And sometimes the grandest adventure is not where you go, but who you are with.
This past summer, my husband and I went on what we called Grand Adventure #1. This took us across 9 states, to 10 National Parks and over 4500 miles. We saw bears and wildlife. We grabbed the chains at Angels Landing to make it all the way to the top for 360 degree views. We waded in the waters at the base of the Grand Tetons. We stood in complete awe at the Grand Prismatic Spring (which we nicknamed the GPS). We drove around twisting mountains, reaching high peaks, and overlooking long drop-offs. We climbed mountains. We saw the sun rise over the Badlands. Ziplined across Moab’s rocks and once again had stunning 360 views. We slept in beautiful campsite, after beautiful campsite. We stopped and waited on buffalo to cross the street. We had a fox dance around us. We saw breathtaking view, after breathtaking view. We spent hours upon hours in the car together. We slept on top of the car under the stars just outside of Zions. We watched the sunset over Arches and laid on a blanket to watch the sky become lit up by billions of star, and he looked over to ask me to marry him.
And we have a Grand Adventure #2 planned, which goes further north and further west and doubles the amount of National Parks we have visited together. And next weekend we are going camping at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois. In November we plan to head to the Great Smokey Mountains. And next Fall we are going to visit his brother in Portland, Maine, and scope out Acadia National Park.
But what if this is not the main adventure?
We recently got tattoo wedding bands. I am a baker and he is a private chef. We are both in a kitchen, using our hands, washing our hands constantly. Rings didn’t seem fitting to our lifestyle. Something we would have to take off and put back on constantly. Something we could risk losing. Something that we would have to resize overtime. Plus I am really not a jewelry kind of girl. I don’t know shit about diamonds or carats or cuts. And I am cool with that. We went for a more permanent route. Because a marriage is forever. Or as Zach points out, for eternity.
We chose these compass tattoos for our bands. It seemed to represent us in so many ways.
And so I have been thinking that this marriage is the real adventure. This journey together.
Because I will confess I proclaimed for a long time that I would not get married. I think sometimes in today’s society we lose the meaning in weddings or we get married out of obligation or for show. And in the midst of all the planning and stress and stuff, we forget that we are celebrating love and the joining of two people. I thought if you love someone and want to be with someone, do it. That the paperwork and ceremony stress weren’t needed.
But when Zach turned to me in Arches and asked me to marry him, the answer came so quickly and naturally. And my perspective has changed. Mostly because I think throughout the process we stayed true to ourselves.
And instead of just thinking about weddings and certificates, I stepped back and looked at the bigger picture. What it means to be married. What happens after the wedding.
Marriage is a union. He is my partner. We are now co-writing this story and adventure together. He is the person I need to lean into. We make decisions together. I made a commitment to be with him. And that is not a word to be taken lightly. It is something else I think gets lost these days. With wanting or getting things instantaneously, we do not know what it is like or what it takes to be committed to something (or someone) for a long time. Something newer comes along and we chase it. Or life gets too busy and we forget or don’t make time. We get lazy in our commitments.
My parents have been married 37 years this year. My grandparents are all near 60 years and sister just celebrated 10 years. I have beautiful examples of commitment, I think that is why this word is so powerful to me.
For so long I was very content being on my own. And dealing with these alone. When I was having a moment or life was getting tough I could hide and retreat and cry it out hike it out. In a marriage or relationship there is no place to hide, it is a complete state of vulnerability all the time. Because communication is also essential to a lasting relationship. Raw, super honest communication. Because Zach is really honest with me, and I ask that, but sometimes we don’t always take the truth graciously in our initial reaction. But this is part of what makes a relationship better. It’s what makes us grow. It is what deepens our connection (which sometimes is frightening, to let someone that close to us, I know I have felt this way in the past, just within friendships). And so when I am struggling or negative thoughts creep in, when I am not my best, I still have to let him see me. I cannot hide. Even though I may be embarrassed by my thoughts or reluctant, I cannot hold them in. He encourages me to talk. And letting them out, helps me let them go. And he is always there patiently dealing with, til I am ready to talk. Listening to me and bringing me back to the truth, my personal truth, and joy. And every time we come out better (I come out better and smiling).
The journey is discovering more about each other. Our likes. What we like to do. Even our struggles or challenges. Discovering how we need help and comforted. And when we are vulnerable and exposed in our imperfection, loving and not judging each other through the process. Unyielding acceptance of each other and our imperfections.
And so, even though we will have lots of adventures and road trips and camp outs because that is what we love, the bigger adventure is within our story and relationship.