When I tell people that my girlfriend, Lydia, and I spent four months cycling across Europe and sleeping in a tent, they often ask the same question: “So, at what point did she want to rip your head off?”
Of course we got on one another’s nerves, but a majority of the trip was a growing experience. Traveling with your partner is the perfect litmus test to see how well you both work together.
Utilize your individual strengths
Rather quickly, we discovered how to utilize our individual strengths. We would alternate between being the superhero and the sidekick, which taught us to rely on one another.
For example, I would prepare dinner while Lydia would wash our clothes in a nearby creek; and Lydia would put up the tent, while I would inspect it for spiders.
Also, don’t shy away from changing things up. It might turn out that your partner ends up being better or more efficient at a certain task. I thought that I was great at handling the budget, until I passed those duties off to Lydia. Under her control, she found a way to save us money.
Alone time is paramount
Alone time is important to sort out your thoughts and just be. Seeking out personal time allowed me to appreciate the many moments we spent together.
The best part about travelling by bicycle was that whenever I needed a little space, I could pull ahead – about 20 feet – and ride in front for a while. We found this to be crucial while spending every waking – and sleeping – moment together.
Adversity is a guarantee
We faced countless challenges during our journey: flat tires on a mountainside, wet clothing, weeks without showers and saddle sores the size of nickels. The way we worked together began to evolve when we started viewing adversity as just a problem with a solution. And we worked together to find those solutions.
After an extremely hot day in Slovenia, having covered more than 70 miles on our bikes, we pulled into a campsite. Our stomachs rumbled and our hands trembled from weakness.
While checking into the campsite – completely famished – I learned some peculiar news.
“It’s a nudist campground,” I said to Lydia.
“Oh. So, we are going to see some naked people?” she asked.
“Well, yes,” I continued. “And, also, it is against the rules to wear clothes here. So, we will have to be naked, too.”
Though we were exhausted, the humorous situation actually lifted are spirits. And the idea of having to follow said campsite rules was motivation enough for us to move on.
Laughter was always one of the life sources that kept us weathering the winds.
Traveling can either split the seams or strengthen the bond of a relationship. Sometimes it does both. When one of us screwed up, it was important to stay united. We had to forgive those bitter moments to enjoy all of the wonderful ones. A happy relationship is not about avoiding adversities, but rather having the courage to hit dead ends and find a new route together.
Peter Stadalsky is an Aurora resident and adventurer. He shares his travel experiences with a “glass-half-full” view of the world.