Til ______ do us part? Travelling with a partner.
Trip Start Jan 13, 2011
32Trip End Ongoing
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Deep down I knew this was a far better idea than moving to Blackburn for a woman I’d only just met
And so we began travelling together
Strengths and Weaknesses
Although I’d known Vicky for 12 years, I never really knew her until we travelled together. Throughout many years of a relationship with someone, various strengths and weaknesses are revealed as different challenges head your way. Travelling takes those 'many years’ and squashes it down into a matter of months.
Are you wondering how strong your partner is? Take them to do something they’re scared of. I watched Vicky’s strong calm demeanour crumble away as she took her first steps backwards over the edge of a cliff during a 20 metre abseil. The colour drained from her face, her chest heaved and her already big brown eyes expanded to a horrified glare. She was shaking like a shitting dog. What was I doing to her? She’s scared of heights. Why had I suggested this? A delicate vulnerability I had never seen before was glaring back at me from the precipice. Her bottom lip trembled and she whispered “I can’t do this” as she disappeared over the edge and I shouted “You can! You’re doing it! You’re amazing!” I was overwhelmed with love and pride at that point and waited nervously to hear she’d reached the ground safely. I’ve not seen the same vulnerability in her since, but I will never forget that it is there and I will never forget the strength she had to overcome it.
We’ve nearly drowned together in Bondi (how stereotypically British, I know), she taught me to drive after my 4 years away from the wheel, we’ve kayaked our way out to shipwrecks, driven roads we thought we were sure to die on, gutted ducks with our bare hands, worked shit jobs, suffered lack of sleep and taken (calculated) risks together
Each experience has revealed a complex array of weaknesses. Having our partner there has offered us a subconscious safety net while we have figured out the strengths we needed to overcome them; Strengths we’ve had all along, but never knew.
For better, for worse.
If we had both stayed in England, Vicky and I wouldn’t have been living together so soon, but travelling pushed us into it. Worse still, it pushed us into living in a van. When you live in such close proximity with someone it offers you the chance to truly see the best of them as I discussed above. On the other hand you also see the worst of them; and yourself.
24 hours a day. For over a year. We’ve worked the same jobs. Had the same friends. Shared the same humid sweaty bed in the back of our van in the middle of summer. She snores. I talk too much. We’ve not showered for way too long. I take every mishap out on her. We’ve had arguments and had nowhere to walk away to, no sofa to sleep on
You can’t just call your best mate or your mum or whoever and have a moan because of the time difference and the cost, and because you’re always with your other half! So you sit, in silence. You calm down and you move on because you have to. Especially if you are with Vicky because she absolutely will not pander to you.
For richer, for poorer.
We have a joint bank account - a first for both of us. It just makes sense while we’re travelling but I don’t know if we’d have taken this step yet back home. We’re slowly getting out of the habit of asking “Can I buy this?” “Is it ok if I use some money to...?” “Is this too expensive?” and just spending as we would normally. It helps me definitely because I have more respect for ‘our’ money than I would if it were just my own. It also breaks the divide between ‘my money’ and ‘your money’ as we always spend as a couple anyway, so why not save like one. We only pay one set of account fees each month too which is a bonus. Vicky earns more money at the minute and I probably spend more as I’m living in a city and I have an array of expensive medications to buy; I don’t feel overly comfortable with that situation as I prefer things to be more equal but we’ve accepted it as the way it is for the time being
Vicky, being the control freak that she is, has tabs on the account at all times. She knows the balance down the exact cent. I don’t even know the online banking login username, let alone the password. This is entirely down to me being irresponsible and relying on Vicky to let me know how much money we have. She could be lying to me and robbing me blind and I’d have no idea. That’s trust for you!
In sickness and in health.
Getting ill while travelling is a challenge for both partners. So far we’ve had a couple of cases of whooping cough, a fractured rib, suspected dengue, infected insect bites, various stomach upsets, strained backs, pulled muscles, trapped nerves, migraines and the discovery of a couple of chronic illnesses.
The worst of it has to be Vicky fracturing her rib through coughing so hard with whooping cough – I correct my earlier comment as this is another time I’ve seen her vulnerability. It would be hard not to look vulnerable; unable to move, crippled in the back of a campervan with tears in your eyes, unable to stop coughing even though your rib just cracked. We spent the last of our money on living in a motel for a while. She took morphine and slept and I stared at her to make sure she didn’t stop breathing. Occasionally I’d help her in and out of bed to the bathroom. Not soon after the fracturing incident (weirdly soon actually) she arose like Wolverine and we continued our journey.
I’ve discovered I have Systemic Lupus, an auto immune illness. Having lupus has been a huge challenge as it’s got significantly worse since travelling. I’ve been unable to work at points, too ill to move sometimes, in an awful lot of pain and drowned in fatigue. Not to mention the annoying but milder day-to-day symptoms. It’s caused us to discuss heading home and at some points it has seemed like a very viable option. We’ve not quite got there yet though and I hope we don’t have to consider it very seriously again at any point soon.
Whatever the illness, supporting a sick loved one is draining. It’s bad on the finances too. Without home comforts or sick pay you can’t just curl up until you get better, you have to keep going regardless. When it comes to mental health this can be even harder. Vicky has experienced depression for the first time while travelling. Twice. A familiar foe of mine already, it has been to visit me on occasion too. You didn’t think this travelling lark was all fun and games did you? Sometimes it makes you question whether you want to keep going or give up and go home. It’s not quite as easy to give up when your partner is dead set on staying though. I like the fact there is someone to talk me round and support me. I try to do the same for her
Til _____ do us part?
Vicky, being a realist, thinks very practically about the future of our relationship. I however, as a romantic, believe we will travel the world forever, wear an awful lot of linen and ride off into the sunset on camels to live happily ever after.
Seriously though, whatever happens,
For better, for worse,
For richer, for poorer,
In sickness and in health,
I’ve had an amazing time with you, my partner. You have made this experience something it would never have been without you; Travelling has made our relationship something it would never have been without it. Our similarities are what fuel this lifestyle; our differences allow us to support each other through the tough parts. If you break up with me for not turning my socks the right way around before I put them in the washing machine then I hope we will stay friends forever and never let our memories fade. If we get our camel/linen/sunset movie ending…well, somebody should probably make a film about it.
Ps. Sorry for making you abseil.
Pps. If the Lupus is really bad will you help me get onto my camel?
Have you travelled as a couple? Share your experiences using the comments section…