Our conversations are only about the necessities of getting through the week: what we’ll have for dinner, who will feed Lucy (our dog) or what we need to get done on Saturday – the one day we both have off from work. We no longer debate whether Westerners are helping or hurting things in Cambodia through voluntourism, how to solve the Israel/Palestine crisis or discuss the purpose of our lives.
We no longer spend time going on long hikes, enjoy quiet time together or allow ourselves to binge watch a season of The Voice. We no longer have time for each other.
When we traveled the world together for nine months, we evolved our relationship to a level I previously thought unattainable. We went from being best friends who happened to be married, to soul mates who worked in harmony towards collective goals and a common mission. We were traveling the world together and depended on each other to get through it.
We learned how we function best as a team and who should take over in certain circumstances. When I got food poisoning in Mynamar and could hardly function, she took over without missing a beat and our journeys continued flawlessly. We were together every minute and time apart wasn’t met with relief, but more with sadness and sometimes even disappointment. We had no need to separate from each other and doing so meant ripping away a piece of you.
Ok, maybe it wasn’t all roses and rainbows; it definitely wasn’t like this in the beginning of our trip! We had a fairly rough transition period the first two months as we left our previous way of life when our relationship was at a more superficial level and the term “married” was more of a custom than a complete feeling. At the roughest time, we thought we’d have to take the advice of one of our friends who said we’d need a lot of “separate time” to survive our trip. In fact, I offered her a one-way ticket from New Zealand to the US while I continued traveling! We made it through the rough patch and as we continued our journey we were no longer whole on our own.
The challenges from standing up to the taxi mafia in Jordan, to climbing Mt. Kinabalu, to faking our way across the border galvanized us and made us realize how much we could handle together. When we were towards the end of our trip leaving the hotel in Marrakech, the taxi cab driver who quoted us triple price never expected my wife to tell him off and head towards the street to find a cheaper taxi. I didn’t expect it either, but I loved every minute of it! We put ourselves in extraordinary circumstances and grew together because of it.
Now things are different. We both have stressful and time-sucking jobs and our time together is no longer one in harmony, but only time where we happen to be in the same room or at the same dinner table. We’re unable to focus on each other’s needs because we’re busy just trying to survive, trying to cope and reconcile with what happened the previous 10-12 hours of work; racing to fulfill the requirements of life that previously happened with leisure and joy – traveling from point A to point B, enjoying a meal or simply spending time together. It’s almost feels like we’re cheating on each other but instead of a person to blame, it’s just work.
Honestly, I don’t know how families with kids function in today’s world with both spouses working full-time jobs. Heck, I don’t even know how families do it with even one spouse working full time! We don’t have enough free time to allow us to enjoy our time together. We’re too busy stressing about what’s coming next to enjoy what’s happening now. We see and feel the difference, but knowing how our relationship once was helps us to know it will be that way again. We also try hard to focus on each other with the time that we do have and enjoy moments throughout the week.
I could never before understand how old married couples can be so emotionally attached and attentive to each other’s needs. However, after we traveled I felt like our marriage went from a few years to 30 years’ worth of positive (and negative) experiences and growth. It also made me realize traveling the world wasn’t the only way it can happen – it happens through a shared life together. We’re still readjusting but we know what has happened and what we need to do.