21 (and a half) Years And We Still Have The Heat

Picture of Roger and Lucy in Hot Air Balloon
Not just full of hot air

Regular readers will know that Lucy and I alternately treat each other to a Romantic Week-end Away without the kids for our wedding anniversary. Whilst (usually) the dates are known, the destination and activities are always a surprise to the non-organising partner.

Because of our careers, me travelling a lot so racking up Frequent Flyers etc, and Lu working as a Public School Teacher, she has found it challenging to surprise me. Recently, however, she’s managed to change all that.

A couple of years ago she surprised me by booking a Cruise. Given her prediliction to motion sickness, this was huge. This year was even huge-er.

As we were on holiday in South Africa with 2 of our daughters (and their boyfriends) over our recent anniversary we decided to have the week-end away during the year. Hence the Gold Coast last week-end. Where Lu pulled out all the stops.

Now you have to understand, Lucy is frightened of flying, and terrified of heights. So to book the both of us on a Hot Air Balloon Ride, was spectacularly outside of her comfort zone.

And as ever when you’re outside your comfort zone, magic happened.

Setting Sail

I’m a Traveller. Always have been. It’s not for everyone, for sure. There are people who a born, grow up, and live in one locale. Typically the people whom provide the local colour that distinguishes one place from another. This can be very nuanced, and is imperative for a diverse planet. Some people never leave their country, some their province, and there are a few whom never cross the county line.

But not me. For a bunch of reasons, including heritage, parents, their work, and mine, I’m a traveller. Where there are those that have lived, and never left a single place, I fall to the other end of the spectrum. I’ve been staying in different places for as long as I can remember. When I was 4 it was the dormitories for flight crew at Heathrow (my grandmother was the matron there) and my first conscious memories are waking up to the sounds of jets taking off and landing at one of the world’s busiest airports.

Since then I’ve slept just in just about every structure known to man. Houses & apartments; from 5-star hotels to dodgy motels; B&B’s, cabins, & caravans; boarding school dormitories, military barracks, backpacker hostels; large group tents (in the military & scouts), family tents, backpacker tents, self-made survival bivouacs, caves, and under the stars; I’ve slept in yachts, both sail and motor, from 26′ to 107′; on trains, in jets; and occasionally on busses.

As to travelling itself, I’ve gotten from A to B (and sometimes just back to A) by just about any means: walking, hiking, & hitch-hiking; over a million miles driving cars & mini-vans; and a bunch more as a passenger in vans, mini-busses, busses, coaches & trucks; I’ve cycled hundreds & motorcycled tens of thousands of miles; I’ve scuba dived, paddled, rowed, sailed, and motored on rivers, lakes, seas and across oceans from paddle-skis, to Hobie cats, runabouts, RIB’s, and ski-boats, yachts, punts, ferries & once even on a tug; I’ve enjoyed and endured crossing nations on trains; and I’ve flown in micro-lights, gliders, single & twin engined light aircraft, helicopters, and the gamut of commercial aircraft from the diminutive Beechcraft King Air to the awe inspiring Airbus A380. (twice even in first class – totally a gremlin in the system). Once I even flew in a mail delivery airplane whilst hitch-hiking. True story.

But in 46 years, across 5 continents, 4 oceans, more seas and countries than I can remember, I have never been on a cruise ship. Never.

It’s That Time

Ready to Board

So when Lucy surprised me with a cruise for our 19th wedding anniversary, I was blown away. Totally gob-smacked, especially considering Lu gets awfully sea-sick, and delighted to experience something totally, entirely, and wonderfully brand new.

The company is the Royal Caribbean International Line, and the boat is Radiance of the Seas. Our port of departure, arguably the prettiest in the world, is Sydney Harbour. We’re headed up the coast with a day in Newcastle (!!) to Brisbane, then a couple of nights cruising back to Sydney.

Sunset Leaving Sydney

Heading to SeaThe boat is massive, and opulent. Our stateroom is probably half the size of an average hotel room, although about 10 times the size of any space I’ve slept in on a boat. We have a Queen sized bed (insane), with an en-suite shower cubicle, and built in wardrobes. Wi-fi (which we won’t be using at U$0.75c per minute) and an LCD TV. But it’s the rest of the ship that impresses. With it’s 13 decks, putt-putt course, multiple pools together with slides, an Ice Rink, and get this, a Rock Climbing Wall. Of course there’s quoits as well. It’s like someone thought “What is the most ridiculous thing we can attempt to do on a boat?” and then popped it on. There are pool tables, dance floors, a two story theatre, and more restaurants than a suburban shopping mall.

