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Travel as a Relationship Test: Bill Murray On Marriage

1024px-Bill_Murray_Get_Low_TIFF09 (1) - Version 4

“If you have someone that you think is The One,
 don’t just sort of think in your ordinary mind,
 ‘OK, let’s pick a date. Let’s make a party, and get married.’

Take that person and travel around the world. 
Buy a plane ticket for the two of you to travel all around the world, 
and go places that are hard to go to and hard to get out of. 
And if when you come back to JFK, when you land in JFK, 
and you’re still in love with that person, 
get married at the airport.” 
–Bill Murray

Wedding - Version 2

With a couple of failed marriages under his belt, Bill Murray might not be the best source for matrimonial advice, but in this case I’ll make an exception. This time he’s spot on. 

Travel is exciting, educational, and a cultural smorgasbord. It’s a rewarding endeavor, but when things go sideways, it can also be incredibly stressful. For relationships – it’s a crucible. Travel, by definition, takes you out of your comfort zone, and stress has a way of reducing things to their essence. 

Like most long-term travelers, we’ve had our share of unpleasant travel surprises and scrapes: military coups, taxi rip-offs, cheesy hotels, lost luggage, border shakedowns, rancid food, and the icing on the cake – dengue fever (twice). And we weathered all these travel storms together. 

Terri and I have always been extremely close, but our years of travel have only tightened the bond between us. I’m sure that our readers who travel as couples will agree … it can make you or break you. 

THE LESSON
In 2013, the average cost of a wedding in the US was $30,000! Weddings, whether extravagant or economical, are the ultimate personal choice, and I’m not advocating getting married on the cheap. What I am saying is that if you truly want to get to know your partner before the vows are spoken, take some of the money that you’re planning to spend on a fancy wedding and travel together. Partners on the road must be supportive, flexible, open-minded, and most of all, true friends; in a word – simpatico. And I’m sure that the Ghostbuster, would agree, this sounds like a good place to start a marriage.

The Bill Murray Backstory
Now that I’ve made that point, I can’t move on without a bit of the backstory on the quote. For those that don’t know (and why would you), Bill Murray lives in Mt. Pleasant, SC; just across the Cooper River from Charleston. I have no idea how or why he ended up in Mt. Pleasant, but he’s living about as far off the Hollywood grid as is possible. He’s notorious for popping up around town in bars and restaurants, as he did recently in a Charleston steakhouse where a bachelor party was in progress. Someone asked if he’d like to have a drink and make a few comments, and the quote above was his advice to the rowdy crowd.

There’s no denying that he’s a cool guy, and from all the stories, very approachable. He’s a generational Bud, and the Dalai Lama is on his side, so he’s got that goin’ for him. If you’re a Murray fan like me, there’s a website specifically for stories about his encounters with fans. Great stuff – check it out.

Happy Trails,
James

This post is part of our Lessons From The Road Series.” Click here to see all the posts in the series. And if you’re curious, here are 10 Things We Learned From a Year of Travel  … and why sometimes the lesson is that you just have to break a few rules.

Dalai Lama

Photo Credits:
1. Paul Sherwood via Wikimedia Commons
2. Minette via Wikimedia Commons
3. Ícaro Moreno Ramos via Wikimedia Commons<

67 thoughts on “Travel as a Relationship Test: Bill Murray On Marriage

  1. We were married long before we travelled; but it did nothing but enhance an already unbreakable relationship. Chic drove, I navigated. He took the photos, I ‘directed’ (some of) them. We had our rôles and it worked like a charm. Our only problem was in generating the funds between trips. 😀
    And we LOVED Bill Murray.

    • It’s nice to hear that someone else shared our travel experience MR, and oh yeah, the days of travel before GPS. I remember quite a few snippy conversations between the driver and map reader. I can’t say that our GPS has improved our relationship, but it certainly has increased our quality of life. ~James

  2. Yes that is true and good advice. Hubby and I traveled a lot before we were married. Now we didn’t have some of the challenges you have had, but any small hiccup seems magnified on the road. How you weather it can strengthen that bond for sure.

