In several posts about my time in India I’ve mentioned my Travel Companion, but not given any details. This was partly not to interrupt the story of what I was telling at the time, but it was also because #ItsComplicated (remember when that was just about relationships, and not the entire world?).
I figured that to tell as much of the story as possible and to do an honour to my readers, I would do my best to explain this complicated situation…
In case you’ve missed any of the growing number of posts on this blog, you can check out the Contents post to find them in some sort of order or chronology and/or organisation by topic or location.
I have changed names and details of my Companion to protect her identity, mostly because we’re not in touch these days and I haven’t cleared any of this with her. It’s not that I’m going to say anything bad about her, but I guess she should have the choice about being identified or not…
In brief, my travelling companion was my ex-girlfriend. We had planned to travel together in India before we broke up, so had the same itinerary. I found a cheap flight and since we were still on good terms I popped her an email and she ended up on the same flight. We shared a rickshaw from the train station to Chowpatty Bazaar in Delhi and since she’d received a confirmation email for her hotel room and I hadn’t, we decided to share a room for the first night. That turned into spending the next couple of days together in Delhi exploring, and that turned into ‘Where are you going next?’
‘Oh, me too. Shall we travel together’
Which turned into sharing the road for 4 months.
It was great for me to have someone I knew well and trusted. For her, it was great to have someone to pose as her husband, even if it was never going to happen between us.
So how did all of this happen? And what went wrong? Well, let me tell you…
After the 5-year relationship with my Swedish girlfriend had ended, I was adrift for a while, looking for a new partner but not having much luck with dating or with anyone that I was interested in.
These were the days when MySpace ruled the virtual world, around 2002 or 2003. There were a host of other social media networks that are long forgotten, Friendster, Hi-5, Multiply. Facebook hadn’t been invented yet.
I was doing my thing online. MySpace kinds of things. Probably sharing my early-Millenium Trip-Hop DJ mixes. I guess I had a lot of friends on there and I was happy to add new interesting people had reached out. But this was also the time when kids were trying to get to 1000,000 friends. Which to me was straight up stupid, but how wrong I was! These guys were the proto-influencers! I hope that they are rich and happy Thirtysomethings by now.
Anyway, I connected with an interesting looking woman around my age, from Manchester. Her name was Gina. We had similar taste in books and music. We started chatting. She told me that she was coming down to London to meet a friend for the weekend, and if I was going to be in London perhaps we could meet up.
I was living in Brighton (Hove actually) at the time so I took the train up on the Sunday and we met in a Hoxton Bar for a drink and some eats. We chatted for hours, lost in conversation and decided to meet again. First date, successful!
Now I think that it was this time and not the next time that we met, where a friend I often stayed with in London offered to drive us to the station early so she could catch her train.
He dropped us at St Pancras station and I walked her up to the platform. She told me to go back to my friends and she would catch the train, we’d meet again. I don’t remember if this meeting ended with a kiss or not.
I wandered down to my friend and his girlfriend, who were waiting, and was told that her train hadn’t left yet and to go back up to wave her off.
So back up I went, deciding to call her on the way up to tell her that I was coming back.
She didn’t pick up her phone so I wandered around looking for her. I eventually found her in the queue at WH Smiths (a British stationery chain and sweetshop, often found in train stations) she was surprised to see me waiting, as she turned around with a handful of chocolate in her arms, looking rather guilty. I could see her mind racing. ‘Ah, my sister Nora just called me and asked me to bring some chocolate back for her’
‘Ok’ I said, but it didn’t exactly sound right with me.
Anyway, we hung out a bit longer, her train came and she got on it.
A few weeks later, after chatting online some more, I went up to see her in Manchester for the weekend, to meet her friends and her sister.
The weekend went well, we had a good connection and hooked up… This was the beginning of something…
Over time we chatted more and started to make plans.
Her dream was to live in Brighton, where I lived, she hated her job and wanted to leave… I was in a rented place that was too expensive for me to live comfortably.
I was (still) young and naïve so we decided to move in together. She came down a few weekends, we viewed some rental flats, chose one, and we both gave notice in our respective places.
We moved in together and things went well for a while.
But she had moved into my life and left her own. She didn’t find another good job in Brighton and ended up temping in shitty positions that didn’t challenge her. She also only knew my friends so felt more and more isolated.
It also turned out that she had some issues around food, her father, her past boyfriend and some emotional stuff too… I wasn’t mature enough to know how to help. I also made some stupid moves and said stupid things to what I thought were innocent questions, but in retrospect, she was testing me. I was unknowingly tying my own noose.
My standard position was to withdraw, so that’s what I did. I became distant.
While we had lots of good times we were drifting further and further apart.
The beginning of the end was when we decided to take a month-long intensive CELTA course together to become Teachers of English as a Second language.
For some reason, we decided not to tell anyone that we were actually together in a relationship. I don’t remember the reasoning behind this now, but I think it was something like not wanting to influence the teachers in the college unduly. I don’t think this was my idea, but I certainly went along with it.
That course was HARD! For one month we were hardly sleeping while learning to teach, learning grammar (because English people basically don’t know how their own language works!), writing essays and assignments, being continually assessed and just trying to survive… Did I mention that it was HARD!
I remember that I constantly had a dry mouth for the entire month I was on that course. It was so obvious that one of the foreign students in the real-live lessons actually commented on it. I probably should have just chewed gum.
Two or three of the group did not finish the course. I scraped by with a solid PASS in all area… That was enough for me.
In week 3 of the course, some of our classmates were surprised that we were in a relationship… We mumbled something about not wanting to influence people or something…
After the course, we both felt relieved, but I was still being distant. Something had changed. We both managed to land a job at a summer Language School and taught together for the summer. I don’t think I was a very good teacher at that point, but I certainly appreciated the opportunity to teach and earn money in Britain.
The final nail in the coffin for our relationship was when she asked me if I saw us getting married and having kids. My answer was a very insensitive ‘Um, No’
Mostly because I just hadn’t thought that far ahead yet. I wasn’t thinking about marrying anyone at that stage and kids was something grownups had. I hadn’t even done much travelling yet, I certainly wasn’t grown up. Arguably I’m still not, but I’m doing my best now!
That was the last straw for her. She broke up with me. Moved out and went back up north to stay with her sister or her mum.
Several weeks later I received an email that essentially eviscerated me. It laid out in detail all of the ways that I’d hurt and failed her.
I wrote back an apology.
So when I said that we were on good terms, maybe that wasn’t exactly accurate. But I guess the friendship somehow remained?
So anyway, after she dumped me, I contemplated my options. I had a list of places that I wanted to visit. Cuba, Japan, South America, and of course India… I considered how much planning we’d already done around a trip to India, so decided instead of wasting it, I’d still go to India. I found a super cheap flight and since we were still on kinda friendly terms, I sent her an email telling her about it…
That’s how we ended up on the same flight. It was the first time I’d seen her in about 4 months.
It was a chilly first meeting when we saw each other at the airport. Later she walked down the plane to say ‘Hi’ during the flight.
We shared that rickshaw to the first guesthouse and the rest is history…
We actually had a number of enjoyable months travelling together. I don’t regret travelling with her. I am still sorry that I wasn’t the right guy for her and inadvertently hurt her.
How our time together came to an end is another story… She still had one parting shot…
Part 7 of the Adventures of Kiwi in India – My Travel Companion in India – PArt 2 – is coming soon!
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