We were in Vietnam. We were at a peaceful and remote homestay in the Mekong Delta. It was dinner time. And it was the moment that got us thinking about doing a long trip together. We were sharing the table with three youngsters. A 22-year-old Belgian guy, an 18-year-old girl and another 23-year-old guy (both Germans). Obviously, we were the “oldies”. We were on our second trip together in Asia. And like in the first one, it was a short one, the traditional corporate holiday. None of the three other characters were traveling for less than six months. The Belgian had been away from home for more than eight months. And he wasn’t planning to stop anytime soon. So obviously we saw pity in their eyes when we mentioned the duration of our trip – only two lousy weeks in Vietnam.
That evening we both went to our room and didn’t feel like talking at all. We were both thinking the same thing. Why can’t we do it, too? Why shouldn’t we do everything possible to take a trip together for more than two weeks? To escape and feel what it’s like to travel long term.
That was the moment of inception for us. That’s when everything started. From that moment on, everything we did was to fulfill this dream. To turn it into reality. And two years later, we were boarding the plane with tears of joy in our eyes. And with no clue as to our return date.
The internet is teeming with this kind of stories. With travel adventures about people who changed their lives forever. Our story is no less similar. But I cannot say that we weren’t nervous about deciding to quit everything and just leave. However, we managed to leave any nervousness aside. And to cherish every single moment spent on our trip together. For us, it was our relationship’s most beautiful “test”. Because yes, such an adventure can also be a test. And I will explain why. What we learned from this experience and the reasons for which you should do it as well.
1. You learn to spend 24/7 together with your loved one
Oh, boy, oh boy! This was a tricky one. And I had plenty of reasons to be nervous about this subject. Because before we left, we made friends with another couple of travelers. They had both given up their jobs. And they wanted to travel for at least one year. They left six months before us. And then, right before our departure, they wrote to us that they had separated. Because they realized how different they are. And they weren’t getting along anymore. Spending all that time together actually ruined their relationship.
And bam! That’s when it hit me. What if we ended up like them? What if we would argue all the time? I realized there are two options. Either we would return happily together or end up separated. Because such a trip can end both ways.
This can happen because when you take a long trip together, you lose the privacy from back home. You have to live cheek by jowl with each other. And we left behind a home where we both had plenty of space. We each had our bathroom; when I felt like reading and he wanted to watch TV, we had enough room for both. We had tons of privacy. But we were about to jump to the next level.
A level of sharing the same small bathroom and same room. A room that most of the times was painfully hobbit-like. For example, in Myanmar, we once had a place (hard to call it a room) where not even our backpacks fit. We would open the door and literally jump into bed. Goodbye, privacy! But soon we discovered that life in smaller spaces can be much sweeter.
Because you learn to share everything, you don’t just go on a journey. You discover a new way of life. You learn how to respect each other. We would exercise together. When one was doing sit-ups, the other was doing squats, so that we had enough space. When one was reading, the other was quiet. We brushed our teeth together. We showered together to save water. So yes, a trip together means much more than sightseeing. It can mean discovering how to love each other in 5sqm. And this leads to our next reason.
2. You discover each other
The typical scenario for one day in the life of a corporate person is simple. In the morning you hurry to get to work. A hug and a quick kiss with your eyes on the time, making sure you’re not late. Some short messages and talks during the day. In the evening you are both tired. You get home, you each share stories from your day. You have a glass of wine or a cup of tea, perhaps you read something, and then you head to bed. The weekend comes and goes. There is never enough time to do everything that you would like to. Too little time. And here comes to the rescue a long trip together.
When we were traveling, we used to wake up in the morning with no plans whatsoever. Feeling or not the mood of doing something. But no matter what, we always enjoyed a good chat after breakfast. Along with a good (or sometimes not so good) tea or coffee we would talk and talk for hours. About what we could do, about dreams, about recent discoveries. There was not a single day during our trip together without discovering each other. Each one of us with his own emotions and fears, his weaknesses and obsessions, his desires and passions. And together we learned that nothing is more important than communication. Anything can be solved if you know how to talk to each other.
3. A trip together can become the chapter of a new story
While we were traveling, we were amazed by the time. By now we weren’t feeling anymore that time flies. Time was starting to move with baby steps for us. And this gave us enough time for everything. But especially for dreaming. Simple day-dreaming. About the future, about how we would like to carve it out together. And when you dream the same thing with your loved one, the future becomes a piece of cake. You lose any fears because you have the same dream.
For us, our trip together opened a new chapter in our lives. We came back home changed persons and more determined. And all the moments spent together are archived well. They are our support in times of hardship. Now we know that nothing wrong can happen as long as we have each other.
4. You begin to see the shallowness of arguing
Back home we weren’t the type of couple that argues a lot. In fact, we were a pretty peaceful couple. But of course, we had our moments of glory. When we would end up like pouting kids, not talking to each other for hours. Until one of us would give in. And the tensions, the stress from the office, the exhaustion were not helpful at all. They were more like the spices of our arguments.
When we left for our long trip together, for a while, it was weird. Because Vlad was still full of stress and fatigue from his work. And it was difficult for me to understand him because I was more relaxed than him. So of course, we would end up fighting for nothing. But slowly we learned how to unwind. And so the arguing magically vanished. We even learned how to bypass them gracefully. One of us would inevitably realize the stupidity of the argument. The fact that we didn’t have any real reason to argue. And so we would calm down. But this took time and patience to learn. Things which you can truly enjoy a long trip together.
