You are on a boat from Koh Phagnan back to the mainland, broken and without any sense of purpose, you wander around the decks, attempting to find a spot to bathe in the roasting Thailand sun while having a decent shot at the water should last night’s Chang binge want to make a re-appearance. A couple of lads sit down next to you and ask how your time on the party island was, you respond, they ask where you are going next, you respond, they tell you that they have been told about this amazing place called Koh Tao which is en-route to where you are currently heading, you listen. It’s at this point, you get a dorm room with these guys, you go on nights out with them, you meet more of them and then you end up splitting off – taking a couple of them with you onto the next place (or next two countries!) That right there, is a travel-buddy situation.
You are in a hostel in one of the most boring destinations in South East Asia: Viantienne, Laos. You and your travel-buddies meet a couple of Canadian girls on the bus journey and end up looking for a hostel together. You arrange a night out with said Canadian girls and prepare for a heavy night in a new place. Initial plans to get your rage on are thwarted by the fact that Viantienne has as much nightlife as a retirement village for the deaf, therefore you get some cheap whiskey and head back to the hostel. After some common room drinking and a few rounds of King’s Cup, one of said Canadian girls asks if she could come up to your room to take a valium as she suffers from anxiety disorder when she drinks. You politely oblige and halfway upstairs, she tells you that it was all a plot to get you alone and that she would very much like to spend the night with you. Surprised, flattered and now massively turned on by this gorgeous blonde, you ask who’s room you should both go back to. She tells you to go back to her’s as her roommate has already moved all of her stuff into your room – proof that, yet again, girls are absolute evil geniuses when they have to be. You spend the rest of that evening wondering how life could get any better and as the morning comes (!) you help her take her bags downstairs, you wave goodbye and you never see each other again. That right there, is a travel-bang/one-flight stand situation.
You take a train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, you stand at the platform and try to make sense of the Thai scrawl that is strewn across a ragged piece of beige paper which you can only assume is your ticket to ride. A girl comes up and asks if you can make sense of her similar looking beige piece of paper and this starts a conversation. Once the time comes to board the train, you expect to be parting ways, until you are escorted into your sleeper bunk only to find that the girl from the platform happens to have the bunk above you. You spend the rest of the overnight train journey laughing, drinking and talking about life, love and laundry. When you finally arrive at your destination, the preparation to inevitably part ways comes again, until you realise that you have both failed to plan ahead and will need to seek out accommodation – having spent around 6-hours getting to know each other, who better to split a room with than the sweet Canadian girl (yeah, I know, there’s a pattern emerging here!) You spend the next few days together exploring Chiang Mai, you introduce her to your travel buddies that you met in Koh Tao who just happen to be there, you have nights out, you have massages together and you eventually become so attached to one-another that you wonder if the next massive thing you see on your travels will feel as epic without them there to experience it too. When the time eventually comes to part ways, you spend days afterwards wondering if you will ever feel the same about travelling any more and if anybody will ever compare. That right there, is a ‘travelationship’ – the one thing that comes more unexpectedly and just as fast as that sudden desire to stain your pants after that fourth mouthful of roadside curry!
It’s a bizarre and strange feeling to have a relationship that is so intimate and so intense yet so temporary – you are simply two people, sharing the same feeling of insignificance in a huge world that you set out to explore. You share the fear of the unknown, the adrenaline of the good times, the crush of the bad times, the awe of the landmarks and without barely knowing each other, you share more emotions in a devastatingly short amount of time than most couples feel in their lifetime. In short, it’s a friggin’ weird time, man!
You never see them coming, nor do you see them forming – until that first kiss, the first time they grab your hand in an overwhelming gesture of shared bliss, the first sexual experience or the first time they describe a landmark that you both saw together to a group of people and you suddenly realise that they have described exactly what you were thinking at the time. Yet despite how quickly these bonds form, you have no choice but to embrace them and enjoy the ride because no matter what happens, by the time you have to part ways, you will feel like you have lost a limb.
