(You can find part I here – The Netherlands Part I – Prologue)
On April 30 of this year, my husband and I anxiously lugged our clothes, toiletries, and my several cameras onto an airplane that would bring me back to the country I’ve been missing for the past 7 years. It was like a dream. In my mind I knew I should be SO EXCITED, and I think I was, but outwardly I was more just doing one step and then the other. In my defense, there were a lot of steps, so I had to focus to make sure I wasn’t missing any. As much as vacations can be fun and relaxing, they’re also so stressful, right?
But, the travel part wasn’t too bad. At first. In total, our travel time was 16 hours (the flight as well as walking, cars, and train travel). My poor husband was quite cramped on the plane so it was harder for him. Luckily, I’m a pretty small lady, so although I wouldn’t say plane are comfortable, it just isn’t as tight for me. I can curl up into a ball like an armadillo and zonk out better than most.
The part where things got a little dicey, was when we landed. To me, this is the scariest part of traveling overseas. Once you land, you’re on your own. Hopefully, you’ve made preparations to get to your new home and you can just be whisked away to your safe place to plan for the next excursion. If you’ve missed anything though, it’s easy to feel totally lost. This time last year, I remember texting my dad back and forth in the wee hours of the morning, trying to figure out where in Italy he was so I could help him find his apartment. What do you even do? We couldn’t call and he struggled to describe where he was and THERE ARE CHURCHES EVERYWHERE so don’t tell me you’re next to a church! It wasn’t that he didn’t prepare either. You just get mixed up sometimes. I get lost on the way to the grocery store sometimes still!
So, we landed, and I think I made the best decision I could have in our situation. I said we should stop for coffee. I’m so used to wanting to go-go-go so we get to our destination. No rest until we can REALLY rest. But, we’d just been on a long overnight flight, and we weren’t very awake or aware, there were so many people hustling and bustling to get where they needed to go, and everyone seemed to know what to do except for us. I could feel our stress levels beginning to rise. But, we were there. No exactly where we wanted to be yet, but we had made it to the Netherlands. There wasn’t a reason to be in a rush, so we took a little break, ordered our first cups of espresso, and just let it sink in for a minute while we anticipated the next leg of the journey.
It wasn’t the smoothest transition. My husband thought I knew what to do, because I had been there before. I thought he knew what to do because he just always does. I had done some research on how to use the trams and actually made a plan of exactly which one we needed to take and to which stop. But the tricky stuff is the details. Where do you get a ticket? Where is the stop? Where am I right now? So, for a little bit, we felt that desperate fear of being totally lost. The ticket machine didn’t work, it was freezing outside, and we couldn’t read any signs. My heart was starting to sink. I felt scared and alone like I did 7 years ago and I was in Amsterdam by myself. But, I got through it and was stronger than when I started back then, and I knew I could do that again. We eventually found a working machine and managed to learn what we didn’t know, and then we hoped on a tram, somewhat confident it would take us where we needed to go. And you know what? It did.
Now, I’m not saying that we’re expert travelers now, or that we’ll never get scared again or every feel lost out there in the big world, but I think we’ll be stronger next time. One of the major lessons I learned for traveling with my husband, to really anywhere, is that we don’t naturally travel well together. We don’t really know what to expect from each other, I think. I assume he will take charge, because he usually does. But in this case, he assumed I would take charge, because I had experience. But neither of us knew what the other expected. We talked about it a bit after, and realized that we not only had difference expectations, but we also have different perspectives on what is and isn’t worth stressing about.
For me, I’m more of a go-with-the-flow kind of person. I’ve worked with a couple photographers in the industry who always have a very specific plan of action for a wedding day, or even a portrait session. But I’ve seen them get overwhelmed too when things don’t play out in that exact order. I’m not saying that’s a bad way to go about your business. It just doesn’t work for me. I like to go in, aware of the situation, but I know things are going to change at the last minute, or someone will make a goof and we’ll have to adjust. It doesn’t bother me, because I expect to have to roll with it, and I like it that way. In addition to being more flexible, I think my eyes are more open to what’s going on around me because I’m not so focussed on the next step of the process. So, I guess I’m the same way in other aspects of my life, in this case, traveling. Probably not the best idea going in. I don’t skip planning how we get somewhere, but I just don’t worry about it too much.
My husband needs to know what’s going on. Understandably. I would venture to say he’s a bit more responsible than I am (although I still have to make his doctor appointments for him). So, he needs lists and plans and details. All good things, but when these things aren’t available to him, he can get tense and confused. But, he’s pretty much perfect, right? So I have very little experience dealing with him being at his whit’s end.
Both of us would have eventually gotten to our destination had we been traveling alone. Maybe with more stress. Maybe with less. We just do it differently. But, I think we can make it easier, and work together to find our roles as travel partners. I bet I can help him find some ease when we are a little lost, and I bet he can help me learn how to read signs better and pick out the people who look like they can help. And even if we don’t, and we still get stressed from time to time on a trip because neither of us are on the same page and we don’t know what’s going on, we’ll still be doing it together, and I’d rather have that than anything alone.
I guess this post was more about marriage than travel! Stay tuned for the next part where I talk about acceptance, when things just aren’t what you think they should be.