Back to the Beginning…
It’s the fourth day of our new lives and we’ve already made our way off the tourist track into the hills of the Croatian coast. We’ve been climbing a lot recently and the gradients seem more and more challenging. Today, at the start of a big climb we were faced with a 14% gradient. Smashed it. With sweat pouring down our backs and my legs shaking with adrenaline we congratulated ourselves with deep exhales and relief. However, this was only the beginning, half an hour later we we were met with a monster ascent.
My head was pulsating and my eyes couldn’t squint through the pain any longer, so with much regret and distress I unclipped from my pedals, lifted my right leg over the top tube and started walking.
“That better not be you walking!” Chris shouts down from 200 metres away.
“It bloody well is, I can’t do this anymore.” I shout back dramatically,
“Don’t give up! You can do it.”
“I obviously can’t, you unobservant buffoon.”
A little while later, after Chris made it to the top of the hill, I hear the cleats on the bottom of his trainers clacking down the hill. “Get back on the bike” he said after a sigh. Then he pushed me the rest of the way.
That happened about 3 times in Croatia, I had never biked so much in my life and it took at least 2 weeks to really get into it and get my fitness up. Since then my strength and fitness has grown and both in speed and endurance I am on par with Chris .
What if I’m Not Quick Enough?
One of my biggest worries about travelling by bicycle with someone else was not being able to keep up. I wasn’t the fittest human being in the world when we left, a few days before we caught the plane to Croatia I finished off my last tobacco pouch and consumed ridiculous amounts of cheese and popcorn (I am now happy to say I am vegan and no longer smoke) I wasn’t in any way as fit as Chris was and I was worried we would be so different on the bikes that it pulled us apart.
Just Keep Going and Never Lose Confidence in Yourself
I was wrong, I fell in love with our way of life almost instantly and in return I fell more in love with my bicycle, who I named Liberty, and with Chris. He was patient with me which helped immensely on the tough climbs and with the negative attitude. I have finally learnt that moaning, crying or throwing a paddy at the bicycle, at Chris, at the weather, at the road, at a bird, at a person, at anything is almost pointless. You really have to learn to accept everything. The road isn’t going to change, the weather probably isn’t either and everything else is passing. After what now seems hundreds of mountains I no longer struggle with the motivation, I used to hate the thought of climbing for hours, the endless struggle and endurance. Now I say, bring it on, because it’s the journey not the destination. I used to say “there must be another way”, (I won’t lie, we still do say this sometimes) and now I say to myself “The view from the top is going to be worth it”.
Support and understanding are probably the two most important things when it comes to keeping a relationship strong while travelling.
Home and Away
When you have work to be on time for, or colleagues and friends to meet for a drink at weekends or family to host for dinner, your life becomes a routine. work, play, work, play, work, play, WORK TO PLAY PLAY TO WORK. Brain explodes.
In complete honesty, our relationship is so much easier since leaving London.
I felt like we had set times to spend together, I just grew so tired of waiting most of the day to finally be with the person I actually wanted to be with, I believe life should be spend with the people you want around you. I do completely appreciate that the routine life works for most relationships, and when I first moved to London I thought I had become a bit of a lone wolf, I didn’t particularly enjoy going out but I felt like I wanted friends to spend time with. I started talking to people online but didn’t get anywhere when it came down to strong relationships. Chris just happened to be the exception. We started spending more and more time together and something just felt different. He became my best friend, really quickly. I was terrified at first, I wasn’t sure if I felt okay suddenly having someone this close to me. We talked for hours everyday, we both had such interestingly different ideas about the world and not long after meeting he had moved in. But then I left the job I had and then began the struggle of finding another one, one where I didn’t have to work almost 12 hours in a day or travel 2 hours to get there, but I needed to pay rent so I needed the hours and the pay to get by. That was hard on us, Chris would go off to work every morning and I really began to question what I actually wanted from life. Depression started to pipe up again, my confidence dropped and I started really doubting my life in London. I moved into Chris’s parents house and got a job in a bar, but we began to live for the weekend and even though I was getting so much support and in a really happy home I still felt like something was missing. We were saving up for a flat of our own but when we started viewing places we were expected to sign 6 to 12 month contracts, I hadn’t been able to keep a job for longer than a month so it was all really up in the air!
When you both decide to go on a lengthy trip together communication and patience can break down very easily, especially if you are used to the fast paced life.
It’s Not a Holiday, and it’s Not a Fairy Tale!
After 5 months all living together I was definitely a happier and more confident person, with it came the itchy feet and I wanted to travel the world, I was going to follow my dream of seeing the world and I didn’t want to wait for it!
I am extremely lucky that I have met someone as crazy as myself to bike around the world, and if you are looking to do a trip, large or small with your best friend, soul mate or partner believe me when I say you will find a way to work it out. Making the first step to go out there and do it is one of the hardest things, one other is working together for something you both want. If you come across an obstacle or problem, you can get your heads together and find a solution. One person may have to be more patient for the other, and one more decisive but you will learn from your mistakes and most importantly you will learn from each other.
Online Travel Couples
You’ve just seen a couple smiling or kissing in the sea, sharing a bottle of wine looking out on a beautiful sunset. 100k+ followers, sponsored to travel to romantic destinations, sold out to the online industry but living the dream? Jealousy kicks in and that couple suddenly seem so far away from your own reality.
We have been told that people are jealous of our journey but we really want to stay clear of being un-realistic. We are REAL people, we have REALLY done all this by ourselves, the reason I have blabbed on so much about our story is just to make sure you know that this did all start from a little bubble dream in my head, I didn’t save up for years to do this, we booked the flights and that’s all we planned, we are far from romantic and hotel visits are way out of our budget, we are who we are, and we can be SO unreasonable with each other at times! We are far from the ‘perfect’ couple but we are happy, happier than we could ever be and that’s all that matters to us.
The most important thing to take from this blog post is that you should not compare yourself to other people, other couples or other travelling pairs. Everyone argues and has issues in different aspects of a relationship. It may be communicating that you need to work on or patience, or how you control your anger or frustration…it’s just about finding the middle ground and working on it together.
Focus on yourselves and what makes you happy together, do not worry about anybody else, their right way might just be your wrong way.
“Don’t think of it as a relationship, think of it as a team”
Everyone makes mistakes, but remember it is just the problem that is the problem. It’s the heat, it’s the weather, it’s that you’ve biked around in a big circle and your completely exhausted, that’s when tensions turn to each other. You are angry at the situation but you let your anger out on your travelling partner, that’s where we stumble, and talking about this with each other has really helped diffuse these arguments, this is probably one of the hardest things to learn when you travel with someone. Communication is KEY. Since being with Chris I have always said how I feel, never held anything back and been honest.
Chris and I have decided not to return to England, so our ‘trip’ turned into a way of life. We went from working busy London jobs and lives to spending every minute of the day together simply surviving and seeing life from a bike saddle.
THIS POST IS NOT SLAMMING SOLO TRAVELLERS. In fact, I will make a point of mentioning that I think the bravery and drive that solo travellers display is spectacular. It takes extreme courage and adventure to do all this by yourself and I admire everyone who does it. Travelling with Chris has undoubtedly made things easier but every aspect of bike touring can be learnt, you can talk to people, learn new languages and get by from the kindness and friendliness of complete strangers.
Alone or with someone, if you have the desire to travel there’s only one way to do it. Your way. You may find someone who shares the same dream to travel and you pursue it together but as long as you are happy and healthy and following your dream nothing else should matter.