Marriage and the Journey

Today is a good day, ladies! I am absolutely delighted to welcome Sara Hillratt back, who is writing about what she’s learning about marriage as she sails around the world with her husband. This is episode three of The Hillratt’s Voyage (you can catch up with past episodes here, and keep up with them at their gloriously re-designed blog, and flash back to their wedding graduate post). Right this second, Sara and Stof have made it from South Africa to their boat in Mexico, where they are learning about how marriage, all of marriage, is about the journey.

For the past six months, I’ve been explaining to people at home (Cape Town, South Africa) where our boat is. “If you follow the coast down from California to Mexico, a long finger splits off from the mainland. The area between the mainland and the finger is known as the Sea of Cortez. Now just inside the tip of the finger (before the fold of the first knuckle) is a beautiful bay where you’ll find a small city called La Paz. And that is where the Laura Takalani is right now.”

I felt like I was explaining a parallel universe.

Since we bought our boat in July, Stof and I have been preparing in one way or another for actually arriving in some other world called La Paz and beginning our journey across the Pacific. Our preparations moved into high gear in December when I finally resigned from the Bar and started “working” full time on wrapping up our lives, getting our admin in order for the voyage, handing over important projects, making sure there are sufficient safety nets in place for when we are on the high seas and trying to stock up on all the things we think we might need on the boat but (think we) won’t be able to get in Mexico. On top of this, we have thrown ourselves into Christmas and New Years and birthdays and weddings and dinners: there is something about the prospect of going away for two years that brings out the best daughter (son), sister (brother), aunt (uncle) and friend we could possibly be. It has been an exhausting and exhilarating frenzy of preparation for one immediate goal: getting to Mexico.

In the process of “getting to Mexico” our “team” worked well at times and at other times we bickered and battled. We’d vacillate between skating along smoothly whacking tasks off our to-do list, high-fiving at our joint success; and hacking along wondering what the bloody-hell the other person had been doing each day. We knew it would get better as soon as the stress had lifted. We just needed to get to the Laura Takalani.

I remarked on our blog at one stage that I was holding out through the craziness until I sipped my first bloody mary on the flight to Dubai (we took a rather round-about route from Cape Town to La Paz).

Inevitably, 1 February arrived and I sipped that first bloody mary. And a second – I love a bloody mary on an airplane… We flew through Dubai and Los Angeles with our obscene amount of luggage and we arrived at that gorgeous bay on the other side of the world just below the fold of the first knuckle on the Sea of Cortez. We returned to our lovely Laura Takalani.

I had imagined that we would feel proud of ourselves. That we’d step back and hold hands gazing at the Laura Takalani in wonder at what we had achieved together. The angels would sing and all would be marvelous.

And??? Flip, it’s almost more stressful here than it was in CT! Of course.

I remember being a little overwhelmed at the amount of petty arguing Stof and I engaged in during the first few months after our wedding. It struck me that we should have been more in love then than ever: we’d just gotten married (forcryinginabucket)! We’d celebrated our nuptials in the grandest of styles! Why on earth were we not basking in the glory of a lovey-dovey union?

Imperceptibly a few months after our wedding, and without any event to mark the change, the quarreling ceased and we moved onto a more tranquil phase.  (Then we decided to sell our house and travel across the Pacific…)

I’m starting to realise that, particularly in marriage, a big event is not an end point, just a notch along the way. Achieving a grand goal does not immediately change the way the relationship works or the way we feel. Making something that seemed impossible, possible is not an end point. There is always a next day with new goals and new challenges.

Of course the goals will shape and mold the way our family works in the long run. Doing crazy stuff like getting married and setting sail across an enormous ocean (or buying a house or having a baby or getting a dog) are great big landmarks, but after the landmark is another day. And another.

So here we are, finally in Mexico. We’ve moved into another type of frenzy and another phase of our relationship. How does it feel today? Like the kind of day where we have to scrub and paint the hull. Perhaps we’ll have time to stand back and pat each other on the back when we finally set sail… perhaps we’ll just have to change the sails and hopefully sneak in a smooch and a wink as we’re doing it.

Sara Hillratt is traveling across the Pacific with her husband, starting with sailing from Mexico to Australia. Their adventure starts in February 2011. She’s writing about it at their blog Stofnsara, but also here, as part of exploring what a marriage can be on Reclaiming Wife. If you want to start closer to the beginning, you can read her post about money and independenceread all about their trip here, and about Sara & Stof’s marvelous South African wedding here.

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  • A-L

    “I’m starting to realise that, particularly in marriage, a big event is not an end point, just a notch along the way. Achieving a grand goal does not immediately change the way the relationship works or the way we feel. Making something that seemed impossible, possible is not an end point. There is always a next day with new goals and new challenges.”

