“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it” ~John Steinbeck
Sure, you vowed to love each other “for better and for worse,” but who said anything about trekking Machu Picchu, tackling a via ferrata in the Canadian Rockies or a culinary bike tour through Tuscany, for that matter? For many, adventure travel wasn’t what they had in mind when they promised ‘til death do us part’.
Not to worry. In nearly two decades of marital globetrotting, I’ve learned a thing or two. In fact, my married life started when my now-husband, Hank, and I eloped during a 3-month vacation. Two years later, we packed up the Subaru and didn’t return home for more than a year. And for the past decade we’ve divided our time between homes in Old and New Mexico.
In addition, I put the word out to my, facebook friends and twitter followers, asking for their best strategies for how to travel together AND save the marriage. Listed below is a collection of our best advice. What are your secrets? Use the comment box below to sound in on the subject.
1. Choose the right spouse: That’s exactly what BootsnAll Italy expert, Jessica Spiegel (@Italylogue) posted in reply to my twitter shout-out. She’s joking right? Well kinda. She did, after all, publish the following quote on her wedding invitations: “The thing that counts most in the pursuit of happiness is choosing the right traveling companion.” - Adrian Anderson.
In my case, Hank and I didn’t know when we married that our future would be quite so mobile. And trust me, we’ve improved our roadside manner considerably over the years. Our #1 hard-won rule of travel? Do not make the other person responsible for your happiness. Whether you’re in Timbuktu or Topeka, commit to respect individual preferences, communicate your needs and appreciate each other as you ARE and your travels – and marriage - will be the better for it.
2. Divide and conquer: Even if your spouse IS your perfect traveling companion, allow time in your itinerary to go your separate ways. I love exploring a new destination on foot, without an agenda and with a camera in hand. Hank is happiest chatting up the regulars at a local coffeehouse or touring with a native guide, getting to know a place people-first. Often those preferences overlap and we hang out together, then separate again for a while. Later when we regroup, as Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of CruiseCritic.com points out, “There’s so much more to share when you come back together.”
3. Let it go: When it comes to control issues, leave em’ at the border faster than you can say “lost luggage”. Nothing ruins a trip more than thinking you’re in charge.
“Not being a control freak helps,” recommends writer/consultant Deston Nokes. “Usually one is running the schedule and the other feels victim. Just letting go and enjoying the experience can really ease the stress.”
“Trade off being the ‘tour guide,’” suggests freelance writer Shelley Seale. “My boyfriend let me do all the leading, out of niceness thinking he was letting me do what I wanted. But it’s exhausting! Take turns being the one to plan, and lead, the itinerary for the day. It’ll be more fun for both people.”
4. Go solo. Don’t laugh. I meet more happily married people off exploring this beautiful blue planet sans spouse than you might imagine. Hank and I included. “Leave the bugger behind, writes Chardel Lewis (@NewYorksTrio). And why not? Who’s to say a little heli-hiking vacation with your sister, or setting off alone for a yoga retreat, won’t do the marriage good?
“Dick & I are celebrating our 50th Anniversary this year,” says veteran travel journalist and author, Sally Moore. “And one of the ways we’ve solved the problem [travel compatibility] is not traveling together when I’m on the job. He hates my usually frantic schedule of interviews, photo shoots, etc., and I don’t like worrying about whether or not he’s enjoying the trip. Keep work and pleasure separate.”
5. Love the one you’re with: Remember those bumper stickers that remind you to practice random acts of kindness? Well, be sure to keep that in mind when he won’t ask for directions or she wants to stop at ‘just one more’ boutique. “In traveling, as in marriage, the old saying applies: Instead of being right, be kind,” says L.A. publicist Stacy Lewis (@slewismopr).
“After being stranded in the Miami airport for two miserable days because I misread our flight’s departure time, I discovered I’d married a Saint,” said Frances Crockett, my seatmate on a recent flight. “He missed two days of work and all he ever said was, “It was an easy mistake to make.” Can you imagine? I learned a lot about my husband, and myself, from the experience.”
6. Tell it like it is. Don’t let your vacation dreams get lost in translation. Communication is important when it comes to returning home from a trip still talking. “Successful spouse travel starts with being straight with one another about likes and dislikes,” advises life coach Gwen McCauley (@GwenMcCauley). Being truthful about your needs and listening to your partner’s desires is indeed a big piece of the travel puzzle. Be sure to discuss in advance your expectations. Or, when all else fails, “get a room or suite with two bathrooms …” J Stacy Small (@EliteTravelGal)
Travel expert Ellen Barone did what many of us only dream of doing: at the age of 35, she traded a successful academic career for the wild blue yonder and set out to explore the world and herself. In the decade since that intrepid decision, she has turned passion into profession journeying to more than 60 countries in search of evocative images and life-enriching adventures. Learn more at EllenBarone.com