This week Betsy and I completed the second draft of our latest book, Married with Luggage: What We Learned About Love by Traveling the World. We celebrated with a long walk through the hills surrounding our village here in Spain. It was an opportunity to step away from the words and launch planning and just be together. Reconnecting through hiking is a small sample of the unconventional romance we’ve developed together over the last few years.
Prior to leaving on this trip, I would not say we were particularly romantic. We defined romance differently. The activities and events which excited me most about Betsy would not be viewed by most as overly romantic. Sitting with Betsy when I got my first tattoo. Having Betsy body paint me for the ride in the Fremont parade (yikes, there are places she had to paint which I’d be hard pressed to say were romantic). Shaving her hair before we left on this trip. These are just a few of the “romantic experiences” that I recall with fondness now 4 years later. They are the memories that strengthen our bond today and will well into the future.
Our partnership is enhanced by our own form of romance which we’ve developed in 3.5 years of spending 24/7 writing, traveling, and living together. We don’t have romantic, candlelit dinners and rarely stroll along a beach holding hands. Instead, we incorporate activities we absolutely love and find the romance of sharing them together.
Romance in Unexpected Places
I find romance in hiking for day on end together – just the 2 of us. We first experienced this last year when we hiked the West Highland Way for 7 days in Scotland. It was romantic to be out in nature with the woman I love. To feel like it was just us, supporting each other with each step. I recall the comfort of being together in silence as we walked. Each lost in our own thoughts, but always close enough to share ideas as they arose. Each evening we would work together to find our camping spot and set up our “home” for the night. It was an example of working completely in tune with each other in the midst of stress and exhaustion. To me it encapsulated of our partnership and all that I wanted from another person. That hike helped me realize just how much we can accomplish if we put our minds together and support each other through it, and what could be more romantic than that?
Our Pilot/Co-Pilot arrangement is surprisingly romantic. We began implementing this concept in January thanks to the advice of 2 great friends, Kent and Canaan of No Vacation Required. Each month we take turns leading the decision making process. This is not a license for a “monthly dictator”, but instead an opportunity for us to trade off the responsibility of driving decisions. The Pilot is responsible for guiding the process of decisions from where to eat today to where should be go to next. The Co-Pilot manages the implementation of the plans and ensures that the decisions are carried out. This trade off has helped me realize that I do not always need to be in control. It has also showed me the amazing talent Betsy has for creative thinking. She continues to impress me each day she takes on the role of Pilot and guides us in unexpected directions. I’m finding that I am closer to her because of this practical approach to decision making because we are true partners in the process. By switching off taking the lead I can appreciate her ability to lead while feeling completely comfortable giving up the control I always thought I needed to be happy. The result is less stress, less fighting, and a greater appreciation for the relationship we’ve built.
Possibly the single most romantic thing we do together with our clothes on is reading to each other. We picked up this idea while recording a podcast with bestselling author Melissa Foster and her husband, Les. After she finishes writing a book she reads it out loud to him. I found this one of the most romantic ideas I’ve heard and wanted to give it a try. We started this week with Betsy reading a few chapters each morning while we enjoy our coffee and breakfast. It is a fantastic way to connect in a new way and to share the book we’ve created together. I find that by putting a voice to the words we are able to experience the story in a new way, bringing us closer in the process. Going forward I want to read Betsy her favorite books, go back and read all our previous works to each other, and share in the joys of reading and talking about articles we discover. This is opening a new level of intimacy in our relationship and another great example of how we are bringing romance into our relationship in unexpected ways.
Enjoy the Ride
I love how our relationship has grown the last 3.5 years on the road. I feel closer and more connected to Betsy than ever and incomplete when she is not here standing beside me. Each day I find that my life is better because I get to share it with her, and that idea alone fills me with romantic notions. It is not the traditional romance that I long for though, it is the various unconventional ways we bring romance our lives each day that stirs me with desire and passion. From walking in the hills, to trading off decisions, to beginning the mornings listening to the words from our book I find that my life is filled with love.
It in embracing the unconventional together which makes me realize we truly are perfect for each other.