Updated: Aug 27
You don't need me to spout out the stats to know that relationships are difficult. Marriages dissolve, friends grow apart, families split and parents run away. I overheard this a few days ago. "Do you know what the biggest cause of divorce is today? Marriage." Chuckle chuckle. I don't want to focus on the negative, however, because there are things that help. Travel can be one of them.
Sandy and I are about to happily celebrate our anniversary. (Feel free to send lots of gifts.) In so many ways we are still new to the whole marriage thing and yet according to many we are veterans - sadly. And it does not stop there. In fact just last night, I was watching a recording of Ravi Zacharias, a well known and respected Christian apologist who said that his primary regret is that he cannot turn back time 30 years to spend more time with his children. Sound familiar?
The key is time. Relationships of all sorts like friendships, marriages, and families take time. Often things get in the way. They may be necessary tasks like doing the laundry and cooking dinner or even a "good" activity such as volunteering in a community service organization and yet they have the potential to all add up to a busy life without any time to stop and spend with those we love. Over years this can breed resentment and frustration. So what do we do to grow strong, healthy relationships and create lasting memories we can cherish?
I would suggest three things that will help make a strong relationship.
1. Recognize that relationships are tough and take work. Dr. Phil has a handy dandy "Relationship Health Profile Test" to help get you started in checking the health of your relationships.
2. Decide that you are not willing for your relationships to suffer.
3. Make the time (notice I did not say 'find the time') for those people with whom you have a relationship and want to build a better one. Health Magazine starts "29 days to a Healthier Relationship" with the the encouragement to "try something new together".
Grow closer to your family. Shared experiences.
Travel helps us to create new memories with those we love. Part of what makes those memories so special is that they are shared. I have the pleasure of traveling the world and have done a number of things on my own. I visited Iceland a few months ago and had a wonderful time by myself, however, there is something special about experiencing a new place with someone you care about.
It never truly sunk in for me as to how travel can directly affect someone's relationships until a few months ago when I traveled to Bermuda with my dad. Never having made a journey with just the two of us, I did not know what to expect. Two things happened, one expected and one not.
This was a first experience for him. He had never been on a cruise before and had never been outside of the US other than going to Canada to meet my in-laws a few years ago. We talked, entered into the most manly of sports - the beanbag toss, and watched the waves while the stormy surf pounded against the black rocks jutting into the sky. We created some great memories we will cherish for life. He was amazed and his wonder was contagious. The simple things that I often get jaded about when traveling stood out in stark contrast as my dad experienced it for the first time and allowed me to be more appreciative of the wonderful opportunities. This was expected (kind of).
A week or two after coming home, my mom made the comment "I need to send dad away more often". Curious, I asked why. She said, "we have something more to talk about." The potentially monotonous question "what did you do today?" (Of course the proper response is "nothing" or if you are particularly eloquent, "nothing much".) became much more intriguing. They could now share stories, pictures and new experiences. A good relationship could now become even better.
Similar stories can be told about my relationship with Sandy. You can imagine how a recent trip to Israel might spark conversation over the experience of standing in the tomb that Jesus spent a night in under the High Priest's house or taking a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. This result of travel was not expected but certainly welcomed.
Just today someone quoted their dad as saying "no one is promised tomorrow". So true. We need to make the most of each day and appreciate those people who are blessings in our lives - those who we have the opportunity to spend time with now. Don't wait because the future is never certain.
Rekindle romance. Surprise!
Travel can lead to romance. Taking time to spend with that special someone can certainly happen at home or in the local area but when you travel outside of your normal every day life it tends to heighten the experience. Fondly, I remember listening to live jazz music while relaxing in the beautiful pool on our honeymoon in Thailand, a bed sprinkled with vibrant flower petals, and a special dinner next to the waters edge where we enjoyed freshly caught fish and a great conversation. I remember laughing as we changed our shoes and hid them in the bushes outside of a gated restaurant in Australia. I remember the surprise (Sandy did not know) and happiness and romance of spending a few nights over the pristine waters of French Polynesia in a private bungalow with stairs leading straight into watery paradise and a glass coffee table designed so we could watch the fish swimming below. Just be careful, that spark of romance might ignite a passionate blaze! (We don't think you will mind.)
Conflict resolution. Let's figure this out together.
Travel can teach you valuable communication and conflict resolution skills. One of our favorite ways to get around in other countries is to rent a car and drive. I've personally driven in some pretty crazy places with traffic that makes New York City look tame - all the while driving on the opposite side of the road (not to mention a manual transmission and a car with no power steering). We have driven in "fun cars" and scooters, taken trains, airplanes, and helicopters. We have walked until our feet gave out, rode horses, kayaked and asked for directions over and over again. At times we wanted to kill each other. When traveling in an unfamiliar place it can get stressful finding out where to go but it has also been a wonderful way to develop our communication and realize that we can work together. We have been challenged, gotten angry, and learned how to deal with it - together. Use the tough times as learning experiences and opportunities to grow in your relationships together.
Suggestions: Set a time of the week to have a family night. Go rent some movies or video games, turn out the lights and enjoy some down time together. Want to get away from the TV? Turn it off and have your friends over for a board game night. You might even enjoy yourself. Make some playdough (edible or not) with your kids and create some fun ornaments to put on your Christmas tree next year. Bring a bunch of pizzas to the office for an impromptu midday party with your colleagues (be sure to get this approved by your boss first).
Surprise your wife by taking a 1/2 day off work. Bring her some fresh flowers or treat her to a couples massage in Hershey. On vacation, write a love letter and send it to the resort ahead of time to be placed on the pillow. Surprise your man by renting one of his favorite cars for a few days of fun. Arrange for a private candlelight dinner on the beach. Go camping and watch the stars. Order that very special bottle of wine at your favorite restaurant and enjoy talking while you savor its rich flavor. Take salsa dancing lessons in Japan with your sweetheart or learn how to scuba dive together in the Caribbean.
DID YOU KNOW? At Travel Simplicity we love to surprise people. Whether we are helping honeymooners to surprise each other, creating a special memory as a gift from one person to another or creating a complete surprise trip where none of the members know what is going to happen, we are constantly working to create little moments of joy in people's lives because we know that travel changes people. It is the little details that make a vacation, honeymoon or destination wedding really make you smile. When dealing with people who are special (you), we feel it is worth the extra effort to surprise you with something you are just going to love. After all, you are loved.