A few weeks ago my wife, Lisa Niver Rajna, published an article in the Huffington Post titled, "Terrorized By My Bike, 5 Years until I am 50." She pondered whether she was still up for adventure at her age and why she was torturing herself to "celebrate" her 45th birthday. She explained how she hated being in Bagan, Myanmar. How she hated the heat and her bike.
To give you some perspective, we are both on a sabbatical year. Lisa doesn't have to work or undertake any monotonous household duties. She doesn't even need to go to the bank or grocery store for food. All she needed to do was enjoy her birthday in Bagan, a vast plain with hundreds of amazing temples. Since we are traveling for a long period of time, clearly we have budget constraints. You could tour the temples of Bagan in an air-conditioned van. However, I wanted to share the experience with Lisa that I had enjoyed a dozen years ago when I traveled in Myanmar for the first time. I loved Bagan and recalled it as a major highlight. I truly enjoyed biking among the ancient ruins and simply wanted Lisa to fall in love with this incredible archeological site.
To save my marriage and to be fair, Bagan is a hot place. It is also true that many of the temples are accessed off the paved road where there are poorly maintained paths, some with potholes, mud puddles and large rocks. It is also true that the bicycles we rented were certainly not top of the line but they were not terrible either. So there is truth behind her complaints but my contention is that she should not have complained for three main reasons: 1) she is traveling the world without a worry in the world. Many people can only dream of such an opportunity; 2) the fascinating temples should in my opinion easily trump complaints about the heat or condition of transport; and 3) her negativity brings down those around her who may have been enjoying the experience.
I appreciated one reader who responded to Lisa's article and stated, "I have one rule when traveling, no whining!" But this is what she did. She screamed out loud, "I don't like this!" Perhaps she felt a little better but her negativity brought me down. I was enjoying the scenery and ancient temples. I tried to make things easier by maintaining a slow pace on the bike, stopping often to take in panoramic views in the shade, and then being sure to stop for a long relaxing lunch with ice cold water. But still, Lisa's mind only conjured up images of high temperatures, challenging terrain and the dreaded flat tire.
To give her some due credit, she has definitely improved as a travel partner over the past six years. Even though we were both avid travelers before we met, many of the countries she had visited were on a cruise ship whereas my visits were either budget travel adventures or while working abroad for an organization such as the Peace Corps where running water was a luxury. Even our backgrounds are quite different. Lisa attended an all-girls private high school while I was in the public school system. She studied at an Ivy League university while my academic endeavors were attained at a State University. My point being that we came from different backgrounds overall and our travel experiences were equally disjointed. Therefore, we have both had to adjust and grow to be able to meet somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, and it is a place that works for us for the most part. Still, there are times when we have moments, unable to cope with a given challenge or situation. Unfortunately, when Lisa is impacted in this way, this turn in character adversely impacts me since we are always together. Usually these minor tantrums are brief in duration. As you will notice when reading her article, near the end she seemed to have a moment of reconciliation and she realized that she appreciates this vagabond lifestyle that we currently lead. She even says, "dreams come true" and that she loves traveling together, living the life we want, free to choose.
I guess nothing is perfect, not even a year-long sabbatical abroad in Asia. I love my wife and understand that as we continually grow as partners there will be moments in which we do not see eye to eye. Where I saw awe-inspiring temples she saw heat and harsh terrain. Perhaps we shall one day return to Burma and maybe even Bagan. If this potential adventure ever occurs, I sincerely hope that Lisa will have become a more competent biker or I will have attained a sudden liking for air-conditioned tour vans. Either way, we will work it out...together.