Daily Archives: 2015-06-12

Traveling with a girlfriend: Belated reflections

Traveling sucks. Really. I’ve never been with a group of people doing non-trivial travel without any visible effect on their relationships. Best case, I was earning a friend. Worst cases were kind of unpredictable (like one of my friends putting a veto on poo time during a hike as ‘we were late’).

I’ve seen traveler pairs breaking apart, people not being able to stand each other (just one public case is Hanna from Goodbye Normals reported violence against her by the boyfriend she traveled with).

I have had my own experiences where a few weeks of travel or just living by the side of people dramatically changed our relationships (like me changing my mind about marrying a girl I’ve already proposed).


Olga: when we met, you told me a story of your travel with a girlfriend + working remotely which was a failure. I immediately became upset “I’d do some travels with him”

11/24/14 (200 days ago)

Rocks sea

My previous experience suggested that approaching stuff I’m afraid of (like girls, ha-ha!) kinda sucks. When doing that together with someone, it sucked even more as all the manipulations I know of are built on fear avoidance.

Avoiding fears = call for manipulations

Example: I’m afraid of being tagged as a ‘bad guy’, so I’ll do anything to avoid that:

  1. Ask me to do something I didn’t want to do
  2. Hear ‘no’
  3. Start crying
  4. I’ll see this ‘bad guy’ tag on the scene
  5. You hear ‘yes’

Disclaimer: that doesn’t seem to work any more.

Fear acceptance

Another strategy is just to live with that. I’ve said “I’m afraid of this” dozens of times during the trip, Olga noded and the party continued.

One of the most vivid examples of this was near-shore boarding of a seemingly overloaded ship. My brain and his panic mode joined a few others in calculating alternative routes and Olga just picked her bag and started the boarding.

In hindsight I realize that courage might have been inspired by the food poisoning she was suffering from. Death = relief in this case, right? : )

Overloaded ship boardingImage: a boat just a minute before us boarding. A few dozen people declined to board and turned back.

If fears can be accepted, what for do we need them?

It probably depends on when your fears do manifest. Mine adhere to two rules:

  1. I fear the most just before doing something
  2. When I already up to something, the fear is gone – I’m too involved

Thus fear is just an indicator of me about to try something I’ve never experienced enough before.

Image: toilet room in our yacht. Yet another unforgettable experience during a windy day


Ivan: slow internet, 2am/4am Skype meetings, differences in attention needs are kind of risky. I will become worser contributor at work, that will undermine my self-confidence and we’re toasts.

11/24/14 (200 days ago)

We did it all. Internet was slow and wonky, I stayed up late hours and omitted watching ‘beautiful temples’, marathons and stuff.

Failure does not mean the adventure has ended. It is just an indicator of learning something new.SurfingImage: One the successful surfing attempts. I have photos of like a hundred of failed ones.

I clearly remember myself quitting after first 30 minutes and this chat with an instructor “She’s a bad client, still trying”. Bad client, good learner

Continuing to fail

One of the trickiest things with failures is to continue. Failures usually taste bad (like ocean water). And failures are weird kind of feedback.

Doing everything just right does not guarantee you success and all you’ve got is the promise. At some point in the future the pain from failures will be compensated by the successes.

It reminds me of looking for a job: I may have a perfect resume, rock the interviews and still won’t be offered a job for a few months. Knowing that after a while, I will get a one doesn’t make it less painful : )

Failing together

Doing this exercise both in solo mode and together as a pair become one of the non-obvious ways to stay together. Who would understand you best than the person who has the same bruises all over?

Skii selfie
Image: just before Olga’s first descend ever. It was all working well until that girl told Olga that’s not a descent for the first-timers : (

Crisis time

Having a lot of failures for a while does feel like an energy crisis (energy being your capacity of doing something useful).

Crisises and travels go along. Human resources are limited and mostly tied to adapting to the changing environments and giving something to a partner seems like much bigger deal.

