some ground rules
Before Bob and I decided to travel together, we already had some ground rules in place for how to deal with issues and frustrating moments. Since I studied communications in college and was an MSW counselor, communication is the most important thing in a relationship to me. So, when our relationship started getting more serious, I asked Bob to go to my therapist with me so we could learn some good communication skills so we wouldn’t make the same mistakes we had made in our past relationships.
The first important rule we learned was if we raise our voices, then we are not hearing one another. And we usually recognize this immediately and take a short break and resume the conversation when we are more centered and clear-headed and able to discuss the issue calmly. Well sometimes…
There was a time in L.A. when the apartment we had was the size of a shoebox with fuzzy shag carpet on the floor, walls, and even the door. We were told it was Star Trek’s Captain Kirk=William Shatner’s first apartment. And man it was tiny, there was only enough room for a queen-sized bed, a chair, a mini-fridge, and a super skinny bathroom.
It was situated on the corner of Doheny and busy Sunset, next to the Sunset Strip late-night bars. All day and night long there was heavy aggressive honking + cussing traffic and every night there were after-hours man brawls and the neighbor kept banging on the walls screaming MURDER!
Bob went for a very long walk, and when he returned, we calmly discussed what had happened and realized it was the space affecting our relationship and that we had to find a new place to stay. This was one of the biggest arguments we ever had, and now we laugh and refer to this ridiculous moment as “That time Bob left me over recycling“.
That was the first time we realized living in a small space could cause difficulties in our relationship and decided that if we do get frustrated with each other, we will give one another space by going for a walk or go sit outside. We have learned to recognize that if voices are raised then we are not listening one another then we will stop the conversation and not talking for a while until things have cooled down.
I love you no matter what
We always tell one another during these difficult times, I love you no matter what—I am just upset right now. By saying this, the other person is assured that they are loved and that the one who is angry or frustrated is not leaving but just needs some time to gather themselves.
It is normal for us to have emotional reactions to what is happening in our lives. M
The L.A. argument also informed us that we need at least one bedroom or a room with a door so that each of us has a place to retreat to get some personal space. But all too often getting a bigger rental is not feasible and we have had to get used to living with each other in one room spaces.
Funny enough, we each tend to spend a large amount of time alone even if we are sharing one small room. I like to stay up late and write because it is quiet and Bob goes to sleep early and gets up first because he likes to watch the sun come up. I enjoy sleeping in, so he has the entire morning to read the news, drink coffee and do his morning business.
Sometimes, if I’ve overslept, Bob has done a full day’s worth work before I even have my first cup of tea. Also, because Bob is working in a different time zone, he has more time to spend with me during the day because he can get a lot of his work done before his co-workers in the US even start their day.
we sat in silence
One of my favorite moments is when we were staying in Ubud, Bali during Nyepi. The entire country shut down, no electricity, all planes were grounded, no one was allowed on the streets, and the whole day was dedicated to silence and contemplation. As we sat in silence, I meditated and Bob
Having time to let your mind wander and open up can let your creativity run wild and Bob kept whispering that he had one great idea after another. I was tickled with his new found wisdom but kept shushing him and reminding him that we couldn’t talk until the next day. All day long, he kept trying to talk to me, and I refused to answer.
The next day he said he found my silence extremely attractive (eyebrows going up and down). I admit I do talk a lot so… Now when I am frustrated or need some time to myself, I will say—I need a day of Nyepi—and we both do our own thing.
we have blown the whole following rules thing
Now that all being said–our “ground rules” don’t always work perfectly every time and we have blown the whole following rules thing a few times. I’ve ended up in tears and one of us has stayed upset longer than usual but somehow we always find our way back to our agreement–finding middle ground again.
Like the last time, we traveled to Asia, it was an especially stressful trip moving out of Portugal after 2 years and having to give up all of our dreams of staying in Porto long term. I was really weak and sick from my illness flaring up and when we were leaving I had to go from months of lying in bed/the couch to packing up an entire apartment in 5 days. We had to give away all of our belongings to friends and say goodbye yet again.
Then we trained down to Lisbon with our overstuffed rolling bags + backpack and drag them up the bumpy mosaic stone steep hills of Alfama until I pooped out and couldn’t go any farther. Bob sweaty and red-faced had to drag both of our bags up the hill and stated in some places baggage rollers don’t mean anything. We needed to send off a package to the US and Bob walked for 2 hours in heavy rain and couldn’t find a place to send it from.
At the airport, our bags were over the weight limit and we were going to be charged another $100 so we were forced to open the bags and dump a few heavy items in the trash. I was having a hard time parting with our stuff (yes, I am a hoarder and have been struggling with letting shit go for years) and had a small meltdown over pair of extremely stinky + worn out + heavy shoes that I loved. Bob threw them in the trash and I went and fished them out and this started to push Bob over the edge because we have paid overage charges so many times over the years since I refused to pack lighter.
Pouting and tearful I walked through the airport like a little girl holding the shoes like a babydoll all the way to the gate and then I finally reluctantly let them go. Then we almost missed our connecting flight in Moscow–just barely making it by a couple of minutes, and to top it all off the airline lost our luggage=ugh…
Travel anxiety is real
Travel anxiety is real and it can be very overwhelming and sometimes emotions can stop you dead in your tracks and keep you from moving forward. There are lots of ways to deal with stress and anxiety: relaxing meditation, taking deep slow breaths, and visualizing a calm safe place.
But sometimes, anxiety gets out of control and self-soothing doesn’t work and for times like these, we keep an emergency doctor prescribed Xanax on hand. One pill does wonders if one of us is having an anxiety or panic attack. The nice thing about this medicine is that the effects wear off within several hours. (I’ll share more about traveling with illness and medication in another article–coming soon).
Now, I am not a doctor and do not recommend taking drugs because I believe the non-medication alternative anti-anxiety methods of meditation, breathing techniques, and visualization work very well and we both use them most of the time. Unfortunately, both of us have anxiety issues and we only take the medication as needed, which is rarely.
In the end, everything worked out fine. We’ve discussed how we handled the stress of traveling. Bob said he would work on managing his stress better and I’ve agreed to start changing my hoarding and overpacking ways and from now on we will only book plane tickets with longer layovers. We got our luggage delivered to the hotel the next day wrapped up like Easter baskets and I don’t really miss the shoes that much–I just wish I could have donated them and maybe someone else could have worn and enjoyed them.
So, that is just a little taste of how we deal with the crazy life of traveling all the time. It is not so cookiecutter perfect as some folks might want you to believe. It comes with ups and downs and
The interesting part about writing this story is that I get a bit of a bird’s eye view into my own life and can reflect on the decisions I have been making—like hoarding and over packing. I think about all of the savings we could have today if I would have just packed lighter, not paid the airline overcharges, and kept my old stuff in storage. It all sounds ridiculous from an outside perspective but seems extremely logical while I am actually living it.
In October 2019, I plan on doing a huge purge of my old belongings that have been in storage for the past 8 years and will keep you all posted on how it goes.