I’m not generally one for celebrity advice, but when Bill Murray waltzed into a Charleston bachelor party this past weekend, he shared some words of wisdom I wholeheartedly agree with. When asked for tips on finding lasting love, Mr. Murray responded:
“If you have someone that you think is The One, don’t just sort of think in your ordinary mind, ‘Okay, let’s pick a date. Let’s plan this and make a party and get married.’ Take that person and travel around the world. Buy a plane ticket for the two of you to travel all around the world, and go to places that are hard to go to and hard to get out of. And if when you come back to JFK, when you land in JFK, and you’re still in love with that person, get married at the airport.”
Six years ago to the day, long before Bill touted it, I did just that. On May 29, 2008 I was on a plane from Germany bound for Athens, Greece. Waiting on the other end of that flight was a boy I barely knew; a boy I had met just weeks before leaving for a semester of studying abroad. We were still “just friends,” or so we thought. Friends who were wildly attracted to each other; friends who stayed up late nights waiting to coordinate time zones in the hope of a brief chat; friends who would cross an ocean to see one another when they had spent more time apart than together.
On that day six years ago, as we saw each other for the first time in months, our hearts raced nervously in anticipation of so much more than friendship. When our eyes met across the airport, we recognized in each other an as-yet-unexplored commonality. So we set off to explore it together.
Here I must stop and and point out a key distinction in Bill Murray’s advice. Notice he did not say if you want to make sure you’ve found the one, go lay on a beach together and drink margaritas. He said go travel together, to difficult places. Why? Because it’s easy to fall in love on a vacation with no worries, but what cements love and companionship is putting yourselves (and each other) through the paces of a true travel experience.
As we set off to explore Athens – a city we didn’t know with a language we didn’t speak – lugging our suitcases in hundred degree heat, we learned the value of teamwork. When Andrew broke his foot on day two in Santorini, we learned to show care and compassion towards each other. In our dependence on one another to carry the load (literally) and make it to our next destination, we learned the give and take of relationships – relying on the other’s strengths and supporting their weaknesses. Through missed trains, nights sleeping on a bench (or train or boat), new places, unfamiliar people, and hours spent walking (or crutching) around Europe just trying to figure out where we were going, we learned patience and persistence.
At the time I didn’t realize that we were learning all these crucial lessons. I didn’t even realize that we were falling in love. All I knew was that we were determined to keep moving forward; and that despite the difficulties, it was the best time I’d ever had.
As the trip came to a close, we were exhausted and broke, but connected in a way that I don’t think would have been possible without our trials of traveling. While we didn’t go back and get married at the airport immediately (though my husband would have loved an airport wedding), we had taken that first leap towards togetherness. In the six years Andrew and I have spent together since that fateful day in Athens, many more adventures have ensued and they have all led me to this important conclusion:
Some of the greatest things in life – love and travel – will test you endlessly, but they will also bring more joy and richness to your world than you could ever imagine.