(In)Sanity In The Drivers Seat w/ Charles Martin (USA)
God, it’s hot. My girlfriend Alex and I are currently circumnavigating Australia in a ’92 Toyota HiAce. We rarely travel at a speed greater than 90 km/h and our air conditioning does not work. For thousands of kilometers at a time we’ve sat side-by-side in the heat of the Northern Territory. Night after night we’ve slept beside the road, the endless rush of Road-Trains whizzing by in the dark. At times, our small-white-steel-bubble-of-a-van manages to contain us just a bit too much. Thousands of miles from home, our world begins to shrink.
It was always my dream to find a partner to travel with. Somebody to share the adventures with, the burdens, and those (hopefully numerous) moments of triumph along the way.
When I met Alex it became immediately apparent that I had met the person with whom I could share my life with and, over the last three years, we have managed to find ourselves all across the globe.
Traveling as a couple is absolutely amazing and we love spending time together but, when we are in remote or unfamiliar places for long periods of time, we can end up spending ALL of our time together. In transit, in the hotel room, at breakfast, lunch and dinner, wandering the cities, having a beer. You get the point. I can admit that being outgoing is a skill I need to work on, but sometimes our solitude is just inevitable. Our world begins to exist only within the sphere of the two us. Naturally, small problems and disagreements slowly build into larger conflicts and arguments. Simple questions of what do you want to eat tonight brings up visions of how many pans will this take, and who will do the dishes squatting next to the car. The small details that at home seemed so trivial seem to pile up.
We can smother one another. Suddenly we are asking ourselves how we could possibly be meant for one another. “How could I be with someone that is so detail oriented, why does it matter if I don’t wet one of my feet before getting in bed?” Small things become larger and larger until, in the face of an argument, they are unbearable.
That’s how it goes sometimes, no matter where you are. The little things stack up, they cloud our perceptions and put a haze on situations just like dust in the rearview mirror. Sometimes it’s hard to remember the core, the foundation, how we started and ended up here driving down the straightest, hottest, and reddest road in Northern Australia (possibly in the whole world).
I think that the most important message is that traveling is an emotionally taxing undertaking. We leave our friends and families in hopes of finding new experiences, in hopes of understanding ourselves better, and often we find that those relationships we left behind are what we crave the most. We maintain our innately human need for a community. And when our world starts to squeeze us like we’re 30 meters below the sea, that usually mean it is time to open ourselves up to the world around us.
Every time we finish an adventure we reflect. Without a doubt it is the wonderful people we met on the journey that shape the highlights and memories. Those friends who drank beers with us until the midnight sun was shining in Alaska. Those friends who invited us to join their Indonesian journey and to join them at the music festival in Vietnam. The friends who brought us into their circle in Byron Bay and made us feel so welcomed. The friends that taught us how to surf and shared with us their favorite campsites. This list goes on.
Words & Images by Charles Martin - Washington, USA