My wife was applying for a new job recently when she asked me to review her resume. We had just returned from an 18-month trip traveling around the world together (more on that shortly) and the time had come for the both of us to find reliable sources of income.
As I read over her list of experiences and professional achievements, all looked in order, until I came to the section where she described some of the things she'd been doing the past year-and-a-half. One line in particular stood out:
"Survived an 18-month trip traveling abroad with my husband."
I read that again -- she wrote that she had 'survived' a trip with her husband?
Was surviving our sojourn an achievement worth noting on a resume? And more importantly, am I so terrible a travel partner as to note mere survival as a successful outcome? This would require serious thought.
In the days of legendary explorers like Sir David Livingston - well before the advent of first class airport lounges and in-car navigation systems, traveling was more difficult, not to mention deadly. A journey we now take in a few hours could stretch on for weeks, and it often required entire teams of support people. When Stanley set out to find the presumably lost Livingston in Africa, he traveled with nearly 200 people. Many of those on his support team would never make it home.
When my wife and I caught a one-way flight to the Philippines to kick-off our trip, all we had were passports, two backpacks and each other. Today's modernised global travel system requires little else. Planes, trains and cars carry us where we need to go in most places. Google Maps and tour guides navigate the trail. For us, our biggest fears had stretched not far beyond catching Delhi belly in India or meeting a mugger on any dark street along the way.
Yet, despite the ease of modern travel, challenges remain, even if most are of the "first-world" variety. Flights get canceled. The food or the fun may not measure up to the expectations built up back home. To put ourselves in unfamiliar locales, whether on another continent or just a few hours drive from home, may not require risk of life and limb, as before. But it still requires significant resources, both of the physical as well as fiscal kind, whether we're off on a weekend road trip or a two-week holiday abroad.
And while our modern day voyages may not win us royal edicts or carry with them the thrills of discovering say, the source of the Nile, there remains a feeling of resume-worthy achievement in exploring the unknown, pushing ourselves beyond our day-to-day lives, and yes, making it safely back home afterward. As others have beautifully written (and I can attest), travel opens our minds, it makes us feel more alive, and it teaches us about the world as well as ourselves.
And then of course, there are the joys (and pains) of traveling with the people we love. Travel, similar to co-habitation, proves to be one of the most overlooked revealers of truth in relationships. To paraphrase the sage advice of twice-divorced comedian Bill Murray, if you can travel well with someone, marry them. This is pretty much what my wife Liz and I did, except in reverse.
Long before we met, Liz and I preferred solo travel. Whether backpacking through southeast Asia or living abroad in South America, we followed the philosophy that being alone was better than wishing you were.
Then came love and a wedding, and the "my way" of traveling quickly became "our way." You learn a lot traveling with your spouse or partner. For us, the first thing we discovered was our shared lack of planning skills.
Toward the beginning of our trip, upon arrival at the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica, we hustled to pick up our car at the rental desk. I had been bragging about the deeply-discounted rate I got on a 4×4 jeep. The problem was, I had actually hired the car in San Jose, California, not Costa Rica, which led to an educational session of negotiation in remedial Spanish. Oops.
Over sunset cocktails near the end of the same leg of the journey, Liz leaned over in her beach chair and said, "It's too bad we have to leave tomorrow, isn't it, dear?" Confused, I replied, "Yes, honey, except we don't leave until the day after tomorrow." Turns out we were both right - to save money we had booked our trips separately using frequent flyer miles, and we had gotten a bit confused on the return dates. Oops again.
But back home, under the stress of jobs and bills and daily life, these not insignificant mishaps might have launched us into our separate corners readying for a relationship death match. On the road, however, surrounded by wind, waves and/or whatever never-before-experienced distraction is upon us, we learn to better deal with our challenges. It's one of the best things about spending hours upon hours in a foreign place with the person you love - you develop a healthy dose of patience. For the sake of your relationship, if not for your own safety, you must.
Turning again to my wife's updated resume, I realized perhaps she was onto something in how she described our trip. While modern day travel is no life-or-death trial of discovery, it still carries its own unique survival challenges, particularly when it involves traveling with the person you love.
Closing Liz's CV, I decided to re-visit my own resume. Under the section on what I'd been doing most recently, I typed in, 'Survived 18-month trip with my wife.'
Yes. That sounded just about right.
This post originally appeared in Enterprise Magazine, a travel publication in the UK.