In June my man and I got hitched. In July I got fired. In August, I will start five months of traveling through East Africa and Southeast Asia—alone.
While I tramp through Kenya, Tanzania, India, Vietnam, and half a dozen other countries, my brand-new husband will be staying at home in NYC, where he is still gainfully employed.
We married as two overachieving, workaholic New Yorkers. My best friend’s wedding toast even included a joke about my love of spreadsheets. But only a month later, without warning and completely against my will, I became an unemployed housewife.
Twenty minutes after getting canned, I had this conversation with myself:
“Self,” I said, “do you want to be an unemployed housewife?”
“No,” I replied. “I’m bad at doing the dishes and I’m bored already.”
“Okay. How about traveling to all the places you’ve always wanted to go? How do you feel about that?”
“That’s much better.”
So after being an unemployed housewife for all of twenty minutes, I pulled up Google Docs and started planning my new life as an International Vagabond.
Inside my head, I felt something like this:
- Shell-shocked that I got fired, bitter because I didn’t see it coming, and guilty that I screwed up.
- Jumping-out-of-my-skin excited at this opportunity to travel around the world.
- Useless, because I have been earning my own money since I was a fourteen-year-old babysitter, I got a damn Ivy League degree, and then I worked and networked and worked some more to a job that I thought was my dream job, and suddenly now I am no longer a contributing member of society.
- Liberated, because I have been working every single day of my life since I was fourteen years old and now I get to take a self-appointed break.
- Sad that my husband still has a job and can’t join me on my travels.
- Grateful that my husband still has a job and we have substantial savings, so we don’t have to worry about finances even with me out of work.
- Very grateful that we will be separated by choice, and not by a military deployment or family illness or any other substantially more difficult circumstance that thousands of people have to handle every day.
- Immensely grateful for a relationship that bends and stretches to accommodate one of us voyaging for half a year, on the other side of the world, with only intermittent internet access. A man that says, “Yes, of course! Go!” when I tell him about my plans for this adventure, a man who never doubts for a moment that I will get my career back on track when I return. So, so immensely grateful.
“Self,” I said, “this will be okay. Your husband will be here. You will put your career back together. It will be okay, probably even better than before.”
And as an extremely independent gal, this shocked me, but I think it’s my marriage that makes it okay. There’s something about being married, knowing that I have a home to come back to and not just an apartment—something about that frees me up, gives me courage and confidence. I can go do my thing, and he will be here, and it’s okay.
Our wedding vows began like this: “I promise to share my life with you, while giving you the space to live your own life.”
When I said those words during our ceremony, I envisioned weekend or even weeklong trips apart, alone or with friends. Lazy Sundays lying in bed reading the news on our respective laptops, poking each other when we find something particularly interesting to share. Me roaming through art museums, which bores him to tears, and him heading off to play poker, which does the same to me.
But this is on a whole new level. We’ll be literally and figuratively thousands of miles apart.
And yet, I have absolutely zero fear. I’m not afraid of crippling loneliness or homesickness on the road (though that may well happen). I’m not afraid of the shiny new crop of twenty-two-year-old girls that descend on New York each fall (though if any of you flirt with my man, you will regret it). I’m not afraid that we’ll be spending the first months of our marriage on different continents. I’m not afraid of malaria, Delhi belly, hijackings, propeller planes, getting lost in countries where I don’t speak the language, my stalled career.
I’m not afraid because I know I have our shared life together. Even if my life is somewhat in a shambles and I need to run around the world to put it back together, it’s okay.
I will take chicken buses through Tanzania, visit NGOs in Nepal, sleep on the spare couch of a generous friend’s friend who is only an email address to me but who will become my friend. My husband will go about his daily routine in our apartment, feed our cats in the morning, walk to work on the route that we used to walk together, and hang out with our friends on the weekends. He will gleefully throw his underwear on the floor, play as much poker as he wants to, and sleep on whichever side of our bed he fancies—even diagonally like a starfish.
We will miss each other terribly and Skype. We’ll be grateful for the chance to create great stories apart so that we can share them with each other. We’ll be living our lives apart so that we can share them together.
Photo: Corinne Krogh Photography