The title may lead you to believe I’m back harping on about money, and budgeting… again. Well, actually (you judgemental motha…) I’m not.
Inspired by Luke’s recent blog on tips for travelling as a couple, where he laid down the laws on how not to be a dick and avoid any imminent arguments, I thought to share a glimpse into travelling as one half.
One half of a team, one half of a relationship and one half of something we’ve created together. Him being the better half, of course.
A slight peek so to speak into spending nearly every second of every minute, hour, day and month literally living in each others pockets. Geddit?!
You see when we set out on this adventure nearly a year ago now, we never discussed or thought about this aspect of our new future. Saving money, selling our belongings, saying goodbye and wrapping up our lives were our only priorities. Sure, we talked about ‘what ifs’ and dabbled a little with some negative outlooks but overall, we just wanted to board a plane and run away, hand in hand.
Like a honeymoon, everything was (and is) peachy.
Back in Ireland, myself and Luke were one of those ‘we love each others company’ kinda couples. Two peas in a pod and both proud introverts, our stereotypical 8 hour working days were spent sneakily texting each other and counting down the minutes until we were both home. Weekends, if one of us had to work or the other had plans, we’d both moan and push out the bottom lip as we headed for the door, acting like we’d never see each other again.
I wouldn’t blame you if you just vomited. This may seem like the start of a corny open letter, but the reality is, we’re just two eejits who like to spend our time together. Sure, isn’t that what a relationship is, or at least should be?
I’ve many memories from when I was younger, blasted for spending time with my boyfriends and always wondering why. Never did I neglect a friendship but I will admit I cut back on spending time ‘with the girls’ for a night in with the boyfriend. I’m a firm believer, and always have been, that a relationship needs some investment. I don’t mean dates, presents and romantic gestures. I mean time. The most precious and unique thing we all own.
If I planned to spend my life with someone, surely I should be carefree in giving them my time. If they spoil or waste it, I get a large learning curve ball to the face and life goes on. But without that time, I’d never know. I’m pretty sure, although my friends would do anything for me and are literally my life support, I doubt they’ll take out a mortgage, share my bed, have babies, take on my shit all day every day and grow old in my presence.
So if you are reading this and can in some way relate, whether you’re on the relationship or friendship end, take it easy. Stay guilt free and never apply unnecessary pressure to someone’s life, especially your own.
Anyway. It’s been said too many times how ‘perfect’ myself and Luke are for each other. Even to this day, while our social media followers grow and our blog readership views increase, once online strangers now friends repeat the phrase.
I’ll agree. We are. But really, it’s down to the age old thing we call ‘respect’. Of course we love each other, but even the most besotted and madly in love couple can be stuck in an intense or hurtful relationship. Something I’ve first hand experience with, as does Luke.
I love Luke, with everything I am and have, but most importantly I respect him. I respect his goofy immaturity, I respect that he’s a little forgetful, I respect that he prefers the easy life and I respect him even more during those moments when my foot is firmly wedged up his arse. My point is, I’m not here to change him. The major downfall in most relationships not that I’m an expert on anyone else’s but my own. And even that’s debatable.
My favourite part? He respects me. He respects my temper, my mood swings, my overly erratic behaviour and he respects me even more when he’s telling me to stop and breath. Never using the risky “calm down”.
When we fuck up, we take responsibility and we apologise. Knowing too well that these same flaws will rear their pretty head within the next few days, but never ever wanting to change or fix them.
What I will admit, is that it was easier back in Ireland. We had time to miss each other, we had time apart and we had the choice. Now, we don’t have that as much. It’s not necessarily a complaint, but it is a harsh reality.
Gone are the days where we would send each other cute or funny texts, race out in our lunch hour to hear each other’s voice, or fly home to share the days’ news. Nowadays, we share EVERYTHING.
There are little to no updates to discuss. There is no need to send romantic slurs via words on a phone. Feck, it’s gotten to the point where we literally have no secrets; even if one of us takes a shit, the other knows. We see the same thing, we hear the same thing and we experience the same thing. All the time.
Sometimes it’s tough. I’m a lone ranger, 17 years of my life as an only child. I have ‘the’ syndrome. I don’t like when people touch my stuff, or me. I like space, lots of it. I like ‘me time’, all the time and I don’t like to be hung out of, an expression my mother knows too well. Now, I do love people (sometimes!) and I like to be surrounded by talk and laughs. I adore swapping stories and listening, but you know, not all the time. I class myself as a social introvert. However, if it would make sense, I’d prefer to put introvert ahead of social.
On the road, it was just after the 7 month mark that panic really set in. I was speaking to a close friend who reminded me of how important it is to take some time, slow down, and not neglect myself and who I am. It was then I really realised that I haven’t had one single moment to myself. Nearly a year and we’ve spent a total of 10 hours apart. Those 10 hours spent sitting in Spanish classes. Hardly healthy ‘me time’.
Now, this is not to say that I don’t regret a single moment but when you’re clicked into a reality, you somewhat become obsessed. Or maybe that’s just me? Habits I’ve picked up, ones I was totally blind to, started to annoy me. Habits that didn’t suit me. Habits that I don’t love or loathe, but respect. Habits that are not mine to own.
The low days, exhausted and overwhelmed, became intensified. Anxiety, something I have always suffered from but learned to live with, started kicking my ass again. Fears of the dark shadow that once nearly sucked the life out of me, was back dancing around my thoughts.
Panic. That’s all I can describe it as. Panic that I was losing myself. Panic that I wasn’t investing that oh so precious time I spoke of, into me. The most important thing in my life. Me. And I’m not ashamed to admit that. Because without me, how can I be a sister. How can I be a daughter, a girlfriend, a friend. The terrifying question of ‘who am I?’.
