I looked at the very real, almost complete stranger sitting in the passenger seat next to me. With the windows down and the stranger’s dubs mix tape thumping through my Jeep, he was half leaning out the window playing with the wind swooshing past. All cares of “normal” life were swept away in those moments disappearing with the wind. I could literally see the spark in his eyes as the first view of Montana’s wide open sky came into view crossing over the state line. He was alive, in all sense of the word. He wasn’t passing time by messing with his iPhone playing mindless games or sending Snapchats. Instead, he was immersed in every single waking moment of freedom. I knew it, I knew in that 18-hour drive to Yellowstone National Park that this co-pilot was different than all other people that had occupied the passenger seat in my Jeep. His name was Alex.
They say that when you meet the love of your life, you just know. I’ve had a slew of road tripping buddies over the years from all different walks of life. I’ve traveled with the successful entrepreneur, the dreamer college student, the girly girls, the rad girls, the bad-a$$ climber, you name it. I would just about travel with anyone who would chip in for gas and help set up the tent! I didn’t care, as long as we were out in nature skipping through an alpine meadow on the top of a mountain. That is why traveling with a near complete stranger didn’t phase me one bit. My reasoning was that we just find a way to work around each other’s quirks, learn to love what we can’t change and enjoy every single day of life on the road. But something was different with Alex in my co-pilot seat. He had the fire in his spirit, the pep in his step and a soul yearning for adventure.
As we neared the campsite just outside Yellowstone National Park after our 18-hour drive, I looked up and saw thousands upon thousands of stars scattered across the night sky. We set up our tent without the need for a headlamp and then crawled on top of the Jeep to watch the stars. It was quiet. All we could hear were the trees rustling in the gentle wind and the Yellowstone river babbling along without a care in the world. It was a peaceful night, full of serenity. There is a certain magic attached nights such as this one. The sky engulfed us with a blanket of tranquility and time slowed down until it nearly stopped. With every breath I took, I was filled with a sense of amazement and wonder for the beauty in that placid night sky. Then suddenly, the sky exploded! There was a flashing ball of light that illuminated our world as if it were daylight and then a streak shot across the blackened sky. Afterward, nothing. No applause or cheering, only the return of the darkened night. The meteor materialized above us and then faded just as quickly as it had appeared. We were speechless. With tears in my eyes I looked over at Alex knowing I’d never share a moment so special with anyone else. That night marked the start of our lives together.
It’s impossible to pinpoint one exact moment that defined our transition from road tripping buddies to life adventure partners. Instead, it’s a compilation of a million different things from the way he charged up mountains without a trail to the way he looked at me before closing his eyes under our nylon roof. Maybe I started falling in love when he began picking up litter surrounding one of my favorite waterfalls in Yellowstone or maybe it was when he injured his knee along our journey but still limped along, swallowing the pain, simply because he knew hiking was my favorite thing in the world. All I know is that within just a few days, part of my existence was linked to Alex. He held a part of my soul that no one had even come close to touching in the 22 years I’d explored this Earth. It wasn’t infatuation or lust, it wasn’t a puppy love or a fleeting feeling, it was 100% all-in love.
I used to be one of those girls that hated the word “marriage”. I shot down all possibilities that I’d be a married woman someday indignantly turning my nose up at any comforting words of “oh you’ll find someone, someday”. Marriage was something for people that were giving up on an adventurous life, resigned to one person for eternity. Marriage was so final and concrete, the decision to spend the rest of my life with one person by my side was too overwhelming of a decision. Honestly, I never thought that I would meet someone who would want to live a nomad lifestyle for more than just a few years. Most of the travelers that I would meet along the way would be exploring the world as a gateway to the next phase of life. It was a vacation or a long term holiday rather than a way of life. I never saw traveling that way. Traveling was a way for me to never become complacent in the way I lived and to always discover new thrills, no matter how many years I had under my belt. Now, I’m swallowing all of my condescending words about marriage because I’ve been happily hitched to the man of all my wildest dreams for one whole year.
Eleven months later after that first night when the meteor exploded above us, we exchanged our vows in the presence of our immediate family and our best friend. I promised him that we would work through the good and the bad, he promised to love me no matter what life threw our way. Our ceremony was pure, honest, and raw. While our wedding was a commitment to each other, it was also a commitment to our lifestyle. We are committed to actually living each and every day. We’re committed to laying our heads down to sleep satisfied by the way we spent our day. We’re committed to appreciating each and every moment we’re fortunate enough to be a part of. Our lifestyle is one that focuses on the quality of our days, not necessarily on the quantity of our years.
I consider myself extremely fortunate to be able to call my life adventure partner my husband. It goes without saying that we have struggles and the usual mountains and valleys to overcome like any other couple. What makes our struggles different, however, is that our priorities align steering us towards nature and adventure making the mountainous obstacle in our way seem like pebbles under our feet. Being able to travel together is a feat in itself. Instead of worrying about how we’ll be able to stand each other for 3 months backpacking in South America, I’m bummed out that we need to spend a few months working and won’t be able to be by each others’ side 24/7. When your life adventure partner is also your spouse it’s not just the stoke you share, you share everything from the traveler’s diarrhea to surfing as the sun sets beyond the horizon. You share the terror as you get off the bus at the wrong stop in a foreign country without knowing a lick of the language or any idea where you’re at. With your life adventure partner you share the rain, sleet, snow, hail and sunshine all in one day backpacking through the Andes mountains. To top it all off, you share the memories. The memories alone make this entire journey of life pure liquid gold.
Long term travel does some weird things to folks. Suddenly, someone will ask where we’re from and we have no idea what to say. We don’t have a home. We don’t have roots. We don’t have a local community that we’re apart of. Instead, we have each other. Our home is where ever we are, as long as we’re side by side. Our roots are all over the world with the kindred spirits we meet along the road. Our community is with our favorite coffee shop-owner in Jackson Hole, Wyoming or with the hostel team that rented us backpacking gear in Huaraz, Peru. Home is a relative term for us because often times it’s our campsite in the middle of a national forest with our sleeping bags zipped together and a fresh layer of snow on our rainfly.
Home can be anywhere on this beautiful Earth as long as we’re side by side.