What I learned circling the globe with my new husband.
I met my husband in New Zealand in 2005. He's from Melbourne, I'm from New York. Four years later we were married, and promptly took off to follow the sun on a 10-month round-the-world honeymoon. We started with three months of consecutive travel through Europe and Africa, stopped for a bit in Australia, then headed to Asia before returning to the United States via French Polynesia. We met new friends, visited world-renowned sites, saw beautiful animals, took thousands of photographs and created a lifetime of memories. There had been other travel experiences prior to that and have been others since, but this one helped shape a new me and started my marriage off on a defining note of adventure. Here's what I learned:
1. Flexibility Trumps Preparation
For three weeks before we headed out on our journey, I had no idea how to pack for that long. It was impossible to imagine every possible scenario. I found out that I didn't need to prepare for every possibility, I just needed to stay flexible. That meant learning to do more with less. It meant finding a doctor when I was sick in London and taking care of my husband when he came down with something in Egypt. It meant finding an apartment in Melbourne, making new friends, working on balance, and learning to challenge fear. Five years later, change meant throwing belongings in storage, packing the car with four plastic boxes, and driving across the country to find new adventure in southern California. The girl who used to "hate" change has now grown to embrace it.
2. Beginnings Start At All Ages
Prior to this voyage, my face time with my then-boyfriend/now-husband had been limited to one-week holidays. Turns out we did just fine being together 24/7. I had never camped out before. Turns out sleeping outside under the stars fully agrees with me. I'd never taken anti-malarials before and have since taken them many times in order to experience the incredible sights of Africa and Southeast Asia. I used to plan my trips based on how relaxing the beach would be. Today, we put adventure and cultural learning at the top of our "reasons to go" list. As long as you're willing to put in the effort and take the leap, beginnings can start at all ages and stages of life.
3. Patience Pays Off
I think I was born without the patience gene. I was the kid in class who couldn't wait to be called on, the fast-talking teacher who barely breathed between words, the New Yorker who didn't want to wait for the "Walk" light before crossing the street, the traveler flabbergasted at the (often) bureaucratic wait involved in getting a visa. But this trip finally taught me the benefits of patience. We often arrived early at airports and train stations to be sure we got our paperwork and luggage in on time. There were sites that required early arrivals and long lines to enter. Mother Nature has a mind of her own and technology sometimes doesn't work. On a recent trip to the Australian Outback, the Aboriginal community of Uluru taught us that patience is the main educational goal for its youth—once patience is learned, everything else is possible. Now living on the West Coast, I continue to try to embrace patience, stay that extra minute and take that extra breath.
4. Travel Remakes You
The rewards reaped from travel are far greater than the expense of the tickets. Our journey created new friendships, new hobbies, new memories, and new opportunities. We made our first "together friends" and have since traveled with and visited many of them all over the world. The trip inspired me to start a blog and a new venture into writing. It convinced me to look for a new way to make a difference in the world.
5. Euphoria Comes From Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone
This journey made me realize how small my comfort zone had always been. During it, I ditched a profession I had been in for over a decade, jumped off a cliff above Victoria Falls, walked with lions, got licked by a cheetah, got stuck in a standoff with zebras, was chased by a hippo, used my travel insurance, got sick in Vietnam, and had to find a new dentist in Australia. Each of these experiences was scary, and each time I conquered it, I felt spectacular. Each step broadened my comfort zone. Now, I can't imagine going back to what once was..
6.The World Is a Full of Good People
I grew up in New York and went to college in Massachusetts. This trip opened my eyes to a far greater world perspective and a global lifestyle. I found communities and people across the globe all looking for the same things for themselves and their families. Most were genuine and kind. More than most were looking for work, compassion, education, good healthcare, happiness and their own place in the world. They were interested in making a difference in their families' lives and in their communities. Travel lets you meet the actual person underneath the nationality, ethnicity or religion. It forces you to rely on the kindness of strangers. The world we see portrayed in the media is often slanted and focused on the negative. I'm so grateful I had the first-hand experience of learning how similar people are around the world.
7.There's More to Life Than Work
Before we left, we had very traditional views about work. I was a high school teacher and extracurricular club advisor to four large-scale clubs; my husband was (and still is) an accountant. We often worked a more than 40 hours a week. I spent each summer as an aquatics director at a day camp as well as teaching private swimming lessons after hours. We were lucky to go on holidays over many school breaks, but timing was limited and the cost exuberant. Since the honeymoon, though, we've ditched the traditional, incorporated travel into our way of life, and welcomed the idea of working to live instead of living to work. Sure, there's change involved—financial, geographic, and emotional—but we decided to prioritize our quality of life as opposed to waiting for weekends and constantly yearning for much-needed holiday breaks. We've crafted an outdoor lifestyle 365 days a year that allows us to look forward to coming home as much as we do to heading out. —Stacey Ebert
This article was originally published in Together, a magazine and podcast about relationships. To listen to their podcast, visit www.together.guide.