Mrs. In The Loop sure was excited. I, instead, was wary and apprehensive. Another country, another crowded marketplace, another fast-talking foreigner trying to charm us over to see his stall.
"I just want to look," she said.
"Can't we just keep walking and looking around at everything else. We don't have time to shop. Plus, it's too expensive. Why do you want to waste our time?"
Off she went, disappearing with a strange man down an alley and to who knows where.
We were in Florence amid row after row of vendors selling leather goods at an open-air marketplace.
She went her way. I stubbornly refused and went my way. I immediately started to feel my anger rise. Why would she go off with a stranger in a strange place? Would I ever see her again (yes, my ignorance and paranoia started to mess with me)? This sucks. I began to worry even more than I was angry.
What has it been, an hour (more like 10 minutes)? If she never comes back, what do I do? (I had seen tragic movies that had similar beginnings, usually with Liam Neeson having to come to the rescue.)
Our first overseas adventure came in 2006. Our trip of a lifetime would be on a Carnival cruise in the Mediterranean, and boy were we excited. CMac and I were newly married, though we had been together for more than five years and had enjoyed other vacations, a couple cruises to the Caribbean among them.
Our Med cruise was tacked on to other land-based adventures in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. Sailing to ancient cities in Italy, Sicily, France and Croatia made the adventure for these two young crazy kids just that much more romantic and exciting. We were thoroughly enjoying ourselves, strolling cobbled streets and alleys, piling on the calories in the form of tasty beers, pastas, pizzas, breads and gelatos. Pure bliss.
Then, it happened. CMac had to go check out the handcrafted leather goods. This led to an uneasy rest of the afternoon and ruined the valuable time we had left in Florence (it was a 10-hour visit during our port stop).
Couples undoubtedly fight while traveling. How you handle it and recognize what is happening makes all the difference for the vacation -- sometimes the rest of your lives together (or whether you will have a life together, I suppose).
CMac arrived back from her little side trip. Maybe it wasn't even 10 minutes. I was relieved she hadn't been kidnapped by an Italian sex-slave market (yes, irrational, I know; trust me I am much more worldly now after 10 years of traveling the globe). My initial relief quickly turned into a cold poutiness, and she returned the foul mood in kind once she learned that I wanted nothing to do with hearing how cool it was to see how the resident craftspeople made such fine leather.
What I quickly learned (upon reflection almost 10 years later, it was nearly quickly enough that day) was that I was missing an opportunity to just relax and enjoy my new surroundings. Imagine the pictures I could have taken throughout the market. Also, why would I let her go alone? It was her vacation, too. She should be able to do things she wants.
These are thoughts you have to get to ahead of time. Keep them handy, ready to access when you feel a situation might be getting tense, that you might be headed for an argument with your partner. Be ready to compromise, consider what is fair. Have an open discussion and communicate how you each feel about something. Don't immediately go negative. That only makes things worse. Trust me.
On our first cruise ever, essentially our first vacation -- we had been together maybe a year -- CMac and I went to a beach for an all-inclusive day in Cozumel. One price included beach time, food and all we could drink. Oh yes, we headed to that bar frequently for our fill of beer and tequila-spiked tasty cocktails. The sunshine and free-spirited activities along that gorgeous strip of sand in Mexico was everything we had imagined (we made the trip down in the winter from Upstate New York).
We splashed around in the waters; I gorged on nachos in my beach lounger. Everything was awesome. I had forgotten to bring my swimsuit. No worries: I passed off my colorful boxer briefs as my trunks all day. I won a football toss contest, entitling me to a free hair braid. No substitute prize was offered despite me being as bald then as I am today.
Drunk, happy and tired, we somehow made our way back to the ship.
We hit the cabin for a nap, and the rest of the night remains a little foggy to this day. CMac woke up eager to get ready for dinner. I demurred because I was still too sleepy (I also recall feeling a nasty sunburn setting in). Well, maybe I didn't decline her urging to awaken so gently. My mind tells me she was pestering me to "get up and get ready for dinner; I want to go down and have a nice dinner tonight."
I hadn't realized it, but she was extremely mad at me for telling her to "beat it." I thought I was being funny.
Be ready to apologize. I did over and over. She did, too, for being so upset when she realized I was having a tough time after all the tequila. We laugh about it all the time now.
In general, we have had moments of fleeting tension, too. These occur usually when we have a restless night of sleep, awaken at 4 a.m. to head off to the train station to go to the airport to get in line to check bags, to slog through TSA security, to arrive at a crowded waiting area at the gate with other cranky travelers while hauling all our luggage. (You get the idea.)
You don't want to ruin a vacation before it even starts or the memories of a nice trip you just had, so I hope these stories and tips help you and your partner to always travel happy.
Thanks for reading,