Perhaps the best place to start today is with the feeling I have as a single woman participating in a four day workshop in Jamaica at a couples only resort. As a travel consultant, my role is to be knowledgeable about every aspect of travel. I have specialized for quite awhile in travel arrangements to Scandinavia and Europe. Several years ago, I took a path away from mass market travel where I represented every corner of the globe and every possible travel product. During this hiatus, I enjoyed a time away from selling everything from Vegas to Timbuktu, and instead focused my energy primarily on soft adventure and cultural travel to places like the raw appeal of Iceland, the fjords and coast of Norway, the charm of countryside Sweden and Denmark and the cultural richness of Russia. While this still meant I was working in many cases with couples and families, the primary focus has not been on creating a romantic paradise for honeymooners, destination wedding couples and romance driven clients. This past year, I circled back and am once again digging into mainstream cruises, beach vacations to all corners of the earth and my boss has asked me to join the destination wedding team. I had specialized in weddings in the past and have a strong knowledge base and so I rekindle this area of my expertise. I am in Jamaica for a refresher course on a specific collection of properties that focus entirely on a couples vacation experience.
Becoming a specialist in the “Travel for Romance” niche means delving into every aspect of making a couples trip highly memorable and enjoyable. My goal as a dedicated travel specialist has always been to create a vacation that will have clients thinking back fondly to their time together, away from the stress and daily grind. I can’t help think of my own life experiences having lacked any luster in this department. And the truth is I am sure that many couples heading for a romantic get-away likely encounter a reality less glimmering than the glossy brochure pages of an adult-only all inclusive in the Caribbean, with its perfectly bodied models lounging on beaches and taking in that couples massage in little huts with the white flowing sheets wafting in the breeze. The reality is likely a bit less gilded.
My last travel memory with my ex-husband included shouts at me across a crowded gate area in our connecting airport city. His rage at me was embroidered with explitives because I had dialed my cell phone to check on the house and dog sitter since she had not appeared at the house before we headed to the airport. I was nervous that she might have forgotten her arrangement with us for some reason, and we had not been able to reach her by phone prior to our departure. I was merely calling to make absolutely sure that the dogs had not been abandoned by us and that someone was with them by now, and if not I would call my plan B option. The problem was that I had not asked his permission. This phone call was going to cost money and he was trying to figure out a way to avoid the phone call in order to save money. The fact was that we only had so much time before the next flight, and the dogs were our babies… and we had to get down to business and make sure all was ok. Mama was checking on her brood, after all. The good news is we did reach her and all was fine. This miserly behavior on his part followed us throughout the trip. Since I had coffee with my breakfast in the morning, later in the day when I wanted a coffee- he refused me. This sounds minor, but it was this tension over every decision that made the trip dreadful for me. A heaviness hung around my shoulders which made my chest feel heavy, as if I was pressing against a hurricane force wind gust most of the time. I couldn’t seem to get my footing. Everything about that trip was an effort, there were not any moments of tenderness. Our time in London, the Lakes District and Cornwall were fairly rigid and mechanical, moving from one place to the next to take that next thing in and mark it off our list. During this final trip that led to our last months together before I would finally leave him, I recall having this urge to flee, all the time. I wanted to get away from him and find a quiet spot, somewhere to sit down with a coffee, pull out a journal and write, or read a good book. I wanted privacy.
This longing for my own space where I could breathe and live more fully has been with me ever since I left him more than eleven years ago. I have remained single by choice because the idea of getting entangled in another lie, another hidden monster behind the initial facade of love and tenderness, frightens me. And it is that feeling of being caged by an impossible and ornery person that keeps me single. One day, perhaps, those love songs I hear streaming through the public areas of this couples only paradise might once again apply to me. Maybe I will get caught by the bug again and feel the surge of joy and awe at being part of a world built for two. Still, my memories feel fresh and I lived through two cautionary tales. With my second husband, I left him because he was mean more than he was nice. We tried counseling, which did not work well because he felt that the counselor was stupid. The minute we would leave the office, he would launch into a diatribe on all the reasons this was a complete waste of time. In hindsight, I agree with him on that point because there was no way that counseling was going to work since he did not feel we had an issue- or rather, that he had an issue. The issue was all me. My “love” partner was the kind of person that put a wet blanket on any kind of notion of lavishing the spouse with messages of affection. Mind you I am not high maintenance. I don’t require much. But a little indicator of having any kind of fondness for me would have gone a long way. There were never any efforts made for birthdays, nor for Christmas – not because he would forget, but because no one was going to tell him when to offer up gifts to someone else. No Valentines’ Day special expressions- and back then, I worked in a major department store (still as a travel agent) that would deck itself out each season- to the gills. For Valentines Day one would encounter dangling hearts and bursts of flowers on every floor – weeks before the romantic date, to entice consumers to buy that special treasure for their lover or spouse. Every department had their announcements that this was the place you could find that personal gift which would convey the deepest love and appreciation you carried for your beloved. In the end, with my spouse, the final expression I received on the final Valentine’s Day of our marriage was “Don’t Expect Anything!!! Because, if you expect something from me on this Hallmark driven day- you can expect to be disappointed”. There- in case I was not clear on his intentions. For New Year’s Eve that year, I reached out to a friend of his- asked him to call my husband to go out on the town… a sort of boys night out. My husband was more than delighted at the prospect of having some bar hopping fun with the boys. It did not occur to him that he should want to spend New Year’s with me. So off he went, and I packed my bag to head up to my parents for the night with sumptuous Lobster, Filet Mignon with Bernaise sauce and sautéed mushroom caps and, of course, some bubbly. I took one of our dogs with me, my Skye Terrier whom I had in my life long before the marriage. I wasn’t planning to actually leave him that night permanently, that was not my intention. But after the New Year celebrations and no phone calls from him to wish me well or find out how my evening went (I could have called him of course, but something in me prevented me from calling), I felt an exhaustion overcome me that blanketed me like one of those old dental visit X-Ray blankets they would lay across your chest to protect you. I just couldn’t go back to him. So, I looked at my parents over breakfast, and said: “I can’t go back”- simple. Dad immediately had my back: “Ok sweetheart, you got it”. They were so supportive because they had witnessed so many moments of my spouse’s narcissism over the years, his rudeness to them, his lack of care for me. Dad was only too willing to help make an exit from him a reality. They had been sitting in the wings for a couple of years just waiting for an indicator that I was finally ready.
Ah, so romance and the supportive role I play in making it happen for others? Well, I take the plunge and detach myself from my own reality and offer bursts of joy and excitement for the couple, after all- they are blessed and the fact that they are now taking their own dive into a partnership gives one hope that love can and does exist. So how about that Beachfront Walk-Out with private plunge pool only steps away from Azure Blue Caribbean Waters with a romantic beach dinner by candlelight to get things going? Tomorrow, shall we schedule your private couples massage combined with a soak in the tranquility tub with champagne service and chocolate covered strawberries? In a couple of days, we set you up with a private catamaran dive excursion with your own captain. Sound enticing? Let’s help you celebrate this once in a lifetime opportunity to kick off your lives together as a married couple. Salut!