i was born with a severe case of wanderlust -the innate desire to explore the world around me; to learn of cultures, histories, and points of interest different than my own. luckily i have been incredibly blessed to have parents with a similar zest for exploration and have been given the opportunity to exchange the images of the rolling hills of green in ireland, the fresco-ed ceilings of italian chapels, and even the palm-tree laden beaches of hawaii, found in history books and travel guides, for the real deal. and those trips (and many more like them) will forever stay etched in my mind because in addition to the trip itself, perhaps the greater treasure lies in sharing said experience with someone you love.
they say you can gage the strength of a relationship -whether it be familial, platonic, or romantic -by testing it under the inevitable stresses that come along with traveling -from a simple road trip up the coast to an international flight to an exotic locale, the sentiments are the same. there are bound to be hiccups along the way -wrong turns, missed flights, language barriers, less than acceptable accommodations (all hostels are not created equal) -but it’s how you choose to handle them as a couple that defines the experience.
i’ve watched many seasons of the amazing race, a reality competition that pins teams of two against each other on a race around the world for the one million dollar prize. along the journey, the pairs are required to complete a series of tasks, testing the contestants not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. throw in severe jet lag, sleep deprivation, hunger pains, and simply the stresses that accompany acclimating into a new environment filled with its own customs and cultural norms, and you have the perfect storm for a severe breakdown. and my goodness, have i seen some embarrassing blowouts between couples over the years -husbands blaming wives for misreading maps, sisters accosting brothers for their lack of physicality, father’s taking out their aggressions on their innocent sons. and while, yes, it makes for some dramatic and entertaining television, i am always more taken by the couples who choose to sort out conflict in a more civilized manner. they are a team in every sense of the word. working toward the same goal, while their solution doesn’t come without compromise (from both parties), it more often than not ultimately results in their success. and if not, at least they can leave the competition knowing that they not only played the game, but also enjoyed each leg of the journey, in a manner that both preserved and maybe even strengthened the bond they entered with.
on my most recent trip to and from lindbergh field, i managed to make temporary friends (shocker) with the lady standing behind me in the southwest boarding line. we began chatting about travel and the demands of many of our fellow airplane companions, and ultimately about how every wrinkle in even the best-laid plans (of mice & men) can be approached by the parties involved in one of two ways.
“we always say in our family, you can choose to make it an adventure or an ordeal.”
wait, i kind of loved that. because when it all boils down to it, isn’t that how we should approach all of life’s problems?
y’all know i have had my fair share of whoopsies moments -accidentally sent emails, word vomit at the most inopportune time, and an almost wardrobe malfunction or five. but that’s life; it gets messy and embarrassing and even at times downright arduous, but it is in our response to it that we find out who we truly are -how we proceed with the speed bumps when we’re so used to navigating smoother ground. will it become an ordeal or an adventure, it is really our choice to make.
on that fateful (just kidding, despite my body’s rejection of nature, i really did have a great time) trip to joshua tree, my guy and i had, let’s say, a small issue with locating the campsite. and after fourish hours logged on the road and as the clock ticked closer to midnight, it was quite clear that we were more than ready to just be there already.
so after the third time of missing the “supposed” turn, we finally saw the writing on the wall –we were lost. so in the blackness of the night, we pulled over on the side of the road to collect ourselves, reassess, and ultimately hatch a game plan.
the moment had arrived –adventure or ordeal.
well, we’re both still alive, meaning we didn’t kill each other -and i’m not implying that all “ordeals” end in death, rather simply stating that we chose to make our less than ideal situation the former over the latter. and almost as quickly as we shifted our attitudes did our fate shift as well. after google gps was able to finally locate our longitude and latitude coordinates, we found our way to the campsite soon thereafter.
it’s funny to think that my southwest flight companion’s advice was doled out nearly a month after the aforementioned incident because while i may not have had her words of counsel ringing in my ears, i can’t help but conclude that i did my best to adhere to the very same principle in the midst of this situation. i distinctly remember channeling all of the patience and peace i could muster, despite my emotions dictating the contrary. but as my fears began to bubble over (actual snippet from my internal dialogue at the time -“we will surely be forced to sleep in the car and totally be eaten by wild animals in the middle of the night”), i concluded that no amount of my whining or tantrum-throwing would bring us any closer to finding our way. making this particular unforeseen blip into an ordeal would do neither of us any good. rather, perhaps this would be a story we could look back upon with fondness as it not only provided us with the opportunity to work together -further highlighting how we may approach conflicts (probably a lot greater than simply missing a right-hand turn) down the road (no pun intended), but also highlighted how we were able to take a potential recipe for disaster and turn it into our own little adventure.
we may not be ready for the amazing race, but equipped with this simple life principle, i’m pretty sure we’ll make it over our next speed bump (even if it’s, you know, an actual speed bump) relatively unscathed.
you make plans and then life gets in the way. and while you may not be able to elect the hardships you face, you can most certainly choose the reaction you will have to them.
as for me (and i think i speak for my guy as well), i’ll take the adventure any day.