Mongolia or Bust – 10 Years On

‘It’s not that I can’t live without you, it’s just that I don’t even want to try’ – Backstreet Boys

Tomorrow; May 23rd marks the the 10 year anniversary of Dave setting off on the adventure of a lifetime with his friend and thus leaving our 5 year relationship behind for 4 months while he travelled to the other side of the world on his motorbike.

A lot of people will already know the story of Dave’s epic adventure to Mongolia (and then subsequently round the States) whether by knowing him, the odd titbit I’ve given away on the blog or if you’ve bought his book (if you have thanks very much!). But what I (or we) haven’t gone into loads of detail about was how I found it or what it meant for our relationship. Because it’s needless to say that, it turned out to be a pretty life-changing trip for both of us. And this is my blog so naturally, it’s all about moi!

Mongolia 1

Dave’s a proper daydreamer; even more so than me sometimes, so it was never any surprise to me that he would want to take on such an epic adventure as riding his motorbike to Mongolia. He’s also a proper ‘doer’ and not the type to just sit around bullshitting about things he could do; if he sets his mind to something, he does it.  The opportunity arose when he took voluntary redundancy from his job as a computer programmer and also had a friend who would go with him so slowly over the course of about a year; the daydream became a reality.

One of the best things about me and Dave (and I think he would agree) is that we support each other in everything we do, so there was never any question of me ‘letting’ him go. Was I amped about him being away for 4 months? Of course not, but I knew this was something he had always dreamed of doing and after all what was the alternative? I put my foot down, said no he can’t go then we carry on with our normal day-to-day office jobs, getting drunk at weekends and not really moving forward or experiencing anything. With my army upbringing and constant moving around as a child I 100% get the concept of wanderlust and was never going to stand in Dave’s way.

Mongolia 2

We decided for my own sanity and peace of mind I would move back into my parents for the duration of the trip and rent our house out. It meant we got a bit of extra income and (more importantly) I wouldn’t give myself a stroke worrying about what countries that are normally preceded with the words ‘war-torn’ Dave was riding through that week.  Saying goodbye on my parents’ doorstep was one of the hardest things to do (I believe after he left, I slid down the wall crying in true Dawson’s Creek style). And I think I cried off and on all weekend. It’s not as if we’d never been apart before, we’re both independent and have no problems being separated for a week or so whether it be for work or on holidays with our mates. But on that Saturday afternoon, 4 months may as well have been 10 years. My little buddy had gone.

Aside from the fact that I think it made me regress back to being a 14 year old; moving back in with my parents proved the ideal situation. I was getting fed regularly, had someone to talk to when I was feeling anxious or worried, there was a constant supply of wine and prosecco to drink with my mum and I had the time to get through all 5 seasons of Nip/Tuck (such an underrated show) whilst hiding out in my teenage bedroom.  I also had not much else to do than cane the gym every day so mix that with Siobhan’s good old home cooking, I lost a crap tonne of weight.

Mongolia 3

Thanks to a GPS tracker, we could follow their movements online, so if there was no mobile signal in the deepest darkest depths of Tajikistan, we could still see they were safely on the move. It also had an ‘ok’ option, which they could press which would send a text to your nearest and dearest letting us know they’re safe. We were also kept up to date via his travel companion’s blog, (which became a big bone of contention in our family) twitter and Facebook.

So at home, my life rumbled on fairly normally, I spent a lot of time with my friends, particular shout out to Ang and Patricia who were my absolute rocks during that time. I went on a little mini holiday with my mum to Malaga, and some weekends away with Ang and Janine respectively. I missed Dave desperately though and never realised truly how much I confided in him. He wasn’t there for me to talk to about my day or how work was going, or what I thought of the new Backstreet Boys single (they released one of my favourite albums This Is Us that summer), or how devo’d I was when Michael Jackson died that summer. Nor did I feel it appropriate to mention any of these things during our brief phone conversations. He was living the dream having amazing adventures day after day, the last thing I figured he wanted to hear about was the amazing new sandwich shop I discovered near work. Put bluntly, I didn’t know what right I had to be in his life anymore.

I never questioned my commitment to Dave. I knew I was in for the long haul and I also knew deep down that he was too, but there was always the little niggle that while he was out seeing the world, he would come accustomed being a free spirit and there would simply be no room for me in his life anymore.  After all, he was the one experiencing new things and meeting new people, and I had visions of his smoking pot with tanned, blonde bikini clad backpacker girls who seemed so much more interesting than boring old Helen back home. Apart from a very persistent co-worker of mine at the time who seemed very pleased to hear my boyfriend was out the country for 4 months, it’s not exactly like I had any temptation while he was away. Dave had absolutely nothing to worry about my end.  For me it was absolutely ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ but I worried for him it was more ‘out of sight, out of mind’.


There were a couple of big things that happened that summer which I wish Dave had been around for; Michael Jackson dying was a massive deal to me and would have drunkenly dissected everything that happened with him for weeks had he been here. He became an uncle for the first time when our niece Darcy was born in early July.  And I got a fringe cut in. And anybody who knows me and knows the issues I have with my hair will appreciate what a big deal that is.

We’d always agreed that when the biggest leg of the trip was over, we would try and meet somewhere to have a holiday together. That place was to be LA, after which Dave was going to rent a car and complete the final month of the trip alone travelling around the US in a mustang.

Our two weeks in Vegas and LA was brilliant and after 3 months apart, it was fantatsic to be reunited again. It’s funny how the mind plays tricks on you and as I nervously waited for Dave in the arrivals hall of LAX I started to worry I wouldn’t know what he looked like. So much so that anyone who was vaguely his height, weight or age I was looking twice at. It’s silly really, because as soon as I saw him I knew it was him, because well he’d only been away for a few months, not appeared in an episode of Botched.

It was amazing how we just settled back into our normal ways together like no time had passed at all. The only thing that amused me slightly was after getting a drink in Starbucks in Vegas; Dave finished and just got up from the table and walked off. He had become so used to being on his own and thinking only of himself that he completely forgot to wait for me.  Needless to say, I’ve not let him forget about that!

Having those two weeks together was a dream and put to bed any fears I had that our relationship was on the rocks. Dave had really relied on the support I gave, even if over text from the other side of the world. He has commented since that it made him realise the value of true companionship.

In hindsight, it was a trip that absolutely made us as a couple. I don’t do particularly well in my own company and can probably last about 20 minutes alone before I ring or text someone. Being apart brought out strength in me I didn’t even know I had and I absolutely believe we wouldn’t be as close as we are now had he not gone away. I mean, he proposed a few years after coming back so if four months round the world was what was needed for him to realise what a badass chick I am then it was time well spent.

1 Comment

  1. May 24, 2019 / 6:57 am

    I had NO IDEA Dave had written a book!

    Amazing! I love this Helen, you really do write so so beautifully – I could sit and read your words all day! I can’t imagine how on earth I’d cope if Simon went off on a great adventure and left me behind, I worry about him if he’s just away for a couple of days on a stag do!

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