I’ve seen a few strategies people take when facing an energy crisis:

  • Demand (and manipulate!)
  • Hide and heal the wounds alone (“we need to make a break”)
  • Tap on to a standard backup energy source (drawing, going to a gym, winning a deal, chatting with an energetic friend, awesome meal)
  • Use this as an opportunity and create something inspiring both of you. Which was exactly the case of KissYourWoman.com

And some cures

As with most things, relationship crisises are best taken care of strategically. I.e. before the symptoms will greatly impact the atmosphere.

One of things I’ve learned was that being together 24/7 is not the same as allocating some quality time together. I remember the time pressure I felt at my work place and how hard it was for me to grab a bike and watch a sunset together. In hindsight it was totally worth it.

SunsetImage: one of the very few sunsets I’ve seen at Phuket

1. Eyes

Gradually my definition of quality time changed even more. Candels and sunsets are kind of stereotypical but nothing replaces a good eye contact and a few smiles.

Maybe that’s why in 36 questions to fall in love ask people to stare at each other?

IMG_20150105_054742Image: Olga is having fun at The Beach while I’m staying at the boat having declined to pay unexpected $10 to do that :)

2. Gyms

I have to admit that one of the reasons I love attending gyms for is observing beautiful bodies at work. Why not invite your girlfriend and see her from another angle? : )Olga heavy liftingImage: Olga is lifting at the famous Boom Leong Gym

3. Silence

Chatting a lot at first, it was disturbing to start talking less. After all isn’t change a symptom of something evolving?

By giving up talking it so much easier to discover closer means of contact: touching, rubbing, nibbling, passing some almonds : )

YachtingImage: A moment from like 6 hours of little-to-no wind during one of regatta days

What’s especially cool about some silence is the taste the words have afterwards.

Transparent balls swimmingImage: Olga is hiding from the rain in a transparent ball

I’ll act bold and claim that silences differ from one another and healthy ones are easily distinguishable. Like in the picture below: how much smartphones are there on the table? See?

Local fast foodsImage: lunch in super local place in Greece (and yes, I was eager to spell it like Grease during that time)

To all the solos

While I was alone, I always thought that just being together with someone I love is all I want. Fortunately, Maslow with his pyramid see it differently: once some basic needs are fulfilled, the others emerge.

Following was tricky

One of the things I didn’t expect was that following is a bit like a hard work for me. Picking an arbitrary direction a few times a minute is super easy when traveling alone but trickier as the company grows.

WalkingImage: unused new year trees just 4 months after the new year (in xUSSR the strongest characters keep them until the very next NY)

New people are there

While most of solo traveling articles say that it’s more difficult to meet new people when you travel in pairs, I don’t remember us having a problem with that.

Update: actually I remember Olga’s envy while I was talking to a few cool dudes from Bangladesh. So yes, it can be more difficult : P

Park plankingImage: Olga is about to win planking challenge from a few financial city workers

Differences are awesome

During the travels, we managed to get ill a few times. Getting into a tricky mood happened I think like dozen times more for each of us. I imaging how would these things feel if synchronized.

Airport sleepImage: catching up on sleep while I’m catching up on 3rd breakfast

Exclusive stories

Some things only reach ears of people which are in the right place at the right time.

Olga actually never revealed that fact anywhere, but she had to break into one of the temples.

She had one day to see the inside, had a few hours ride to get there and then it appeared it costed more cash than she had with her. She climbed over a wall and was expelled by a guard which was nearby. After a short phone call to the support (wink me), she inspected the perimeter and after a while found herself inside.

Olga looks at a mapImage: Olga is picking next destination in an atlas available from public library at Urban 100 restaurant

The End

Having told all of that I have to admit to myself that these 5 months of travels were kind of awesome. Full of fears, failures and challenges but in the end only better myself was left with the best people.

Olga, you’re awesome. I’m looking forward to what is gonna be our next adventure ^_^

Airplane viewImage: sunrise from an airplane window

Olga is suggesting to give this masterpiece for somebody to proofread. So here you go people : )