  3. Like you two, Don and I were close to start with, but travelling/being together 24-7 has really deepened the bond between us.
    Great story about Bill Murray. It would sure be fun to meet him.
    Alison

    • Alison, given the places that you and Don have traveled, I’m sure that you know better than most what a wonderful travel asset a supportive and loving partner can be. And I would love to meet Bill Murray as well. In our time in Charleston, we always hoped that we’d bump into him, but unfortunately, we didn’t manage to. ~James

  4. We totally agree! Actually just had this exact conversation with another blogger yesterday! Travelling definitely is a true test of relationship! And as a couple, if you can travel together and live together – it’s a match made in heaven 🙂

    • It’s great to hear from other traveling couples that have the same experience in their travels and relationships. When you’re on your own and only have each other to depend on, it builds a trust in the relationship that is wonderful. ~James

    • Chris, I think that I’ve seen every movie that Bill has made. He cracks me up. Did you see that he’s going to be the voice of Baloo in a remake of Jungle Book? He should be perfect for the role. ~James

  5. The quote is spot on, James. Some of our very best, ermm, disagreements, shall we say, occur when we’re travelling. I have no idea how we’re still together, nor do I understand the dosh spent on weddings. Oh, what I could do with that cash 🙂

    • Jo, I’m with you on the incredible amounts of money spent on weddings. And remember that the number I quoted ($30,000) is an average. Which means that some weddings cost considerably more. I read that the average cost of a wedding in NY City is … wait for it – $87,000!!. Our first house cost less than that. ~James

  6. Classic! Great advice. We’ve had our share of disagreements while travelling. In fact, there’s a side street in Salat, in the Dordogne now renamed “Argue Alley”. But from that and other “moments of tension” I think that travel is to relationships what pressure is to carbon – sometimes you get diamonds!

    • I should have consulted you before I wrote this post Jill. We’ve all been to “Argue Alley,” and your carbon to diamond analogy is witty and perfect. I could have definitely have used both. Thanks for an award-winning comment. ~James

      • Gee, thanks 🙂 I read your entire post out to my husband. It sparked a lot of laughs about the various Argue Alley’s we’ve discovered on our journeys.

  7. The amount people spend on weddings blows my mind. All I can
    think about is the amazing places they could go, the things the could see and do!!

    • I totally agree Tosh. The wedding is one of the special moments in a couples marriage, no doubt, but things seem to have gotten out of hand. If I were a parent and my child wanted a $30,000 wedding, I would advise, let’s have a $10,000 wedding and I’ll give you the other 20K to spend as you wish (hopefully, some on travel). ~James

  8. Great advice! Next week, Steve and I will celebrate of 12th anniversary. We are still a few years from hitting the road but I’m sure it will only make a good thing better! I love Jill’s comment

    • It’s funny Laura, how things change when you travel long-term. I’ve realized that small things become large (Where can I do my laundry?), and if you’ve planned well, large things become small (Did I pay the property tax?). It takes some adjustment and flexibility, but successful couples just shift gears and move on. ~James

  9. Before we became full-time travelers we always said that moving was the ultimate test of a marriage. However, you (and Bill Murray, of course!) are 100% right. When you’re traveling you’re together 24 hours a day, sometimes in uncomfortable, awkward, irritating, stressful and confusing situations (all the things you would go out of your way to avoid in “normal” life!) There’s no place to take a break from one another and, sometimes you just have to agree not to talk for awhile when nerves are frayed. But, after being married 34 years,we’ve found out that we can take anything life and travel situations throw at us and work together to make the best of almost any situation. Travel has brought us closer together and, most importantly, we’ve found out that, not only do we love each other but we LIKE each other!

    • We’ve moved many times Anita (we stopped counting at 27), and you’re right about moving being stressful. At some point, we had a serious sit-down and said: “There has to be an easier way.” Over the years, in our travel and moving life, we realized that there were a few things that drove us crazy. The list is different for each of us, but most of our stress and conflicts could be traced to the things on the list. So our MO now, is to solve the problem before it occurs. For instance, rolling into a new city and blindly searching for a hotel caused all sorts of grief. Now, no matter where go, the day we arrive, we have a hotel reservation and know exactly how to get to the hotel (which bus, tram, taxi). It’s a small thing, but under stress, small problems can get to be large problems. ~James

  10. Great story! Yes you have to be flexible. When things go wrong, I think of that great quote from “Life, the Universe, and Everything”. – Don’t Panic! By the way, we got married 31 years ago by a justice of the peace at a car dealership and our rings came from K-Mart. 🙂

    • Pam, I love the story of your marriage: priceless. Terri and I married in our last year of college, and we were so broke that we could barely afford a six pack of beer, much less champagne. We were married at Terri’s parents house with only immediate family in attendance. It was a small, intimate affair, and even after all these years, we wouldn’t have had it any other way. And BTW, our honeymoon was a week touring KY State Parks, which we could only afford because of a tax refund. Ahh, those were the days. ~James

      • How wonderful! I know what you mean – we only had school loans between us. At that point in our lives I went to the grocery store with a calculator, and our TV was so bad that we changed channels with a pair of pliers permanently attached to the dial. We got married upon graduation from college right before heading to Tennessee for Richard’s graduate school. You got us beat – we didn’t have a honeymoon, we just moved. We’ve since made up for it. Once Richard finished grad school and postdoctoral training, we’ve been traveling ever since. Our first big trip was to the Grand Canyon and Utah in 1990 – a memory we’ll always treasure.

