5 reasons we survived 7 months camping together
Many people have asked me whether James and I fought during the 7 months we camped around Australia. My answer? Of course we did! We fought passionately. We yelled, cried, cursed and screamed at each other. Who wouldn’t? Camping for 7 months can be bloody hard work! Especially when your ute breaks-down, your tent is flooded, or you get lost for 2 hours on an uphill hike. But we had the absolute time of our lives! How didn’t we kill each other during that 7 months of 24/7 contact? The same way our relationship has survived for 7 years. Here’s a list of 5 principles that have taken us from finger spacing the coat hangers at Best and Less, to travelling for 10 months across Australia and through Africa. And now running a business together:
This world is a crazy, mixed-up place. And it’s extremely easy to lose yourself in the expectations, success, failures and roller-coaster ride of life. The one thing that can keep you grounded? – Having a best friend who accepts you for exactly who you are. If you don’t have to pretend to be someone you’re not, I’d say you are dating a keeper. I know James accepts my good, bad and ugly versions of me. Camping together certainly doesn’t leave much room for hiding your personality.
We had some big arguments last year. At one point my car door was open as James was driving at 80km down a highway. Desperate to force James to pull-over, I refused to close the car door until he did. Maps and papers began to fly out of the car door. Both equally stubborn as we are competitive, I would not close the car door, and James would not stop the car. When a semi-truck was approaching on the opposite side of the road a shared instinct for survival prevailed, and James pulled over, briefly. We yelled at each other until there was nothing left to yell about. And we didn’t talk to each other for the rest of the day. It was lonely and upsetting. I cried. I wanted to go home. But most of all, I wanted my best friend back, I needed someone to talk to. So the next morning we both realised that we missed each other more than we hated each other. So we packed up, moved on, and made another 6 months’ worth of memories. Memories that could have never happened because of that 30 minutes of heated argument. Relationships are tough, arguments are draining. Without honesty, who knows where the other person stands? We always made sure we talked about the argument after it happened. No point in just sweeping it under the rug and arguing about it again. The most important lesson learnt from a near miss with the oncoming truck? Give each other some space, take a breather and walk away, arguments inside vehicles escalate very quickly!
It’s easy to lose friends and become distant with family when you have a boyfriend or girlfriend who provides all the friendship and love you require. But when times get tough it can be extremely lonely if you only have 1 friend you can talk to, and that friend is the same person you are arguing with. Recognise when it’s time to take a break. Be secure enough to know you can let your partner go and have some fun without you. Have time apart so you can remember how good it is to be together. When James arrived in Peru to meet me after a 5-week study tour in 2015, I knew then that a life without him would be mediocre. I caught a glimpse of him through the hotel window when he arrived and I thought “there he is, there’s my person in the world”, and I was brimming with excitement, we had so much to talk about! If I never missed him, I would never have realised how much I liked him.
Keep the convo real
Small talk won’t last 7 years. Being able to talk to each other about real world topics has kept us interested, passionate and knowledgeable. It’s boring to agree on everything and it’s annoying to fight about everything. Some healthy debates keep your mind open and your relationship challenging. We had hours of travel time to talk – global warming, poverty, politics, growing up, life itself – all topics covered on the open road between an ice-cream or 2. If I couldn’t talk to James about what I really think, he wouldn’t know who I am at all.
Forget about the world
Stop comparing yourself to others. Who cares about the hottest couples, the ‘power’ couples or the couples who have been together FOREVER?! They don’t have what you have. We don’t have what you have. Every couple is different, each share a secret that only they understand – and that’s the magic of it. It’s like membership to a 2-person club.
When we began our road trip at Falls Festival in Byron Bay, I was acutely aware of being a couple amongst big groups of friends. We didn’t know anyone else at the festival. I spent the first day feeling completely out of place. But as soon as I began to stop comparing us to others, and start accepting that I had my best bud at an awesome 3 day line-up, things changed. I had fun. We took on the festival side-by-side, looking out for each other in the mosh, planning our days around our favourite artists and getting drunk to the sweet sounds of Peking Duck on New Year’s Eve. We were just 1 couple in a huge crowd of people, who share a love for music.
Travel is our thing. It’s what we do together to feel alive, to feel invincible, to be free. I think every couple should have something they love to do together. Without adventure James and I would become 2 people that have just settled for the comfortable option, because being together is more comfortable than being alone. But I’d rather be single and adventurous, than taken and boring.
Our decision to travel for 10 months last year was not taken lightly. We didn’t just quit our jobs and jump in a car. Travelling around Australia was a life-long dream for James and safari in Africa was a life-long dream for me. So we saved for years, planned for months, and slowly put the steps in place to take the leap, to choose adventure over routine, travel over a mortgage, change over careers. And it’s the best decision I’ve made in all my life. Many people didn’t think it was the sensible thing to do. But sensible can come later, responsibility can come later, life is now. Be adventurous, take the path less travelled by, it will make all the difference.
Wrapping it up…
Today James and I both have jobs we enjoy and are running a business. 10 months of travel taught us a heck of a lot about what we want in life. And one thing’s for sure, we want a life together. We didn’t have to delay our travel dreams to achieve our career goals, we followed our hearts and everything worked out. Being honest with our intentions, taking time out to understand ourselves individually, not comparing ourselves to others, and always being adventurous, has kept the good times rolling for 7 short years. If someone told me on Valentine’s Day in 2010 that I would be sitting here right now; writing about a 7 year relationship with James Burton from Best & Less, I would never have believed them. But time flies when you’re having fun! Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you find your person in the world.