Thursday, April 9, 2015

The end... or a new beginning?

I thought long and hard about writing this post or not, wondering if this was perhaps too personal and if it had anything to do with travelling. I also considered if it would contribute anything to this blog or not. In the end I did write it, as you can see, for the simple reason that for us this has unfortunately become a part of travelling and has a big impact on both the trip and the world record attempt. We realise that this sort of thing is not often written about in a travel blog. Most tend to stick to the positives and portray everything that happens through rose tinted glasses. But travelling is not just wheels turning round and kilometres stacking up. It’s also not a fantasy world where everything goes smoothly and not a cross word is said. Not even when you are living your dream... Quite the contrary apparently. According to studies, done by people who should know, most relationships break up during or shortly after the holidays. Ours did too… and as we've always written openly and honestly about what we found, we feel we should do the same now.

Emotionally, the last couple of months have been a nightmare for both Mike and me. Jeanette, my partner for 34 years, suddenly dropped the bombshell that she no longer wanted to travel with us… Assuming she was a bit travel weary, which would be understandable after two years on the road, we thought she needed a break. As we had a stop planned to sort out the visas, carnets etc for the next and final part of this trip and as more maintenance was needed on the XT660, I was optimistic that all would come good in time. But I guess I was wrong. While Mike and I were organising the next part of the trip, she was organising to leave us altogether and start a new life for herself…! Breaking up is never easy, but living in a tent while breaking up and in the middle of an around the world trip brings it to a whole new level. To this day Mike and I still don’t understand why it happened, which doesn’t make it any easier. I know that one in three relationships seem to break up, but as we had been together for 34 years I thought we had passed that stage. We apparently hadn’t and now we are just another statistic.

Visas, carnets, shipping, insurance etc etc...
I won't go into detail about what happened during the break-up. Simply because I feel that, despite all that has happened, it wouldn't be fair to Jeanette as she can't defend herself. It wouldn't contribute anything to this blog either as all I want to show here is that this can happen, the impact it had on us and the effects it has on the trip.

In theory travelling as a family is great as it adds another dimension to the whole thing. The last two years have, without a shadow of a doubt, been the best of my life. Being able to share beautiful nature and experience moments of pure joy together means so much more, especially when you see the people you love enjoying it just as much. It brings it all to a much intenser level. It's an indescribable feeling. But, as I’ve found out the last couple of months, when it does go wrong the ‘fall’ is much more substantial too.

Bombshell number two was delivered a couple of weeks later when the, apparently also customary, squabbles about dividing the finances started. As the most expensive part of the trip was about to begin this couldn’t have come at worse time. We did the maths on visa costs, bonds we had to put up for carnets and the shipping quotes; and realised we couldn’t continue… In a matter of weeks not only did my relationship end, but also Mike’s world record attempt came to a halt… All this started around the normally happiest time of the year. While others were unwrapping their Christmas gifts, we were unwrapping this...

Mike and I had completely lost the will to continue at that stage. This was always intended as a family trip after all. Now that the family aspect was gone, what was the point? Mike found his mum walking out on him incredibly hard to take. He is a good guy who has never done anything wrong to his mum. Quite the opposite, he's helpful, social, cheerful and deserves better. I found loosing my partner of 34 years for no apparent reason difficult to understand too. At the same time we also found ourselves in a situation where we had to find a way through a maze of paperwork, had daily dealings with frustrating people at embassies that have no imagination and don't know the meaning of the word 'human', while we were struggling with an emotional baggage we didn't understand and found very difficult to take. To top it all off we were looking for a way to be able to continue, while neither of us really wanted to anymore and knew we didn't have the finances to continue either. It felt like we were sliding deeper and deeper into a big hole. There were quite a few times where we looked at each-other and just wanted to chuck it in, switch off the blog and start doing something else... not having the faintest idea what. The dream had become a nightmare. I’m sure there are people out there that claim to be happily single but at the moment it doesn't feel like it yet.

Expensive wifi in Europe meant our blog had become behind quite a bit, so we had a lot of catching up to do too. But I found writing difficult under the circumstances. How can you write about something positive when you feel negative? Many a post has been written 4 times before I published it. It took quite a few weeks before we could finally look past the 'why' part and wanted to look forward again. To be honest, as I'm writing this we are both still struggling emotionally. I had learned in the past that when things don't go as planned and nothing seems to work, it's important to keep your eyes on the end goal, the reason why we wanted to do it. But in this case we didn't even knew what that was anymore.

We were lucky that we could stay with my parents because, as you can read in the first post of this blog, we had sold our house to do this trip. Luckily there was a lot of long overdue maintenance to be done at their place, as it both gave us a way to do something back for their unbelievable support through all this and at the same time helped us get our minds off the problems we had. They had been looking forward to spending Christmas with us, the first Christmas together in years, but instead found themselves in the middle of all this.

Slowly it started to dawn that we simply had to continue... we had come too far and worked too hard on this to let it all slip away. If we wouldn't continue now then it would haunt us for the rest of our lives. So we dug in the incomprehensible paperwork again. Contacted embassies again, looked into carnets again, looked at all the routes again and tried to find a way, despite minimal finances, to continue. All the time our emotions were all over the place. There were days where I had to pick Mike up from a deep emotional hole, while on others he did the same for me. There were also days where we openly asked ourselves if we really wanted to do this. Gradually we climbed out of that deep hole though and saw some daylight again. The bond between Mike and myself had always been very good, but through all this has become even stronger. Having lost a lot of time we had to put our skates on and get things moving quickly if we weren't to miss our window through China. Some people plan these sort of trips a year in advance, we had just a couple of weeks. The bikes needed lots of maintenance too, especially the XT, and there was a pile of paperwork to be done. It was literally all hands on deck.

Through all this the atmosphere changed. The determination to finish what we had started grew by the day. And even though we have to cut our finances back to the bone and have to do a lot of concessions as to where we can and cannot go, we absolutely want to see this through. The headline of this post reads 'The end... or a new beginning?' as for a long time it seemed it was the end of the trip and the end of the dream. What happened over the last months hasn't been easy. At the same time it made us stronger. It really feels like a new beginning and inspired Mike to make the video embedded in this post, which he called 'The next chapter'. Earth-Roamers is now a father and son team, one Bonneville and one XT660R. Even though we don't know if we can make it all the way through, as we don't know if our finances will stretch that far, we're back on track. The Dream is back!