Going back to an earlier alternative example of the types of relationships that you form while seeking adventure, there are always times when either a travel-buddy or travel-bang evolves into the elusive travelationship – now this, is where it gets complicated…
You are at an Irish bar in Malaysia, you are with a group of lads that you have befriended that day and you are three beers away from the start of a liver-destroying night. A group of girls enter, one of whom seemingly recognises one of the guys in your group. You strike up a conversation with one of the girls who tells you that she is out celebrating, you ask what she is celebrating and she replies with something that massively impresses you. It’s at this point that the circle of sausage in which you were previously involved could definitely benefit from some females to make things a little more kosher. You end up having an awesome night with said girl and all of her friends which lead to a massively drunken night in which santa hats and weird stickmen condoms are purchased for absolutely no reason. Over the next few days, your once penis-heavy group now has some pretty girls to break up the testosterone and you realise that the impressive girl from the other night is slowly becoming someone you could spend more time with – she becomes a travel buddy. A few more nights after that and after yet another drunken night, your new-found female TB decides to head off to bed early as the rest of you continue the festivities in her absence. You start teasing one of her remaining female friends who in turn tells you that she would hit you in the balls, if she didn’t think that someone would be very upset by this. You drunkenly enquire as to whom she may be referring, she tells you to figure it out and after what feels like an hour of pondering, the metaphorical lightbulb above your head illuminates and the mystery is solved. You begin to wonder whether – after obtaining this new information – it would be worth a shot at attempting to get your end away with the blue-eyed American girl with the great rack that just a few hours previously, you hadn’t even thought about in that way. You sink another one for dutch courage and you make your way down to her – that night, she became a travel-bang. However, it didn’t stop there, as she was due to leave for Singapore the next day, she decides to stick around with you for a little longer and you continue hooking-up (prompting some very angry neighbours to make stern complaints about your noise!) You see Swedish House Mafia in Kuala Lumpur, go to Bali together, spend a night in Singapore and travel the East Coast of Oz together – your once faithful friend and your ever-horny sexual regular had gotten you hooked and you are once again, in a travelationship.
Difference being with this one is that we actually decided to give it a go as an actual real-life couple – something that is usually an impossibility with travelationships. Due to the fact that she was a travel photographer who was constantly on assignment around the world and could pick-and-choose where she earned her money, we didn’t have to put an end to our relationship as I had to with the countless other travelling connections that I had. Therefore, she flew back out to Australia, where I was still travelling and we made our way to Hong Kong and China before eventually reverting back to the normal order of any other relationship – I went back to her hometown to meet her parents. We had Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year together, ultimately making us a ‘real-life couple’. Then she came back to London to live with my parents and everything seemed to be going swimmingly until the real-life realness of reality really reared its ugly head. Visa issues, money problems and a general disillusion with a not-as-exciting-as-traveling-life became a daily mind-changer for me and it eventually led to our breakdown – just over a year after we had made it official.
As you can imagine, this previous example of international love is the most devastating and when it eventually breaks down, you are never more desperate to get back on the first plane out to somewhere that you can once again become anonymous. Last I heard, she followed her dream to be a yogini in Bali – the path that she was originally following when I came along and disrupted it.
So I guess the only piece of advice I can give from the experiences that I have had is to know what you want, the second you meet somebody. If your first impression of that girl who accidentally spills some of her bucket cocktail on your foot at the Full Moon Party is that she is somebody you think would be awesome to throw high-fives at and have hold your drink for you while you get a tattoo saying ‘I LUV TIELAND’ – she is a travel-bud. If your first impression is to suggest a way she can make it up to you, throw her over your shoulder, sprint down the beach to the nearest secluded rock not covered in human waste and give her such a good seeing to that she eventually gets a tattoo saying ‘I LOVE THAILAND’ to remind her of the first travel-shag she had – she is a travel-bang. If sparks fly, fireworks light up the night sky and you lose all logical thinking whenever your eyes meet that eventually lead to you both getting a tattoo saying ‘WE LOVE THAILAND’ – she is going to be around for a while!
It’s not until you have come home and began traditional dating again that you realise: you start with a love for travel but once you get your first taste of a truly amazing travelationship, you travel for love.