“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you…hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain
Taylor and I have been partners for over a year now. We’ve traveled thousands of miles and hiked hundreds more. It’s been hot, cold, windy, wet, dry and everything in between. We’ve faced bears in the backcountry, lost trails, slept in rental cars and tented in downpours. We’ve missed flights, skipped meals and faced 20 hour travel days. Adventure has not always meant vacation.
So, when the sun sets, the temperature drops and you still have miles of climbing before camp in the Yosemite backcountry, it’d be easy to look at each other and think “WTF are we doing here?”
But you don’t. For lots of reasons.
So what happens to your relationship after a year of fabulous (and not so fabulous) adventuring?
You develop your own role and routine
I’ve been Taylor’s GPS and event coordinator for a while now. I peruse Google Earth, make maps and collect brochures like an old lady! Likewise, he’s mastered the art of air and ground logistics, careening us all around California, Oregon, South Dakota, Colorado, Texas…and even learned to sail us around the Sea of Abaco too!
You become sensitive to each others’ needs
I get hangry on the trails. Hour 4 of marching through the hot sun, I’m going to need a snack! But Taylor’s gotten good at making deliberate food splurges in the grocery store before we hit the trail. Symptoms of Girlfriend Pout will begin to appear and he’ll sliiiiiide a string cheese stick into my backpack pouch.
A ThermaRest will always be a good investment. A boyfriend with comfortable hip bones won’t roll on top of you like a sleeping bag burrito in the middle of the night and crush you in your sleep.
You admit you don’t know everything and you can’t do some things
Pride is a toxin. When you’re spending hours and hours with someone every day, it’s hard to hide stuff about your abilities and strengths. You’re going to find out you can’t run 10Ks at the same pace. You can’t send the same routes in the Rock Gardens. You can’t pretend to know how to lead climb, how to roll a play boat in the rapids, how to carve the moguls on the double black. Admitting that you’re not an Olympic Gold medalist in all of your interests can be hard, and embarrassing – but you know what’s worse? Unintentionally cartwheeling down a snowy mountain with a yard sale of gear behind you. But the cool thing is, he’ll [probably] understand and [definitely] laugh when he makes sure you’re alive.
You learn how to take care of your body and when to deal
People are gross. We’ve had blisters, blood blisters, flappers, lugged around waste and caused each other to dry heave from the smell of removing our boots. I’ve had the pads of my feet nearly completely peel off.Taylor’s been heckled more than once on the side of the road for using his makeshift camelbak shower. But, the longer you’ve been doing it, the better it gets and the more you get used to the odors and malfunctions of your significant other….even if the smell never really goes away.
You know when its time to just laugh
Taylor and I fly standby for the majority of our adventures, meaning we aren’t confirmed a seat on the airplane. It can be some sketchy, stressful business. A lot of the time, the reason there are seats available on a flight is because of the weather or an event you probably should avoid. When Mt. Rushmore was covered in fog and almost indiscernible, we snagged our tickets to Rapid City! When Sequoia National Park was covered in smoke from the California forest fires and visibility was nearly nil, we made our way to Fresno! So, when you launch yourself up the 400 big steps to Moro rock to see the grand view of the San Joaquin Valley and can’t see the hand in front of your face – it’s time to giggle, catch your breath and appreciate the present for what it is.
You form your own language
You don’t really have to say something to convey a message. Likewise, a single statement can provide a wealth of information. Everyone has their own ticks and habits that speak volumes about how they feel and think. Taylor knows I’m hangry because I’m obnoxious, but just the same, I know it’s time to stop being a brat when he quips, “Babe, do you need food?”. When Taylor and I found ourselves stressed and uneasy after a flight unexpectedly cancelled and left us near stranded, “Why don’t we just go get some ice cream?” was the best thing that could be said and done.
You become inspired
Earlier this week, Taylor and I found ourselves tucked into a local book shop on a muggy Sunday. As I perused an “Intro to Environmental Economics” book, I glanced over at Taylor reading “This Changes Everything – Capitalism versus the Climate.” We’ve both fallen madly in love with this world that takes care of us and we feed off each other’s passions constantly. Our mutual love is what fuels our plans and goals for the future.
While there are hundreds more things we’ve learned and ways we’ve changed this past year – these seven things are important to me. They represent times in my life when I reflected on the balance of dependence and independence, give and take, compromise and communication.
All relationships will face trials and tribulations like these. Maybe not in the low visibility backcountry of California, but through some impactful event, discussion or adventure. The adventure has become our classroom, where we’ve learned more about ourselves and each other than we could have ever anticipated.
We’re a well-oiled machine because adventure ≠ vacation.
PS – I published a new video montage of our trip to South Dakota. Check it out HERE –