Recipe For Marital Bliss? Newlywed Travels Solo For A Year

Newlywed Travels Solo For A Year — Could You (& Should You) Do It?

Newlywed Maggie Downs lived her dream of traveling around the world & her relationship thrived.

Fourth months in to her marriage, Maggie Downs was having trouble connecting with her husband. No, they weren’t having emotional problems so soon, but they were literally having trouble communicating: the connection from her hostel in Cape Town was horrific. But why was she in South Africa solo just four months into wedded bliss?

Downs, a Palm Springs, California-based writer, had to decided to embark on a year-long around-the-world travel adventure. To be fair, she decided upon her plan before tying the knot.

The newspaper veteran was at a crossroads. “I became a journalist out of a desire to make a difference in the world; I ended up covering red carpet functions and dog fashion shows,” she lamented, writing, “Before I traded in my briefcase for a backpack, I had a 13-year career in newspapers. The industry was fragile, however, and I was no longer happy with my place in it.”

Her mother was also in the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease. She was a woman who had always longed to travel, but never had the opportunity, pushing it back for family and work. So Downs decided to take the trip her mother never could, to “stop writing about other people’s remarkable lives” and create her own story.

She had been with then-boyfriend Jason for seven years when she announced her plan. They lived together in a comfortable Southern California apartment with their cat and puppy. Their relationship, she notes, was “safe, but predictable.”

Though Jason initially was hesitant regarding Maggie’s plan, he soon agreed under the condition that she marry him first. His reasons ranged from romantic –“I want to be the only man for you!” — to practical — “You’ll need health insurance!”

After honeymooning in Peru, Jason returned this job as a math teacher while Maggie headed south on a minibus with 23 people and a pregnant goat. During the year she was away, she traveled to 19 countries in South America, Africa and Asia. She spent a month camped out in wildlife parks and a week praying in an ashram. She was attacked by a monkey in Bolivia, backpacked through Dahab, Egypt, when her mother died, and spent her first anniversary chatting to her husband via Google chat.

Despite Downs’ “Eat, Pray, Love” jaunt, she and Jason actually fell further in love. They wrote one another love letters, filled their inboxes with photos and stories and he sent her care packages, which she reciprocated with responding postcards.

“Finally, after one year of travel — low on funds and summoned for jury duty — I returned to California, greeted by strong, warm arms and a more vibrant relationship,” she writes. “The desire to move in a different direction took me far from my husband. It carried me around the world, and it brought me back home again.”

I love these kinds of stories. Why? They give me hope.

In my (very expansive) experience, long-distance relationships rarely work out. That isn’t to say that they never do, but it’s a rare thing. Jason is a wonder, a marvel, a keeper. For starters, he’s an incredibly smart man — he locked Maggie down before her trip, lest she meet some exotic gentleman in Egypt and fall madly and passionately in love. And he made that grand gesture that we all secretly hope for. Let’s not forget that the two had been together for seven years before Jason actually took a risk, before he finally asked Maggie to marry him.

But aside from that grand gesture, he’s a wonderful man because he afforded Maggie the freedom to find herself, to realize her goals, to do something she had only ever dreamed about. He didn’t hold her back, tell her not to go, tell her not to leave him. He was the one who left behind (the hardest place to be, in my opinion), stoic and sensible at home. teaching children algebra while Maggie ran around the world having amazing, once-in-a-lifetime adventures.

And he wrote her love letters.

Do I think this could happen to you? Sure. Anything is possible. But Maggie and Jason are the exception. She had her cake and ate it, too. She was given the freedom to find that, despite the excitement of constantly moving, constantly exploring, the place she most wanted to be was home. She was allowed the chance to do what would make her happy and have the man of her dreams waiting faithfully for her at home.

I guess the old cliche is true: If you love someone, set them free. If they come back to you, they’re yours.



Filed Under: Blogs


About the Author: Laura Schreffler is a former New York Daily News columnist who left the world of celebrity behind to focus on what makes her happiest — love and travel. She is the creator of — a website devoted to these two passions that she fondly calls “looking for love in all the right places.” In her spare time she likes to play matchmaker for her friends, dream about her next vacation and gaze at photographs of Taylor Kitsch. For more advice on love, relationships, and happiness, check out & her book "Internet Dating 101". And follow her here at Happiness Series with her weekly blog about finding love.

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