Actually, our relationship has always been this way. It’s almost as if our close-knit friendship and years of dating led us to working together as spouses. We met in college, both promptly decided to major in Spanish, and synchronized our class schedules for the remaining two years. Early on in our relationship we spent months at a time traveling to Spain and Costa Rica with school and mission groups.
Sharing adventures any chance we could get became a trend that has continued throughout our marriage, and we have found that our history, our rhythms, and our boundaries all play a role in how we balance our love, work, travel, and the gray area where they all blend together.
We began our marriage in typical fashion (for us). Four weeks after our wedding day, we packed up our lives and moved to southern Spain for a year. Home was a 400-square-foot open-concept studio. At first, we knew no one. If we were at home, we were together. If we were at work, we were together. Asleep and awake, we were together. That taught us how vital communication is in love and work. Living in a weird adventurous tension was amazing and difficult at the same time. As you can imagine, we didn’t exactly live in luxury. Each month, we’d spend half of our paycheck on living expenses and saved the rest for travel. We became experts in budget travel, allowing us to visit the Netherlands, Italy, France, Belgium, Portugal, Morocco, and all over Spain. But just as importantly, we became experts in keeping communication lines open.
With each experience we pursue, whether it be for work or play, we’re always aware of the immense pleasure and hardship that comes with seeking a life of adventure. Ernest Hemingway said it best in A Moveable Feast: “Never… go on trips with anyone you do not love.” The view of a traveling photographer, or any occupation that involves travel, is often romanticized. No one highlights the missed flights, delayed trains, lack of sleep, or lackluster accommodations. Once, we missed a flight to Italy for a wedding we were shooting the next day. Panic ensued. Tears were shed. We eventually made it to an airport six hours away from our destination (as the wedding passed into history), but we made the conscious decision to roll with the punches, to be flexible, and to be forgiving. True story.
It should also be noted that we are quite opposite in the personality department. We have strengths and weaknesses, as do any other couple. Although we’re at opposite ends of the spectrum, we share an optimistic and light-hearted outlook on life. Let us be clear that we are far from perfect, but this is not a story about our marriage; it’s a story about how we balance love and work. Although some of these things were ingrained in our relationship early on, we’ve still had to learn a few lessons along the way. It bears repeating—working with your spouse is not for everyone.
Rhythms and boundaries play an important role in the life of a co-working married couple. For us, that looks like planned times of relaxation without our ever-present technology. Daily walks together give us space to talk through disagreements and personal grievances or to simply enjoy intentional time together outside of the house. We also implement fairly strict work hours, but we occasionally slip up and find ourselves discussing work well into the night or sneakily checking email after hours. In this case, one of us will remind the other that work is done for the day, and we quickly put a hard stop to whatever we were doing. Nowadays, half of our travel schedule comes from work—photographing weddings near and far. When traveling for work, we always book at least an extra day for relaxation and fun. Although it’s an added expense, mixing work and play maintains the health of our relationship. For us, booking weddings in far off destinations would be a waste if we didn’t take some time to enjoy it. At times, we even minimize the amount we document our travels in order to truly unplug. Much of our globe-trotting could easily be used for marketing or social media, which ends up being work, so sometimes we cut it off and have fun sans camera.
Shoot days don’t allow much space for conflict, and as married co-workers we don’t always see eye to eye. These inevitable disagreements take the form of a silent squabble—a passive aggressive whisper with smiles on our faces so as not to appear angry to onlookers. A quick whisper and we move on. We always have a good laugh about these hushed arguments when the day is done. And we always treat ourselves at the end of a long shoot day together.
For us, it would seem that love, work, and travel will always be intertwined. With each day, we strive to give each moment the grace it deserves. We remind each other that balance is found in slowing down, minimizing distractions, and creating space for good old-fashioned fun.