Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Travel and Romance?

Hi there fellow travel fanatics,

Going out on a limb a little here, I want to share with you some reflections on travel and relationships. A short while ago I received a response to one of my earlier entries from somebody asking how my wife and I manage to be working and travelling together so intensively and still maintain a healthy relationship, and whether it was a good idea for a new couple to travel together. I was first kind of surprised and not sure what to write back, but then I realized I actually had some thoughts about the matter to share with her. Also, she had the courage to approach a stranger for advice and I found that to be pretty amazing, so I decided to tell her about some of my personal experiences and ideas. I never expected her reaction to it to be as positive as it turned out to be so I asked her if she would mind me sharing this reply with all of you. She agreed, so here goes.

I realize this is not what you are used to read on this spot, but I hope you will like it anyway. Or not, but that is a risk I am willing to take. In that case I promise to get back on the road ASAP!

Still, in the end this is my blog and it reflects my thoughts on travel, so why not a little bit about life as well? Let me know what you think; maybe we have found some ground for an entirely new set of entries!

Looking forward to your feedback, as ever…

Dear …..

Thanks for your message and also for your trust in my perspective on things. I must say I am a bit overwhelmed by the idea of giving you advice on how to manage your relationship through something like a trip around the world. I will be happy to share with you some of my personal experiences, but would strongly urge you to rely on your own insights, feelings and capability to make your own decisions before acting upon what I tell you.

Relationships are a very funny thing to begin with. They are nothing more and nothing less than the product of two people wanting to be together. In my opinion many people overestimate the power of a relationship and too many people seem to be dependent on their relationships, whereas a relationship is nothing in itself really; it is merely a name, given to a social state of mind because two or more people decide to interact for a certain period of time (which might be for life, of course). What I try to say is that a relationship exists because you and your partner want it to exist. You do not depend on it; it depends on you. That means the power is in your hands, at least partially; as long as you and your partner are convinced you want to move on together, the relationship will continue to exist.

From personal experience I can tell you that a relationship is something that needs constant care. As soon as the first weeks of butterflies etc are over, you will basically have to work on it on a daily basis. Well not on the relationship, but on how you decide you want to relate to your partner and how you wish him to relate to you. Being two existentially different beings form the start, a relationship implies making concessions, to yourself and to your partner. The way in which you both manage this, how much you want to remain “yourself” and how much you allow your partner to be “himself” combined with how much you both are willing to give in to one another on that front, will define the nature of your relationship as well as the durability of it. I have been in the same relationship for over 14 years and we have gone through all kinds of experiences, good and bad, internal and external, and there have been many situations that could have broken us up, bit in the end, we somehow always managed to come out of them stronger. I guess that has much to do with the both of us being convinced we really want to be and remain together and always being open to discuss openly what it is that is bothering us, to communicate about practically everything in order to make sure we maintain the balance between our personalities that keeps us together.

Traveling together (especially for a longer period of time) can lay some serious strain on a relationship, because it is about intense, continuous being together in all kinds of situations that are not common, may require you to learn new skills, adapt to new surroundings and influences, and demands a high level of flexibility on both partners. In 1990/91 I traveled together with a friend for 4 months through Latin America and we split up halfway because we couldn’t stand each other anymore. Still, we met again at the end of the trip, flew back home together and have been good friends ever since. On the other hand, Karin and I travel together all the time and it is actually the thing that binds us most. It is travel that brought us together and while travelling we feel closest to one another.

Now, knowing this, would it be smart for you to go on a journey around the world together, being your age and having been together as ‘shortly’ as you have been. I am close to being married for 10 years, so I feel somewhat like a grandpa here which is something very difficult to comment on. I would say that if there is anything that would show the durability of a relationship it would be travel. Once you get to the point you are thinking about being together for a longer time, a nice long trip might just be what you need to find out if you are really meant for each other. It will force the two of you to get to know each other very well very soon. I would say it is the perfect way to find out about things that in ‘normal everyday life’ would perhaps take much more time to come to the surface and therefore, if it does not work out, it might very well not have worked out in the long run. If it does work out well, you are probably capable to withstand many situations together, which makes it very well possible you are a strong couple. But, having said this, I must admit that to “travel that road” you need to be willing to put things to the test, willing to take the chance that it might not work out and accept that possible outcome. It means you need to be sure of yourself, not depending on your partner, and willing to try out life without fear. For me there is no other way; I find it liberating and extremely comforting to know that my life is about me and that in order for me to be able to give love to my partner I first need to love myself and vice versa.

I think in order to live life to the fullest you should not shy away from the possibility of new experiences, such as a nice long trip. On the other hand, you should not make this trip out of fear of losing your boyfriend; you should make it only if the idea of it appeals to you; if you would make such a trip on your own or with anyone else, because you feel motivated to do so. If not, then don't go.

As you see it is a bit difficult to tell you what to do because it basically all depends on you. I would not make a trip of this nature just because your boyfriend wants to, especially if you do not feel like it. Still, if you want to travel too, but are afraid it might put too much strain on your relationship, then you may want to think about your goal with it. A long-term relationship thrives on knowing, accepting and respecting each other. Travel can be a fine way of getting to know each other better, but it can also end things pretty drastically. In the end it is about you; are you up for that? Do you prefer to know where you stand in your life and with respect to your (future) partner and take some risks while finding out, or do you feel better taking things easy and see how they glide along? None of these approaches is any better than the other.

Please think this over thoroughly and try to figure out what it is YOU want out of this life, this relationship. Once you have that clear, the decision will be a lot easier to make.

Happy trails



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Sarah said...

Hi Bart,
You gave some sound advices on your letter, I've traveled a lot but mostly on my own, meeting people in a certain place exploring the place with them and then I had my backpack on and off to the next place, the thing is that I act the same way at home. I agree that traveling bring out aspects of yourself that it would have taken much longer to know otherwise.

Audre + Dimitri said...

Hi Bart, I was cruising through Sarah's blog when I came across her reference to your advice. I enjoyed reading your letter to her. Dimitri and I travel together 365/24/7 and have done so since 1995. Many of the insights on your relationship with your wife are applicable to Dimitri and me as well. One of the best compliments we've gotten was from the owner of the Amazon cruise ship we went on. If you have time, go to this posting of ours to read what Lissy said about Dimitri and me:

Oh and last but certainly not least, I've visited your blog before and think you deserve the Blogger Choice Award (I in fact voted for you.)

Best wishes and happy travels, Audre & Dimitri

Anonymous said...

Impressive blog!!!

Traveling is indeed never ending journey!

Can you add my travel blog here? Traveler’s Journey

Anonymous said...


Tonight I enjoyed reading bits of your travel blog, especially the insight you offered that girl about travelling with a relationship partner. My partner and I are going to be traveling together this summer through Europe and I think the suggestions you make will assist my own journey and are greatly appreciated.

We have just started looking around trying to book flights and frankly all the websites we look at to cut cost end up being a waste of time (because they were misleading) or confusing (because they are misleading).

So I was wondering if you had any suggestions or examples of your success in finding low cost international flights.

Thank you,

Bart de Graaf said...


The best option I have in my pocket is This search
engine runs searches on all airlines, as well as other search engines
like Orbitz. It can locate the best prices on flights, but there's no
way around paying what the airlines are asking for…unless of course
you have miles or friends in the business.

Hope that helps some.