If you want to get to really know a guy, go on a long trip, just you and him, nothing less than 10 days. You’ll be sticking together like bees to honey because you have to, and not necessarily because you want to. That’s when you really get to know a guy. And that’s when he’ll really get to know you. If both of you still want to stick around after that – well, I think you’re off to a good start.”
Wise words Bob*.
When I was first told these words, they rang true immediately. Travelling changes people – and travelling extensively, in a different continent with no one but each other for company for hours on end, is probably the closest you’ll ever get to noticing every little thing you had missed, even after years of knowing them. At a year and a half into a relationship, we left for a 2 week province-hopping in Eastern China, just Carl and me. At a year and a half you feel like you know the person, right? You’ve been through some things, you’ve shared some memories too. I was never anxious about how this trip would affect us but maybe this was because I refused to give it much thought.
Now I’m back. It’s been an amazing trip with so much to see and do and eat – it was an overwhelming kaleidoscope of sights, smells and tastes. We loved it.
This trip also changed and perhaps matured the way I see him, affecting the relationship we have, in a beneficial way. I’m pretty sure he’s a learned a thing or 2 about me too and that this trip gave him new perspectives. I thought I’d share my feelings about all the little things I’ve discovered just to give you a couple of thoughts to reflect on. Sometimes we take so many things for granted that it literally takes a push out of our safe zone and a plunge into totally different scenarios to realise how many different sides to the person we’ve failed to uncover. Well, I took that plunge and here they are – The 10 Things I Wish I Knew:
1. You will pit yourselves in a battle of wits over and over again.
Sometimes you’ll win, sometimes you’ll lose. You love to plan, he likes spontaneous, spur of the moment decisions which make you anxious. It’s OK – in the end the spontaneous trips will turn out to be the most memorable, he will get to say “I told you so” and you’ll just have to shrug and pretend this didn’t bug you too much.
2. You will have to COMPROMISE.
Just because you’re in sync on so many aspects in life doesn’t mean there won’t come a time when you realise that you’re horribly out of step with one thing or another. You love fitting in as many sights and places in your schedule as is sanely possible. You’re constantly rushing because time’s not on your side and you won’t manage to get a peek at the 7th must-see on your guidebook if you don’t hurry. He has a slower pace – or rather, a normal pace. He will see things in his own time and if he doesn’t, then it’s fine. Breathe Rob, and stop racing ahead just to have to constantly look over your shoulder to reassure yourself you’re not lost. It’s never going to work. On the other hand, talking about it can. Plan realistically ahead and find a compromise. Strolling might not be the solution but running around like a headless chicken probably isn’t a good idea either.
3. You will be pushed outside your comfort zone, and you will reveal every shade of your other sides.
How you react in a stressful and tense situation will define you. And when you’re in a country where you’re not understood 90% of the time, where customs may make you feel uncomfortable and when getting lost might actually be a worrisome prospect, you will go through A LOT of these stressful situations. But you get to see something come out, something closer to the true nature of a person. In tense moments you reach out to your most basic reactions. It’s the What do you do when you think no one is watching? scenario, only this time you’re playing it in front of one another. This plays a CRUCIAL role in forming a well-rounded opinion of a person and once more, it’s helped us see parts of one another we might not have known before. Some quirky, some cute, and some a teensy bit frustrating (still endearing though, right Carl?).
4. ME-Time is important. Very important.
Do not underestimate the importance of time spent alone. When you’re spending days on end not being away from each other except to go to the loo, you start appreciating those brief moments when you are your only company, not because you wanted to get away from anyone. Not at all. But those brief minutes spent under the shower or down in the lobby reading a book help you come to terms with all the new things which are happening. It helps you gather your thoughts, categorise certain things in your head. If a brief argument erupts during the day, it’s your time to go through what happened and it helps you accept it, even smile at how foolish it all seemed now. And hey, it’s ok to admit you missed your own fantastic company. On these solo couple trips, you kind of morph into each other in many ways. Me time helps you get yourself back, a bit wiser and hopefully more eager to face the rest of the trip with your other half.
5. You’ll reach a whole new level of couple comfort levels.
You know what I mean. It’s when you start talking about things you might have avoided out of sheer embarrassment before, but not just. On these kind of trips, it’s all about making your partner aware of anything you might be feeling (honestly, repressing this could end in disaster). And if that is an inexplicable need to find a bathroom, you just have to let him or her know. You might have already touched base with every level imaginable with your partner but these trips can put you into pretty tight situations – the kind you won’t find yourself in anywhere else. So yeah, speak up! End of story.
6. You have different ways of expressing pleasure.
You’re the kind of person to prance around when you’re happy, hopping from one foot to the other and repeating over and over again But how beautiful is this place? Honestly, this is one of the happiest days of my life! But don’t you think it’s just beautiful? Yes, Rob, he does. He said that once in the beginning and it’s enough. Not everyone expresses their emotions like you do (Thank God for that – can you imagine a host of prancing repetitive idiots at every sunset?) and it’s OK. I know you worry that he’s not enjoying himself but honestly, it’s not the case. And stop asking him whether he is – because that’s the one thing that might trigger what you’re worrying about in the first place.
7. Your PATIENCE will be tested.
And patience is Everything. The patience to wait, the patience to understand, the patience to put up with things you might not normally cope with. You have to be PATIENT because there’s no other way to be. What are you going to do? Throw a tantrum and then what? Dampen your partner’s spirit just because things aren’t really going according to plan? It won’t work. How does that prayer go? God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. There you go, that’s your mantra from now on. Now stick to it.
8. You have different rituals from each other. Don’t change them.
Rather, make time for them. He hates taking his coffee take-away and relishes sitting down, sipping it leisurely. You love the idea of walking the city streets with a warm Starbucks in hand. He loves sleeping in when he doesn’t have plans. You think it’s a waste of time. He has to stop to wash his hands every so often. You know you should too but really couldn’t be bothered that much. He doesn’t see the point of taking so many photos. You’re obsessed with immortalising everything. The list is endless. Trivial things perhaps, but when put together they actually highlight the many different traits which make us who we are. Don’t try changing them to fit your agenda. Accept them, try them out yourself if you want to but don’t feel obliged to change the way you do things. If things escalate (though really, they shouldn’t), finding a compromise is usually a good idea.
9. You will appreciate how vital good COMMUNICATION is.
The secret to any good relationship is good communication – anyone will tell you that. On trips like these, it could very well be the one thing which makes or breaks the holiday. You’re usually quite tacit, dismissing certain topics on the basis of “he doesn’t need to know”. Don’t. Talk, talk and talk some more. For one thing, there will be no better time than this – you have all the time in the world, no one is around to interrupt you or take him away on some errand. And think of how dull it would be if you just sat there, engulfed in things which are actually taking you far away from him.
10. You’re going to love every second of it.
Every single one. Sure, you’ll fight the urge to drag him along to match your pace, you’ll probably lose some points with your whining when the driver tells you he’s lost, but you’ll be glad he’s around to make things right. Sharing this little adventure with him will be all that you imagined and more; randomly picking up stuff from a Chinese menu, doubling in laughter at the English translations on signs and cards, the joy at catching the right bus, getting off at the right stop and finding a long sought for destination.
The simple act of sharing enriching experiences will test how strong your relationship actually is, and will leave you feeling giddy with pleasure when you come out of it quite unscathed. And yes, both of you will want to stick around after it’s over which, I guess, is the one thing that really matters.
*In case you’re wondering – Bob is not a fictitious character. He really did say those words – and many others for that matter. Another weaver of words and ideas.
Thank you Bob!