I can still vividly picture the day I said farewell to my Downtown Dubai apartment in 2012. Having seen off the last of my belongings that were being shipped to Cyprus, I walked around the echoey room of my studio, memories of the last three years running through my head like a movie reel. The vast, empty space tugged on my heart like a noose attached to a lead brick, and I was filled with a deep sense of sadness.
Since deciding to quit my job and sell my car and the majority of my belongings in order to travel the world, the enormity of my decision had not dawned on me until this moment. And yet, despite my sadness, the prospect of what was ahead – travel, adventure, new experiences – also filled me with a sense of liberation and excitement. This moment was something I had been waiting for for years, and I was embracing it with open arms.
A few nights later, I met Ankit.
“Nice biceps,” I exclaimed to him as he came to the bar. And while I don’t remember much of the actual night that we had our first exchange, I can still clearly remember meeting him two nights later for shisha. I felt instantly at ease with him, like he was the key ingredient that had been missing all those years. Down to earth, funny and a gentleman, after he dropped me back to the hotel that I was staying in on my final nights in Dubai, I was asking myself:
“Why did we not meet just a few months earlier?”
The odds were stacked against us. I was leaving Dubai indefinitely with no concrete plans of returning. And yet, following our emotional goodbye at the Etihad Airways bus stop, we stayed in touch for the three months that I was away visiting my family. I returned to Dubai en route to Bangkok in order to ‘see everyone’ and yet deep down I knew he was the main reason that I wanted to visit the city that I had called home for five years.
We were inseparable for two weeks and when the time came for me to say goodbye, I realised I didn’t want to leave anymore. Yes, after selling everything and giving up my life in Dubai in order to travel, I decided I no longer wanted to go on the trip of a lifetime.
I berated myself, but then I decided I had to follow my heart. I had spent the majority of my 20s pushing men away – partly due to my intense sense of independence, partly due to my intense fear of getting hurt. And yet despite the walls that I had built around me, I still ended up getting hurt. I decided it was time to take a real risk for love.
Thankfully, it paid off. Ankit and I have now been together for almost two years. Better still, five months back he decided he’d had enough of cubicle life and that he also wanted to see the world. So now, not only am I with the love of my life, I’m also travelling with him. Sometimes risks do pay off, after all.
While solo travel is awesome and I’d highly recommend that everyone should take at least one trip alone in their lifetime, there are many reasons why travelling with your partner is the best thing ever. Such as:
You have someone special to share those magical moments with…
There have been many ‘wow’ moments during the first three months of our trip. Seeing the most spectacular sunset of our lives in Hoi An. Finally visiting the Taj Mahal at dawn. Meeting the cutest nursery kids at Cam Kim island. Eating the most flavourful breakfast of our lives in Hanoi. The list goes on…
During every one of these moments, we’ve turned to each other and said ‘this is amazing,’ and there’s something about that within itself that makes it all the more spectacular. Hopefully someday we’ll enthusiastically share these moments with our grandkids…and they’ll roll their eyes, say a sarcastic “yeah very magical, grandma” and get back to their iPads.
…as well as the not so magical ones
Long-term travel can throw up more challenges than magical moments, but that’s just the way it is. Like the time we had to endure a 10km trek in Sapa after only three hours of sleep. Or the time when we were stuck in the car for 17 hours on our way back to Dehradun from Udaipur. Or the time we were stuck on the ferry to Koh Lanta for hours when we both desperately needed to go to the toilet. Or the time when we attempted to try our luck with Airbnb, only to check-in to a place that was dirty and full of mammoth cockroaches.
Having someone there to laugh (or cry) with makes it all somewhat more bearable…
It strengthens your relationship and puts it to the test
“If you have someone that you think is the one … don’t just think let’s plan this and make a party and get married. Take that person and travel around the world. Buy a plane ticket for the two of you to travel all around the world and go to places that are hard to go to and hard to get out of. And … when you land at JFK and you’re still in love with that person, get married.” Billy Murray
I think Bill Murray was definitely onto something with this. Not many other things will challenge your relationship like long-term travel does. First of all, you’re in each other’s faces pretty much 24/7. Think of the last time you were with someone for that amount of time, and I’m pretty sure you’ll remember that you both started to get on each other’s tits to the point where you couldn’t wait for some time apart from them.
Only when you’re travelling with your partner, your time apart is limited. So that’s challenge number one – no matter how in love you are and how well you get on, you will start to get irritated at the smallest of things. You have to somehow learn how to deal with the other person, as well as soften your less desirable traits in order to become more bearable.
Also, you’re not always at your best when travelling. More often than not, you’ll be tired, or cranky, or both. You’ll miss your bus, you’ll have the worst meal when you’re starving hungry, you’ll check your bank balance and wonder what the fuck? And then you have to try and find a way not to take it all out on the only person who’s to hand and whom you know well.
So, Billy Murray was right. If you can manage to get through it, then there’s little you cannot handle together.
A problem shared is a problem halved
So you’ve missed the bus, your money has run out, the room you’ve booked is a hovel, etc, etc, etc… The beauty of travelling with your partner is that you can face all these challenges head on together. You can also, hopefully, complement each other. For example, if you know your partner is ill and hasn’t had any sleep, you can take charge and deal with whatever situation has come up. And more likely than not, you and your partner will have complementary skills and personality traits that will help you solve anything.
Ankit is the talker – he loves striking up conversations with people, so he can handle things when we have a complaint to make, for example. While I’m the organiser – I love the planning aspect of things, figuring out where we will go next, where we will stay etc. So together, I’d say, we make a pretty good team.
It’s more cost effective
It’s undoubtedly far more cost effective to travel with someone than to travel solo. Room costs get split in half, and you can also save money on food by ordering one dish and sharing (although, I admit, this rarely happens with us fatties…). It’s also cheaper when you get a cab, and you can share things like shampoo, soap etc. Practical stuff, but important nevertheless!
It gives your loved ones peace of mind
The hardest part of planning my solo trip a few years back wasn’t quitting my job – it was trying to explain to my mother and grandma that I wasn’t going to get murdered and chopped into pieces during my travels. They were incredibly concerned about the prospect of me travelling alone, to the extent that I had to send my mum links to loads of solo female travel blogs, such as Never Ending Footsteps and d travels ’round so that she could see that a) plenty of women do it alone and b) they’re thankfully very much alive and well.
Second time round when I announced Ankit and I’s plans to travel the world, I didn’t get any grief from my family, as they felt more at ease knowing that I had a travelling companion who would be looking out for me at all times. Likewise, Ankit’s family feels happier knowing that we’re together.
There’s no need for a selfie stick
I abhor selfie sticks. Being with Ankit means that a) my photo albums aren’t just full of pictures of buildings, randoms and animals and b) I can pose next to things like the Taj Mahal without having to worry about finding someone to take my picture.
You have someone who’ll never get sick of your travel stories
Anyone who has travelled long term knows that most people tend to glaze over when you share your travel stories with them. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s that they just cannot identify with you on the same level when it comes to this subject. But when you travel with your partner, you’ll always have someone to get all ‘remember the time when…’ with.
Blogs by travelling couples that we love
There are so many brilliant blogs out there by couples who’ve quit their jobs and have chosen a life of travel. Here are just a few that we read regularly. Check them out and get inspired* (*insanely jealous).
Mostly Amelie Although, as the title suggests, this blog is mainly about Amelie, there’s also plenty about her partner Richard, so we’ll class this as a couples’ blog.