So here I am, on a ship. A passenger, cruise ship. Disconnected, offline, and enjoying the ocean.

What a way to experience the 19th time Lucy and I have gone away to celebrate our marriage.

And as to the first time this traveller has experienced the sea on a cruise ship…

…it won’t be the last.

I have a pool deck to chillax at – ciao

Celebrate

Project 2012: Day 336

On Monday Lucy and I will have been married for 18 years. One of the traditions we've built into our marriage was to celebrate our wedding anniversary with a week-end away from the kids. Part of the reason was to give us some time alone with each other, as we'd always had our two eldest daughters since we met. But the commitment was to invest time, effort and expense, no matter our life situation, to celebrate our relationship.

By going away for the week-end we had to sacrifice other activities, not to mention purchases. Work, school, church activities, social commitments, all are secondary to the week-end. In the early years we had to find babysitters for all four girls.

We alternate organising the week-end, I look after the even years, and Lucy the odd. The unwritten rule is that our destination is always a surprise for the other. Of course that makes it just that little bit harder to arrange, and more fun to enjoy.

Another unwritten rule is to go somewhere we've not been before. Although that's more of a guideline, which in the early years yielded to corporate Christmas Parties 🙂

But 18 years and we've done ok:

  • 2012 – Rented cottage in Bellerive, Hobart
  • 2011 – Rented cottage in Port Stephens
  • 2010 – Medina Hotel, thanks to staff rates through Leah, in Brisbane
  • 2009 – Rented cottage in Nelson's Bay
  • 2008 – Honeymoon bungalow on Hideaway Island, Vanuatu
  • 2007 – A rare treat in the Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney
  • 2006 – Couples spa bungalow at Eagle's Reach, Upper Hunter Valley thanks to an award from Microsoft
  • 2005 – Rented cottage at Avoca Beach, Central Coast
  • 2004 – Friend's 34' yacht moored in Lane Cove, Sydney Harbour
  • 2003 – Holiday park “cabin” (read stationary caravan) in Tuggerah
  • 2002 – Hilton hotel in Melbourne, thanks to an award from Compaq
  • 2001 – Rented cottage in the Blue Mountains
  • 2000 – Rented cottage on Perigian Beach, near Noosa, Queensland
  • 1999 – Harbour View Hotel, North Sydney, stayed an extra night after the Origin Christmas Party
  • 1998 – B&B Hotel about a mile down river from Oxford. Very reminiscent of Fawlty Towers.
  • 1997 – “The Coach House” a rented cottage on a farm near Milton Grange, Derbyshire
  • 1996 – Novotel London, stayed an extra night after the Nokia Christmas Party
  • 1995 – Novotel London, stayed an extra night after the Nokia Christmas Party
  • 1994 – “The Coach House” a rented cottage on a farm near Milton Grange, Derbyshire – this was the week-end we got married. We only went on our “proper” honeymoon to South Africa in January after Christmas.

There you have it.

As you can see some hotels that have coincided with work Christmas Parties. Some as a result of loyalty rewards, but mostly holiday rental cottages. Many times we've dined out. More times we've self-catered to have a romantic meal with no distractions.

We've boated, sailed, dived, flown, driven, travelled by train, even cycled.

The week-end has often been a check-point for the year and occasionally in our relationship. Choices about careers, homes, schools, even getting a dog, have been discussed and initiated, if not decided, on that annual week-end.

How long since you've had time with your partner without the pressures of work, or the routine of the family crowding in?

When last did you plan a romantic “dirty” week-end away. Where you had to connive, and scheme, and hide plans from your partner and the kids?

In time your work will come to an end, and your kids and your kids will leave. I believe it's foolish to think that any relationship will magically transform to cope with those changes. A belief that's evidenced by the enormously high divorce rate at the 18-20 year marriage mark.

So this week-end is about planting the seed, and nurturing the tree that is your marriage that must supersede every other aspect of your life if it's to thrive. One week-end a year is not much to ask.

Of course that's not the only thing we do to nurture our marriage. But it is one of the special ones.

I highly recommend it.