On Marriage and Travel
I don’t know a lot about marriage, but I do know a lot about travel and for me the two have been intertwined like a well-worn knot. Sometime during your travels you want to just hit pause. Take a hot shower, get away from odd sights and smells, eat something recognizable, sleep in a familiar bed. I think this is a similar desire in marriage. The desire to hit pause. But much like hitting pause during a particularly challenging adventure where you risk missing the sunrise view from Mt. Fuji, hitting pause in a marriage is not a realistic option. You have to keep changing your expectations and sometimes changing what you think you are capable of. I didn’t think I was capable of another adventure, and I would have missed one hell of a sunrise if it wasn’t for the adventure feigned, my husband.
On August 25th 2012 I stood on a Pakistani rug bought in a market in Abu Dhabi, wearing a lace gown I found in a boutique in Portland, surrounded by friends and family who had flown from Vietnam, England, Dubai, South Korea, Toronto and throughout the United States and I married my travel partner…for the second time. The story of our marriage really begins a year and a half prior to our wedding, in January of 2011. After a year spent working in South Korea and traveling throughout Asia and Australia, we accepted teaching jobs in the United Arab Emirates. Our Visas came through quickly, flights were booked, and then we received an email from HR:
Please provide the following items upon arrival in United Arab Emirates Customs:
- Copies of passport
- 2 passport size photographs
- Copies of all professional awards and certificates
- Original Marriage License
It hadn’t even occurred to us that we would need to get married. We had already been engaged for over two years in which time we had traveled around the world joking that it would probably be another decade before we actually stayed in one place long enough to plan a wedding. But there we were, faced with very little time to make a life changing decision. And that is the really strange part, it was the biggest, and easiest decision either of us have ever made. With suitcases packed in the trunk of our car, we headed for the airport, stopping along the way at the courthouse, where we were married. And that was it.
Over the next year and a half we lived and worked in the Middle East, traveled to South East Asia, East Africa, Paris and back to the States. And we planned a wedding, something that was still important to us. We wanted not only to say thank you to our community near and far for their endless support, but also to stand in front of them and take vows that we would be held accountable for in years to come. Our wedding was not perfect, but it was perfect for us. It was a combination of all the things we love: travel, the outdoors, oysters, beer, skinny dipping, live music, pie, dancing and mayhem.
In the year that followed our wedding we started a new life in the states. We began new jobs, bought our first home, built a garden, watched parents get sick, welcomed new babies into the family, baked bread and wondered if this was it? We sat on the same rug we were married on, that had traveled so far with us and talked about starting a family, and if our days traveling the world were over. I said “yes” to both, yes to starting a new adventure, one that involves putting down roots and being content with where you are. I thought we were on the same page.
My husband applied for a job at an international school in Singapore, his dream job. He was interviewed in June, and gone in August. I remember sitting on our rug in our home wondering how two people who had carried backpacks side by side and made so many decisions together over the years could want such drastically different things. My husband wasn’t done travelling and I was. We worked on different projects the rest of the summer. My husband had the task of finding us an apartment in Singapore, opening bank accounts, setting up utilities, signing up for health insurance and starting a new career. I found myself faced with the task of re-packing recently unpacked boxes, finding renters, closing bank accounts, cancelling health insurance, quitting my job, watching my father go through chemotherapy and saying good-bye to a community we had just come to know. We celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary over SKYPE. Matt ate dessert while I sipped my morning coffee. This wasn’t the life I had imagined for us, not the way I thought we would be honoring our “first year” of marriage.
I arrived in my new Singapore home in September. During the past four and a half months we have been to Thailand, India, Malaysia, on our bikes from one end of Singapore to the other, learned to make curry in our tiny Asian kitchen, planted Thai basil and chili peppers on our condominium balcony, hiked with monkeys, ridden elephants, snorkeled with tropical fish and walked through our new city remarking at what a charmed life we lead.
My favorite days in Singapore are those that we choose to hit pause together. Not pause on adventures or on our marriage but a paused breath where we can recognize the sacrifices each of us has made during travels and in our relationship. Today marks three years from when I first married my husband at the courthouse on our way to the Middle East. And it marks another day of hitting play for more great adventures together.