The Biggest, Most Unexpected Challenges & Lessons from Travelling Long Term as a Couple
October 28, 2019
This is a guest post written by Brenton (33) & Christine (27), an Aussie couple from Perth, Western Australia that decided to sell their stuff (most of it) and travel around South East Asia for a year. If you would like to follow their journey or reach out to connect, you can find them on Instagram @brentonandchristine, YouTube or through ReGen Coaching.
We were fortunate enough to meet Tom & Alex (Founders of Saint Belford) while spending some time living in Chiang Mai and it’s an absolute honour that Saint Belford invited us to share some of our story with you and give some real insight into travelling long term as a couple.
But first, let’s rewind it back to 2013
It was 6 years ago when Christine and I started dating. We were on the beach in Thailand, drinking from coconuts (possibly with a little vodka mixed in) and decided that one day we were going to arrive back into this beautiful country. Not for a holiday, but the adventure of a lifetime.
As time began to pass, that dream was somewhat forgotten as life took over and we purchased a house together. As grateful as we both are to be in a situation where we could purchase a home.
It seemed as though the great Australian dream wasn’t actually our dream. We decided that it was time to pack our bags and begin our adventure… Then we did the sums! Our hearts sank as reality kicked in and it seemed financially impossible. Once again, the dream was put to the wayside and our lives continued as they were.
The catalyst for change
Fast forward maybe two years and I came home from work one day and said to Christine “F*** this, we need to do it”. By this time we had established a fitness business called ReGen Coaching and I was working nights and weekends outside of my full time job.
The construction job I had was making me sick with anxiety and depression and it was affecting our relationship (hence why the fitness business had been created as a way out).
Once we had decided that we would try again we both agreed that no matter the (perceived) obstacles in our way, this was going to happen.
At this point in our lives, it was now or never!
The calculator was out again, we listed our income and expenditures and once again it seemed really f***ing hard but NOT impossible. We reverse engineered our adventure and broke it down into an 18 month plan that we mapped out on the whiteboard in our office.
This meant we would leave at the start of 2020 and as long as we stayed committed to the dream it was going to happen. We had planned to travel for one year and due to the terrible housing market in Perth, selling our home wasn’t an option.
2 x one-way tickets to Chiang Mai, please!
After 5 months of sticking to the plan, we were both at breaking point. Every morning that I left for work, I wasn’t sure if I was going to quit and Christine had been working in the same office for close to 8 years and knew she needed more.
We both decided to cut our planning short and book our plane tickets 7 months earlier than originally planned. On New Years day we bought our one-way tickets to Chiang Mai, made a YouTube video telling everyone our plan and s**t became real.
After 6 months on the road...
It’s been just under 6 months since we started travelling (began in May) and it has been one hell of a ride. We have both grown exponentially as individuals but also as a couple. We have lived together pretty much our entire relationship so there wasn’t much we didn’t know about each other… Or so we thought.
We had gone from spending a few hours a week together back in Perth to literally 24/7 in different foreign countries sharing small spaces. No matter who you are, this will test your relationship. To be honest, I’m not sure how Christine hasn’t smothered me in my sleep!
We want to share some of our biggest challenges and insights as a couple. Being individuals, there has also been an insane amount of personal growth but that’s two different stories to tell.
Striking a balance
While preparing for this journey back at home we decided it would be a good idea to set ourselves some physical goals. We both competed in powerlifting comps (mine was only novice but Christines was a sanctioned meet) and dieted gruellingly for a photoshoot. This happened only a couple of months before we left so we were in pretty good shape.
Once we were on the road we knew that our bodies wouldn’t stay the same but our health was/is always an important issue. We had been taken out of our controlled environment where every bit of food was accounted for and arrived at a place where we had amazing cuisine cooked for us for next to nothing. This is where we both had to change our perspective from a strict all or nothing approach to one of balance.
Sounds easy, right? We are only human and as we see with many of our clients trying to find balance requires a lot of practice. For many, eliminating guilt and allowing yourself enjoyment whilst also maintaining self control is a constant struggle.
This meant that we had to immerse ourselves as deeply as possible into the amazing food of South East Asia whilst also knowing when enough is enough.