We were both so relaxed that it was difficult coming back home. To feel again so much tension and nerves flying around. And to hear swearing in the streets (in Asia, it helped not knowing the languages). To see so many furrowed brows. But deep down in our souls, we know how much shallowness is around us. And yes, our trip together helped us unwind, and distance ourselves from problems. Trust me, when you detach yourself, you start to see solutions more clearly.
5. You fool around together and cry with laughter
This is the fun part. Surely you will share moments of laughter. Laughing at each other or together. The important thing is that laughter comes together with relaxation and vice versa. You will no doubt share too many moments of pure joy, sprinkled with laughter. Probably you will forget what it means to act solemn.
I will never forget one particular day. I will tell you about it in detail, but I have to mention it here. There is no way you go through a trip together without at least one bad day. But I mean one terrible day. And we had one such day. A day when nothing went as it was supposed to. From the moment we woke up and until we fell asleep, everything went wrong. How did we react? We cried with laughter. Each stupid thing that happened came with bursts of laughter. Because we both knew that no matter what happens, it will go away. So each problem that day came hand in hand with giggles and chuckles. And trust me, there weren’t few.
6. You find out what really makes you happy
Before leaving in our trip together, I used to think that I know myself well. To be able to answer the question “What makes you happy?” quickly. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. For example, ever since we met, Vlad slowly injected into me doses of mountain love. I used to be a mountain lover even before him. But I thought that there is still some room for an exotic island every once in a while. However, reality turned out differently. Even when we were in the picture-perfect exotic paradise of Raja Ampat, I would dream of mountains. And imagine even more of them knowing that Vlad is sharing the same dreams.
I used to think that part of me likes cities. Actually, not really. Vlad even had to work hard on convincing me to spend a weekend in Singapore. I was avoiding it knowing that it was a mega-city. I learned to love nature more. To enjoy waking up in the morning with birds chirping everywhere. And during our trip together, we had our share of mornings full of natural orchestras presenting majestic symphonies.
And I could write endlessly on this list. Because yes, you not only discover each other but also yourselves. We discovered what is it that makes our hearts dance with joy. What makes us grin from ear to ear. The secret of a knockout trip together lies in cherishing each moment. And so you shall see, happiness will come naturally. No efforts needed.
7. You will master the art of teamwork
Here is where our beloved mountains come on stage. It’s freaking astonishing how disciplined you become thanks to these guys. When we planned this trip together, we were sure of only one thing. That we wanted as many mountains as possible. To make at least one trek in each country. And we managed to pull this off. We wandered on storylike paths; the Himalayas enchanted us. And their Asian smaller cousins weren’t less praiseworthy. But a multiday trek teaches you some hardcore discipline and responsibility. And so you need to be a good team.
We did a 28-day trek. A unique chapter in our trip together. One that showed us that indeed we make a good team. Each one of us had to have his well-defined tasks. This is because every day you are on the road. In the evening you unpack just to have something to pack again the next morning when you hit the road. One needs to take care of the toilet paper (shockingly this was my task). The other one has to ensure that each morning the water gets purified. One handles the map while the other one makes sure the solar panel receives enough light. One is in charge of the chocolate jar (imagine the pain of this task!). The other one is responsible for the canned soup. And so on and so forth.
I am not saying that you need a partner for such an adventure. On the contrary, I admired all the solo trekkers we encountered. Admire their courage and their strengths. I am only pointing out the fact that for me such a trip without Vlad would have been inconceivable. He is my partner in crime.
8. Oh, food, how precious art thou!
I couldn’t have written this article without mentioning food. And we all know how important food is. No trip together is complete without stories about food. It’s impressive how your zest for life changes after a bite of mouth-watering food. And thank God and knock on wood, we were fortunate enough to experience tons of good food moments.
I remember precisely licking our fingers after so many weird stuff. How we explored together the mysteries of Asian spices. Those moments when we were two happy kids because our lips got swollen from way too much spiciness in our Indian thalis. More than once it happened that we would spend more days than planned in a village because we had discovered an excellent place to eat.
Our trip together also changed our buds. Together we educated them. However, we trained them so well that now hardly a weekend goes by without a trip to an Indian restaurant. Vlad no longer cooks without pinches of turmeric powder or some bits of chili. So yes, our buds had their trip together as well.
9. You end up understanding each other from a glance
When I was a little girl, I was pretty sure that my mom has some supernatural powers. Because it was enough for her to glance at my dad and he would know what to do. I grew up and realized that her psychic powers are the ingredient of a healthy relationship. And our trip together helped us get these science-fiction powers as well.
Even if in theory we could talk freely because we had the advantage of an “exotic” language, sometimes glances mattered more. We managed to master the art of eye language. To look into each other’s eyes and know what we want. To send various signals in just one glance. Perhaps for some couples, this is something natural. But in our case, a trip together helped us get there. However, I am glad we learned this because now I don’t need to punch his legs under the table anymore. All I need to do is look into his eyes.
Are we ending this article anytime soon?
Ok, fine, I will stop here. But only because I hate even numbers and nine looks like a good option. Are these enough reasons to go on a trip together? I would say that you only need one good reason to pack your bags and jump on that plane. And that reason is your love. Because an extended trip together can help grow the love you already have. And it’s one experience that you have to live to believe me. Take this leap of faith once in your life and travel together! Be my guest to blame me if you end up regretting it. I will let you point fingers at me. But whatever you do, don’t postpone it, cause life is too short for delays.