Tickets for Two
Hana Miller, WEEKENDER | Wed, 11/30/2011 3:22 PM |
Traveling as a couple is kind of like moving in and spending the rest of your life together, except in double time. Every day is full of an assortment of surprises, challenges and rewarding moments that you might only encounter in a year’s worth of dates.
Pretty quickly you figure out how you work together as a team, how you communicate, your partner’s strengths and weaknesses and, of course, your own. And soon enough you figure out whether you can actually continue to be in a relationship together.
Traveling together has been a fundamental part of my marriage. At our wedding, my vows mostly consisted of a teary thank you to my husband for committing to a life with me that would mean leaving his country and traveling between our various homelands.
Jake and I moved to New Zealand together from the States after we had been living together for about a year. He had never traveled out of his country before except to Canada, and we were planning to spend a few months in Indonesia on the way. I remember us looking into all the paperwork we had to do and both of us feeling like it was a near impossible task. Little did we know then that our life together would involve a lot of trans-global bureaucracy to make seemingly impossible moves a reality.
When we got to Jakarta, we decided that it might be a good idea to do some traveling around the country. It would be a novelty for me – I always spent most of my time travelling in Indonesia visiting family and I knew that most people our age came here to backpack. The fact that I am half-Indonesian and can speak the language would make it a breeze – or so I thought.
We decided to go overland to Bali, taking the train across Java with stops in Yogyakarta and Surabaya, and then maybe go hopping over to Lombok and the Gili islands on the other side.
We bought some cheap backpacks, packed a light assortment of clothes, sarongs and a friend’s copy of Southeast Asia on Shoestring, and jumped on an easy 11-hour train ride to Yogya. When we got there, I walked over to a map to figure out where our hostel was. I knew it was a walk away. Within seconds I was accosted by the old “where are you going?” question. I tried to avoid answering as much as I could, but this guy knew all the tricks in the book. Next thing I know, he was escorting us to our hostel and insisting that we call him if we wanted to visit Borobudur at sunrise.
I’m not sure why but I remember feeling a bit scared. He had refused to talk to me in Indonesian, probably because of my tall blonde traveling partner, but I also felt like there was some kind of implicit threat. I even went so far as to ask the receptionist if she knew who the guy was and whether we should be worried that he knew where we were staying.
This was seven years ago. Thinking back on it, maybe I felt responsible for the two of us, not only because Jake had never traveled before but because we were in my homeland. In so many ways, having him there changed my whole experience of being somewhere I thought I was quite familiar with, only to realize that really I wasn’t.
Trips in Time
The rest of the trip was quite a challenge, full of instances when I felt the need to get us out of potentially threatening situations, not to mention a slew of the dangers and inconveniences common to budget travel, from sketchy boat trips to bed bugs to stomach upsets.
Having never traveled, Jake was completely and utterly stunned. It was enough of a culture shock for him to come to Jakarta and be in a car full of my family speaking in a foreign language while stuck in traffic on the way to Bogor to go shopping.
It definitely felt more like an obstacle course or some kind of boot camp than a holiday.
The best part of the whole adventure was at a wonderful little place in Lombok, coincidentally known as Santai Inn. Our accommodation was in a little tree house bungalow; there was an open-air library and great breakfasts with pancakes and smoothies. We hired a motorbike and explored the coast, stopping where it looked nice to go for a swim. Of course, after a few days in this paradise, we inevitably got sick from either the water at a waterfall or some smoked fish, but we insisted on powering on and taking a trip to Gili Meno, where we mostly lay on the beach in a delirium with no access to any sort of medicine to relieve our aching bellies.
After just one night back in Bali, we decided we’d had enough and bought bus tickets back to Surabaya. An hour or two into the trip, the bus stopped and took on a whole load of passengers from another bus that had broken down. People stood in the aisle above us overnight. The man in front was car sick and vomiting into a bag. Then we had to wait at the train station in Surabaya for two hours before it even opened and the first train left for Jakarta. We returned looking filthy and weary and with only the slightest sense of victory.
If only we had known then that our relationship had just passed its first and most difficult test of travel, and that a couple of years later, we would get married and go on all sorts of charmed adventures together – cycling through Southeast Asia and Europe, road tripping in the States and New Zealand – we might have been more celebratory. The truth is, every trip is full of unforeseen trials that test our resolve, and looking back, it’s often these things that become the highlights of the voyage and give us the best stories to tell back home.
that time we fell asleep on Paris Metro and awoke to find that we had
taken the last train to the last stop on the wrong line. We were both
experienced travelers by then and at least two years into our
marriage. We bickered and pointed fingers while wandering around in a
panic late at night. But that’s another story.