“Are you going Robin?”
This is usually the first question I get asked when I tell my friends or family that I am off to a visit a new place. Which is fine, because since we are a couple, people expect us to travel together. After all, our relationship started when we went on a three-week adventure together and fell in-love while on an island with only 4 hours of electricity a day and both intoxicated with local vodka and rum.
But after a while it gets into and you start to question yourself .
“Should I feel bad that I am away from my husband almost every month and even on occasions like Christmas, Valentine’s Day and even our anniversary?”
We started out as two people gripped with wanderlust.
Robin lived in the Philippines for more than two years, as a student exploring the mountains of Isabela for bats as part of his Master’s degree and as an amateur photographer hoping to make a career of it in a foreign land. He had backpacked throughout Europe and visited several Asian countries before settling in Manila.
I met him in 2007 during an interview that involved lots of coffee and a lot more vodka. He was looking for a writer for a travel assignment to Palawan – three weeks of paid vacation and a good per/article rate. I just came back from a weekend sojourn in Pagudpud that time, where I decided to stop all the nonsense in my life and pursue happiness. I was also jobless having just left a lucrative marketing position.
The Palawan getaway was a perfect gig but it came with a catch – I need to spend Christmas and New Year away from my family.
In the tradition of strong Filipino family-ties, these two occasions must always be spent with the family. But I told him that I spent Christmas and New Year with my family for all my 24 years. It wouldn’t hurt if I skip one Christmas away from them to follow my dreams of travelling.
Fast forward to two years after, I moved to the Netherlands to be with him and we started a life together. While we still have that wanderlust, life caught up on us.
We got full time jobs, bought a house and began the life of a normal Dutch couple – a life that involves taxes, bills, immigration processes and assimilating to my new country.
I got lucky with a job that allows me to travel around Europe for free. In 2009 I used my first salary to start travelling again. I went to Madrid in the summer and slept at the airport on the eve of my birthday – the trip that began my yearly birthday pilgrimage and revived my wanderlust. And I haven’t stopped since. I am away at least once month, sometimes spending two weeks away from my husband – both for work and leisure.
While Robin’s job is also flexible, he decided to venture deeper into his passion and made it into a business. Robin Kuijs photography was slowly growing and he spends his vacation days photographing weddings, editing hundreds of photos and working on his website. Sometimes he also travels out of the country for work or to go to a photo trip alone.
To make the story short, we don’t have enough time to travel together and since in this country, more work means higher taxes and more travel means more expenses, our budgets don’t meet either. Two people who are crazy about good food, loves good alcohol (even in a Muslim country) and who prefer luxury definitely need more than sufficient funds to travel together.
So for the last two years, I had been travelling alone most of the time – I went to Morocco, Istanbul, Italy, Nantes, Tallinn, Greece, Russia and the Philippines without him and we spent two Christmases and two anniversaries thousands of miles away from each other. And just last week I booked a weekend trip to Dresden without realizing that I am leaving on Valentine’s Day until he saw the ticket and blurted, “You are leaving on the 14th?! I was already planning something.”
One of our mirror shots in Luxembourg.
Yes we still do travel together, like our weekend in Geneva, road tripping in Portugal for a week and when I went to Morocco for the 2nd time in a year, where we stayed in a mountain and watched the stars brighten the North African sky.
Whenever I am overwhelmed with the beauty of a place that I’ve recently discovered, I wish he was with me. I always wish I could share the view with him. That desire to drag him along to all the beautiful places that I’ve been to made me cry a lot. It also caused plenty of intense arguments.
I wish he was with me while I was enjoying the pleasures of travelling.
I wish he was with me in Russia while I wonder in amazement at the opulence of the Czarist’s palaces and their immaculately white gardens, which provides for endless leisure walks. I am sure he would have photographed them beautifully.
I wish he was celebrating with me and my family during Christmas of 2011. We could have had the same feast of roasted pork knuckles, boiled crabs, tiger shrimps, chicken curry and leche flan that my family cooks very well.
I wish he had seen the monks of Theotokos Monastery in Paleokastrista and their dogs and probably hundreds of cats living with them. He loves cats.
I wish he had visited the mosques of Istanbul with me and see for himself that the inside of a mosque can be as rich and amazing as the grandest Catholic churches. We only saw the facade of mosques in Morocco and really didn’t t really bother to go inside.
And most of all, I wish he was with me during all those nights that I spent alone in a strange hotel room, lying awake throughout the night, waiting for ghosts or a serial killer to scare or bludgeon me to death. I am one scaredy cat. And God knows how many sleepless nights I had because of this.
But I must say that while we could have had a lot of fun travelling together, there were many things that I enjoy doing alone.
I think Russia would have not been as meaningful if he was with me. Part of the reason why I went there was Dostoevsky and he does not have patience for philosophy books. I would have had a hard time explaining it to him.
I would not have made new friends on my first time in Morocco, Sardinia and Istanbul.
I would not have experienced the inconvenience of getting lost all the time, travelling on a rickety train and getting fined €50 for not stamping my ticket to Milan or sit at the back of a Vespa and being driven to the bus station by a charming, old Italian man because I was too drunk to follow directions.
And don’t even let me start on how annoying shopping in Venice, Milan, Tallinn and Madrid would have been if he was with me. We all know how men hate shopping.
There are guilty moments and lonely times whenever I travel without my husband. But I’ve realized that while travelling together enriches relationship, travelling apart allows you to become a better person for the one waiting for you at home.