When East met West…. and then decided to travel together

©MRandin

According to many blogs and websites, travelling is a great way of consolidating a relationship. I couldn’t agree more. In my case it was my first backpacking holiday with M. in Cabo Verde that helped me realise he was indeed my man for life. He valiantly supported three hours of verbal insults as we hiked in beach sandals, over rocky terrain in 40 degree weather, across the Cape Verdian island of Santa Antao.

After that experience M. has never again given me guesstimates on walking time and will never utter the words, “Oh, it’s just round the corner, sweetie.” For my part I never again suggested going on holiday soon after M.’s mandatory time away with the Swiss army, when he found himself in peak physical condition with lots of energy to burn through hiking trips of the kind.

So, yes, travel does help you achieve marital bliss as you figure out, very quickly, what works or doesn’t in your relationship.

However, it’s a whole different ball game when the two people who travel together, come from different continents and hold different passports.

Spontaneous travel? What’s that?

M. was introduced to the joys of obtaining a Schengen visa early on in our relationship when I travelled with an Indian passport and required a visa for every conceivable country on mother earth. As he found out, surprise weekends away to Paris can quickly lose its appeal.

As I filled out the forms, he was forced to give away details of the weekend the poor love. (French “amour” doesn’t extend to its immigration policies, unfortunately). It was an unusually long drawn out process and with less than a week to go, we were on tenterhooks as there was no sight of the passport or the visa. The love gods were smiling down on us, however, and the long awaited visa arrived by express post just a few hours before we were to leave for the airport.

The French finally let me in... (©MRandin)

If travel preparations are time consuming for couples holding different passports, arrival in the country can produce a different set of problems. M. and I would often have to pass through immigration checks separately, an annoying occurrence, I can assure you, especially when one queue is considerably longer than the other.

We’ve also found ourselves in some rather unpleasant situations at border crossings. On a trip to Chicago one year, we were each taken aside at the Canadian-US border and questioned by immigration officers about the “nature” of our relationship. It took some time for me to convince the officer that I was going to Chicago for a holiday and out of my own free will.

Visas are not really an issue now that I travel with a Canadian passport. But we still exchange sympathetic glances with other couples who find themselves in different queues at immigration.   

Are we the tourist attraction?

As we found out during a long subway ride in Seoul a few years ago, mixed race couples attract a great deal of attention in the city. One old lady wanted to know if M. was my “friend”. After repeatedly pointing to my wedding ring, she finally understood that we’d taken our relationship up a notch and actually tied the knot. Excitedly, she turned to tell the man beside her and before we knew it, others in the carriage had also joined in the conversation. In a span of 10 minutes, she had me divulge our entire life history through the unofficial translator.

M. and I in Seoul (©MRandin)

In Cabo Verde, M. and I had difficulty working out why everyone was throwing curious looks our way – after all we weren’t the only mixed race couple to visit or live on the islands. As it turned out it was my hair that caused the commotion. Cabo Verdians and Indians are quite similar in look and skin colour, but not in terms of hair texture. It was bizarre having people feel my hair after this discovery, although M. found it highly entertaining. It reminded him, he said, of his trip to Haiti a few years earlier when kids from a little village ran up to him, touched his white skin and then disappeared from sight as fast as they could.

Never a dull moment!

I have to admit that it has not always been easy to see the funny side of a few incidents we’ve encountered together. Nevertheless, travelling with M. has opened my mind and my life to so many things, places and people. Between us we speak English, French, German and some Spanish. I’ve befriended people I would have never had the opportunity to know if I continued being the staunch Anglophone that I was until I met M.

Coming from such different backgrounds our styles of travelling differed quite tremendously in the beginning. Together we’ve created our own hybrid style that combines backpacking, luxury weekends, spa and beach holidays and, yes, even the occasional bus tour. I have to say that it has not always been easy finding this balance. (Indian people are not used to sitting in the sun for hours but I do derive a great deal of pleasure from this type of holiday, now.)

M.’s made me less of a Holiday Inn traveler and I’ve encouraged him not to miss out on a national treasure just because the queues are too long.  

So, yes ladies, I will reiterate, travel is good for a relationship – if he’s the right person.

I will end with this photo, taken atop the little volcano on the Cape Verdian island of Fogo. M. climbed up there with a French guy we met while travelling. The man does have a way with words, don’t you think?

©MRandin

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