Not your average travel blog
I was bound to talk about love at some point…
Conveniently, a friend in Skagway, where my ferry will sail from, tossed me an invitation to visit. New friendships across the U.S. erupted while I was on last year’s epic adventure, but this trip has been different for me. I have not been travelling alone and although KP and I have not fallen out, it’s here that we agreed to take a little break from each other. We need one. I am gratefully camped amongst massive spruces and cotton woods on a horse ranch in a quiet, dense forest a quarter mile from the Chilkoot trail head. It’s simple living next to a fire and my friendly host does have electricity in an outdoor kitchen as well as a hot shower in a cabin not far away. KP sailed South to Haines and we have a week apart before I’m to join him on the four day ferry ride to Washington state. I’m sure he’s already enjoying his solitude and if I’ve encouraged him to do anything, he’ll be well on his way to finding a hidden campsite.
We have survived together in closed quarters quite respectfully for almost three months. Relatively speaking, it isn’t a long time, but nothing can prepare you for the difficulties and frustrations that come with sharing such a confined living space with just one other person. When you throw in a big age gap, conflicting political views and hugely opposing social characters, cracks and strains can appear. It’s hard to stretch without bumping into one another – both physically and metaphorically. It’s also strange and sometimes testing to only be able to have a conversation with the same person for so long, and we disagree daily.
However, our friendship is one that goes deeper than some political mismatch or personality clash. It’s based on respect, admiration and a whole lot of patience – something that I think is often overlooked when choosing friends, working with colleagues or debating politics. It’s enlightening to have such confrontation close to hand, and although a trial, it has made both the adventure and our strange bond a strong one.
Suspending my friendship with KP for a second…
We all know relationships can be hard, no matter what the circumstances, but from experience, travelling together (and not just holidays) examines a couple beyond the hilt. While the constant “togetherness” magnifies every intimacy and challenges even the most desirable patience, it also drags your muddied heart along a gravel river bed and shouts at you while you try to sleep, “Do you still love me?!!” The trials which love adds to a defining adventure are ones which make or break anyone’s soul and it’s a brave road to take. I sound pessimistic, but I think I’m just cautious. Many couples don’t make it through an entire adventure, but even more difficult can be the adjustment following the trip, back into a more “normal” or “socially accepted” lifestyle together. I find trying to live a life conventionally with a sustained backdrop, ultimately more harmful to my psyche than any relationship. So I find myself in somewhat of a quandary.
Travelling transforms individuals and couples into more enlightened souls, but inevitably being on a journey together raises questions around whether you are right for one another. There is no worse time to break up than while on the move. You’re dependent on each other and it’s like having your parachute cord, and your emergency backup, “never break this for fear of death cord” sliced simultaneously. Having previously been the person to once cut the cords on a trip, I never, ever want to have to do that again.
The strains on a repetitively challenged brain and an often changing opinion set while travelling, do accumulatively take their toll. However, I have found a reflective wanderer and a localised lifestyler share the same problems: having their intimate desires both inspired and dented at either ends of the “nomad-to-homebody spectrum”. People become numb in bubbles of any lifestyle and whether you’re a traveller or a settler, it’s hard to meet a lover to project not only a desirable lifestyle onto but also one that works logistically and geographically. In short, finding someone to really share you’re intimate soul with is difficult, whoever you are.
I don’t like to stay still…and I don’t mean in a twitchy way, I just want to leave town a lot and find new projects. I understand how stressful that kind of spontaneity or inability to be tied down can be – both for someone else and me. Maybe I’m cynical, maybe I just haven’t met the right girl, maybe I’m selfish, maybe I have a distorted view of what a home is, maybe deep down I’m actually anti social, maybe I just don’t prioritise my lifestyle in order to obtain a wife or children, or maybe I see being a free man as something other than anchoring myself to one place; tied to bills, a forty year commute, and a career that both consumes me and puts me in exactly the same position as if I make attempts to live differently to how society expects. I’m hard to tie down, or maybe reluctant to be. Maybe that will one day change, but I’ve seen nothing to support the idea.
I’ve found that love can be found everywhere, but it takes on many varied forms. I’m fascinated by relationship dynamics and as I travel, seeing different cultures, races, sexes, and legalities of “coupledom” always intrigue me. Maybe my curiosities come from so much variety in my own experiences – watching family and friends around me have such different and positive relationships. I find it’s only made me more tolerable and patient with people’s desires and give me the ability to explore my own….it’s sometimes reluctantly, an ongoing project..
Sadly, I’ve become accustomed and cautiously content in the knowledge that finding a partner who is truly happy with me travelling so much is ultimately the biggest problem I face. In addition, being in a couple while needing to work on the move is more troublesome than in an environment where you can both comfort each other at the end of your stressful days apart. Travelling – you become each other’s days and inevitably each other’s stresses. Don’t throw children into the bowl, they’re only for advanced nomads with questionable parental foresight. I’m joking of course, but moving children around a lot undeniably creates unique individuals….as a child, I guess I moved around more than most….but what do I know, I don’t have children and I apparently visit Neverland often. I prefer to adventure without putting those pressures on a lover – although I only seem to meet those who want to “settle”, set life up behind a picket fence, or worse, expect to travel but have financial or other priorities at home which I wouldn’t pressure anyone to relinquish. Maybe it’s self deprecating or closed-hearted, but although I would be prepared to adventure less by myself, longevity on any journey with a lover, either a physical or an emotional one, is a journey I really struggle to take lightly.
Matters of the heart can be tricky for us all, but while being committed to a relatively adventurous lifestyle, it definitely takes a big adjustment to be completely satisfied with a love which is more unconventional. With everything else I feel on the road; whatever difficulties I have finding it, whenever it does appear and when I eventually admit it – it’s never dull.
KP and I always know there is an end point to this year’s journey and even though our friendship will last, possibly for another adventure, we can leave each other to breath and stretch and consolidate in our minds what we have experienced. There is no love lost by saying cheerio, but hopefully a lot more to find.