At this stage of the blog, I’d like to make it clear that this isn’t anyone’s fault. Not mine. Not Lukes. This isn’t something we could have predicted or prevented. The reality is, that until we instil some sort of routine back in our lives, we are bound to eachother. Every second, of every minute, of every day, month and soon to be year.
Of course we can go for walks and meet our new found friends, do our own thing while in each other’s company or even sit in different rooms, or separate seats on the bus. But let’s not forget that our brains never ever switch off.
Coincidently celebrating the fact that we are both 4 years together and 4 months on the road 🙌 The best part about taking off on a one-way world tour, is doing it with your fellow wanderlusting weirdo. Such 4un times.
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My parents warned us to “look after each other” and we do, always have. But unlike in Ireland, there is no break from that concern. If Luke leaves to go to the market, leaving me to work back at the hostel, until he walks back through those dodgy wooden doors I cannot relax. If I decide I want to go for a lonely walk or go get lost for a few hours, I know I’m leaving Luke on high alert.
Once, in Quito Ecuador, tensions were high so I decided to take to the most safest part of the city and just walk by myself. Yes, something thousands of solo female travellers do every single day, but I think there’s a slightly different mindset. I’m Luke’s responsibility, and he’s mine. My Dad’s words echoing constantly “you must look out for each other”.
That day in Quito, a known dangerous city, Luke being the diamond he is, let me off to my own devices but always remained a few blocks behind me.
Sounds a little creepy but really it’s a memory that always makes me smile. I’d glance behind me and there he’d be, slightly hidden but always watching. A small and silly gesture that genuinely made my whole day.
My point being is that sometimes it’s nice to miss someone. And that day, I missed him.
And then I realised that what I’m missing is the feeling of missing him. Still with me?
I’m not an easy person to be with and I know that. So the days I wake up in horrors or allow my mood or negative state to flourish my mind, I ask to be left alone. Something I should never feel guilty of but now, I always do. At home if this happened, it was fine.
But here, downers are replaced with guilt as I realise how selfish I am being. I forget that Luke too is in the same boat. Me wanting to be left alone to sulk, where does that leave him? And those habits I spoke of, what about my mood? Does that not impact him? Does he not unconsciously absorb or reflect my mood because, at the end of the day, what other influences do we have but each other?
This is something no blog, travel couple or travel story could prepare you for. We’re lucky, very lucky to know that we’ve made it this far without decking the other. That every day we wake up still so in love and excited for another adventure together. That what we are building is a lifetime of experiences, stories, personal moments and a shared outlook.
This is NOT a complaint but as the title suggests, a reality. One where it’s OK to feel a little suffocated or not yourself. A reality that we imagine so many travel couples suffer but never speak of. Why? Because “we’re living the dream” which means we should be happy. And we are. But sometimes, we’re not.
This part of our new life is something I wish I had mentally prepared, or even thought about. But how can you predict this? We never considered this aspect of living life in pockets while on the road. Almost like you don’t think, when you fall in love or marry your soulmate, about all the impending hardships, arguments and stresses. You don’t see them coming, which is why some marriages and relationships fail while others thrive. We simply didn’t see this coming.
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We’ve met couples along the way, we’ve heard the arguments, we’ve seen the red faced angers, we’ve witnessed the doors slam, the ‘walk aways’ and even the middle finger fly up behind the others back. And us. Our worst days starting with frustrated feelings and clashed opinions followed by hours of silence, disregard and, let’s admit, shouting. To always end with an apology because our one strict rule is ‘never go to bed angry’ and even when apologising stings slightly, or the stubborn reconciliation isn’t what we wanted at the time, that rule will always apply. Because without that rule, it’s lonely.
This is not an admittance of defeat or loss of love but another life lesson in just how much I love the man I spend every day with. The man who won’t allow me to pretend I’m OK and the man who doesn’t hide behind a poker face in fear he’ll look any less of one.
Sure, we’ve fought and we fight. Yes we’ve cried and we cry. Of course we’ve stormed off on each other and closed, OK, slammed doors. Just like every other healthy couple out there. And as it goes; we then kiss, we make up, we laugh at our silliness and we hold on tighter than before, enjoying that moment of never wanting to leave each other’s side.
Have you puked yet? If so, I don’t blame you. But for those still with me, this is a personal blog I thought to share with you. To show that life on the road still comes with problems. To highlight that travel isn’t the dreamy escape we’re made to believe, and to confirm that packing up the boring societal life for one of adventure is certainly not a walk in the park. It’s challenging, and if you are about to embark on a journey with your better half, be mindful. At times, it’s intense.
But it’s OK. Everything you feel, any worries that wash over you and even questioning who you are at that moment is OK.
I’ve changed, a lot. As has Luke. But together, we’re transforming into better people (we hope!). Together, we are living through the lives of others, delving into unknown worlds and learning, always learning.
But that doesn’t mean our attention shouldn’t be on us as individuals. It doesn’t mean we should always feel happy. It definitly shouldn’t bring the feeling of guilt. And if one of us is slightly irritated by the other THAT. IS. OK!
Is that not proof that you still care? I know I drive Luke mad and I know that he loves me for it. Just like his little quirks that rub me up the wrong way. The same ones I couldn’t live without.
This goes for all couples but especially those who feel a sudden pang of loneliness, or a breathless day of suffocation. Promise yourself not to neglect you, not to be too hard on each other and know that spending every God waking moment together WILL, in some strange way, make you closer. It’s a cliche but if it’s meant to work it will stand the test of time. Even if that time is 24/7 365.
Even when our dream turned reality can, at times, be hard work.
But I write this, releasing some emotions while sharing what I hope is an insight, knowing full well that the moment he leaves my side, I’ll miss him.
Because, even on the days that I don’t realise it… I always miss him.