“So far this 2 months of traveling had been very easy.” – said Suzy when we were reflecting on the trip we are currently on (March 2016, Honduras) and it got me thinking; How is it easy to hitchhike 1300 km in Europe, sleep on an airport, fly to the Canary Islands, get a free ride and cross the Atlantic ocean with a boat be locked up in a tiny space for 3 weeks with 3 Russian men we didn’t even know, end up on an island that is completely different to what we have known, travel 24 hours without each other including buses, taxis and planes, land in a country that is suppose to be one of the most dangerous in the world and volunteer in an extremely poor area for people who we barely have any language in common with, in total isolation.
All this, while we constantly need to adapt to each other, to the circumstances, to the unknown, carry a heavy backpack, rely on strangers, trust our common sense and many more.
How the hell is this easy?
I tell you how.
The principles in this piece I believe are directly applicable to any areas of your life, but the angel I choose to discuss it through is travelling.
Hitchhiking and backpacking the easy way
What Suzy meant under easy travel is actually a combination of things. First of all, when an obstacle occurs we can choose to see it as an impossible giant and freak out, or see it a necessary consequence of life and deal with it. Second of all, we learned to accept everything that happens. It is no good or bad, it is only a matter of perception.
Let’s see an example; after 3 weeks on a boat, we decided to catch a flight from the Dominican Republic to anywhere near Honduras as we could not stand the idea of staying on water any longer. Luckily the cheapest flight from the DR was to Honduras, but we could not book seats for the same day. Suzy had to wait an extra 24 hours before departure and surprisingly she was not angry or upset. Instead, she said well, I guess I have to stay that extra day for a reason and I can’t wait to find out why.
Literally 3 days later she met someone who turned out to be a game changer in her life. She got to spend more time with that person and had conversations she absolutely needed. Lesson? Choose to look at a situation with a curious and positive eye. Regardless.
Speak your mind
Since we reunited in France in December 2015, we only spent those 24 hours apart while flying to Honduras. That means we are physically together every day. It drove us close to mental breakdowns a few times, especially on the boat, but we implemented a new approach to our relationship that is challenging in every kind of relationship; to speak our mind.
Many times you don’t even know why you feel the way you feel or don’t know what the feeling is, but in general, you feel frustrated. By putting words on it you first clarify it to yourself and to the other person. This helps to learn how to verbalize your emotional state.
The other person can help you by asking the right questions, digging deeper where the bad feeling comes from. Digging all the way down to the root of the problem while getting to know yourself and each other much better. Once you know the problem, you can work out a solution. Communication, communication, and communication. This way the other person feels involved and you strengthen the ties.
Let’s see an example; I felt frustrated with Suzy because once she ate the whole bag of snacks we bought together. In my mind, she didn’t consider that I might want to have some too and I thought she was selfish. What really happened, is that she saw I had no reaction to her eating all the food and as she was still hungry, she ate it. The lack of communication left a bad taste in my mouth.
Then one night we talked about it and she told me, she never thought this was an issue, as she would not mind if I did the same. She doesn’t care about who eats what as long as we both have food. Fair explanation and it made me understand her perspective. Then it was my turn to clarify, so I explained to her that I’m passionate about food and eating and when I see my half disappearing, I feel offended. A fair question would be, why didn’t I ask her to stop eating? The reason was that she was still hungry and what kind of person would I be if I took the food from her hands saying it’s mine. Later she said that would have been totally fine with her as she takes full responsibility for not buying enough for herself.
Another underlying cause for my frustration was having my choice being taken away. If I have half the snacks, I get to choose to share it or keep it to myself for later. Unfortunately, I always feel stranded when my choice is taken away. Suddenly it dawned on us what the problem was.
The importance of food and choices has a very different weight for Suzy and for me. It was never about not caring, it was about different values and point of views. Speaking our mind took my frustration away completely, helped me to learn about Suzy and the other way around, and we tear down a wall of conflict for the future together. She was very understanding and cooperative all because of communication. People can’t read your mind, so speak it!
You are right, I’m sorry
Can you say these phrases? Giving credit to the other person will determine whether or not your relationship (any kind) will survive according to the research conducted by Dr. John Gottman. It is fascinating how hard it is to say these words and mean them.
What we are practicing with Suzy goes way beyond you are right; we are learning to trust each other’s instincts without a doubt. For example: During the Europe hitchhiking a truck driver offered to take us about 80 km and Suzy said no. I did not understand why would she say no to a ride. It was raining, it was early in the morning, cold and she said no… What? Why?
Then I convinced myself that she knows what she is doing and as I was hesitant to make a decision anyway, I let her take charge to find out why was it better for us to wait. 2 minutes later we found a ride for over 350 km. I put the trust in her gut feeling and it was the right thing to do.
“So far this 2 months of traveling had been very easy.”
Here we are again. Why is it easy? It is not. But we are learning and advancing at a pace that makes it look easy. During reflection, a reminder was for both of us to never underestimate the level of difficulty and to always remember to appreciate the hard work we both put into traveling in a pair.
It is not just traveling as you can see. It is so much more than what the naked eye can see from the outside;
- Staying positive
- True to our core values
- Keep following our dreams and what we believe in
- Never underestimate ourselves
- Learn to communicate better
- Learn to enjoy the moment and each other’s company day in day out
- Adapt to change
- Adapt to the other person’s needs
- Speak our mind
- Build a strong foundation for our relationship and apply these principles in all of our relationships in the future
- Trust people
- Trust ourselves
It is as easy as you make it. The opposite is just as true, so it’s up to you.