The Power of Travel - A Love Story

I know, I know, Valentines is around the corner and writing about love seems really cliche. And maybe it is, but that's the current mood; so, we're going with it. A lot of our social media has been about gifting travel for Valentines or taking a Mystery Honeymoon - and it's made me a top and think about WHY travel is important for relationships... or if it is at all.

I've been really puzzling over how to "make the case" for travel as a relationship builder and it finally clicked when I stopped to look at my own life and my own marriage. My husband, Eric, and I have been married for almost 13 years. We met working together on the construction of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center project in 2004- I was his client. Other than a few work-related interactions, I

wasn't particularly interested in him! Don't worry, he wasn't particularly interested in me either. HA! Other members of the project team kept trying to set us up but it was a lost cause... He was "too boring" for me. That changed a little when he showed up to work on a motorcycle one day. I made a mental note - "unexpected"- and moved on. Until...

After a team happy hour one evening, my boss said to me, "You are not allowed to date Eric McKinney." I thought this was hilarious because the idea hadn't crossed my mind until she said it. I didn't like my boss. And it turns out spite is a powerful motivator - the very next day I made a point to ask him to play tennis with me. He said yes. Fast forward a few months - lunch together most days, dinner together every night, going to sporting events, our friend groups combining. I even had Thanksgiving with his family just 6 weeks after we played that first game of tennis!

Then, came the awkward question - "So, what are we?" We weren't introducing ourselves as a girlfriend/boyfriend couple; but, we were clearly spending every minute together and "dating." He said "We're having fun" - that was NOT the right answer for me. I needed to know if he was serious or not. He said he wasn't ready for a girlfriend to which, I responded, "well, you have one!" We laugh now at what he said next: "I'm not ready for labels." I told him he was a great guy, wished him well, and told him I wasn't going to waste my time.

That sucked. Now, my heart was hurt and I'd lost my best friend.

I spent Christmas with family and it was miserable not talking to him. I thought he was having a carefree Christmas; but, he was miserable too. Once I got back to Nashville, I texted him "I miss my friend, Eric." He missed me too. We decided that we could be friends and we were talking again. Definitely spending much less time together; but, I was glad to have my friend back.

At the end of January, my mom offered me two expiring Southwest Rapid Reward tickets and I jumped on them. They had to be used by the end of February, so a trip would have to happen ASAP. I decided I wanted to go to Miami; but, who could I invite? Eric was my best friend, but we weren't "dating," Right? I nervously emailed him anyway:

"My mom just gave me two plane tickets and I'm going to Miami next week. I'm not asking in a weird way and it's no pressure; but, would you want to go? It's ok if you don't."

Just a couple minutes later, my inbox dinged. It was Eric: "I would love to go!!" I was nervous to open that email; but, so happy when I did. The trip was planned and we were going to Miami.

The days leading up to the trip weren't weird like I thought they might be and the trip ended up being so much fun. We stayed in South Beach, rented a motorcycle, ate a ton of food, got lost trying to find a BBQ competition, and enjoyed each other's company.

Those are all fun things and certainly make for great memories; but, want to know the life changing thing that happened on this trip? He said it. He said "the L word!" He said "I love you." Twice. I didn't say anything. Oops. I was so shocked and very skeptical.

We all know how this story ends though. And, here's the thing. Once we got away from our daily lives, we were able to connect more deeply. Learn more about what makes the other one tick. Find out if we could tolerate a bunch of time together. See how each other makes decisions, solves problems, handles unexpected circumstances. He will very clearly say, that trip to Miami is when he fell in love with me. Wow.

Since then, we've traveled quite a bit together- we've hiked the Mayan pyramids in Mexico, traveled Iceland's Ring Road in a camper van, trekked all over New York City, grown a family, and expanded our traveling posse. Travel is an important part of our family and our

marriage. Don't get me wrong - we sometimes fight on vacation, we don't always agree about where to go and what to do; but we always share lots of laughs and create memories for a lifetime.

So, when you have the chance to pick between flower, jewelry, chocolates, new shoes, or travel... pick travel! It never wears out, wilts, or goes out of style!

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