When we first announced our plan to embark on this adventure, we were overwhelmed by the outpouring of genuine enthusiasm and support from family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers. It was such an awesome, warm bear-hug of a feeling.
There were also a few people who said: “I know a couple that did this! They’re divorced now … but I’m sure you guys will be fine.” Um, thanks for the vote of confidence?
Doubters notwithstanding, relationships are broken every day, and by much smaller things than what we’ve dealt with on this journey. While we’ve certainly had our moments of weakness and frustration with each other, we’re exactly the same as we’ve always been in our 7+ years together: in love and rock solid, as we both knew we would be.
That said, every relationship is different, and not all couples, even ones in healthy relationships, are cut out for this kind of thing. If you’re contemplating such a journey with your significant other, here are five signs that you should reconsider:
- Your partner is not as enthusiastic as you are about the adventure. When we probed a bit further into the story behind all these couples that “did not make it”, this theme showed up over and over again. One person was really into the trip, and the other went along with it to appease his or her partner. This can turn out badly enough when it comes to choosing a restaurant for date night, but, similar to the “should we or shouldn’t we have kids” question, it can spell DISASTER of epic proportions if you are not on the same page when it comes to long-term travel.
- You need face-time with other people in your life besides your SO. On the road, there are no girlfriends to gab with over wine or dudes to watch the game with over a beer in total silence – it’s just you and your partner. ALL THE FREAKING TIME. 24/7. Eight days a week. Of course, you will meet lots people on the road, including a small handful of people with whom you’ll form deep and lifelong friendships. But mostly, the only genuine human contact you will have is with your partner. If you are someone who needs the physical company of different people (your best girlfriend, your mom, your brother, whatever) at least once in awhile, you are going to start feeling a gaping hole in your life, and you’ll resent your partner for being unable to fill it.
- You need a lot of alone time. True alone time/solitude is hard to come by on the road. H and I sleep together, eat all our meals together, watch movies together, sight-see together, work on this site together … pretty much everything except visit the bathroom together. We are very rarely apart from each other, and since is this Asia, we’re never alone anyway except in our hotel room (there are seriously people in every corner of the earth over here). This is not to say that we don’t need quiet time – far from it. Often, we’ll have breakfast, glued to our phones, and not say one word to each other. I’m pretty sure people think we are in a fight or on the verge of divorce, but we are together so much that sometimes we have nothing to talk about and/or just don’t feel like talking. If this kind of quiet time is not enough and you need to be in complete solitude for a couple of hours a week, this experience might not be for you unless you’re cool with hanging out in your hotel bathroom.
- You are not comfortable experiencing gross stuff with your spouse. (NOTE: this passage contains topics that polite audiences may find objectionable – consider yourself warned). I have a friend who couldn’t fart in front of her boyfriend – of several YEARS. Every time the urge came, she would leave the room, fart somewhere else in private, and then come back. The impracticality of this genuinely shocked and intrigued me, especially since the first time I farted in front of H.J. was our first night together …. and, um, we were in bed sleeping, and he was spooning me (TMI, but I did warn you). Obviously, this is not how I would have preferred to break that relationship barrier (is there really a preferred way?), but I’m glad it happened early. And it HAS to happen if you are going to travel together. You will bear witness to unspeakable sounds, smells, and sights from your partner – there is no other room to run into for secret farting, and walls are thin my friends, if they even go all the way to the ceiling.
- You are not an active participant in the pursuit of your partner’s passions. On the road, it’s not enough to be supportive of your partner’s passions – i.e. giving each other space to pursue your respective passions independently. For example, I enjoy taking photos, but I’m never going to be as into photography as H is. But, if he wants to go to the top of a mountain and shoot time lapse photography for hours, I’m right there with him, wine in hand and ready to keep him company when he’s not fiddling around with stuff and ready to keep myself occupied when he is. It makes me happy to be there with him while he’s doing something he loves. Similarly, H is probably never going to enjoy cooking, and he’d be fine eating burgers several days a week, but eating and meal times have become enjoyable for him because they matter so much to me. What I’m trying to say is this: if your passion is shopping and your partner’s passion is ice climbing (and you’re terrified of heights, while she’s terrified of spending money), you should have a serious discussion about how you’ll spend your time on the road.
Of course, it helps to have attraction, humor, and trust, too, but those are a given in any healthy relationship, no?