I landed in Moscow on a very balmy August day. My body felt jolted by electricity as I rode inside an old Lada into the city. I was about to spend the next year living and working in one of the planet’s most vibrant, diverse, and mysterious cities. Salty fish would be eaten. Vodka would be imbibed. The only certainty I had ahead of me was a four-day-a-week job with a good salary (for Russia). Who I’d meet, where I’d go, how much vodka I’d drink was all up for discussion. Russia was my oyster.
Two days into my new Russian life I met an English woman named Anna. She’d moved to Russia for many of the same reasons as I. She sought adventure, a break from the norm, and to go to a place that was wholly unique. Moving to a city like Moscow on your own as a guy feels pretty badass and unique. Doing that as a single female takes serious guts.
Anna and I connected over our shared our love of travel while downing serious amounts of vodka, as the Moscow nights turned chilly, then bitter cold. We moved in together within a few months. One of our first purchases was a huge world map to hang in our kitchen. We’d spend evenings dreaming about all the places we’d see together. By the time our contracts ended, we were engaged.
Not long after, we set out on the Trans-Mongolian toward Ulaanbataar and Beijing. Over the next half year we’d see China, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Myanmar before sailing to Africa and then bouncing around Greece and Northern England. It was an adventure that taught us a lot about ourselves. But more importantly it taught us indelible lessons about who we are together. We fought. We cried. We dived with sharks. We made love on deserted islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean. We learned that a fight is just a fight, and having one on the road meant we had to solve it on the fly.
By the time we arrived in Prague — six months after we left Moscow — we knew that we were meant for each other. Our personalities were diametrically opposed to the point that we made a symbiotic whole. Not that there haven’t been tough times since then, there have. Anna has a quasi mantra that she uses to get her through the hard patches, “I think about all the shit we went through on the road, and I know we can make it through anything.”
I second that.
As it turns out, there’s data to back up mine and Anna’s experience. A study recently conducted by Liligo and YouGov asked Americans about their travel habits with their significant others and being an incompetent traveler came up as relationship poison for plenty of people.
According to the research, “Almost a quarter (23 percent) of Americans agree that travel habits are a deal breaker.” Basically if you’re the Ugly American it could drive a wedge in your relationship. Or, in layperson’s terms: Don’t be an ass, because you’ll end up lonely.
Travel habits became even more of a deal breaker as the age of respondents lowered with “one third (35%) of Millennials agreeing that travel habits could make or break a relationship.” Being that millennials are more social media driven, having a great vacation that they can Snapchat and Instagram for maximum exposure certainly adds complicating factors to the idea of having a conflict-free vacation. If you want to dive in the ocean and your partner wants you to take photos of him for an hour, resentments can build.
Eric Urbain, over at Liligo, broke down the numbers like this: “It seems travel has transitioned into something that we have begun to associate with success and accomplishment, which has in turn created unwanted stress to plan and portray a perfect vacation. But, with so many other worries in our life, travel shouldn’t be one of them.”
Travel shouldn’t be stressful ought to be your saying of the day, especially since we’re traveling more than ever before with a 7.6 percent increase in travel by Americans in the last year alone.
I can attest — having traveled extensively in the ’90s, aughts, and teens — that the pressure to show off your trip has grown exponentially. Luckily when Anna and I started traveling we still had actual film cameras and social media straight up didn’t exist. Travel before Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat was just a different thing.
For better or worse it was our sense of adventure that coincidently put my wife and I in Moscow at the same time. But it was our lust for life and travel that made us who we are today. Our personalities aligned, with a shared love of vagabonding as our foundation. On the flip side, we have plenty of friends who hit the road as a couple and came back single. Travel is good for that too.
Maybe that’s how it should be. If it’s answers you want, you’ll find them on the road.