NB: I would not have felt comfortable sharing this much about myself before New Zealand, but a few more years on the clock and incremental gains in emotional security finally allow me to with only mild reservations:
If you look at these photos you might spot something that I didn’t see happening at the time they were taken. Even though there are not many photos of Ellie and I together on our last big tour, because there was no one else to take photos and we didn’t have a tripod, it’s still clear, and probably obvious to anyone that I was falling in love with Ellie!
Ellie had spent 6 months in New Zealand working as a Midwife whilst I finished my degree. As I cycled East from England she met me in Slovenia to join the ride. From then on it was our joint tour and we had fun from the start. But as time went on we continued to grow closer, we relaxed more, caught up on the last 6 months we’d spend apart and slowly built on our already good relationship.
I have always thought that a cycle tour is a great test for a relationship. Cycle touring often provides physical strain, unforeseen problems and costs, discomfort and occasionally fury and fear.
To succeed you need to know how to listen, how to compromise and how to live every hour united over the course of months to survive the various challenges – there is no time apart night or day and everything you face on a cycle tour is faced together. If you can emerge stronger and closer than you went in then you might have found the right person to share you life with.
There are a few a few ways of reducing conflict that that I have learnt from other people, character traits that I’ve admired in leaders and people with good social skills. One is to say sorry and quickly apologise when you have said or done something idiotic, which we all do from time to time. Being able to openly apologise to people is a sign of strength and confidence. The second, which I’m still working on, is to really listen to people and try to help them without forcing solutions on them. I try to remember this quote if I feel I’m being too opinionated:
“Advice is like snow – the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into the mind.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
What I can see now in these photos that I was blind too at the time is that we enjoyed each others company and laughed progressively more as the ride went on. By the time we got to Greece I think we both knew something had changed between us thanks to the adventure we were on and the experiences it gave us. We knew we had passed the litmus test.