Coping Together on the Road by Finding Your Alone Time
T – You’re in Colombia. It’s dry and hot. You’re halfway down a steep slippery mountain on your motorcycle and you have just fallen off for the fifth time in as many minutes. You struggle to pick up your overloaded bike as sweat drips from under your helmet and sizzles onto the hot steel of the bikes frame. You’re sick of falling off, sick of landing on rocks, sick of drinking hot water, sick of it all. You have multiple burn marks on your legs and hands from the stupid bikes stupidly hot stupid exhaust.
This. Is. Hell.
To top it all off, right at that moment your partner starts telling you why you fell off, how to pick up your bike, and how to ride. You snap. They snap. You both argue and swear at each other and say things you instantly regret before you both lapse into a sulking silence that lasts the next two very long hours and leaves you feeling exhausted and ashamed.
C – During our overland trip from Alaska to Argentina, the majority of other overland adventurers we met were travelling solo. Many times they would admit to us that though they loved travelling alone, they also had times where they wished they could share a moment with someone. You know, that moment where you stand triumphantly on top of a mountain after a gruelling three hour trek to the top. Or that moment you sail peacefully through the fjords in awe of the magnificence of Mother Nature, as dolphins frolic in the mirror like waters.
T – Or that time when you were incredibly sick and vomited on the toilet floor while your bowels squirted hotly into the bowl under you, or something like that.
Having now travelled as a couple many times, I couldn’t imagine doing it on my own. There is too much to share. Too many experiences that I want to enjoy with someone else.
But it’s not all skittles and rainbows.
The most important thing you can do, before you leave, is to talk about how to manage some ‘alone’ time – that is how will make sure that you spend time away from each other at regular intervals.
Finding Your Alone Time
C – Spending 24 hours a day together whilst travelling can be intoxicating and frustrating. It is absolutely essential that you develop a way in which you both get time for yourself. This can be in the form of regularly scheduling rest days where you spend the day doing separate activities. This is not always possible however, particularly when you are travelling overland in the same vehicle (or separate motorcycles connected by communicators) and like to keep moving along. Learning to be in the same physical space as your partner, but in your own headspace is an important skill to develop. It comes as your relationships grows and you settle into the routine of life on the road, and it is something to be deeply respected by both parties.
How did we do it?
T – Early morning works best for me.
I like to get up early in the morning and enjoy a cup of tea while I watch the sun get up. Chantelle, however, likes to sleep in and get up when the sun is already up and warming the place up for her. So for me, this is a great opportunity to grab some alone time. It might only be about a half hours worth, but it’s perfect. Just me and the fresh new day.
C – My coffee time is my time.
Todd would always be getting the water boiled as I dragged myself out of the tent. Brewing my morning coffee, and then drinking said cup of sunshine and all things delicious, became my transitioning time between sleep and the new day. I like to drink my coffee in the quiet, soaking in everything that the world has to offer, slowly opening up my mind and heart to the new day. It was important that I had this time and Todd respected this each morning, as we spent 10 – 15 minutes in silence, just being in the environment around us.
T – After the days adventures.
Each night we set up camp together, pitching the tent and what-not, and then I would wander off with my camera to shoot some photos, or more often than not, just to wander around the nearby area aimlessly. Again, this gave me my alone time and allowed me to gather my thoughts, especially important after a tough day.
C – Reflecting on the day.
Everyday after we set up camp I would type up the days adventures into our journal. This was my ‘wind down’ time and allowed me to reflect peacefully on all we had seen and experienced that day. Often, I would do this whilst Todd wandered about, but if he returned, he would again be respectful and leave me in my own headspace until I put down the laptop.
However, days are definitely not always routine on the road and there are times when your normal ‘alone time’ is snatched away by a breakdown, accepting an unexpected offer of hospitality or difficulties finding a suitable place to sleep.
Recognise when you need some alone time
T – Most importantly, we worked on recognising when we needed some alone time and how we could both get space without compromising our budget. This took some time to iron out once we hit the road, spending 24 hours a day together, but it did not take long to smooth out.
Self-reflection and honesty (with ourselves and each other) is really important.
C – Feeling agitated or easily frustrated over something that is quite minor (or just at your partner in general) can be a sure sign it is time to get some solitude. Feeling frustrated for no apparent reason is a definitely a sign for me that it’s time for me to reset through some alone time.
When I recognised these feelings, we would work together to find a solution. Generally, we would aim to head into a town for the night and maybe a rest day. This meant we had a whole day in which we could schedule time for separate activities. For me, just being completely alone was a luxury, so I would book some time in the hotel room whilst Todd went out, generally to the closest pub for an ice cold beer!
Sometimes, you have to speak up
T – A lot of us struggle with honest, self-reflection. It can be easy to feel an emotion without being able to set the emotion aside as you dive into your mind to find the cause of the feeling.
But on the road, you become all too familiar with every little thing about your partner. Sometimes it takes this perspective for recognition that some time out is needed. When you see your partner starting to struggle, or becoming frustrated, or whatever it is you recognise, it is important to speak up. Having the space in your relationship to say ‘hey, you don’t seem quite yourself today, is there something you need?’ can open up the conversation about how to address your partners needs. Recognising this tension building and implementing a plan to allow your partner to get some alone time helps to avoid issues bubbling away under the surface.
C – It is important to understand that this all takes some energy. Relationships take work and this is no different whether you are living in the suburbs or pursuing a nomadic life in a tent or a car, or whatever form ‘nomadic’ means to you.
You will learn about the best and worst in your partner. But you will also learn about the best and worst in yourself. Accepting the worst and using the best to thrive is one of the thrills of travelling, but you know what?
It also builds a level of emotional intimacy, trust and unconditional acceptance in your relationship that I am not sure a conventional lifestyle would foster.
T – By being honest, with ourselves and each other, and grabbing these quiet times regularly, we spent 18 months living together on the road 24/7 with barely any arguments. Even though we slept in the same tent, shared the same cooking space and were connected every day by a helmet intercom system.
Except for one time. On a hot day in Colombia, on the side of a steep, slippery mountain.
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