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Growing Together through Travel

Growing together through Travel

My husband and I celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary in July. We were high school sweethearts and married young. It’s hard to believe that he has been a part of my life longer than not.

Celebrating our 20th anniversary

Celebrating our 20th Wedding Anniversary

We’ve had our share of ups and downs, who hasn’t? But I can’t imagine spending my life with anyone else- even if our daughter insists that we’re polar opposites. And she is right.

We have some things in common. Our faith. Our children. Our love of travel.

But that’s pretty much where the similarities end. There’s a lot that we don’t have in common.

I’m social. He’s not.

He’s content to stay home when he’s not working. I’m not.

He likes to watch TV- I don’t.

He loves Sci-Fi, which I abhor.

I love to get lost in a great book. He doesn’t.

His dream car is a Porsche. I think they’re ugly.

He rarely touches a computer. I live on mine.

He loves to talk politics. I avoid the subject.

He wakes up happy. I don’t.

I’m a night owl. He’s in bed by eight.

You probably get the picture.

Despite our differences, we complement each other.

And so when it comes to husband’s, I feel as though I struck the jackpot.

But marriage hasn’t always been smooth sailing.

As a homeschooling mom, I felt as though much of my energy was focused on our kids and getting through the day. There was little left for my husband, who traveled often with his job. Sometimes the kids and I would pack up and travel with him. The five of us would crowd into a hotel room and eventually in an RV.

There was little room for privacy or intimacy. With no family or friends nearby, date nights were out of the question. Our relationship still “looked” solid on the outside, but there were times I wondered if our foundation was crumbling.

Sometimes, I feared that we were only together for the kids.

I wondered how our relationship would transition after they were grown. Would we continue to be happy together? What on earth would we talk about when the kids were no longer at home?

I began to fear the moment we would become empty nesters.

Our kids are preparing to leave the nest.  With each child working full-time, or in school, or both, we see them less and less.  The days of sitting around the dinner table as a family on a daily basis are long gone as days go by when I barely see the kids. The same is true of my husband. He works for weeks on end out of state with our oldest son. And I’m busy too, often traveling with my job. Whoever told me life slows down once the kids are grown told me a fib. That’s not been my experience at all.

Sometimes I feel like my husband and I are pulled in opposite directions.

We try to make time for each other. I know he’ll call me in the morning before he heads to work and he’ll often check on me during the day but our conversations are normally short and to the point. Sometimes our conversations seem routine, like a conversation I could have with anyone, not with the man I’ve lived with most of my life.

When I was presented with an opportunity to visit Belize with a guest, I knew it was exactly what my husband and I needed. Not to mention, Belize is a destination he’s dreamed of visiting.

Flying to Belize on a direct flight from Houston with Southwest Airlines

With heavy protests from our children, we packed our bags and excitedly flew Southwest Airlines to Houston to catch our flight to Belize City. My husband, excited to spend time in Belize. Me, excited to spend time with my husband, who had spent much of the past month working away from home.

We flew into the William P. Hobby Airport which was a flurry of activity. With the opening of a new international terminal offering direct flights to select Caribbean and Latin American locations, came new stores, restaurants, and a celebration complete with a Mariachi band.

A Mariachi Band was celebrating the opening of the international terminal at Houston's Hobby Airport

Our flight was fun too- not an easy feat for this lady who really struggles with flying. I think Southwest spoiled me for all future flights. This one was full of fun and games- singing, flag waving (it happens), trivia games with giveaways and each passenger even received a swag bag with a Southwest beach towel and other goodies. How fun is that? And how perfect is the beach towel for Belize?

The Southwest inaugural flight to Belize lands in Belize City to much fanfare

We felt like celebrities as we landed in Belize City. Local TV channels were there to cover the event and Belize Tourism passed out goodie bags, beer and rum.  It was fun to be part of the fanfare, but honestly, I was really looking forward to reaching our resort. We met our driver outside the airport and rode to the marina to board a boat to St. George’s Caye, a semi-private island off the mainland.

We’d chosen an intimate, inclusive resort to relax while we were in the country. Our bags were packed with swimsuits and not much else, as we planned to snorkel, kayak, and spend time in the water for three full days.  We could have booked excursions from the island, but this trip was all about getting away from it all and relaxing.

A colorful cocktail was waiting for us when we arrived at St. George's Caye Resort in Belize

The friendly and attentive staff at St. George’s Caye Resort met us on the dock with a cocktail and short tour of the resort. As we walked the path to the office, a large white crab scurried across the sandy path and into a hole under a coconut tree. This resort was just what I had imagined; our vacation was off to an idyllic start and I was ready to spend a few romantic days with my husband in paradise.

