Bill Murray is a very wise man. He once gave a young couple some advice that went something like, if you love someone take that person and travel the world. If you still love them when you get back then they are the one for you and you should get married immediately.
I really couldn’t agree more and I’ll be imparting these wise words to my babies when they find love as this is exactly how Andrew and I started our life together.
About three months into our relationship, Andrew proposed an absolutely preposterous idea. He said ‘Let’s go backpacking round Europe for two months’. I thought he was totally mad! There’s bound to be some pretty stressful situations when you’re traveling for so long that could bring out the worst in people and wreck their relationship.
But after about 3 seconds I decided I’d be stupid not to. We both seemed fairly chilled out and pretty compatible so hopefully we’d keep a level head if things went pear shaped. We had a bit more to risk than some couples as we also worked together which would make it totes awkward (that one’s for you Alec, if you’re reading this) if we came back hating each other.
‘Oh well, screw it’ I thought. If we couldn’t get through the low level stresses of a fun holiday then what hope did we have during the crapola moments of real life? No point flogging a dead horse, as they say. Best to work out if the horse is dead now rather than in a few years time.
So six months into our relationship we headed off into the great unknown. Major spoiler alert – our relationship survived. We ended up getting married and having two beautiful babies, who are currently sitting next to me writing songs about boobs.
But during that trip we did encounter a few incidents that could have made the outcome completely different if we were different people.
Here are some highlights (or lowlights if you’re a glass half empty type of person).
1) Despite my general awesomeness, you may be shocked to know that I have some flaws, one of which is not being able to read maps. This defect got us completely lost when Andrew was attempting to drive out of Montpellier. I ended up navigating Andrew into what I thought was a tunnel out of the city but was, in fact, a car park. We had to pay the equivalent of $15 to get out.
2) We were pretty chuffed with ourselves for acquiring ridiculously cheap Ryanair flight to Prague from Germany ($15 from memory). While heartily complimenting each other on our way to the airport bus, we realised we missed the bus by about 10 seconds and ended up having to pay $150 to get a taxi there.
3) We were happily playing cards with a bunch of Germans in an overnight train to Frankfurt when they asked us what our plans were in Munich. That’s when we realised the train was going to splits in half in the middle of the night and the half we were in was going to Munich. Close call!!!
4) The hotel we were suppose to stay in in Barcelona was locked when we arrived and the owner uncontactable. After sitting on the doorstep for about 2 hours we gave up and went to the tourist office. There was only one hotel that had any rooms available as it was a festival weekend. The room ended up being three times the price of our initially booked one but they did serve cocktails at 9am!!
5) We were completely unorganised and didn’t book accommodation in the south of France. Surely it would be easy to spontaneously find a place there in the peak of summer. Turns out we were wrong. We were two seconds away from sleeping in the car but were saved by some lovely French people who we’ve been friends with ever since.
To us, all these are fun stories that made our trip more exciting. To others they may have ruined their day, their trip or worse, their relationship.
When things go wrong in another country it can be a bit scary. The stress can make you become self absorbed and you can forget that your partner is stressed too. Travelling is a great way to find out if your partnership cracks under pressure and whether you lose it with each other or whether you support each other and work as a team to overcome the problem.
Some people would also say travelling helps you work out if you like doing the same things. I take a different slant on it. You don’t have to both like doing the same things or share all of the same interests but how willing are you to support each other’s interests and tag along? If both of you are equally supportive and end up happily doing things for each other that would ordinarily be out of your comfort zone then that’s a probably a good sign for your future relationship. Saying that, I wouldn’t go skydiving or watch Andrew plummet to the earth at an ungodly velocity, so I do have my limits.
Since that trip we’ve been lucky enough to travel two more times around Europe. We’ve gone to Japan a couple of times as well as Hong Kong, New Zealand and Thailand. Half these trips have been with two kids in tow.
I’ve really noticed on this trip what awesome little travellers Oli and Lucy have become and how happy they are, no matter what terrible abuse we put them through. They’ve been dragged to more churches than any atheist should ever see in their entire life. They’ve been forced to go to so many museums, galleries and palaces that if they documented this torture and filed for emancipation from us the judge would grant it on the spot.
But I regret nothing! For one thing, they are learning a lot about history and art. More importantly, they are learning how to make the most of situations they wouldn’t ordinarily enjoy. Luckily they revel in each other’s company and these trips end up being fun adventures together. I’d even go so far as to say their positive attitude is turning into them actually enjoying these ‘boring’ things. If they can retain this attitude of happily giving things a go for the ones they love then they are well on their way to becoming fantastic life partners.
And there’s no better or more fun way to see if they and their future partners love each other enough to retain this positive attitude than to travel together.
We’ll definitely be telling the kids to grab their new loves by the hand and go see this amazing world together, for this and many other reasons. If they don’t listen to us then I’m sure they’ll listen to Bill as he is a pretty darn cool dude.