  11. Love the Bill Murray stories and quote. We were just in Mt Pleasant. Our traveling didn’t start until well into the marriage and has brought us even closer. But, for me, the real test is traveling weeks with another couple and remaining friends.

    • Lynne, I think that you learn more about someone traveling for a week, than you would normally learn in a month at home. We have dear friends that we traveled with early in our travel career, and we have nothing but pleasant memories. The four of us worked so well together because we all had similar interests, and each knew the give and take which has to happen for a group to get along. It’s really just like a traveling couple, only multiplied by two. ~James

    • Excellent point Martha, and I’m sure there are lots of solo travelers out there that would agree with you. Most traveling couples are probably more reluctant to reach out to strangers for help and companionship. ~James

    • Thanks Tess. Humans aren’t designed for full-time stress, and if you don’t deal with the stress, the stress will deal with you. This is true with individuals as well as couples. As I said in the post, it’s a make you or break you deal. Luckily for us, the bond has only gotten stronger (and the travel easier). ~James

  12. I smiled all the way through this post. Most of our traveling has come in our later years of marriage so we could not use it to test things before. I so agree that with all of the situations that come up, hoping to miss the military coup by the way, a relationship has to be solid for the trip to be enjoyable. Bill Murray and you and Terri have it right. 🙂

    • Solid is the right word Sue. And I would imagine that given the type of active travel (running marathons, alpine cycling, and rock climbing) that you and Dave enjoy also adds a good deal of physical as well as mental stress to the equation. It takes work on both sides to make it work well, an when it does, there’s nothing like it. ~James

  13. People fall in love … fall in lust … believe the Hollywood chick flicks … believe in fairy tales … marry for the wrong reasons or no reasons at all .. It is a wonder ANY marriage survives. It takes hard work, respect, an enormous sense of humor and the ability to think of someone other than yourself FIRST. The teachings of Buddha help a great deal, too.

    • Virginia, if you asked 10 people what makes a marriage work, you’d probably get 10 different answers. Every couple is unique with different expectations and lifestyles. But as you say, thinking of your partner first is the glue that holds all good relationships together, whether traveling or not. ~James

  14. James, you are absolutely right about the stresses and trials that travel can subject people to. Just like in military planning, you have to have a Plan B (and Plan C) because Plan A often goes miserably once things are set in motion.

    I know the 30 year marriage I had before Florence and I met was essential training that I needed in order for us to weather a storm or two or three. And for every stormy event we also shared dozens of amazing experiences that surprised, awestruck and even humbled us – together. And that is the key word – together. Because when the stress hit peak levels, as it inevitably will, we were there for one another when there was no one else who could step in to help us.

    This story should be required reading for young couples. It was great for us old couples, too. I look forward to more in this series. – Mike

    • Thanks Mike. Your point about being there for the other person is absolutely critical for a successful relationship, and this is particularly so in the uncertain situations encountered while traveling. Traveling couples that stay together figure this out pretty quickly. I’ve done some solo travel, and when things go offtrack, it can get awfully lonely out there. As to Plan A-C: we try to be flexible and not over-plan, but as I said to another commenter, there are certain things that drive us crazy, and these are the problems that we solve before they happen; which takes planning. ~James

  15. We have just published a book about our travels — about selling everything, packing one bag each, and hitting the road without an end in sight — and now we’re publicizing the book. There are TV and radio interviews, magazine and newspaper articles. The irony, we’re discovering, is that a number of interviewers ask if we fought while we traveled. Fights? Really? Never. Not once. Some interviewers refuse to believe us. They rephrase and try again: “How did you handle disagreements?” Nope. No disagreements. Our publicist tells us to just make some up and have anecdotes at the ready. We’re workin’ on it.

