That Sebastiaan and I would one day travel the world together, was clear from the first weeks in our relationship. Already on our tenth date we travelled to the impressive Angkor Wat in Cambodia. As a brand new couple in love, we saw the sun rise over the Cambodian temples, we travelled through Laos and we got to know each other through and through.
In 2016 I managed to achieve the impossible at the law firm where I was working: I was allowed to go on holiday for eight weeks.
I was so excited! I had long envisioned exactly what that trip should look like. I would start with three weeks in Cambodia – a good friend would come with me those first weeks – and then travel through Laos and spend a few more weeks in Myanmar. The travel plans were made. The Lonely Planets were bought and read.
And then less than three weeks before departure, there was that date with Sebastiaan. I almost wanted to cancel it. This was not the time to be dating. I was preparing my trip! But the moment I entered the cafe in Rotterdam to meet Sebastiaan, it was like coming home. We saw each other eight times in a short time. As soon as I was back, we would see each other again, we said that 31th December. On the plane to Cambodia the next day I had a lump in my throat. I had finally met someone who felt like home, but now I was travelling to the other side of the world for my dream trip.
But after only five days I got a phone call.
Sebastiaan called that he was in the city hall of Rotterdam to renew his passport. He had read that your passport had to be valid for at least six months upon arrival in Cambodia.
Would I like it if he would book a ticket? I had joked at home that if he really liked me, he would come and visit me in Asia. And he did!
I remember clearly how I came to pick him up at the airport in Siem Reap after my first three weeks in Cambodia. I had not seen him for longer than I had seen him back home, I calculated. It was so exciting and terrifying. Would I still recognise him? And what if it would be one big mistake and disappointment? Would we have to travel to Laos together for another 2.5 weeks?
At the airport of Siem Reap I was waiting among the tuktuk drivers with a sign with his name. Dozens of passengers passed by and were picked up by the tuktuk driver from their hotel, but Sebastiaan didn’t come. Could he have backed down? He had already sent me a cheerful selfie from his transfer, so was it even impossible that he had returned home?
In the end, it turned out that his luggage hadn’t arrive and he was still handling that with the airport staff. That text message was such a big relief! But when he came of that airport gate at last after that long wait, I was happy to recognise him immediately. The connection was there again straight away. A tuktuk brought us to the city center of Siem Reap where we bought him some elephant pants and a touristy elephant shirt. The hotel bathroom had an extra toothbrush. His luggage would be delivered to our hotel the next day.
The next morning – or actually night – we were already picked up. Sebastiaan had a jet lag and we had only slept for a few hours. But I had arranged that we could go straight to Angkor Wat that early morning for a magical sunrise. As a brand new couple in love, we saw the sun rise over the Cambodian temples of Angkor Wat. It was the best tenth date you can imagine!
And actually the whole trip was one long, great tenth date. It was a unique experience to get to know each other so well by going on such a trip together shortly after meeting. The malaria pills in Laos made me super sick. We slept in an extremely tight night bus for someone 2 meters long. Sebastian was sweating so much that first day in his elephant pants in Angkor, still adjusting to the Asian temperatures. But we had a great time together. It was amazing.
And our orange backpack? Yes, it was already there that tenth date.