7 Questions with 20 Years Hence

In the Fighting Couple’s continued quest to bring the the back story of some of the best blogging couples out there, we want to introduce you to the traveling couple: Tony and Steph of 20 Years Hence:

Blog:  www.20yearshence.com

Twitter:  @20YH

Facebook: 20YearsHence

sail boatWhat made you strike out to explore the world together?  What has traveling meant to you as a couple?

We met and fell in love in Nashville, TN having found each other through Match.com (true story!). When we first met, Steph was a graduate student working towards her PhD in Psychology and the way academia operates is that you pretty much never stay at the school you earn your degree from. So even from the beginning, we felt that we were simply biding our time, waiting for the chance to move somewhere new.

We both felt increasingly disenfranchised with the career paths we were each on. As Steph’s graduation day began to loom closer on the horizon, we began to bandy about the idea of taking a summer holiday—maybe six weeks to Europe—before resettling somewhere and getting new jobs with limited vacation. The list of places we wanted to go in Europe rapidly increased and we pushed the “holiday” idea to 3 months. When our good friend, Laura, took a sabbatical from her job to travel for 8 months, we had the epiphany that we could do the same!  We would get to have the adventure of a lifetime AND give ourselves the time to figure out what direction we wanted to take our lives. It took us about 3 years of planning, saving, and dreaming, but finally in August 2012, we said goodbye to our old life and flew to Japan on a one-way ticket!

1) How many countries visited between the two of you? 20

couple2) If you had to travel with someone else besides your travel partner, who would it be?  (this person can be living, historical or mythical?.)

He Said: Even though it would be a huge hassle,  I would want to travel with our two dogs, Rory and Emmy. They are super awesome and I know travelling with them would be crazy fun.  If I had to choose an actual person though, I would say the guy I read about once who is a language savant. Apparently he had a serious head injury or something and now he can learn a language in two weeks. He speaks 15 or more languages, and that seems like it would be pretty handy.

She Said: One of the best things we have done on this trip has been to finally learn to SCUBA dive, so if I couldn’t travel with Tony, I would probably want to travel with the big kahuna of the underwater world, Jacques Cousteau. He pretty much pioneered recreational diving and dove and discovered most of the world’s best dive sites, so I figure you can’t get a better dive buddy than that! I just hope he is as good to spend time with above land as he would be underwater.


3) We understand that the two of you are avid readers (you have a book blog?).   We have noticed that many serious travelers are also hard core readers.  Why is that?

He said: I think people who love to travel are innately curious, and have a thirst for knowledge. Reading, for me, is a continuous journey of learning, even fiction. There is always something you can learn from a book, even if it is just a greater understanding of beauty or critical thought, and I feel like travel is approaching the world in a similar way. I’m always questing for insight and want to know more about everything.

She said: I think Tony is exactly right—travelers and readers alike tend to be intensely curious and thoughtful individuals, and both activities offer us the opportunity to better understand the world, as well as our place in it. When I read, I seek wisdom and enlightenment, truth and beauty, and I love that a great book can help me know the world in a way I never would have on my own. I think traveling can, and often does, serve the same purpose. I’m pretty sure that those who love to travel and those who love to read ultimately are individuals who are constantly looking for ways to celebrate the richness of life.

 Travel couple4)  A question for you Dr. Steph, How will your degree/training help you with your travels?  Relating with people of different cultures?

She said: I am always joking that for all the hard work I put into earning my degree, I’ve somehow managed to choose a path in which it doesn’t apply whatsoever! Of course that’s not true since all aspects of Psychology are concerned with trying to understand the principles underlying the human mind, and as it turns out, the world is full of people… I certainly have bits of trivia that I picked up over the 10+ years of studying Psychology—I can tell you all the theories on why we are more likely to claim that people from other races all look the same, or even the neurological reasons & psychological principles that explain why tonal languages are hard for non-tonal speakers to learn—but on a daily basis, I wouldn’t say that I am explicitly using my degree in our travels. I got into Psychology because I wanted to try to understand people, and so it’s probably no surprise that interacting with people and learning about their local customs and how they view the world has become the most rewarding part of our trip for me!