    This is the money quote for me. Especially when the big event/goal changes the way you relate to each other, or how you need to live. For instance, we saved up enough money to go to Australia & New Zealand for two and a half weeks. It was big and important (for us) but didn’t change how our lives were going to be once we accomplished it. But living in a boat for 2 years traveling the world, having a baby, retiring, etc…those things change the way a person lives and changes the relationship. And so an adjustment period needs to happen, which is where we face those new challenges.

    Anyway, thanks so much for keeping us updated on this journey!

    • Class of 1980

      Agree. That is the money quote . . . for marriage and life.

      I’m not necessarily a huge fan of Nicole Kidman, but she said in an interview that all her life she kept thinking that when she got a certain goal accomplished, that life would settle down and be easier. But it never did.

      I think we all struggle with that realization.

      • Exactly again! This goes so well with the post the other day on wedding night meltdowns. It is so easy to assume that the wedding or other big event is the pinnacle when really it is just another step. The only thing I would add is that maybe one of the skills a wedding or any other major (or minor) event teaches us is that it is important to celebrate as you go along rather than always waiting for everything to be in place, or perfect, or settled. I always celebrate when I hand a job application in whether I get an interview / the job or not!

    • Absolutely. That’s something I really will have to keep in mind with a lot of the discussions my husband & I are having these days.

    • I love how Sara phrased this, and it’s good reminder in my own life to work at my marriage (and myself) everyday rather than always looking at the horizon for the next life event.

  • amy

    Although I love a bloody mary anywhere, at any time, there is a special kind of magic about a bloody mary on an airplane. I know that is like the least important detail in this entire (wonderful) piece, but I’m just glad someone feels the same way I do about bloodies on airplanes.

  • “Making something that seemed impossible, possible is not an end point. There is always a next day with new goals and new challenges.”

    Yes. This. It’s also so important to remember, in tougher times, that tomorrow is always a new day. I’m working on that one myself right now.

    Good luck on your (continued) adventure!

  • KMA

    WOW, and thank you for sharing this journey with us! Amazing.
    That is all (apparently the eloquence fairy is visiting someone else this morning).

  • I heart you guys. This is such a good reminder.

  • abby_wan_kenobi

    I love that Sara wrote about worrying over the bickering in your relationship. Right after our wedding I went through a couple of big transitions (new job, new city, some troubles within my family) and I went through kind of a low period. I really worried that our marriage had either caused my dark mood or would be damaged by it. And then fretting over it kind of put an added layer of pressure on us.

    Eventually things evened out – slowly and subtly. I got settled in my new job, set up house in my new city and my family found it’s equilibrium (though, it’s irreversably changed). After that storm our relationship is stronger, our marriage feels like we thought a marriage would and we finally got to our blissful newlywed phase. We’re trying to smell the roses and enjoy it, but like Sara says, there’s always a next day and now that we’ve mastered this one we’re eager to hit that next landmark down the road.

  • Sarah

    I’m just going to EXACTLY the entire post and leave it at that. I have absolutely have nothing to add … thank you, Sara. =)

  • Sara is so right when she describes “big events not being endpoints.” I like to think about life and marriage as being like mountain climbing. Sometimes you go up, sometimes down and sometimes you get to walk along the ridge enjoying the view.

    • Tracy

      Yes, I want to agree about the big events. We recently moved back to our home state (about 6 months before our wedding) and it was so tempting to think during the stressful leaving process how we just needed to get to our destination and then the stress would end. But, of course, once we arrived there was also a lot to do, not to mention all the adjusting to our new situation. It’s so helpful to be reminded that we want life to keep being a journey – interesting and challenging – and that we don’t really want it to become stagnant for long. It’s probably also good to try and take the time to pat yourselves on the back for your accomplishments even if there’s still more to do. Thanks for this little breath of perspective, it helps.

      • m

        This is definitely a helpful reminder. I recently went through a similar move (although away from our home state) and fell for the idea that everything would be perfect after the moving stress was over. Obviously its not perfect and its good to remember that is totally normal. I think I will pat myself and my fiance on the back tonight!

  • sara– you rock. i’m so excited for you guys!

    when i think about it, i’m pretty glad that there aren’t any end points in marriage (or life, really). because that means there’s also always a chance to grow and to have another adventure. i hope that in your travels you always find another island just beyond the horizon. and may you have fair winds and following seas!

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  • My Jewish grandmas and great-aunts often repeat the phrase, “this too shall pass.” Usually it’s in reference to a difficult time that, in the moment, feels overwhelming and all-consuming; but I just generally like the idea (that Sara echoes here) that life happens in phases, waves, periods, seasons – good and bad, easy and hard – and while we can’t always predict how they’ll play out, we can be certain that they’ll end and usher in something new.