This is where Christine towers over me. She has spent a long time creating a healthy relationship with food while I struggle with an all or nothing mentality.
Her subtle pushes in the right direction when she sees that I’m diving into something (usually drinking way more than I should be) has been what has helped me to begin to find my own balance.
Food aside, there is the actual physical training. Being in Chiang Mai for 3 months we had a routine but once we left and were traveling around it became far more difficult.
Access to a well equipped gym is sometimes impossible and home workouts for us personally don’t quite have the same effect. When the routine is gone and you find yourself on an island wanting to explore, discipline is the only thing that you can fall back on to ensure you do some kind of exercise.
Christine has done an incredible job at maintaining while I have lost a ton of muscle, strength and put on some fat. When living back in Perth this would have caused a huge amount of anxiety as I put far too much worth in how I looked so I feel as though this has been a huge journey of self acceptance in this regard.
We have had conversations about how we don’t want to look back and regret not enjoying experiences because we cared too much about our appearance. In saying that, we have also ensured that we haven’t used this as an excuse to completely neglect ourselves as our health is important to us. It’s really just a huge balancing act that we are both getting better at as we go along.
The argument that changed everything
Spending 24/7 together has been one of the biggest challenges we have had to face. Especially when we were in Sri Lanka. Moving around constantly meant that we didn’t have much time to socialise and make friends.
As a consequence, this exposed some of the flaws in our relationship….
One of these being our lack of communication skills with each other. I’m sure you have all heard the couple that has been married for 60 years say that communication is key. Well, it turns out they might be onto something!
We had never really had any huge fights but we definitely saw that our relationship was deteriorating. We ended up in an argument one day and Christine told me that she had been thinking about leaving.
As you can imagine it was a f***ing confronting thing to hear. But that moment of honesty became the catalyst in which we both realised that our communication sucked.
We let all the small things build up until eventually, it blew up. Since that moment we have been so much more cohesive as a couple and we feel as though our relationship is the strongest it has ever been.
The most rewarding part of this journey
Easily one of the most beautiful parts of travelling (even more than the sunsets) is the people that you meet. We’ve been fortunate enough to meet people from all around the world with different backgrounds, cultures, ideas, perspectives and huge hearts.
We have had deep conversations about the universe, spirituality, politics, business, ideas and dreams as well as talking absolute shit and laughing until the sun has come up without any of us reaching for our phones.
For us, this has been the most rewarding and insightful part of our journey. Watching other people and couples interact with each other has taught us this amazing appreciation for our relationship. It has taught us to be more affectionate, understanding and accepting towards each other while we both grow simultaneously as individuals.
Learning to connect with strangers with zero judgement and complete vulnerability has not only been liberating but has shown us that we are all human and are trying to figure this shit out.
Taking this risk was the best decision that we could have ever made. We have truly experienced the other side of our comfort zone and as two people leaving Perth depressed, anxious and full of uncertainty we will return fulfilled, full of love and have complete faith that the universe will take us where we need to be.
Our biggest lessons so far…
Communication is everything
Be honest with each other and don’t be afraid to tell your partner how you are feeling or if you need space.
Gratitude elevates the experience
During our adventure, we have constantly said to each other “is this our life now?”
Not because we think it will last forever but because it makes us both reflect on how much we put into our dream and how awesome it is to be sharing this incredible experience.
Don’t try to find the time, schedule it
Find Make time for exercise each day. Even if it’s only a few quick rounds of burpees (gross), push-ups and squats when you first wake up. Take the stairs and walk to your destination whenever you can, instead of opting for a taxi/uber.
Make mindful food choices
Look for healthy alternatives with your food such as sugar free options. We carry sweeteners with us everywhere and if we know we are drinking cocktails we ask for no sugar or syrup and add our own sweeteners.
Also eat meals with a solid protein source so that you feel fuller for longer and try to get those veggies in as much as possible.
Be present and enjoy the ride
What is the point of going on an adventure if you are constantly worried about the future? Make the most of this amazing opportunity and experience as much as you can!
If you made it this far we appreciate you listening to us un-eloquently share some of our story. If you would like to follow our journey or reach out to connect, you can find us on Instagram @brentonandchristine, YouTube or through ReGen Coaching.