“It Takes Two” our article as featured in HipCompass Escapes
Back in August 2008 my fiance and I (Georgina) were traveling through northern Vietnam and stopped in the beautiful mountain town of Sapa. Our $7 room had the feel of an old alpine cottage and unparalleled views of the infinite mountain scenery. We knew instantly we had stumbled over something special, surely one of the most romantic places we’d been on our travels to date.
Whilst drinking in morning coffees and that million dollar view (or seven as the case may be) the chat turned to how we should fill our time in such a beautiful place, that’s when the cracks started to show.
Georgina wanted to make a brutal seven hour bus trip to a remote and rural weekend market in a town called Bac Ha, filled with visions of Flower H’mong hill-tribe people selling everything from dried shrimps to dogs – the “real” Vietnam maybe, she was keen as mustard. I however was not.
Having been dragged around every market we’d passed since we left home, all I could focus on were the practicalities of getting there, the poor roads and sweaty buses for seven long hours.
Things between us came to a head and at that point, in our idyllic mountain cabin, we realised the underlying issue had nothing to do with the market, in fact it was a problem which had been simmering beneath the surface for weeks or maybe even months. Somehow we had managed to grow apart as lovers, regularly finding ourselves in intense situations and constantly being around each other, we had become better friends than we could have ever hoped but with all the highs and lows that come with traveling foreign, unfamiliar countries we had forgotten to set aside time for just us.
It’s not as if we forgot or were too busy to love each other, rather that we didn’t adapt our relationship the same way we had to adapt every other aspect of our lives. Strolling hand in hand down perfect beaches with breathtaking sunsets as a backdrop, going out for candle lit dinners and lazy Sunday’s (well everyday) soon became the norm. More than that, they became part of our daily routine. I suppose it was naive to think a whole new way of life wasn’t going to change our relationship, that everything would take care of itself while we took care of having the time of our lives.
The problem we found with traveling as a couple is that there are three agendas, not two. Mine, Georgina’s and our relationship’s. The solution: We needed to treat it like a third person that has a third set of needs, not get an extra bed put in the room or carry a third backpack but actually make time for it during the day. The very environment conspires to come between any relationship while traveling – grubby rooms, diarrhea, tropical heat, single beds, intense situations, cultural taboos and the often unavailability of personal hygiene all redefine a relationship but it’s ignorance to all this which causes friction.
All was not lost though, once emotions had settled and feelings were out in the open we swiftly realised that it wasn’t a problem we had intentionally created, neither of us had meant any harm or lost any love, it was just something we simply hadn’t prepared for that got carried away. We’d managed to fit everything we might need for our trip into our backpacks and assumed our relationship would slot neatly in there too.
For the record I gave in, we went to Bac Ha market and I loved it. That’s how we do things now, if one of us wants to go somewhere or do something then we do it, no questions, no compromises, no moaning we just get on with it. Everyone needs a little push to do something they wouldn’t normally do sometimes, after all aren’t new places, new people and new experiences what traveling is all about.
We have been traveling southeast Asia for over a year now, we’ve seen things that neither of us will ever forget and done things that would make people back home green with envy. We have lived our dream! It’s been a constant learning curve but traveling as a couple has only enriched both our experiences. It means we don’t just have pictures of beaches and temples, but of each other – in these amazing places, we have the luxury of being able to talk our way to a solution rather than worry about a problem and look after each other if one of us gets sick. We’ve seen each others true colours shine through the amplified situations and shared everything… Nothing gives meaning to a moment or a place like being able to share it with someone you love.