Rachel and I had been going out for six years when I proposed and we started planning our trip. Almost two years later we finally departed Toronto to start our adventure and the next chapter of our lives together. As much as we had learnt about each other in the last seven years, we also knew that there would always be more to learn. That has proven true in the best way possible over the past few months.
Starting in India was an enormous adjustment for both of us. Neither of us had ever seen poverty or living conditions like that before and we were both a little nervous and edgy in the beginning. Being in a part of the country where being white is really rare and people who speak English even more so, it became quite apparent that this wasn’t going to be easy. The simplest of tasks proved to be an ordeal every time and it definitely put a strain on both of us to stay calm throughout the interactions. We learned quickly that it’s best to be on the same side in these situations, even if you don’t fully agree. Whether it’s haggling the price of some fruit or a tuk tuk, trying to order a meal or just navigating the street without being hassled. We found that communicating was difficult enough without having to explain to each other what the end game was. In doing so we learnt to trust each other and to wait before reacting. We both found that there were several situations where we were glad for not having said anything too soon. (Trust)
Living together at home and being around each other all the time is different than when you’re travelling together. At home if one is hungry they don’t need to ask when and where to go, don’t need to have the other go with them and certainly don’t need to be afraid of getting lost or worse. If one is tired it’s never a debate about when and where to sleep or why you should or shouldn’t, you just take a nap, wake up and get on with your day. Not so easy when you’re traveling and these problems arise more often than one would think. It took us both some time to really get in tune with each other’s hungry and tired moods and how to respond to them. After coming to terms with the fact that we both get “hangry” when hungry and edgy when sleepy, it was pretty easy to find a solution. Instead of getting frustrated and upset with the way one of us was acting we would just address it immediately. Find food or find a way to take a rest, it’s as simple as it sounds and it saved us a lot of time spent glowering at each other. Every day we get a little more in tune with each other and learn to see and solve these problems before they even happen. (Understanding)
We’ve always been there for each other, this goes without saying. In good times and bad we are always there to lend an ear or a word of advice but there has always also been an outside support system. To be able to go to your parents, siblings, friends or even your dog for comfort means more than you think before it’s not there anymore. Being the only one that’s physically there for one another is something that’s new to both of us. Not that there have been any great trials since our journey started but many small ones that have made us well aware that we can no longer run to anyone but each other for anything and everything. There’s no chicken soup from Bubie when you’re not feeling well, no comforting hug or endearing looks from mom. There is only each other and we’ve had to learn to be all of those things for each other, to be empathetic and aware of what’s needed at any given time. When she’s missing bubie I’ll tickle her arm like bubie does so well, when she’s missing her dad (Abba) I’ll do my best Marty impression to make her smile, there’s no limit to the things we do for each other to make the other feel better, comfortable and loved. Being in this situation has forced us both to be extra aware of the others emotions and take on new roles as partners. (Empathy)
These are just some of the fundamental elements of our relationship that have grown exponentially during our travels. Trust, understanding and empathy. Over the course of seven years we have both learnt these in spades. I know there will always be more room to grow, to learn and to extend our understanding of each other. This trip is proving to be somewhat of a precursor to marriage in the sense that it’s just us, everyday and every night. There’s no one else but us as we move through this world dealing with everything that comes our way good and bad, overcoming any obstacle and working together every second of everyday or risking falling apart. We are both constantly inspired by what we are learning about each other and ourselves along the way and in the words of a wise old man we met, “you must always be curious about one another” and I couldn’t agree more.