Written with love, by Karley Kiker
Before I began writing this column, I posted a graphic on Instagram and asked brides-to-be + current wifeys to share the marriage topics they’d be most interested in reading about. When someone mentioned the topic of traveling together, my face instantly broke into the expression that little side-smile emoji makes. The one that’s basically saying, “Oh, yeah. Have I got a story for you or what.”
Since my husband and I are currently preparing for an extended trip to Southeast Asia—we’ll be covering an event for the first two weeks, but the next few are for exploring and making the most of the fact that we’re on the other side of the world—I thought that now would be the perfect time to tackle this topic. August 5th will mark the beginning of our third backpacking trip together in as many years of marriage, and I have to say, we’re getting pretty good at this “traveling together” thing. But did we start out that way? Oh, no. Traveling together (and actually enjoying it) was a big ol’ learning process that started on our one-year anniversary trip to San Antonio, Texas. The story goes a little something like this.
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We had two goals for our trip to San Antonio: to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, and to take a step toward our dream of traveling together.
Taylor and I had both done quite a bit of traveling on our own prior to marriage, so I think we both assumed that adventuring out into the world as a team would be really easy for us. After all, we'd been married for A WHOLE YEAR. Meaning we were basically certified relational experts who never-ever experienced conflict. (Ahem.)
Day One went off without a hitch, minus the fact that I left a celebratory bottle of wine and two extremely necessary cups of coffee at our apartment. No big deal. We overcame these potentially argument-inducing obstacles with ease, and proceeded to the highway. Detours incurred were only of the fun variety—Czech Stop for kolaches and replacement coffee (it’s famous in Texas), and a surprise visit to explore amazing caves. After arriving in San Antonio, we prettied up a bit at our hotel and hit the Riverwalk for dinner. Love-and-marriage success!
Then came Day Two, which encompassed everything I talked about in my first official column—marriage reveals selfishness. Let's set the scene: San Antonio is experiencing record-breaking heat waves. I have just opened up my bag, which reveals that I left every single pair of shorts I own at home (and that obviously I'm not as adept at late-night packing as I previously imagined). Hence, I am forced to wear black workout pants (which smell like the inside of a cave thanks to the activities of Day One), a workout tank, and tennis shoes. We proceed to the Alamo, where every other girl is wearing a cute sundress and cute sandals and cute sunglasses. It's fine.
Post Alamo, Taylor suggests that we rent city bikes and visit the rest of the "nearby" missions. He graciously asks if I would like to do this. I pause for a long moment, because at this point in my life I am not good at biking, I am hungry, and I am already feeling the heat...but ultimately I give the plan the go-ahead, because 1. I can tell that he really wants to go, and 2. I think that there is potential in this plan for a few cute Instagram posts. I wish I was kidding.
Long story short, my attitude plummeted from agreeable to tolerable to every word out of my mouth is a complaint in about 10 minutes. The "short" bike ride was actually 18 (hilly) miles in its entirety, and by the time we arrived at the first mission, my arms were sunburned from the tops of my shoulders to the backs of my hands. Naturally, I made sure to call out frequent updates about the status of my burn, the severity of my thirst, the fact that I had almost crashed into the river, and the searing pain in my calves to Taylor at least every five minutes. Surprise! We ended our bike ride early...and proceeded to enter into a pretty decently sized fight.
Conflict inevitably happens in every relationship, whether it's a romantic relationship or even a friendship. But in marriage, you don't just get to agree to disagree...or run away to your hotel room and pout. You commit to work it out, to dig to the bottom, to see through the other person's eyes, and to understand. And so in that moment—the one where we were supposed to be having fun, but seriously considering high-tailing it back home—we learned something(s).
Taylor likes to jam-pack his travel schedule.
I like to move at a slower pace.
Taylor likes to do action-oriented activities that require sturdy travel clothes.
I like to find the most authentic cafes and boutiques in town...and look "cute" while doing it.
Taylor can go all day without eating.
These aren't travel-together deal breakers by any means. They're just differences and preferences that, even after one year of marriage, we didn't know existed. Now that we are aware of them—and we have 24 additional months of exercising our ability to compromise under our belts—it’s approximately 100 million times easier to plan an itinerary that gets both of us excited to strap on our backpacks and hit the road.
That doesn’t mean the learning has stopped, of course. New locations mean new challenges, and new challenges mean new opportunities to stretch, grow, listen, problem-solve, and—there’s that word again—compromise. Again and again and again. And to keep loving, too. Even when it’s hard. Even when the pretty places you’re visiting start to reveal a whole lot of ugliness buried inside of you. Even when you’re so worn out and exhausted that you find yourself screaming “I’m going home!” in the direction of your husband’s back while standing in the middle of a random street in Croatia, and your husband turns around and hands over the credit card and pretty much says, “Suit yourself.” Even then.
There’s a famous, very Instagram-able quote that says, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” To that I would add, “Marriage is a journey, and those who do not travel miss out on the opportunity to take that journey to the next level.” It’s not as Instagram-able, but for us, it’s been just as true. Take your first road trip together and I think you'll see what I mean. (Insert side-smile emoji here.)
Lots more on travel + the things travel reveals in marriage coming next week! In the meantime, feel free to pop by our travel account, @freerangecheckins on Instagram, and take a peek at our most recent backpacking trip.