It’s about silence, strengths, fights, and why NOT thinking of each other as a soul mate is actually a good thing.
I love my wife. A lot.
I love to travel. A lot.
We live together. We work together. We travel together. We sleep together. And somehow—even after 11 (or is it 12?) years together—we haven’t killed each other.
Travel makes or breaks relationships.
Hemingway once said “Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.” Good advice; in addition, I’d add that the quickest way to find out if you do love someone is to travel together. The most romantic thing my wife ever said (to me, at least) was at the end of our first weekend trip: “Wow, I’ve never spent an entire weekend with someone without getting annoyed.” Sigh. My heart still flutters at the memory.
Seriously though, after that first weekend trip (to Monterey? Or was it Napa?), we both knew we had something special: a passion for travel—and each other.
Why giving each other space is only half true (and impossible if you’re traveling).
A common piece of advice for traveling couples is to “give each other space.” That may make sense but it’s an overgeneralization. In fact, there are really three different needs:
Space. Sometimes you just gotta get away. If you’ve ever had an argument and felt the need to just get away, well, that’s a need for space.
Time. Other times you need time for yourself. My wife understands I sometimes need what I refer to as my “only child time.” It’s not that I don’t want to spend time with her; it’s that I need to spend time with myself.
Attention.This is the sweet spot for couples on the move. If you’re stuck on a crowded bus in India, you’re in it for the long haul. No time or space apart there. But you can still give each some headspace by reading, writing in your journal, or staring out the window.
Silence is the language of love. If you can comfortably spend hours together in silence—whether at home or abroad—you’re on the path to success.
A few years ago we were in Napa Valley when I overheard a couple next to us bickering. The guy said “I don’t know what we’re doing next, but I’m 100% sure I’m not gonna like it.” Great. Talk about communication, eh? Most times when I hear couples bickering, I wonder what would happen if they both agreed to say nothing for ten seconds. Just take a deep breath, count to ten, and then continue. Chances are, they’d be in a much better place.
Be the bigger man (whatever that means)
Sometimes, the bigger man needs to step up. If your woman feels afraid walking down a dark alley in Morocco, you need to be there for her—both emotionally and physically. I often forget about that first part; I assume that since I’m not worried, she shouldn’t be. But it doesn’t always work that way. (Nor should it.) In many parts of the world, a woman walking at night—whether alone or with others—can be emotionally trying. I guess this is where “being a man” (whatever that means) comes into play: we must be prepared to protect, but also be sensitive enough to understand why they’re worried in the first place.
Take turns leading—and following.
While cycling across Ireland I couldn’t go any further. The jet lag had completely scrambled my brains and I couldn’t continue. Darcie was there to find a place to stay and got me to bed safely.
While traveling from India to Nepal, Darcie caught a bug and could barely walk. I hailed a cab—instead of a bus—and got her safely across the border as quickly as possible.
Travel is trying at times. Give yourselves permission to break down (just not at the same time).
Stick to your strengths—not your guns.
My wife and I are both neurotic. Fortunately, though, we’re neurotic about different things. For example, when we travel, she packs the clothes, toiletries, the… OK, she packs everything. She’s good at it. And she’ll readily admit that the best thing I can do is stay out of her way.
On the other hand, if someone’s going to pick up dinner—whether at a Thai food stall or Mexican taqueria—I’m the one headed out the door. I need to make sure we get exactly what we ordered, along with plenty of condiments, snacks, and beverages. Again, my wife is happy to sit back and let me handle it.
The funny thing is that we could easily switch roles. I could pack and she could pick up food. But for some reason we’ve settled into these roles. I don’t think it has anything to do with gender roles—though you could certainly make a case for it—but rather a subtle compromise of who wants to do what.
Figure out who’s really fighting.
When we do fight—which is rare—I often ask myself “Is this an Adam and Darcie thing? Or a man and woman thing?”
Often it has nothing to do with us. You could take any couple, cram them into an overnight bus in Vietnam, pump them full of Fritos, 12 hours of loud music, and expect them to get snappy with each other. Recognizing this fact makes the conflict less personal—and therefore, much easier to bounce back from.
We’re not soulmates—and that’s a good thing.
The other day this came up while we were eating dinner. Are we each other’s soulmate? Are we destined to be with each other?
A pause—and then we both laughed. Because we don’t think of each other as soulmates, there’s not this tremendous pressure on our relationship. In fact, it’s helped us appreciate each other even more. We’re not perfect for each other; we’re both flawed people who love each other and are willing to make it work.
This outlook, I think, is the key to traveling well together. The world is a big, busy, boisterous place. It will pull you apart, or push you together. And since the cosmos haven’t aligned just for us, well, we’re both committed to making it work.
So even after 11 (or was it 12?) years and 25 countries together, we’re still happy and healthy. But the question remains: how is a man supposed to travel “as a man”? Does such a thing even exist? What do you think?
Photo: Getty Images