There are many parts of our trips that I don’t remember clearly. A collective haze of sleeping through overnight bus rides, walking through nameless streets, and travelling back in history. But some moments, a few minutes or hours out of two-week trips, stand out quite vividly.
This one in particular has been playing back in my head for the last couple of weeks.
We woke up before dawn on that day. I can still feel the back and butt pains from the previous day’s six-hour bumpy journey from Mandalay. It didn’t help that we had a few bottles of Myanmar beer the night before. It didn’t help that we were not used to waking up early because of our late night jobs. It didn’t help that we were no longer in our twenties and, let’s be honest, we are getting too old for backpacking.
So there we were, sleepless, groggy, and hungry, driving on a single motorcycle through the cold, dark, unpaved roads of Bagan. We only had very little sense of balance, sheer overconfidence in our navigation skills, and an offline Google map.
We missed a turn, got lost in Nyaung U, found our way back, and got lost again. The cold morning breeze was almost unbearable in the open vehicle, and there was no one to ask directions from. The town was practically deserted. I could imagine all of that happening at home and we would end up arguing and/or fighting. But at that time, we laughed it off and moved on.
Minutes later, we were (illegally) climbing an unguarded pagoda, and finding the best spot at the top for a glimpse of sunrise.
I still remember the exact moment when I looked to my left, as the earliest rays from the sun started kissing the spires of the tallest stupas, and embracing the greenery below. I remember the silence. The serenity. I remember taking a few photos, and then keeping the phone and camera away with the realization that we cannot digitally capture every moment.
More importantly, I remember looking to my right. And seeing you smile again.
You see, there’s Mommy BJ and Daddy me. And we try to be those most days of the year. On other days we’re business partners. On other days we’re sous chefs of each other’s kitchen.
But on days we travel, we go back to being us. The shy and awkward boy and the incredibly smart and independent woman that met and fell in love ten years ago.
One thing I learned through the years is that things don’t stay the same. Life will happen, and the weekend dates and flowers and cuddle times will have to step aside. And that’s when most marriages start to fall apart.
But what I also learned is that marriage is a journey, similar to our vacations. Not everything is a highlight. Not everything is memorable. Some days we stand in line at the grocery store much like standing in line at immigration. There are entire days we spend stuck on traffic, just like those 12-hour train rides. We clean our house and do the dishes and work on graphics and recipes and spreadsheets. We don’t make memories on a daily basis. And it’s alright to have mundane days.
Because every once in a while, we find ourselves sitting on top of a temple, in complete stillness, watching the sunrise, smiling. And those are the moments we live for.