I Travel, She Doesn’t

My poor wife. She doesn’t like traveling.
Us in Florida (2007)
Now, I don’t refer to her as ‘my poor wife’ because she doesn’t like traveling. I refer to her as that because she has to deal with my travel obsession without understanding it. (In truth, there are lots of reason I give her to be referred to as ‘my poor wife’, but we don’t need to list all of those right now.)
When we got married almost 4 years ago, she must have been asked a version of the same question a hundred different ways by people who had previously only known me.  
So where are you guys going to travel to? 
You must love to travel, right? 
Is it exciting to plan trips together?
All of these questions, while I am sure well-meaning, assume that I could only marry someone who loved to travel as much as I do. For my part, it never expected to get married at all, so the idea of the type of person I would marry never really crossed my mind. Most people thought I was kidding when I said I didn’t want to get married or did not expect to get married. (I am still amazed to this day at how foreign the thought of not getting married is to most people.) I found out, though, that when you fall in love, right is right. Even when there are differences in people’s personalities- like one loving to travel (and thinking about it constantly) and the other preferring to stay home.
Our Wedding October 2007
The smartest thing my wife did was to understand who she was marrying. I’m sure I made it clear while we were getting to know each other how much I loved traveling. (I hate confessing I can’t remember a lot of what we talked about in those first few months. I truly attribute this to the shock that I was falling in love and wanted to abandon my ‘no marriage for me’ stance). She never asked me to stop traveling, and I never considered it. I don’t ever remember us even setting up ground rules for how I would continue to do what I loved without it causing her too much difficulty. She was smart enough to know that I couldn’t stop traveling, and I was smart enough to know that I needed to find a way to keep doing it without it compromising us.
Hurricane Ridge- Olympic National Park- 2005
Before we met, I had been averaging three trips a year, each between 2-3 weeks. I worked a job that allowed me the freedom to do this even though I had the education and ability to do something more ‘respectable’. Traveling was my main goal, so I would make enough cash, inform my bosses that I’d be gone for a while and I would go. I knew I couldn’t do this forever, but I sure was having fun (and incurring some debt as well.) When we got together, I knew a) I needed to get a real job, even if it cut down my freedom to travel a bit and b) I needed to shorten the length of my longer journeys. (I had spent two months in Europe one summer, and another two months in Australia a few years later.)
While she openly acknowledges not enjoying being away from home for too long, we have had the opportunity to take a couple of small vacations- to Florida in 2007, and Northwest Michigan in 2009. Both trips were about 4 days long, and I tried real hard to let these be her vacations, because everyone needs some time away. She has expressed some interest in going to the Great Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg this fall, and I hope we are able to do that.
It hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve come up with a few ways to lessen the difficulty on her while I am gone traveling. I would, in no way, claim that I have found some perfect way of dealing with this situation. As with all things in marriage, we still have rough edges, inherent in this situation, to smooth out. Here, however, are a few of the things I do.
  • I try and keep my travel money in a separate account and try hard to stay within my budget. As mentioned previously in this post, I incurred some debt when single, always due to the fact I went over my budget on trips. I suspect I subconsciously under-budgeted just so I felt justified in taking trips. Now, if I don’t have the money, I won’t go. Period.
Flowers are a great gift
  • When I am gone, I buy my wife a little gift for each day and hide it somewhere in the house. Then I text or call her every morning to let her know where she can find her gift. These aren’t always very elaborate. Half of the days, it’s just a card. (Those are real easy to hide). I love giving these gifts, and I spend quite a bit of time before each trip focusing on things she specifically would like. She has special treats she likes to eat or drink that she doesn’t always buy herself. One days gift might be a couple of bottles of Yoohoo, or Orange pop. I also like to buy her the specific type of popcorn she likes. My wife is a big movie fan, and I’m always on the lookout for movies she likes in the $5 bin at Target. I usually start each trip off with the same three gifts, (because she likes them and they are hardest or impossible to hide)- Flowers, Ice Cream and a huge bag of peanuts. (The peanuts are for our friendly neighborhood squirrels whom are fat from her feeding them everyday.) 
  • If I am going overseas and I know my cell phone isn’t going to work, I will  rent one that I know will work in the country. We did this when I went to Israel for 26 days in May of 2010. This was a great choice. While talking on the phone doesn’t replace being around someone, it is still awesome to be able to reach them on the phone at almost anytime. I can’t imagine surviving one of these trips only being able to talk every couple of days.
  • Skype fits under the above rule of not taking the place of being physically there with her, but it is a great tool. I love it because it fits under the above rule of not taking the place of being physically there with her, but it is a great tool. I love it because it also allows me to see our furry kids, who I miss quite a bit while I am gone.
  • I also make sure all of her friends know the exact dates I am going to be gone so that they can make sure she’s doing good. Last trip, I discussed with her dad how long I was going to be gone and set up a few instances where he could come over and help her walk the dogs or just have a meal with her. My wife leans toward spending the time by herself, something she is comfortable with, but I still feel better knowing that people are looking out for her.
Frankfort, Michigan sunset in September 2009
I know how lucky I am to be able to be married to such an incredible woman and still be able to pursue the other passion in my life, traveling. I know marriage is supposed to be about compromise and I hope that I can give back to her as much as she gives me by not trying to restrict my traveling.
(Side Note: It also helps to try and not talk about it all the time. I’m sure I’m still pretty bad at this- but I know she is happy for me and wants me to have fun and be safe, but I also know that she tires of having to hear about something that doesn’t really interest her.)

8 Responses to “I Travel, She Doesn’t”

  1. heyjer says:

    Great way to put it… My wife likes to travel, but doesn’t have nearly as much wanderlust as i do. With that, there are difficulties, as you mentioned. But you’ve got some good tips…

  2. Lauren says:

    This is what true, unconditional love is — when each person gets to be who he or she is. Great post!

  3. Of Revolt says:

    Erik, this is such a thoughtful, heartfelt post – it's wonderful to see how you both appreciate and respect each other enough to make the necessary compromises! Having been engaged for seven months now, I am always inspired to see people who are really in love and do whatever it takes to make their marriage work, and still make time for their passions! Nice job, guys!

  4. I'm not sure no matter how much I loved someone if I could marry someone who doesn't love to travel. My husband doesn't quite share the same enthusiastic, insatiable wanderlust that I have, but he loves traveling. I think it's incredible that despite this huge difference in passions you can still make the marriage work. Amazing!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hey, I want to meet this wonderful woman… 1 4 3 MORE!!

  6. Wow…I think it's great that although your wife doesn't travel, she understands that you do and is cool with it. That's fantastic!

  7. Heather says:

    How sweet is this post?! It's clear you love your wife bunches, and I'm glad you two have an understanding about your preferences and how you can both do what you'd like without negatively impacting the relationship. I'm content being single but imagined that if I got married, he'd have to enjoy travel O:-)

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