve lived together and traveled together in 10 countries in 4 continents. The whole experience has taught us a lot about ourselves and each other, how we can deal with anything together and how sharing incredible experiences with someone else only makes them more memorable.
It’s been exciting, challenging, enlightening and frustrating, but when we look back on it all we’ve loved every second and we’ve become stronger together than we ever were on our own.
So for everyone out there who wants to travel the world, but feels their relationship is holding them back, or worries that it might not survive the journey, this is for you.
Here are 5 ways that travelling as a couple will change your lives and your relationship forever:
1. Shared Experiences
There are so many beautiful things to see in the world, so many people to meet, food to try, mountains to climb and stunning sunsets to watch. But for all of the photos we take, or however eloquently we describe our experiences to our friends and loved ones back home, they will never truly feel the same way that we did in those moments.
Pictures and words can only do so much, but if you’re with someone who can share all of those beautiful moments with you, the way all of your senses tingle and your brain melts in sensory overload, you’ll forever have a bond that only the two of you can understand.
One night, on a motorbike trip through the mountains of North Vietnam, we found ourselves breaking our only rule – Don’t ride at night! The broken headlight barely lit the bent front wheel, so we had no idea when road became mud-pits and rocks.
Then came the dogs; 5 of them all chasing the bike and trying to bite our legs. I swerved blindly in the dark and luckily managed to outrun them on the broken road. We stopped at the only house we could see and an old couple gave us food and tea, before finding us a place to sleep for the night.
It was pretty crazy at the time and now it’s one of our favorite stories, but no matter how hard we try, only we will really know how it felt!
2. Lasting Memories
When you’re in a relationship with someone for a long time, especially if you live together, then one day can easily blend into the next with very few big events that make us stop and think, ‘Wow, I’ll remember that for the rest of my life.’
This is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about; we all end up in some kind of routine in our lives. In fact, most of us need it or we’d go crazy and nothing would get done! For most of us in relationships, these kinds of life-long memories are limited to; the day we met; our wedding; buying our first house; the birth of our children; and about once a year…vacations!
These memories are what tie us tightly together over the years, every new one making us stronger. Travelling as a couple is an amazing way to build more life-long memories together, because you’re always in new places and everything is new and exciting.
Now that we’re traveling the world together, we have so many shared memories of incredible experiences to reminisce over. Like hitch hiking from the north to south of Patagonia on the legendary Carretera Austral; getting free rides in the back of pickups, in a super-size freight wagon, flat-bed lorries and loads more.
Best of all we met awesome people; locals and internationals who really made the journey what it was. Most importantly though, we did all of this together.
3. A deeper understanding of each other
Whenever we are faced with a new situation, a new challenge to overcome, we learn new things about ourselves and our abilities that completely surprise us. Whether it’s dealing with difficult border officials for the first time or being stuck in the middle of nowhere with no transport, any challenging situation tests your decision making skills, adaptability, your strength and resolve. Often you find that you have more than you thought was possible.
When you travel together as a couple, you don’t just experience that for yourself, but you get to see your partner in situations you’ve never seen them in before – all very useful when you’re thinking of committing the rest of your life to one person!
We find out more and more about each other every day on the road, from the deep and profound to the most mundane little facts. Like just a few days ago, I bought some yogurts for the 30-hour bus ride from Chile to Peru and Kach says, ‘I don’t like yogurt!’
Almost two years together and only now do I find this out?! You see, there is always more to learn about each other! (I wonder if she likes olives…)
4. Self-Improvement and growth
Traveling as a couple is a completely different experience to traveling alone or with friends; you will be faced with challenges and situations that might never happen in your ‘normal lives’ at home and you need to figure out how to deal with that together.
You’ll spend more time together than ever before, which can be a challenge in itself! Tiredness, hunger, uncomfortable buses, sickness and just general friction can quickly escalate into tension and arguments, and just as the highs are higher when traveling, so are your emotions and things can get out of hand quickly. (READ: No fighting! Tips to stay sane when planning your couple’s trip)
I’ve lost count of the amount of times that one of us has been in a bad mood due to lack of sleep and hunger, especially after very long and uncomfortable bus rides in India.
I’ve learned to recognize this in myself; when I feel like I’m irritated or about to argue about something, I stop and think, ‘Am I hungry? Yes! Did I get much sleep on that bus? Probably not!’ This way I know that I need to screen anything that comes out of my mouth!
Not only that, but Kach has learned this too, so she’ll sometimes just walk away and buy me some random food item when she spots the early warning signs!
5. The Ultimate Question – Are we forever, or do we let go?
People often say that traveling together can make or break a relationship; the ultimate test – I believe them.
With all of these incredible experiences and opportunities comes change; change within ourselves; change in how we see the world; and change in how others see us.
When traveling as a couple, both will change in many different ways, usually for the better and usually bringing you closer together. But it doesn’t always work out that way. There may be unresolved differences between you that have been ignored and rise to the surface under pressure, or one person simply outgrows the other.
Either way, these are quite likely issues that would have become apparent somewhere down the line. Would you rather find out now, or in 10 years, when you have house, two kids and a cute French bulldog?
After nearly two years, 10 countries, 4 continents, one motorbike crash, hundreds of new friends and countless challenging situations, we’re pretty certain on which side of the line our relationship stands, but we didn’t know that at the beginning.
Having been together for 2 months in Hanoi, Kach went to Laos on her own because she didn’t know if she really wanted another long term relationship. I didn’t try to stop her and she left, not sure about when or even if she would come back.
After two weeks she did come back and we’ve been together ever since. Traveling teaches you that sometimes you can’t be in control, you just have to trust that the right thing will happen. If you have to force something to fit, then it’s not going to fit very well and it’ll just break somewhere down the line.
Wherever we are in life and whomever we are with, there is always room for more – more places, more people, more memories, more excitement and most of all, more of the good times.
And since there’s always more, there’s always enough to share with someone else! – Rappler.com
Jonathan Howe is the British traveler and writer behind twomonkeystravelgroup.com, working his way around the world finding new and interesting ways to support a life of long-term travel. He loves tropical beaches, surfing, hiking, the outdoors, yoga, adventure sports and motorbikes. Follow him at facebook.com/twomonkeystravel