Several years ago, my husband and I got into a discussion, a/k/a fight. I told him he wanted us to travel more than I was comfortable with. Unlike him, I don’t react to change well. He can return from a 10-hour flight that would leave anyone else jetlagged and incoherent; he’s up the next morning, raring to go. “Jetlag is bullshit,” he recently told the entire table at a dinner party.
Well, it isn’t — for most of us mortals, anyway. And we all try to create a precarious balance in our lives that makes us just comfortable enough without going into a coma from boredom. The trick, in a life together, is to find a balance between the two of you.
But, more to the point, the day we argued about travel, my husband made me understand something I’d overlooked. “Think about it,” he said. “Think about all the trips we’ve taken together and with the kids. Think about all the great memories we have. Those trips have been some of the best times of our lives.”
That all stopped me in a way I don’t usually get stopped and made me look at our lives differently. Travel isn’t just about going somewhere else; it’s also an intense experience with the person you’re traveling with. The two of you — or three or five or whatever — spend more time than you ordinarily do together. You’re enjoying or suffering through novel experiences, meeting new people, seeing different ways of living. You’re creating memories together that are intensely personal — and, in many ways, the places you visit are only a backdrop.
It usually kills me to lose an argument, but I can live with it when it forces my eyes to open more. So, today, I’m sitting in a hotel room in San Luis Obispo, California. Both my husband and I are hammering away at our laptops. But we’ll remember this trip — seeing our daughter in her new job and apartment, spending time at a friend’s olive farm, winding our way down the coast, drinking so much wine we could have starred in “Sideways.”
Maybe I’m a slow learner, I’ve finally figured it out. The farther away you are, the closer you can become? Sometimes, it works that way. I plan to offer it as a toast tonight.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)