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The Thailand Test

I doubt it will come as much of a surprise that back in my dating days, I was always very interested in how my boyfriends responded to travel. Were they excited about the idea or were they neutral? Where had they already been? When I suggested a trip, what would they say? So my first trip with my now-husband was a pretty big deal. (Why yes, it’s personal anecdote time.)

After much discussion and way more procrastination than I was comfortable with, we finally settled on taking a trip to Thailand. I had never been to Asia and I really wanted to go (thus getting one step further to my six continents by age 30 goal), and Thailand sounded like a truly magical place: Buddhist temples, cheap massage, great food, and elephants. It wasn’t easy, but eventually I coaxed Yony into going.

We arrived safely in Bangkok, where we got lost in a poor part of town and managed to avoid a scam artist while still being totally confused. The rancid smell alone was enough to make us grateful to head out into the countryside. It was perhaps our third day in Thailand when we took a guided adventure tour that was to include a waterfall hike, an elephant ride, and some kind of boat (maybe rafting?) trip.

Me in the middle of the hike. Don't I look insouciant?

The trip began with the waterfall hike, which was a steep uphill climb through the mud on a hot, sticky day. The wise tourists stopped partway up at some pools where you could go swimming, but Yony and I were determined to reach the top, and I was trying with all my might and main to keep up with his faster pace. I was tired and uncertain of my footing, so I didn’t follow Yony to one of the viewing areas that looked difficult to reach. Because, you see, I was being careful. We eventually made it to the top and took some photos.

Beautiful view from the top

Soon after we started the climb down, I rounded a corner, slipped (whether on mud or slick rock, we will never know), and took a very bad fall down the slope. Yony was behind me, and from his perspective, I might as well have fallen off a cliff–I had fallen out of view and he had no idea how far I might have tumbled.

Luckily for me, I stopped at the bottom of that particular slope where the path veered to the right and didn’t continue on past the trail. Otherwise, I might not be writing this today. I was okay except for an extremely muddy backside…and a very injured ankle. And remember, we were still at the very top of trail, in Thailand where, as far as we knew, there was little chance of outside aid.

Some of the mud we had to hike down through.

We walked down that mountain together, Yony and I. He encouraged me onwards, he helped me past the narrow and slippery bits, I leaned on his shoulder as I limped downwards, every step sending pain shooting up my leg. I held it together for him, and he held it together for me, and after an endless walk, we reached the bottom.

When you travel with someone, you get to know them. Yony and I got to know each other better that day. He saw my levelheadedness in a crisis (one of the first things I did was to ask for the ibuprofen in our backpack), my determination, and my courage. I saw his devotion, his strength, and his patience. He realized how he’d feel if he lost me, and I learned how to trust him more than I had before. That day we became a team.

The Amy-Yony team

Of course, it’s not only through travel that we get to know people. We learn more about people by facing adversity together. Through grief and disappointment, hardship and disagreement, conflict and fear, we get to see deeper inside. We get to share the parts of a person that are weak, fearful, that make mistakes and have regrets. I said last week that travel can make or break a friendship, but in the bigger picture, it is those hard times and the hurt places within us that will test a relationship. And upon being tested, that relationship may fracture, fail, or grow stronger than ever before.

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