WIT­NESS TO THE WON­DER

WORDS TO LIVE BY WHEN TRAV­EL­ING WITH YOUR SIG­NIF­I­CANT OTHER

FLUX Hawaii - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - TEXT BY AND IM­AGES COUR­TESY OF BEAU FLEMIS­TER

There’s some­thing thrilling about watch­ing some­one you love watch a place. Watch­ing them walk through a city, through a val­ley, down a trail, into the woods. There’s some­thing shared there, some­thing in­ti­mate, when a place moves the both of you through geo­graphic black magic.

There’s some­thing about watch­ing a place re­veal it­self to you and your com­pan­ion. Watch­ing a place dis­robe. There’s a chem­i­cal re­ac­tion. When you’re round­ing a cor­ner on the Amalfi Coast in a Fiat rental, and Posi­tano—a town of pas­tels that prac­ti­cally drips off a cliff into the sea—flashes you from across the bend, and just takes your breath away. There’s some­thing in the air when that hap­pens. A quick­en­ing. A vi­bra­tion. A love at first sight. And you re­al­ize, un­de­ni­ably, that an ex­pe­ri­ence is bet­ter when shared. That trav­el­ing is even more fan­tas­tic with a com­pan­ion. When you can watch that other per­son’s eyes widen as much as yours at the sight of it. You have a wit­ness to the won­der, some­one to pinch you—it was real.

I spent the bet­ter part of my 20s ob­sessed with world travel. I’ve had a few co-pi­lots over the years, but the story kind of went like the beds in Goldilocks and the Three Bears. My pal in Nepal: much too firm. My pal in Brazil: a bit too soft. But my wife, trav­el­ing around the world: just right. She ap­proaches each place with new­born eyes, like yes­ter­day was erased. She says things like “I’m 27 and a half” with­out a hint of irony. She lit­er­ally dances through life (she’s an ex-bal­let dancer) and pirou­ettes at cross­walks, in lines, in kitchens all over the world. She’ll come back to the room with coffee in the morn­ing and ex­claim, prac­ti­cally glow­ing, “To­day is go­ing to be mag­i­cal be­cause a but­ter­fly flew in front of me.” And she be­lieves it. She be­lieves in the hope of each day and, more­over, in the in­fi­nite po­ten­tial of a new place. It’s why she’s the per­fect travel com­pan­ion. And per­haps that’s what mar­riage is: an un­yield­ing be­lief in the po­ten­tial of a life with some­body.

In May of last year, we em­barked on a trip around the world. She quit the job she’d had for the last six years. I kept mine by promis­ing to work re­motely from the road—the only way we’ve been able to keep this gig go­ing. We’re half­way through a

mal­leable itin­er­ary that started in In­done­sia and has taken us through Burma and Thai­land, up into Mon­go­lia, over into Rus­sia, along the Trans-siberian rail­way across half of Asia, through Scan­di­navia, around the Mediter­ranean, back into Europe, and down to South Africa. Cuba’s on deck next.

A friend of ours re­cently told us that if you can sur­vive trav­el­ing around the world with your spouse for a few months, you can sur­vive any­thing. He’s di­vorced. But hon­estly, it hasn’t been that hard. I owe that to a few things we’ve learned very quickly along the way. Sure, there have been speed bumps. There was a creepy Ba­li­nese guy that gave us a ride on his mo­tor­bike one night that cer­tainly shook us up, but we prob­a­bly shouldn’t have been hitch­hik­ing at night, nor have taken a ride from a drunken per­vert. I take full blame for that one.

On a ven­ture like this one, at­tempt­ing to cram the whole world into a year of travel, you be­gin to de­velop a syn­drome I like to call “AFC.” It’s a sen­sory over­load dis­or­der, where new places ap­pear merely as AFC. Like, here’s “an­other fuck­ing coun­try,” “an­other fuck­ing city,” “an­other fuck­ing cathe­dral.” It means you’re see­ing too much, too fast. You must slow down. There’s a story about an Ama­zo­nian tribe that mi­grates each year with the rainy sea­son. The way the tribe trav­els is by walk­ing hard for two or three days, then rest­ing, sta­tion­ary for one. Then, they walk hard for an­other few days, rest for an­other, and so on. When asked why they travel this way—with that day of rest—they ex­plained that it was to let their souls catch up. My wife and I have learned this as well. Stop for a cou­ple weeks and let your souls catch up. Be­cause the jour­ney can surely wear on you.

