Yesterday was my wife Joan and my 30th wedding anniversary. As you can imagine, a lot of things fit into 30 years. My wife and I were married while I was still in my Junior year of college and I was so young at the time that I could not have legally participated if we had had a toast at our reception. Within the last 30 years we have graduated, gotten jobs, left jobs, had two kids, raised two kids, moved, bought a house, tore down a house, rebuilt a house, made friends, lost friends, and traveled. Since this is a travel blog it is the travel that I would like to focus on as it has provided us with some of our best memories. Looking back on the past 30 years here are some things I have learned about love and travel.
My wife is my favorite travel companion, but don’t assume from that that we like the same things or that we even travel at the same pace. The photo above was taken in Spain on a very good day on a difficult trip. That trip taught me that when I travel with my wife or with my whole family I need to slow down to about half the pace I would travel alone.
We tried to see most of Spain in about 10 days. We did about one new city a day in the heat of the Summer. When I am hot I sweat. When I get tired I nap. Even with me doing all the driving the rest of the group was exhausted by the pace (and more than a little whiny). After that trip, we set a two-day minimum rule. Stay in each place for a minimum of two days. We see less but enjoy our travels more now that we have figured out the right pace for us to travel together.
Different comfort zones
I used to have more vacation days than Joan had. The rule was that I could travel but I should not travel to a place Joan would want to see or at least not in a manner Joan would like to travel. So my extra vacation was spent on volunteer trips to Mexico or camping in National Parks or in one case going to Africa.
The idea with the Africa trip was that I would go on the first trip my church was doing and see whether it was something Joan would like. She could then go the next time. I came back saying that we never got anywhere near whatever line I have for my comfort zone. We slept in beds in houses or hotels, we always had flush toilets and we always had hot showers. Sure the showers were sometimes bucket showers but I didn’t have any problem with that.
Joan has been more challenged by travel to places where the shower is a bucket shower, the train is a night train, the toilet is a pit toilet or you can’t drink the water. Over the last 2 years, she has been adventuring further past her comfort zone leaving the safety of Europe, the U.S., Australia, or New Zealand for Hong Kong, China, Egypt, and Mexico. I am giving her time and trying to plan trips that push her boundaries, but only a little.
My capacity for seeing one more ruin, staying just a few more minutes in this cathedral, or shooting just a few more pictures is higher than most people. Even when we travel together we don’t always stay together the entire time. We tend to travel with friends and family. Sometimes while the rest of the group is getting ice cream, relaxing at the hotel, or by the pool I am exploring the Palatine Hill in Rome or climbing a temple in the jungle at Coba in the Yucatan. Joan likes to scuba dive. I love to snorkel. Most of the time we love doing the same things but sometimes we separate and come back with different stories.
I don’t remember numbers, but I can remember historical facts. My wife is a better trip planner than I am, but if you want one of us to navigate in a foreign country you would pick me. Of course, if you want directions you should ask her because I navigate by landmarks and she navigates by street names. I love maps, she loves directions. I get bored with keeping track of expenses but love to learn languages. Being different makes us a better team.
You might think by this point that Joan and I are very different and there is some truth to that. Granted I have been pointing out the ways we are different and not the many ways we are compatible. We have almost never fought about money in 30 years (once that I recall and I was probably wrong). We both have wanderlust. We both like to learn. We both have the same faith and values. But I still think that if there is a secret to 30 years together it is not as simple as a column of pluses and minuses for compatibility… despite what you may have read in Cosmo.
My best travel companion, as it turns out, is not the person who travels most like me. What I have learned over time, and in large part by traveling by myself sometimes, is that my best travel companion is the person with whom I really want to share my discoveries, my travels, and my life.