This is not a story about two people finding each other and becoming one.

It is a story about a couple who planned their long term trip together for years, drifted apart and separated just shortly after their actual trip began. How I had started my travels as a part of 2 and became a solo traveler.

Christian and Saphi on summit of Cerro Guanaco

But it is not a sad story. It took a struggle but in the end I gained a close friend that I don’t want to miss in my life.

Christian and I had been on a freighter heading towards Rio de Janeiro for over a week when we said out loud what had been in the air for much longer. Something we hadn’t wanted to admit before. There was no fighting, no harsh words. As corny as it sounds but we hugged each other, shed some tears and decided to be mature enough to stay friends. In that moment, both of us probably thinking that might just remain a wish (spoiler alert: luckily it didn’t 🙂 ). We also decided to keep on traveling together.

Sometimes when I think about how things turned out it just feels like a joke to me. A bitter one but still kind of funny. We were together for over 6 years, planning a life changing trip for a big part of that time, having a whole life together, family, friends…And when we actually get to start this long desired trip, what do we do? We break up. How stupid is that?

But it wasn’t stupid. The timing was shitty but it was only as shitty as it was because the both of us were trying to save our relationship. There is things you don’t just throw away. This was one of them. But sometimes you get to a point when you realize you aren’t happy together as a couple anymore.

I am pretty sure I don’t have to tell you any of this. Most of you probably have had a similar situation before. What made this break up a bit special, at least for us, was that we couldn’t just have a time off from the ex. We decided to continue to travel with each other because both of us still wanted this and we were great at traveling together. So, we made the best of it.

Anyone experienced in traveling with others knows that it can be a pretty intimate and sometimes tense situation already, even without preoccupations like we had. I have no clue how but we managed it. It wasn’t always easy but we did it.

Until that one day…when Christian told me he wanted to go home. “I’ll help you find a car, we do this O-Circuit and then, I think, it is best I return home.” He explained his reasons. I was overwhelmed but I completely understood his decision. Overall it wasn’t much of a surprise.

I never actually doubted that I would continue without him but in that moment it hit me…I am gonna be a solo traveler. By that time, I considered myself a pretty independent person but up to that point I had never traveled anywhere by myself. Except as a foreign exchange student to the USA. But that was years ago and I had a host family that I was brought into right from the start. And honestly, in the years prior to this specific moment, even if I wasn’t actually with him, my then current life was with Christian, even after the break up.

To sum it up: It wasn’t a small bite for me to swallow.

Snow walk near Villa Pehuenia

But after all, things turned out superb…This last one trek we did together, the O-Circuit in the Torres Del Paine NP, has taught us more than one life lesson. It remains one of the most memorable hikes I have done so far and for a big part this is because of Christian. I am grateful for this experience and I guess, for a last big hike together it couldn’t have turned out better.

Frankly, I did not actually have my first solo traveling experience until a couple of months after Christian left for Germany. The first and one of only 6 other hikers we met during the first 2/3 of our last trek together was a kiwi. He and I ended up traveling with each other. Of course, I was far from knowing by then but he will eventually be the reason I am in New Zealand a year later, writing this blog post.

I still stay in touch with Christian and we have phone calls on a regular basis. I still consider him a close friend, now even closer than during the relationship. See, for most people a relationship is a black and white thing. They are together and once they break up, they break up for sure, including breaking off contact because they tell themselves it doesn’t work any other way. But we didn’t choose to connect with our partner for no reason in the first place, did we? And sometimes, individuals being part of a relationship develop in a way that isn’t enough foundation for the very same relationship anymore. Then, if these individuals still do care for the other, there isn’t only black and white.

After all, that is what life is all about…not what happens to you but what you make of it. Sometimes loosing a lover can result in winning a friend.

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