Relationship travel advice – Choosing your travel partner is no light matter. No matter the length of your trip, but especially when you are crossing the globe for almost half a year. You’re flying to have fun and leave all your baggage behind. But if you fly with the wrong person, it can just add too much extra weight and crush all that.
In Israel it’s become tradition to go on “the big trip” after the army. Usually to Southeast Asia or to South America, for anywhere between 4-6 months, sometimes even more.
Most people go on this big trip with a friend or two, or with a boyfriend or girlfriend. I decided to go with my then boyfriend, who was one of my best friends for years before. I’ve always loved to travel and I’ve been looking forward to it, especially at that time of my life. But my boyfriend – For the sake of privacy, let’s call him Bob… Had never had the same dream or desire to travel… Especially not for that long. But he ended up coming with me because he didn’t want to be apart from me. And we were both weary of what the distance would have done to our relationship.
Also, I convinced myself that I needed and wanted him there, so I convinced him to come. I didn’t know who else I could travel with. All of my best friends have either already traveled or didn’t want to. I was too afraid to go with anyone I didn’t know or trust. And I was terrified of travelling alone.
I am ashamed to admit that the main reason why I needed him there with me, wasn’t because he was my boyfriend and I loved him and didn’t want to be apart from him… But for far more selfish reasons. At the time I was having very intense anxiety attacks (Terms of Anxiety, Anxiety Relief). And he was the only one who knew. I’ve never been one to be open and share my deepest feelings, desires and pain. I hate all of the emotional stuff, and always tried to stray away from it, especially in relationships.
I’ve never, ever had those kinds of Anxiety attacks before. Especially at that point in my life when I just ended a job that gave me so much purpose and strength.
Being that I am an introvert, Bob was the only one I opened up to about it. He was the only one who I allowed to witness it. Mainly because he was the person I was spending most of my time with. But also, he had a lot of experience with anxiety and could understand what I was going through. So I couldn’t go across the globe for almost half a year with anyone else, while I had those attacks… Let alone by myself.
When we bought the tickets, I was ecstatic, and he basically cried in fear, intimidated by the thought of travelling so far, for so long. And being away from anything familiar. That should have been my first clue. But I was so adamant on making it work, so in denial, that I ignored that deep, nagging feeling in my gut.
The closer we got to the date of departure, the more intense the nagging got. The more I ignored it, and convinced myself that I was doing the right thing. As part of the preparations for the trip, we decided to sublet an apartment together for two months, before we were due to fly, to see how we cope. But that only emphasized what a bad idea it was.
Despite enjoying the apartment and living in it together, we were also having real and deep-rooted arguments, regarding fundamentals. Which shouldn’t have be overlooked. Which should have been my second clue. But again, I was over determined to make it work… So afraid of the alternatives that I was repressing my internal alarms.
I believe that when you travel with another person, regardless of your relationship status, you have to have the same expectations of what said trip will look like.
They don’t have to match one for one, but they have to be similar. Because if they are too different, even if it’s your dearest and bestest friend, or your boy/girl-friend who you are madly in love with – you’re not going last. If you’re constantly arguing on whether to do this or that. Who to hang out with. Which country to visit next, and how to get from point A to point B. And despite Bob and I being great friends, and having a lot of shared hobbies and preferences… There were too many basic decisions that we could never agree on.
For example, I’m a very active person and can walk for hours, but Bob wasn’t. And if it was more than a 5-10 minutes walk, we would have to take a tuk-tuk, taxi or motorbike. He hated alcohol and only ordered a beer when I really pushed him to. And even then he barely drank it. I’m not a party person by any means, but I do like to let loose every so often and have some drinks. I didn’t mind the long bus rides, but if the ride was too long, he insisted on flights (despite the cost).
But it went deeper – When you’re with someone 24/7, No matter who it is, there will be tension and arguments.
It’s more intensive than any amount of living together before, could have prepared us for. Being together 24/7 on the trip doesn’t resemble regular life, so I tried to not take it too hard. But Bob couldn’t understand that mindset, and insisted on digging into every argument. While I preferred to just acknowledge that it happened, and keep it in mind so it doesn’t happen again, then move forward.
Despite enjoying a lot of the same stuff… Like choosing a nice guesthouse and not slumming it out, or not being stingy on every tiny expense… They were all too small and too insignificant in comparison to all the greater, far more extensive problems between us. Which should have been my third clue, but alas, I was still too afraid to admit that to myself. Bob was brave enough to admit that, and even more so when he actually brought it up to the surface. Which was when I finally admitted, for the first time, that I am afraid of being alone. In more than just the literal sense of the word. But saying it out loud, did nothing to ease that fear, let alone make any progress to actually go away.
So after a week in Thailand, a month in the Philippines, and almost done with our month in Vietnam, Bob finally admitted that he wanted to go home. Hell, he barely wanted to come in the first place.
It was beyond our fights and disagreements… And he was actually enjoying himself – but long trips were not his thing. He was home sick and his anxiety was limiting his ability to commit and enjoy the trip to its fullest. It was no longer a clue, it was there in the air, right bang in my line of vision. But of course, I was still blindly shoving everything under the carpet. And the worst part about it, was that I was dragging him along with me. So he reluctantly came with me to Laos, then to Thailand.
It was during that month in Thailand, that I finally began to understand the gravity of the situation. Bob was getting on my nerves more and more, and for no real reason. The poor guy really did love me and despite having a lot of baggage and terrible habits, he did not deserve being at the receiving end of my short fuse. But our differences, and both of us being so home-sick were finally getting the better of me. Especially with my anxiety attacks getting more insufferable. So instead of travelling for five and a half months like we planned, we moved our flight up to an earlier date, and ended our trip after four months.
When considering traveling with someone – platonic or romantic, make sure to not ignore those gut feelings.
Even if you don’t feel them at first, you really have to have that deep and real conversation with yourself. And understand what you want and need. Because as scary as it is to hurt someone’s feelings and tell them you don’t want to travel with them, or break up with them to travel alone or with someone else… It is preferable to the pain that we will probably be cause to each other after. And if you go on the trip with someone and discover your incompatibility somewhere along the way, then be brave enough to move forward and part ways. Because again, as terrifying as that is, it is so much worse down the line.
Denial is a very scary thing, it can bring us down painful and reckless paths that can cause irreversible damage. And being aware of it is key to avoiding those paths. Believe me, I know how much it is easier said than done. But making that extra effort and using every ounce of strength you have, is worth it. I don’t think my trip was ruined. But it could have been so much better. It wouldn’t have left me with a need to have a redo experience. To have a sweeter taste in my mouth, as opposed to the bitter one I had.
So my advice to you would be – There is always another choice. Even if you don’t have any other friends to travel with, there are many Facebook groups for exactly that. Not to mention that there are so many opportunities to meet new people along the way, during the trip… In the guesthouses, local hangout bars and restaurants, during guided tours and etc. Conquer your fear of loneliness, or your dread from finding new friends, and just do it. Because the alternative can ruin your trip. And it’s not only time and money you’re wasting.
“BE CAREFUL WHOM YOU MAKE MEMORIES WITH.
THOSE THINGS CAN LAST A LIFETIME.”UGO EZE
Make good choices and have safe travels!
All my best,