Andy and I pretty much do everything together.
We are climbing partners, we are acroyoga partners, we are hiking, travelling and wildcamping partners. We cook together and we share our food with each other. We share house chores and we share bills and we share friends and family. Sharing is a massive part of our relationship and the majority of the time it genuinely comes down to ‘what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine’. We are life partners and it makes sense for us to live this way – it just simplifies everything.
But the fact that doing things and spending time together is such a big part of our lives isn’t to say that we don’t need our own space and our own time, hobbies or experiences. It’s not to say that we still don’t get sick of each other’s company sometimes, and it’s certainly not to say that we don’t argue! In reality, these things are more important than ever. During our last roadtrip to Portugal for example, we made sure we had the time and space to do our own things – Andy went mountain biking whilst I went out trail running by myself. Sometimes I have to convince him to join me in doing something I’m really interested in but he doesn’t really care for, and sometimes he has to coax me into doing something that I’m apprehensive or cautious about. And to be honest, it would be unhealthy if those things didn’t happen.
We spend a lot of time together in risky situations and in confined spaces. In fact, our first van trip together (6 weeks visiting 9 countries in central Europe) took place just over 2 months after we first met. So over the years we have learned a few things about spending prolonged periods of time in the constant company of one another, and how to deal with those sometimes stressful situations. Here are some of our main lessons from the adventures we have had together so far.
For us, a huge part of life revolves around communicating clearly our thoughts, feelings, wants and needs to each other, and also doing activities which help us to learn about ourselves. Poor communication is a sure-fire way to start a full blown argument. People aren’t mind-readers, and written text and dropping hints can easily be misconstrued and taken the wrong way. Do your best to speak face to face and be open, clear and honest with each other – expressions and body language can be invaluable, and the simple act of breaking into a proper grin in the middle of a bizarre or silly situation can totally disarm and clear any negative feelings and change the whole atmosphere at the time. Although there are some things for us that don’t need communication (which can be amazing as we can just know how the other is feeling and what they are thinking and need at the time), such as putting up a tent, or even rock climbing, there are other things that really challenge our communication skills, such as acroyoga. We love acroyoga as it totally requires focus and attention on both sides for it to work. It sounds corny, but the whole process of balancing our bodies using each other also re-balances our thoughts and feelings. Without letting each other know how it felt for the other, suggesting ideas of how to transition, improve or correct a move and even simple things such as describing which move to try, it’s almost impossible to hit the poses and forms that we do. Without the focus and clarity of what each person needs to do, at what point, and where, allows us to try new things and continue to experiment. By continuing to hold the thought that we are just experimenting, and really enjoying the moment and the movements themselves, we learn more about each other and how to communicate, which can then be transferred into everyday life. It’s almost like we see acroyoga as the artistic form of organisation. Find your acroyoga (i.e. be open to trying new things), and find the way to communicate that works best for you. Everyone needs to know where they stand, otherwise everything else is a lot more difficult.
Trust is a big part of what we do. In acroyoga its total trust that one will not drop the other. In climbing it’s trust for the other to catch you if you fall and to place secure enough gear to protect themselves properly. In night navigation and wildcamping it’s trust that the other will help and protect you if need be. And so on and so forth. I have complete trust in Andy and what he does, and he has complete trust in me. If we didn’t trust each other to do our own thing and make good judgements, then we wouldn’t trust each other to do the things we do when we’re together. This trust allows you to push each other and to continuously grow. Yes, of course we care about each other, but we don’t worry about each other – and there is a difference which is easy to cross. At the end of the day your partner is their own person – so trust them to act responsibly and assume best intentions, and life becomes a lot easier to manage if you’re not worrying about everything that they do as well as your own self. It’s a bit like looking out for number 1 first, just in a caring and compassionate manner. But in doing this, you tend to naturally come to respect the person too – so in trusting him, I am also respecting his ideas and wishes. And that really can go a long way. He has his own skills and I have mine, and you never know when you might need to call on that.
When I was young, I once had a teacher tell me that ‘if you lose your humour, you lose everything’. Ever since then, this saying has stuck with me and occasionally I get reminded of it in some pretty varied situations. Such as the time Andy got questioned at the airport by police who thought he may have been extremist just before we were about to board the plane to Jordan for the holiday of my dreams, or the time that he phoned me to tell me he would be late for dinner that night since he had broken down in the fast lane of the motorway, and the police had to close all three lanes so the he could get towed back into the hard shoulder to safety. There’s the time that our very lovely Bedouin host left us in the middle of the desert and told us to find our way back to the camp with nothing to navigate from but a few shapes drawn in the sand as a map, and there’s the time that I was so distraught about accidentally stepping on a bee during a trail event that Andy very kindly waited with me until the bee had recovered enough to fly away before carrying on. Without the ability to see the funny side of things, without being able to both make a joke and take one, we definitely wouldn’t have managed some of the things we do. Stress would have consumed us by now if that were the case, and I’m fairly certain that a laugh a day keeps the doctor away.
4. Eating and Sleeping.
This one is an easy one. The whole ‘hangry’ thing? It’s definitely real. Both of us are prone to getting cranky when we are hungry or tired (even worse when it’s both), and being able to identify this definitely eases strains on our relationship. We keep a snack box under the front seat in the van, full of filling treats that are also good for providing energy, such as energy bars, protein bars, biscuits and dried fruit. This means there is always something within reach, and knowing what is causing the snappy remarks and moody looks often helps the other person to avoid things that may make the situation worse. It’s important to look after your body and fuel it properly. This means making sure you get what you need when you need it, and it definitely means getting enough quality sleep. Without these things you’ll struggle to do everything else, so look out for each other and recognise your own needs as well as your partner’s. After all, you’re in this together.
These 4 things are something that we are constantly working on, and in general, most other things seem to come easily after that (although humour is not always a good thing – sometimes it’s absolutely best to only laugh about the situation after the fact. And sometimes even a long time after the fact… For example, when the double whammy of tired and hungry hits both of you at the same time.). We have discovered that the only time that something has worth and meaning is when there is effort required to get there. It’s not always easy travelling long distances and living in confined spaces together 24/7, being put in scary or ambiguous situations, and not knowing what’s around the corner. But the stories, skills and experiences we have gained from it are absolutely priceless.
And it makes our Instagram look good too.