I have a friend. He has a cool moustache, a beautiful Land Rover and a gorgeous girlfriend. Together they recently returned from a three month overland journey from Florida to Alaska and back and I have to admit that I initially feared for their relationship, as I do for all couples heading out for the first time. As far as I know they have never travelled together for such long periods and distances in such cramped quarters and I have been witness time and again to married couples divorcing and young lovers fleeing each other at the end of a long journey.
I partially blame Instagram and the travellers, like myself, who feed the world a highlights reel of beautiful moments, camps, landscapes, beaches and experiences. We are giving you all the wrong impression and we do it knowingly in the hope that you will double click, follow us, tell your friends and make us internet famous because, we all know, that after 50 000 corporations will start throwing money and gear at us and we will be able to continue living the dream by feeding yours. We create the illusion that our lives are perfect and you too can live this life, we set the bar too high.
Life on the road is not only magical hikes and campfires but usually a daily exercise in patience, dirty dishes, laundry, extremes of heat and cold, dust, driving and disorganisation. At home, in the real world, you and your lover may only spend a few hours a day and the weekends together, your home is equipped with facilities and distractions and, most importantly, indoor plumbing. On the road you will be together 24/7 and those personality traits which infuriate you but are usually able to ignore will be amplified to a sonic boom, a quake, eight on the relationship Richter scale. No-one likes to be told that they are insufferably annoying. Words will be said, words which can never be taken back and which will be catalogued in the arsenal of past infractions to be dusted off for future combat. You suddenly hate each other but are stranded together in a car, hike or campsite. You have to work together and live together, if you quit and leave the relationship is over so you are forced to work it out. Or not.
A mechanical failure in a remote area, with the sun setting, ice on the ground and no mobile signal is one of the greatest tests of a relationship. All the bluff and bull will fly out the window and you will get to see what your partner is really made of. If he or she throws a tantrum, storms off in a huff, screams, performs, cries or shoots blames at you like bullets, it may be time to start planning your exit. If he or she makes you a cup of coffee while planning a repair or extraction you are in good hands, this is the kind of person who you want to hold hands with through life.
Those couples whose affections survive a long term, long distance overland journey will have done so through compromise, their relationship will be the rock upon which they can build a beautiful life together. They may marry or eventually drift apart but they will know each other truly, deeply and honestly.