    • Tom, from reading our post comments and from our own experiences, I have to say that you and Louise are definitely in the minority. However, the medical issues you experienced in Spain must help put it all into perspective. After that sort of thing, missing a train or losing your wallet doesn’t seem like such a disaster. As for making up disagreements – have a look at Jill’s comment above where she says: “In fact, there’s a side street in Salat, in the Dordogne now renamed “Argue Alley”. Maybe you could get her permission to borrow that tale. ~James

  16. ha! yes, i agree and have witnessed this in tropical america many times. this is the true test, especially on 4wd back roads where scorpions and bats and skeeters show the true nature of intrepid wannabe{s!..

    perdon i am at a cybercafe with a crazy keyboard! ha, that{s another great test!

    as always, i enjoyed your post!
    z

  17. Great post! Fan of Bill Murray here too. I love how he just goes on about life doing random things at random places and with random people. He’s having fun with life.
    And I agree with your point, my husband and I have definitely gone through some rough times together and probably has made the relationship stronger.

    • Thanks Mani. I’m sure that Bill Murray isn’t just a “regular guy”, but it seems that he tries to be with his fans. And for me, his quote and ideas about couples and travel tell a lot about his personality. ~James

    • The proof’s in the pudding Peggy, and you and Poor John are a great example. If you’re like us, you have lots of conversations that start with: “Remember that time in …” ~James

  18. Although we haven’d done near the international traveling that we want/plan to, traveling this country in an RV will test your relationship as well. We know several who have gone their separate ways after such an experience. Great post James! 🙂

    • It always sad to hear of the breakups, but not surprising. Long term domestic travel is different that international travel, but it presents its own set of challenges, as you and Terry know well. As I said in the post, it’s make or break, and it takes work from both partners. ~James

  19. I love that lesson. We married young and some people expressed doubt but the fact we’d already backpacked for three months straight together seemed to assuage them?

    On the other hand, travel gives a certain type of bond based on uncomfortable experiences. The trick afterwards seems to be to not let it fall apart through boredom. Maybe that’s where Mr Murray went off the rails 🙂

    • Backpacking for three months is definitely trial by fire Bronwyn. It’s probably safe to say that on a trip like that, each of you had pretty much acted and reacted to just about all the types of experiences that you were going to have in your relationship (except having kids – which as you know, is a biggie). And you make an interesting point about post-travel boredom. But what some couples call a boring rut, other couples call comfortable routines. The big deal is just keeping the relationship on track, and both partners happy and fulfilled. ~James

  20. I love this post! My fiancé and I met while I was traveling and then he came along with me. We traveled for 2 years together before getting engaged. I think it definitely tests a relationship in ways that a ‘9-5’ life doesn’t. Great read!

    • Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. In two years of travel you guys probably learned about as much about each other as is possible, and that’s the perfect place to start a marriage. ~James

  21. Love knowing that Bill Murray is so close to us when we vacation at Pawleys. If you know of a Bill Murray sighting op, let us know! We’ve been traveling for umpteen years, and surprisingly, we get along better in flight or on the road than we do when cooped up during long periods of staying at home. (Think snow days!) We love our GPS even if Bert is known to talk to “her” in condescending tones! (Better she than me!)

    • We lived in Charleston for a year Rusha, and didn’t once see my main man Bill. He’s a phantom about town, he can be nowhere or everywhere. (I suspect he likes it that way.) And our GPS has made such a positive impact on our life that we’ve made it a family member with a name. We call her (definitely a her) GPSy (pronounced gypsy). We thought that was the perfect name. Terri will frequently to me: “Are you arguing with GPSy?” ~James

  22. We travelled a little before we married but mostly after. I’d agree though, some of the worst rows we have had had been on the first night somewhere new when we are both tired and disoriented. If you can weather those storms you can weather anything.

    • Tired and disoriented certainly make a good catalyst for a row Marie, and to that I would add confused and uncertain about what to do, and when to do it. The hardest thing is these situations is to stop the argument train before it gets up a really good head of steam. ~James

  23. I couldn’t agree more!
    It’s funny to read about this today because Gilles and I were talking about this very subject last night over dinner. We came to the same conclusion. Travelling together can either make or break a relationship. It’s better to know which as early as possible!

    • Joanne, if you’ve read many of the comments you’ve seen that lots of traveling couples come to this realization quickly. As I’m sure you and Gilles know well, the realities of travel versus the postcard version can sometimes be radically different. And how these surprises are handled make all the difference. ~James

  24. I love Bill Murray’s quote. My husband and I are great travel companions. In fact, when I’m traveling alone (which I love to do), I often wish he were there. We end up going back to those places just because I hate having experienced it without him.

    • I’ve done some solo travel as well Juliann, and it just isn’t the same without Terri along. Shared experiences are the best experiences, and it’s wonderful to have a fun and compatible travel companion. ~James

  25. I agree completely! Traveling with people we love is just the best thing in the world. Nice quote and nice character, after all we are human and we’re not perfect. Even Bill Murray 😀

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