After two and a half years together, Paul and I have done our fair share of travelling together. Together we have walked on the Great Wall of China, canoed through Ha Long Bay and strolled through the opulent rooms of Versailles. We have also been lost together in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, been told our names weren’t on intercontinental flights, had snakes fall on us at Angkor Wat and endured 37 hour bus journeys through the Lao and Vietnamese mountains. I am so grateful that we have these wonderful, stressful and pretty surreal memories to share with one another.
For our first year and a half together, Paul and I had a relatively long distance relationship as I lived away from home, on the East Coast of Scotland in St. Andrews, and was home only on a rare occasion due to work and university obligations. Although I had friends at uni who’s boyfriends and girlfriends lived across the Atlantic, being only hours away from mine and not being able to go home was pretty tough on us both.
Thankfully, I live at home and commute now, so everything wit regard to travel and distance between once another is a world better. That being said, I think travel for us was really one thing that saw us through each of my semesters. It was a way to break up time; a goal to set and a time period to work towards. For me, travel really is an escapism. University is really hard work, especially when combined with working all day on your only days off, trying to meet new people and living away from home for the first time in your life. I really think that’s why it never really held any great interest to me until I started studying but I’m really glad it does now and even more so that I have someone that can come along with me.
The good thing about travelling with Paul is that I really, REALLY, enjoy his company. He makes me laugh continuously and because we are so close he knows when to give me time to myself, and vice versa. We are both pretty fast paced people, and I definitely think that helps. He doesn’t want to sit in a hotel room or bar or sunbathe all day – not that there’s anything wrong with that – and neither do I. When I visit a place I want to pack as much into my time there as possible, and I think that’s why we get away with such short visits to all the places we go because we thrive on time limitations; we can book a day full, have a list of metro stops and how long each place should take and that is just what works for us. I love that we both bring such different interests to our trips; whilst I’m infatuated with a place’s art and history, he can speak for hours about their sport or politics. Although for the most part we agree on where to visit and what to see, of course there are times when one of us is completely uninterested in what the other wants to do, like spending hours at Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Eventually Paul sat down and admitted he couldn’t look at art any longer, but I just left him to it and wandered around some more on my own. It truly is impossible to always appease both parties, but when you’re isolated with another person compromises need to be made to save you strangling one another. Although a pretty poor example, things like this happened countless time during the course of our ten week Asian trip – I can only imagine the tension that would have built had we not just let things go. When you’re with someone so intensely for such an extensive period of time, even if it’s not in your nature – which trust me it’s not in mine – you just need to let it go. This pretty much applies for everything: the trick to a successful and enjoyable trip is to let things roll off your back. Dinner location, pet peeves, transport, everything. Mostly I just get my own way, so I guess it’s easier for me to say than him.
All that being said, the first trip we ever embarked on together was a very different scenario. What was around our six month mark, I booked a trip as a Christmas gift from myself to Paul. The itinerary comprised of a three night stay in Budapest, with the day before travelling across to the mainland in London and a day trip whilst there to Vienna. I wholeheartedly hold my hands up to not having any great experience travelling before this trip; we barely planned and saw very little whilst we were there – hence our return to both Budapest and Vienna this summer – but the trip definitely allowed us to see how wonderful travelling together could be, especially if planned appropriately in advance.
When I first proposed a South East Asian trip, before Budapest, my beloved other half really couldn’t have been any less interested. Oh how times have changed. We eventually booked up in February for the July and August, mounting surreal amounts of financial pressure on ourselves to save in time for our flight to Beijing. I can’t even begin to count the number of nights we spent on FaceTime with maps of East Asia sitting in front of us, debating where to visit and organising a travel plan for our first summer of travelling. Even when I was knee deep in assignments and deadlines and revision for exams, I always had our trip to look forward to – and for me it was motivation enough. After seeing how much of an impact it made on my work ethic, every time since the trip I’ve had a break from university I’ve ensured a trip was booked.
After learning so many lessons on our trip to Asia and seeing so many incredible places, I think it’s safe to say we’ve both been bitten by the travel bug. Even as the trip progressed, we became more efficient packers, more efficient with our time and way more economical. Travelling is undoubtedly a learning process, and when you have two sets of eyes and ears taking everything in and sharing it, you learn so much together. As well as learning things about the world, I learned so much myself and about Paul. You can’t be alone with someone for that length of time and come away not knowing them inside out.
Paul has taught me patience I have never known in my entire life on our trips, he has calmed me down when the what to me were the worst of things that could have gone wrong and afterwards showed me how to cope when plans are thrown off track. We are a wonderful blend of exceptionally laid back and exceptionally uptight and this conveniently means that things get planned to a tee beforehand and being wound down enough at the time to enjoy them. I feel travelling together has taught both of us what the other is capable of creating, me for last year’s trip and him for this year’s. It has brought us miles closer together, gave us so much to look forward to and so many incredible memories together.
As well as this, it comes with an immense number of challenges. By the end of our trip we were pretty sick of one another, there were points where we’d bicker over absolutely nothing and nights we went to bed not the best of friends. We just had to made sure that our disagreements didn’t get in the way of the experience, and so we never let them. We have never missed a sight because we weren’t talking and in fact going out and distracting ourselves often made us realise how ridiculous we were acting toward one another and quickly got us over it. It is healthy to argue and even healthier to find ways of those arguments. Other fall times, when it wasn’t so easy to get over it i.e. During week ten of our trip we spent a few hours sightseeing in Singapore alone, met back at the hotel then spent the evening having dinner and seeing more sights together. We just both needed some space, and as long as it’s safe to do so, that’s totally fine! is testing for relationships but on the other end they benefit so greatly from it. I also feel that this part of this post is really important because on social media and most of my other posts, only the happy photos and times are written about. I don’t want someone to see these pictures and words and think that’s a reality.
I know that most people write about travelling alone, and although I really am an independent soul I love that I have a person to share my time away with. This extends to life at home too – it’s wonderful to have such a bond with someone at home, share your most treasured memories with them and know you have many more of the same types of memories to spend together. Travelling has taught us financial independence and responsibility like never before, how to coherently budget for a trip and best of all how to organise a the best trip possible with minimal effort.
In two weeks were off on our third trip this year, the big one. We’ll be spending five weeks in Europe and then a further five in Bali, surrounding islands and Kuala Lumpur. I’m excited to see what new things we learn about the world, each other and ourselves along the way. I’m excited to see some of my most loved works of art in the flesh in Europe, dive in Bali and enjoy the Euro finals in Europe. To return to places we’ve visited before with a whole new grasp on travelling and heighten our experiences of those places immensely. I’m excited to lie down every night and go over the wonderful things we saw that day, compare it to other places and rave about the next day. I’m excited to share homesickness for the same places and people. I’m excited to have a person with me every day that knows my quirks, how to cheer me up and who knows to hold my hands when we’re landing on a runway because I’m terrified. It really is a blessing to be able to travel the world, but for me, it is so much more so because of the angel I have to share it with – my Paul.