Relaxing at St. George's Caye Resort between rain showers

As with family travel, we quickly realized that even the best laid plans can go awry. After all, we have no control over the weather. We saw more rain in Belize during our four days in the country than the Belizeans had seen in four months.

All was not lost. I knew rain was a possibility so I had packed several books and magazines. Not to mention the time indoors gave my husband and me plenty of time to focus on us. It turns out, the trip was exactly what we needed.  We talked, laughed, napped and generally relaxed. After two weeks apart, it was great to have my husband’s undivided attention.

And we did manage to fit in a few minutes of kayaking between rain showers.

Kayaking in Belize- in the rain

Traveling together can be a deal breaker for many couples. It’s easy to get along when everything goes smoothly. After many years of travel, I’ve learned that travel rarely goes perfectly. You’ll get lost, your hotel room will be a disappointment, or you’ll find the destination leaves a lot to be desired- I write from experience.  All these things can put a kink not only in your vacation, but in your relationship as well. How you and your spouse (or partner) handle unpredictable circumstances can make or break a vacation and ultimately a relationship. You have the opportunity to grow closer together or further apart.

My husband and I choose to grow closer together. We’ve learned to shrug off the things that don’t matter and laugh when there’s nothing else that can be done. Our trip to Belize wasn’t all we had hoped, but I’m glad we went.  We were able to visit a country we’d dreamed of, we stayed at a beautiful resort, and we were able to spend some much needed time together.

I realized during our trip that I truly appreciate my husband. He works incredibly hard for his family. He’s always there for me and the kids. He’s easy to get along with and generally goes with the flow. He rarely loses his temper, he complains little and has a great sense of humor. And more than that, my husband and I are comfortable with one another. And even though we’ve been married longer than we’ve been apart, that man still makes me go weak in the knees.

The past few years have shown me that we’re not simply passing time together until our kids are grown and out of the house. We’re growing closer together. We make time for each other. We communicate (key!). We enjoy being together. We’re in this thing called life together, for the long haul. And it doesn’t matter if we go on vacation to a perfect island paradise and it rains for three days straight. It just shows us that we can weather the storms in life, together.

How do you find time for your spouse? What do you like to do that allows you to grow closer together?

Thank you to Southwest Airlines for the opportunity to be on the inaugural flight to Belize. 

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Jen Reyneri

Monday 30th of November 2015

I love reading this and how your differences complement each other- and FINALLY the chance to have met in person. Excited for the next time our paths will cross in real life, my friend. Blessings to you~ Jen

Tonya

Wednesday 2nd of December 2015

Thanks, Jen! It was so great to finally meet! After how many years??? Crazy, huh? We need to touch base and follow up with some of those ideas we had at the conference. :)

Melissa

Monday 23rd of November 2015

I love this. My husband and I love to travel together but it's been a long time since we have without kids. We need to do a trip just us!

Tonya

Wednesday 2nd of December 2015

I think every couple needs to make time for themselves. Even if it's only a few hours away- do what you can to have that time with your spouse. And if you can get away for a trip, all the better. ;)

Crystal

Monday 23rd of November 2015

Traveling can be stressful, but it brings out the best in my husband and myself as a couple. We both love experiencing new things and are quick to let go of the daily grind that we deal with at home. I hope there are more travels ahead!

Tonya

Wednesday 2nd of December 2015

I can't say travel has always brought out the best in my husband and I. ;) I think that's just a testament to how we have grown over the years. There were times a wrong turn could completely derail a trip. Thankfully, we've grown past that.

Carrow

Sunday 22nd of November 2015

Wow- I could completely relate to this. We married and had kids young too. Two are in college and last one in school and works part time. So it is less than a year and a half until we are empty nesters. I was wondering if we were the only ones like us out there that will be able to travel soon but not be old! We are planning on getting an airstream RV when the last one graduates. It would be wonderful to connect with some other early empty nesters online or on the travel road!

Tonya

Wednesday 2nd of December 2015

Thanks so much for the comment and I'm glad this post resonates with others. There is an entire community of Full-time RVer's out there. We were for over a year with the kids and now my husband and I are on the hunt for a vintage (but not Airstream- though I LOVE them) camper so we can hit the road again too. This time without the kids. Keep in touch and let me know when you hit the road. Maybe we can meet up.

Tracy

Saturday 21st of November 2015

Great post, Tonya! I'm in the middle of my kids' young years. My husband and I haven't taken any trips without the kids yet, that I can think of, but I'm okay with that. The kids will be grown soon and time is flying. We're actually pretty boring on our date nights- ha!

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