You do not have to be married to learn something about yourself through travel. I found myself explaining the beginning of this story to a friend who questioned the benefits of traveling single. There's no waiting period or best practices when it come to seeing the world; stack the money, and as long as you're using more income than charge card to get there (financial nugget) pick a place, book the flight, and just GO! I'm so excited to see many of my friends letting faith be their guide and traveling solo for the first time to find serenity in their world. There are experiences that lay beyond our homes and comfort zones that will help us cultivate something grand when we return. I took a solo trip two years ago and said a simple prayer - Lord, help me return from this place, better than when I came. This is not a solitary wish, but a commitment to be open to giving God control over your situation.
Here are a few more things I learned abroad:
#Message: There is something to be said for alone time. On a daily basis Mike and I are on a constant mission of vying for more time together. We wake up early-ish, work 8+ hours, and by the time we get home if I'm not teaching class, Mike's at the gym and before we know it, it's time for bed. Quality time is important, do what you must to have uninterrupted time with your spouse. While we were in Amsterdam we vowed to have a social media free-day; we took pictures but did not engage on Instagram, Facebook, Groupme, Allo or Hangouts. This might not seem like much, but it was beautiful to truly disconnect to reconnect.
#Message: Shit happens. This statement doesn't need much clarification, but allow me to explain anyway. Our first night in Germany we met up with our friend Greg who helped us navigate the streets of Stuttgart "after hours." It was pretty dead at 1am, but we were not discouraged as we scavenger-ed out on a search for German beer. Haphazardly I began to walk about, looking up at the night's sky, taking in the whole experience. All of a sudden, I felt a hot sticky mess on my shoes. Looking down I realized that I had marched right through what appeared to be human feces. 😵 It. Was. Everywhere. Greg and Mike died laughing while I attempted to wipe it off my cloth Sketcher sneakers. I stunk up the bar and had to figure out what to do with the shoes before getting into Greg's car. I made the decision to leave them on the curbside. I was known as "shitshoes" for the rest of the night amongst the group but I didn't let the setback get to me. There was no reason to place or shift blame; it was no one's fault that I stepped in poo, but I had to quickly adjust, albeit inconvenienced, and move on. In this analogy, Mike is not the shit nor the shoes, he's my feet 🤔. In your marriage, get rid of the shit and drama, keep the extremities. Choose to keep moving without the stinky mess you may have innocently or not-so-innocently wandered into. In the beginning I was so caught up on who's right and who's wrong (silly rabbit) that I wasn't paying attention to what's best for our family. How can settling a strife move us forward. Like Beyonce' displayed in her visual album, Lemonade, I had to move past certain issues to get to the good part. LET ME BE CLEAR - ain't no infidelity going on (lol) but Mike and I had to push past problems of our own. During our trek to Europe, I learned that I’m crazy about this man, but he also makes me crazy sometimes too. That’s by design. If it doesn’t challenge you, you’re not growing. And there’s not a relationship in this world that’s worth stunting your growth.
#Message: Sometimes you have to use outside resources. Mike did an amazing job with navigating in and out of each country. Because of his research beforehand we hit very few road blocks or mishaps. When we got to Amsterdam, we almost got off on the wrong stop, which would have thrown a wrench in our plans to catch a boat tour. If we hadn't opened ourselves up to asking a couple of travelers and taking their advice, we would've missed the boat. Men seldom like to take directions, but I encouraged Mike, letting him know it was okay to accept help because we've never been here. The same is true in marriage. If at any point you come up on a challenge you can't seem to get through, do not be above asking for assistance. The first step is encouragement, not ridicule. Speak life into your spouse as often as you can. I help him, help our family. He steers, I guide; he navigates, I call out directions; he plans, simply - I follow. This was the ultimate struggle at the beginning of our marriage. It was hard for me to succumb to the role of a "submissive" wife. Not until I opened myself up to resources did I realize I was letting this burden of a title get in the way of the primary business of being happy. One way to find happiness is the utilization of safe resources.
If Mike falls into a lake, I'm not going to try to save him on my own (risking the drowning of us both). I'm going to call for help and reach for a lifesaver to pull us both into shore. I am his "help meet" yet we are not unequally yoked. He has to lead - but he also has to have a plan because I cannot follow him blindly. If he doesn't know where to begin we have to study and submerge ourselves in fruitful passages and opportunities meant for our growth. Similar to college, you have to study to make the grade. You have to attend recitation, make notes, stay engaged. Anything worthwhile requires some form of seeking knowledge outside of ourselves - including peace in a marriage. Safe resources include: couple's therapy, bible study, marriage enrichment activities, books and blogs. A little more risky could be the resource of friends, family, reality TV shows, etc. Friends and family mean well but often lack the ability to be unbiased, so be careful. Protip- it might be hard to get your spouse to come around to reading a text cover to cover. We keep these two books on our bedside table to use as reference when we need them: Boundaries In Marriage and A Sacred Marriage.
You don't need a cross-country trip to reconnect in a marriage, you might just want a change of scenery. This can be achieved across the world or even a weekend getaway 20 miles from where you live. Turn the phones off, rely solely on each other, establish your boundaries and safe resources, read/pray and talk to God. See if this doesn't breathe new life and energy into a sunken place. Additionally, God will cover and protect you where ever it is you wish to go; I empower you to give it a try and plan a trip - remember to pack light.
Today I am praying for anyone who wants to travel but might be afraid.
Lord, remove constraints that keep us from discovery. Guide us and cover us, remove us from distractions, take away physical and emotional barriers and help us to see the beauty in all spaces, in any circumstance. Whether traveling alone or as a couple, teach us to put all trust in you and open our minds to change our perspectives. And elevate our understanding of You and Your Will for our lives. Help us to treat each other as we wish to be treated and feel open to love, forgive and embrace.
I'm so thankful for this experience, for God's coverage and His answers to prayers put forth that I may learn from my husband in ways that would institute my own growth. We have just begun our final descent - landing from the high that was our vacation and settling back into our daily routine. After our safe return, getting the dog back from boarding, and the extra sleep to recover from jet-lag only one question remains... "Where to next?!"