I will also say that many of the skills I developed during grad school and that helped me earn my doctorate have proved immensely helpful on this trip. I’m great with numbers and am very good at tracking our money, which keeps us from burning through our savings too quickly and proves extremely helpful when we write our country summary posts. I’m also good at researching destinations efficiently but extremely thoroughly, which helps with the day-to-day mechanics of getting from place-to-place and figuring our what we need to do. If you need someone to synthesize and summarize a chunk of information and come up with a plan of attack, I am your girl!

5) Tony,  you are quite the photographer!  Love your pics of Japan!  Give us novices a few hints into how you work your magic behind the viewfinder.

He said: Thanks! Wow, well, I’ve been shooting for well over a decade now, so a lot of what I do is just instinct now, but I’ll do my best to help!

First, always think about the story you’re trying to tell with your photographs. It can be a series of shots or just one, but always try to imagine what you want someone seeing the shot to think. It doesn’t have to be grand, just try to have something in mind.

Second, think about your composition! Find out what the rule of thirds is and use it when you frame your photos, you’ll notice immediate improvement in the general interest of your photos when you pay attention to your framing!

Finally, think about all the aspects of where you are and what you’re shooting. Capture details, small elements and unusual perspectives. Never be afraid to take a shot, if you think there is a chance it will turn out (and even if you don’t) take the shot! You might be surprised at what works. Shoot everything!

shopping6) If you could solve one problem in the world what would it be?

He said: Prejudice. If we all approached life and each other with a more open mind it would be a lot easier for everyone to work together to solve the many problems that plague the world. Keeping someone else down because of your own misguided thoughts doesn’t make your own life any better, it just drags everyone down together.

She said: Wanton disregard and destruction of the environment. One of the things that has been the most disheartening to me as a traveler has been seeing the huge amounts of trash that wind up on beaches, in jungles, along the sides of roads and in the water. Or the number of endangered animals that wind up on menus or in zoos or are on the verge of extinction because of habitat destruction. So many dive sites we have visited have been potentially irreversibly damaged due to unsustainable fishing practices such as dynamite and cyanide fishing. Greed and the unceasing desire to turn a profit are putting the most beautiful parts of our planet at risk, and I really wish people were more invested in protecting our resources.

7) You knew it was coming….What has been your greatest travel fight/disagreement?

He said: I guess it was more of a period than any one fight. We had a pretty hard time in Japan, not because of anything to do with the country, Japan was lovely, but because of us. The time leading up to our departure was pretty stressful and full of a lot of big life events for us (Steph defended her PhD, I quit my job, we left our beloved dogs behind, sold all our things, etc. etc.) and we had a hard time adjusting to the new lifestyle we’d chosen for ourselves. Not to mention our schedule in Japan was just way too demanding, so we were worn out a lot of the time. We just sniped at each other more than we deserved and didn’t have enough patience. I definitely didn’t deal with the stress well, and that caused some issues. We worked it out (obviously!) and are doing really well now, but the first month or so of our trip was pretty fraught.

She said: I wouldn’t say that Tony & I have a perfect relationship or that we’re one of those mythical couples who never fight, but honestly, prior to leaving on this trip, we hardly fought at all. But we’ve been fighting a lot more since we hit the road, which I think has been a surprise for both of us. In some ways, I think it’s only natural that we would get on each other’s nerves more as we are together 24/7 now, which is considerably less dreamy in practice than it sounded in theory!

As Tony said, the first month of traveling was rocky for us as we adjusted to our new lifestyle and tried to decompress from all the stress we had undergone leading up to leaving, but we worked through it and thought it was smooth sailing… and then we got to Melaka, Malaysia. We both really loved the city, but some things neither of us deals very well with is extreme heat or big crowds. Melaka has oodles of both, and we were both getting cranky. We had been dodging cars and wandering around in the scorching heat when we finally reached a museum: Tony asked if I wanted to go in, and I said that you weren’t allowed to take pictures in it and it was rather expensive compared to all the other attractions so I didn’t know if I did. Somehow things escalated from there and Tony said that I never have any fun, which caused me to screech in turn that he was the absolute worst before storming off. Ultimately, the fight wasn’t really about the museum but was really the result of us having let a bunch of little things build up rather than talking openly with each other as they arose; in a moment when everything was intensified, we let the simmering cauldron boil over. It was a bad fight, but we learned the importance of keeping our cool, both figuratively and literally!


1000Fights:  Thanks you two!  Happy travels!

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