En Route to Madrid
(Embry speaking.) We are now on the train to Madrid, having finished Leg 3 of our journey. The Home Exchange was a wonderful experience. We spent the last two days with Juan and Vincen, who returned so that she could begin work yesterday. We have much in common with both of them. In particular, Vincen and I are in the same profession (public health research concerning women and children), and I was amazed to discover that we had worked for some time at the same French institute (INSERM). Our offices had been next door to each other, and we worked with the same people. How serendipity is that? Juan is retired as an environmental economist. He spent a day driving us into the countryside to the lovely seaside town of Denia, where we had a great meal and saw lots of boats, which of course appealed to “the Captain”.
Someone asked “What is it like to travel the world for four months with one person? Is that hard?” This made me reflect a bit on what makes a good traveling companion, and how we have worked out this aspect of the trip. It can be challenging since there are many decisions and compromises to be made in both the planning ahead and the day-to-day decisions.
First, we have been married for almost 50 years (of which, partially, this trip is a celebration). So we have had plenty of time to work out how to relate to each other, and what buttons to push (or not push), and when. Our friend, J.Vic, is a certified Myers-Briggs tester; and when he tested us both he let us know that the difference in our personalities that could lead to “issues” has to do with Joe being an extreme extrovert and my being a moderate introvert. He needs to talk a lot to “charge his batteries” and I need “alone time” to charge mine. This let us know that we need to “talk time” and “alone time” each day.
One other thing that helps reduce stress is “specialization.” By this I mean that Joe (who has a MUCH better sense of direction than me) is the “map guy,” and I am the one who orders the food and asks for directions. I have this job because I am not shy about making mistakes, and he has that “guy trait” of never wanting to look bad. I am sure that if you had a traveling companion for this long a journey, you would do the same, regardless of gender or talents, since it is just easiest to divide up the stressful jobs, just like at home.
Also, we are not so young anymore and we both have an understanding that we need to plan for enough rest each day or most days. This has been easy so far, but we have actually finished the most relaxing legs of the trip, so we are both going to have to concentrate on this in the upcoming part of the trip. Otherwise we will get grumpy.
Some of you have heard Joe’s sermon at weddings about our metaphor for a “good marriage” It has the meat of potatoes of trust and respect. It is just not a real stew (marriage) without these two basic ingredients. However, the best stew also has both vegetables and spices for a good flavor, and it is good to mix these up for variety. The vegetables are the fun and humor of life. The spices are, well “you know what.” This trip is mostly been about the vegetables, and we are having lots of fun together and laughing a lot. We are really adding to the flavor of our already-good marriage with this trip. (For example, Joe will tell you in another blog about the belly laughs we have had over our Spanish-English phrase book.) I think having fun with your companion is what makes it possible to overcome the daily fatigue and inevitable annoyances that come along with any traveling adventure.
I am not going to go into the spices of the marriage. My editor has informed me that this is not an X-rated blog. For that topic I suggest you read the recent New York Times article about “Sex over Seventy.” That even has facts and figures in it. And that’s all I’m allowed to say about this topic! Off to Madrid.