On that note, for­get that re­gur­gi­tated old travel adage, “The jour­ney is the desti­na­tion.” If there’s any­thing we’ve learned, it’s that the desti­na­tion is the desti­na­tion, and that the jour­ney can be gru­el­ing. For in­stance, on our last day in Mon­go­lia, we woke up at 4 a.m. to drive half­way across the coun­try, in the freez­ing rain, to cross the bor­der into Rus­sia. Four­teen hours in a van, four hours at the bor­der, and two strip-searches later, we were whisked to a “guest house” over the bor­der that re­sem­bled more of a Rus­sian half­way house. Imag­ine an Amer­i­can half­way house; now imag­ine one in Siberia. The guy that ap­peared to be in charge here—a Rus­sian male in a white track­suit with a white do-rag—greeted us from a filthy sofa with a white poo­dle on his lap. He looked like a Rus­sian movie vil­lain, and the four other men around him looked loaded on heroin, one of which was not so covertly film­ing us from his cell phone. We didn’t get to our desti­na­tion hos­tel un­til 4 a.m. the fol­low­ing morn­ing. In other words, the desti­na­tion was Ulan-ude, Rus­sia, and the jour­ney was a fuck­ing night­mare.

We’ve also learned that you’ve gotta flip the script from time to time. Rigid itin­er­ar­ies are for old fo­gies. If you want to travel around the world, it’s im­per­a­tive that your part­ner is flex­i­ble. This is cru­cial be­cause some­times you’ve got a week blocked out for Rome, but you then get to Rome only to find out that Rome kind of blows. Plus, spon­tane­ity is life’s most po­tent, nat­u­ral aphro­disiac.

Trav­el­ing with your spouse, or any com­pan­ion in such close quar­ters for that mat­ter, you’re at­tached at the hip, which is why you should never take score. Ev­ery­one’s got their but­tons, and if you don’t al­ready know what your part­ner’s are, get a clue. Some­times one of us just wakes up on the wrong side of the Airbnb bed, and the way she smacks her lips in the morn­ing, or how I never put the toi­let seat back down, is enough to start a war. How many times I’ve left the seat up or how of­ten I find her hair in the sink is unim­por­tant. Life’s too short and the trip’s too long to keep tally. Never dis­cuss the score, never keep score; re­sent­ment kills all.

Of­ten, I’m the one who’s eas­ily jaded. The one to come down with AFC first. But a team can’t have two cyn­ics. Two cyn­ics are re­pul­sive, ask any­one. There should only be two types of trav­el­ers: driv­ers or pas­sen­gers. Two pas­sen­gers, and you’re go­ing nowhere. Two driv­ers, and you’re yank­ing on one wheel. When trav­el­ing with a com­pan­ion, pick a role, but be OK with switch­ing them pe­ri­od­i­cally.

Here’s an­other gem: Get your head out of your ass. By that, I mean com­pro­mise. No cou­ple wants to do or see or visit the ex­act same sights, and that’s only nat­u­ral, if not healthy. She prob­a­bly wants to stick it out un­der a mos­quito net, wait­ing for that per­fect wave in Su­ma­tra, about as much as you want to sip Dar­jeel­ing in a tea­room in Old Bordeaux. But if she made it, then so can you.

Keep look­ing around that cor­ner. Gather no moss. Your time out there—to­gether—is an emul­sion of life and dream, a mix­ture driven by the cen­trifu­gal forces of cu­rios­ity and won­der­ment. Keep the two blurred in fan­tas­tic, sen­tient sus­pen­sion. And hold her hand while you’re at it. Don’t make her beg. If she’s had a cou­ple glasses, and you can see it in her eyes, rise with her and dance. At a bar. In the kitchen. Even at a stop­light in Paris. Es­pe­cially at a stop­light in Paris.

Fol­low Beau and Rachel on In­sta­gram @planes­trains­bal­land­chains or at planes­trains­bal­land­chains.com.

“There were te­pees and there were rein­deers and it took a very long time to reach this very mag­i­cal place. Tsaatan reindeer tribe, Mon­go­lia.” —@planes­trains­bal­land­chains

“Nor­we­gian hang time on a troll’s tongue with the mis­sus,” Flemis­ter notes while at

Troll­tunga on his and his wife’s shared In­stra­gram @planes­trains­bal­land­chains.

In May of 2015, writer Beau Flemis­ter and his wife, Rachel, shown here in Mon­go­lia, em­barked on a trip

around the world that that has taken them across Asia, through Europe, and down to South Africa.

“Trav­el­ing is even more fan­tas­tic with a com­pan­ion. When you can watch that other per­son’s eyes widen as much as

yours at the sight of it. You have a wit­ness to the won­der, some­one to pinch you—it was real,” Flemis­ter writes.

“No cou­ple wants to do or see or visit the ex­act same sights, and that’s only nat­u­ral, if not healthy,”

ad­vises Flemis­ter, shown near the Pu­lau Pu­lau Batu ar­chi­pel­ago off the west coast of Su­ma­tra.

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