27 February 2015

Travel Dilemmas | Travelling when you're in a relationship

From traveller's point of view:
I knew I wanted to go travelling before I'd met Josh and I'd delayed my uni place to do so... twice. It was actually only around 3 weeks before we met that I booked my flights, but still the decision was already made. I know for some couples the decision is a much tougher one, especially when only one person has the desire to travel. I can't comment on this personally, apart from to say that we survived it for 4 months and I don't regret going travelling one bit.

Admittedly it did mean the decision to go was in a sense, guilt free. That said there were times when I felt immensely guilty. Quite often the decision to go travelling is a selfish one. Hear me out... We all go travelling under different circumstances, but mostly we go to discover the world for ourselves, to taste new foods, to get under the skin of another person, to experience exhilarating thrills. In some way or another travel becomes about developing yourself as a person and so when I say the decision is a selfish one, I want to emphasise that I do not mean this to be a negative - the process of becoming a nomad and seeing the world is a rewarding and liberating one - even the best Pinterest quotes struggle to put it in to words BUT I digress...

There is no getting round the fact that long-distance relationships or relationships maintained from opposite sides of the world are TOUGH. Although it may seem obvious to say, both people in the relationship need to be 100% convinced that there is something they still want from the relationship, some pull that makes them want to return to that person when they touchdown at home. All too often we stay in relationship because there is nothing pushing us away, rather than something drawing us in.
The Affect of Travelling on a New Relationship
I had only been dating Josh for four months (exactly) when I left for Asia and so thankfully our relationship was still very new and fresh. I think it can go either way with new relationships. You may not have such deep-routed loyalty and commitment to making a new relationship work, especially if you're aware of the looming date of departure. Some people would end 'it' before it began or hold a part of themselves back for fear of getting hurt. I'm an emotional person who is lead by their gut and I had a faith it would work, but I'm sure Josh would say that he was a LOT more hesitant about the circumstances. For me being in a new relationship worked - I was so excited. On the flight to Japan I could already envision what it would be like when I returned home.

Texting back/prompt replies do not come naturally to me, so I really had to learn to be more proactive about staying in touch with those back home. Each time I adjusted to a new time zone, I would calculate when would be a good time to talk on Skype and kept this in the back of my mind. It never dictated what I planned to do, but it meant I could work out in my mind when I was next likely to speak to Josh and letting him know what to expect help remove resentful feelings. It may sound like a tie, but I really enjoyed speaking to those back home and telling them about my experiences. If you really don't want to communicate with your partner back home, maybe there are things you don't want to be talking about? I say with certainty, that communicating and sharing menial talk about your day, no matter how contrasting it is, was a large contributor to maintaining our relationship.

Being Joined in Bali
When I left for travelling, like I said it was very early on in the relationship, I think I had suggested to Josh a few times that he should come see me. He was hesitant as he didn't want to be holding me back, but within a few weeks of travelling I knew that this really wouldn't be the case for me. It may be the case for some people though and actually I think that that too, is absolutely rational. Many people go travelling to discover what it's like to be completely independent, to experience freedom, to control their own time and answer only to their dreams. GREAT! This is what travelling is all about and if I had said to Josh actually I want to do this just. for. me. I am confident that he would back this idea and let me get on with it.
As it happened Josh joined me exactly half way through to travel around Bali and Indonesia. I loved being able to share some of the memories with my partner. When I talk about living out of a backpack, Josh understands. When I talk about how nice it was to not know where you're going, Josh understands. It also meant that I experienced Indonesia in a completely different light - I didn't sleep in dorms and I didn't worry that I was just relaxing and not sightseeing, as I was just catching up with Josh. If I went back to Indonesia solo, I'm sure it would be a different experience and that's fine - there is no right or wrong way to travel. It can be quite emotionally exhausting to make friends constantly and so I felt like I truly relaxed and let my guard down a bit for the few weeks Josh joined me.
Cafe wall in Penang, Malaysia
The hardest moments
The moments that were most tough, were when I was having a really shit time (yes this happens). When all you need is a hug, or just to stay put and get comfortable for a few days the hardest thing to accept is that your partner cannot physically be present right now or even in a few hours. As much as it is a cliche to say it, these moments made the relationship stronger, as when you only have words you have to find ways of showing you care. And like a baby I learnt to self-soothe, stay calm and find ways of cheering myself up.

YES we're still together and YES being reunited at the airport in Bali really was like Love Actually. I surprised him and my best friend by coming home 10 days early and my only regret is not filming their reaction!...
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