Based on my relationship history and my past comments about relationships, it may be surprising—though not really a secret—that for the last 18 months I’ve been “the luckiest man on the planet” (her words, but I wisely won’t disagree). In presentations, online posts, and media interviews I have made numerous references to my girlfriend, Amanda, which always seems to generate some interest and curiosity. In this interview I wanted to give her an opportunity explain exactly what it’s like to date an adventurous nomad.
Andrew. A common assumption is that, since I’m an avid outdoors person, that you must be too. Are you?
Amanda. When we met, no. Am I now? Not exactly. But I’d like to be, and I do enjoy being outdoors, particularly with you. People typically assume that I go on long trips with you, but your long trips are designed to be done solo, so even if I wanted to go, I don’t think it would be preferable. I also have a conventional job that prevents me from being gone for months at a time.
Andrew. I’m somewhat surprised to hear that you may be interested in a “long” trip. That’s a big shift from when we first started dating. What gives?
Amanda. A couple of things. Firstly, it’s impossible to be around you and not want to do those things—you’re pretty inspiring. Secondly, you push me physically—whether it’s running, skiing or hiking—and I find that I like that experience, despite how feisty I may get with you, or myself, in the heat of the moment.
Andrew. Even though we like to run, skin and hike together now, I think it’s fair to say that these activities have not been our shared passions from the start. What, then, are the other drivers of our relationship?
Amanda. I would clarify and say that I’ve always enjoyed those things, just not at the level or caliber that I do now, with you. Beyond that, I feel that we balance each other very well (e.g. you challenge me physically and I remind you to slow down and smell the roses) and I believe our core values and overall perspective of life align really well. Despite being opposites in many ways, such as you being rather serious and me being a bit goofy, your need to plan and my aversion to wearing a watch, me being vegetarian and your love of red meat, the things we do have in common—the things that drive our relationship—are incredibly solid. And, if ever I lose sight of those things, you have another redeeming quality: a really nice bum from all that hiking.
Andrew. The way I usually explain it, we seem to be equals in some things—like intellect, values, and upbringing—and opposites on many others. You give me style, culture, warmth, and spontaneity; I add analytical thinking, borderline anal planning, and unrestrained ambition to the mix. Is this description fair?
Amanda. It is. I think opposites can attract (and remain attracted) if the two people bring out the best qualities in each other, which I believe we do. A key to our relationship is that we appreciate—and cultivate—the differences that drew us to each other in the first place, and don’t try to change them. For example: I love that you are so different than me, and that you have to “plan when to plan,” or always be a few steps ahead; whereas, you appreciate my more Bohemian tendencies.
Andrew. For the record, how did we meet?
Amanda. Through our mutual (wonderful) friend, Laurel. She invited me to your very first Alaska-Yukon presentation, organized by your friends. I actually didn’t want to go, and I called Laurel that day to tell her I might not make it. Then at the last minute, the universe gave me a gentle nudge and I decided to suck it up, thinking I might meet a nice, professional guy instead of the motley crew of Match.com dates I’d been subjecting myself to. So, who is the first person I shake hands with—the disheveled wanderer who had just returned from a 6-month solo trip in the Alaskan wilderness. And, here we are! I blame it on your dimples.
Andrew. We have been dating for about 1.5 years now. Of that time, I probably have been out of town for presentations and guided trips for about 6 months. And we’ve also been living in different towns—Denver and Boulder—and separated by a 35-minute drive. How have we overcome these structural impediments?
Amanda. Oh boy. I’m fiercely independent and well-established in Denver with a good core group of friends and family. I have a demanding job that keeps me busy. These things help tremendously when you’re gone for extended periods of time. I know how to function on my own. I have hobbies. True, the commute from Denver to Boulder, while it isn’t that far mileage-wise, is a struggle when you combine it with how infrequently you are in Colorado, but I think we’re working on the logistics of that and I’m preparing to move to Boulder. Just don’t expect me to swap my entire closet of high heels for all trail-running shoes!
Andrew. I’m glad to hear that. Keep all of your little black dresses too, please.
Andrew. So, again, back to this issue of my absences. How have you learned to manage?
Amanda. Hmm…I’m more involved with the process now, both in the planning and execution of it, and I feel more invested. For example, I help ship books and magazines when you’re gone, and I offer business advice when you ask for it. I also want nothing more than to see you happy and thriving, and for that to happen the reality is: you have to be gone. I see how hard you work throughout the year, preparing for these presentations, clinics, and guided trips, so it is natural for me to support you both while you’re here and while you are gone. Ergo, it is both a challenging and rewarding experience.
Andrew. You make it sound as if our relationship is not adversely affected by my travels. Do we somehow make up for it, or do we just accept this part of it?
Amanda. Admittedly, your travel schedule is taxing. I don’t know that everyone is cut out for a relationship where one party is constantly on the road. Sometimes I just wish you were here to have a beer with me after work. There are moments, and I have expressed it with you, when I question if I handle it well, and if I’m supportive enough. But I do not ever question whether you are worth it. You are. I also know it is simply not an option for you to be around more often, as this is who you are—it is what you do—and it’s a wonderful thing. As they say, “I know what I signed up for.” That being said, there is always a silver lining and ours is that it keeps us on our toes and always searching for ways to let the other know how much they matter.
Andrew. I fly back to Colorado on Sunday morning, after being gone for seven straight weeks and seeing you just twice. What do we have to look forward to when I get back?
Amanda. I’m so excited to see your face!! I’m practically bouncing in my seat as I write this. Okay, I am actually bouncing. I predict plenty of trail-running, a trip to the Colorado Plateau where you can help me become a pack-rafting goddess, catching up with our friends, me cooking for you again (no more cheeseburgers for you mister, sorry!) and other things that are better left unsaid—our moms read this blog, after all. Oh—and helping you to finally write that book about the Alaska-Yukon trip. That is definitely on the to-do list.
Andrew. One of the questions I received almost nightly during this tour was, “What’s your next big trip?” I don’t yet have an answer, but my history suggests there will be another one. How do you feel about this?
Amanda. I know it’s coming. Although, it sounds like it’ll be 2014 at the earliest, which gives us a while to focus on what we have now. When the time comes, I’ll be supportive. I know these trips are important to you personally—actually, they are a way of life for you. I trust that you’ll be safe and thoughtful.