Guest Post by Katie Fleming
With the recent hurricane making headlines, my husband and I began to reminisce about our vacation that got cut short by Irma in 2017. The more we talked about it, the more I realized how much I’d learned about my marriage while evacuating from a hurricane.
Maybe my realizations were heightened because at the time we were still newlyweds. Or perhaps it’s a byproduct of my profession.
But wow, nothing teaches you about your spouse quite like a natural disaster!
Before I get into the lessons I learned, let me give you a little background about our trip:
My husband, Scott, and I were both born and raised in Chicago. Although we’re familiar with tornadoes and blizzards, hurricanes aren’t anything we’ve ever experienced. Our trip to Vero Beach, Florida was actually a wedding gift.
Of course the dates for the trip were set well in advance of an approaching hurricane, but we were aware of Hurricane Irma before we left Chicago.
And that brings me to the things I learned about my marriage while evacuating from a hurricane:
- 1. Adventure and Caution Can Coexist: Before we left Chicago- heading directly into the path of the hurricane- I thought we should probably reschedule our trip. Scott, on the other hand, insisted we forge ahead. Apparently, he thrives on adventure! (But, I will say, he had a plan to keep us safe the whole time.)The fact that the hurricane was scheduled to make landfall at the end of our vacation was his logic for proceeding with the trip. Since we would likely face significant fees rescheduling the trip (not to mention possibly losing out on our airline fare), Scott felt that even 3-4 days of vacation was better than no vacation. (And he was right!)
- 2. Different Perspectives Matter:Every morning of our vacation I woke up and went straight to the front desk for the most up-to-date information. Each day, the message was the same: that the resort would remain open that day and they would immediately appraise us with any updates.
One afternoon, Scott suggested we check in with the servers and bartenders for any update. Turns out, staff members had just been told our resort was closing on Friday. It was awesome to get the scoop hot off the press so we could start preparing for our departure.
- 3. Logic In The Details: We rented a car for our time in Florida. Although it had been my intention all along to only use the car for driving around town, Scott liked the idea of having it in case our flight home was cancelled and we needed it to evacuate. And, guess what? We needed it evacuating from a hurricane!
- 4. Selfless To A Fault: Before leaving Vero Beach we decided that it would be smart to get some food and water for our car trip. We knew the evacuation routes would be full and we would be in the car for quite some time.
When we went into the grocery store, we felt bad taking a lot of supplies since we were ultimately evacuating. Plus, the shelves were practically empty to begin with. We ended up grabbing a few bottles of water along with one pack of bagels, thinking we’d be able to grab more food a few hours into our route.
After 13 hours in the car, and more bagels than I care to admit- Scott realized our minimalist shopping trip might have been a tad extreme. We would have loved a little variety!
5. Car Talking Preferences: Prior to our evacuation, I found Scott’s chattiness extremely helpful. As I mentioned, he found out our resort was closing ahead of most people.
However, once I was stuck in the car with him on a packed interstate, I didn’t find his conversation habits nearly as endearing. I’m a big fan of listening to music when I drive. I even enjoy silence from time to time.
But, while evacuating from a hurricane, I learned that my husband HAS to keep a conversation going. Around 7 hours into the drive, after hearing the same radio loop three times, Scott turned to me and said “Okay, this is where I need you to find something to talk about”. Naturally, I drew a complete blank! I think I actually said “….hi?” Yikes, I don’t have that much to say in the car! Thank goodness we finally mutually agreed to enjoy an audible book. This is absolutely something I’ll remember for our next road trip and I’ll enter prepared with several books downloaded!
- 6. Our Differences Are Our Strengths: In my profession, I often see family backgrounds as a source of conflict in marriages. However, during our evacuation, our different backgrounds came in extremely handy when trying to find lodging after 18 hours in the car.
I used my cell phone to Google hotels along our route. Every single place I called was full. Frustrated and exhausted my husband suggested we stop at a welcome center to get lodging information. I honestly thought his plan was completely bizarre.
He ran inside, picked up a brochure and returned to our car. We dialed the first number- and surprisingly, they had rooms available! Clearly, most people were trying my approach and we were all calling the same places. Scott said his family used to always stop at rest stops to find lodging in the area. His background saved us from having to sleep in the car!
- 7. On the Same Team:We spent no fewer than 30 hours in the car. On day one, we spent 18 hours driving from Vero Beach to our hotel in Chattanooga (which would normally be roughly a 10 hour trip). On day 2, we arrived in Chicago around 5pm on a Friday, which might be the worst possible time to drive into the city! We were completely exhausted and stressed out. Much to our surprise, we never took our frustrations out on one another. Any time either one of us started to let the frustrations bubble up, the other one would respond with some validation along with gentle yet important reminders. We were safe, we were together, and we were on our way home. (Now, if we could only learn to apply this on Monday mornings we’ll be set!)
In addition to shedding some light on my marriage, I also learned some other helpful hurricane evacuation lessons from our experience:
- 1. The bugs know what’s up. I have never gone to the beach and seen so many bugs. They were everywhere and we got eaten alive. For this reason, I will never travel without Benadryl. And, when a storm is approaching I will always take note of the bug situation.
- 2. Kindness should always trump anything else. In an evacuation situation, it doesn’t do anyone any good to try to be the fastest car on the highway. And there is no prize for the fullest gas tank. Get what you need, and keep moving. Don’t hoard gas, food or water. And stay safe on the road.
- 3. Never, ever, ever, travel without a Car Charger for your cell phone. You will regret it.
- 4. Waze is an awesome app! We saved several hours (not to mention, gas) by detouring off the interstate and taking back roads.
Have you ever had a travel experience teach you a lot about your marriage? How about an interesting experience evacuating from a hurricane?
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Katie is the owner of Fleming Family Therapy in Chicago, IL. She also writes an awesome blog with relationship tips. When she isn’t working, Katie enjoys spending time with her dogs, baking anything with chocolate on the ingredient list, and working out (to combat the chocolate obsession!)
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