(In 2005, I traveled around the world and then went on to speak about the experience for the Sierra Club and REI. I created this concept to help people have more successful trips with their travel mates. I have had many people ask for me this information so below are the key points from that presentation and my story. I have since showed how this can be used in the corporate environment as well.)
We knew spending 7 months circling the globe wasn’t going to be easy. We knew we’d want time alone. And, we knew we might not come home on the same plane if we didn’t travel well together. It was the ultimate way to start a new relationship. Two months after our first date I mentioned my lifelong dream of traveling around the world. A spark ignited in her eyes. From that moment, I knew she would be my travel mate and immediately we started talking about what we wanted to do, see, experience and all those things people talk about when planning a trip. But most importantly, we talked about how to stay together. And, come home together. PLEAD with your partner, it’s guaranteed to make for a smoother journey. Talking about each of the following areas made our journey more rewarding and will guarantee yours as well.
What’s important to you? To your partner? Whether it’s a seven-month journey around the globe or a week long cruise aboard a luxury liner, know your priorities. Do you want to sit on the Lido deck reading that steamy, trashy love novel when he wants to para sail, SCUBA dive, and race jet skis? Are you thinking tents on the beach and eating fish you just caught while he’s thinking 5-Star hotels with room service? It’s better to talk about this before you leave for the airport so as to not ruin the rare time away from work. As we started planning our trip, both of us set out our key priorities. Audrey looked at me and said, “I want to see Penguins and I want to walk on the Great Wall of China.” She, and I, also didn’t want to share a room with others. Our second day of the trip after just arriving in New Zealand, we went to the Penguin Preserve. One down!
Where do you draw the line? I can spend about 3 hours in any museum or attraction. That’s my upper limit at which time I get tired, hungry, and irritable. It could be the Louvre in Paris, the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. or the Forbidden City in China. As we ate dinner in China with fellow travelers talking about our day, we found they spent 7 hours in the Forbidden City. My head almost exploded after 2 ½. I looked at Audrey later that night and said, “I could never do that.” She agreed! Know your limits. Whether it’s time in a museum, amount of time in a bus, or number of suitcases, know where each draws the line.
50% of marriages end in divorce with the number one problem around having different financial expectations. Most fights occur because one partner was expecting to do one thing while the other was expecting to do something else. We talked about and agreed upon our budget before we left. Most importantly we truly agreed and not passively accepted the ‘terms’ in which one person could covertly overspend. We even watched it throughout the trip and decided to do things, or not to do things, based on the budget discussions we had had before getting on our first airplane. While this didn’t avoid disagreements, it did avoid fights. We also set expectations about how much time we’d be gone, how much planning we would do beforehand, and many other things. Some people won’t go on a trip without having every last minute scheduled, hotel and car arranged, and tour booked. Then there are those who decide where to go when they arrive at the airport at look at available flights. Most of us fall somewhere between these poles but do you know where?
Your partner is your lifeline to safety and sanity so make sure you treat him or her appropriately. It’s easy, when stressed because you can’t find a place to stay, or are hungry, to crack. And who better to take it out than the person next to you. It happens so apologize and make sure you acknowledge and appreciate the person who will sit next to you in many airplane seats, bus seats, or Tuk Tuk seats. We carried an “I Love You” 3 x 5 card which we traded with each other. When I had the ‘card’, I’d slip it into her suitcase, under her pillow, in her toiletries bag, or any place she’d unsuspectingly find it. Every time one of us would find the card, we’d get a little smile on our face. Little things go a long way.
Decision Making Process
207 days on the road, 3 meals a day, 1 hotel per night, and a lot of museums. Just those items alone come to about a thousand decisions. This doesn’t even begin to account for types of travel (bus, boat, train, horse, elephant or plane) or other daily activities. That is a lot of deciding and it can be tiring. We chose to switch off the decision making every other day. If it’s an odd day (e.g., 1st, 3rd, 5th, etc…) then Audrey decides what we do, where we go, where we eat. Even days, well those are mine. This doesn’t mean that she has complete control over my life on odd days because I have some say. At least I think I do. On June 25th after 26 days in China, she wanted Chinese food. If I saw another spring role, I’d puke. We found pizza. The next day we were trying to figure out what to do and neither of us really cared. She looked down at her watch and said, “It’s even…you decide.” Even to this day we split days.
162 days on the road we finally met Audrey’s second priority of walking on the Great Wall. It was a beautiful, clear sunny day with only a handful of folks around when I got down on one knee and pulled out a diamond ring. I knew I wouldn’t have to plead, because before we left on this trip, we already did PLEAD with each other.