April 11, 2012

Sticking Together: From Austria to Egypt on a Vespa Scooter.

Lessons learned from 56 years together.

Listening to George and Marian recount their 56 years together is like flipping through an exotic travelogue. Their “first date” was a three-month road trip on a Vespa scooter from Austria to Egypt.

Soon after they met for the first time on a ski slope while both living in Austria, they bumped into each other again at the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina, and now refer to those moments as serendipity.

That winter, George explained, “I’m going to drive my Vespa to Egypt, would you like to go along?” According to George, Marian’s reply was “Sure, why not”.

Their Vespa road trip was the first of many adventures together. Aboard the scooter they visited Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Jerusalem.

At one point during their journey, Marian caught pneumonia, and had to be admitted to the hospital for several days in Syria. When she was well enough to travel, locals warned them to stick to the main roads.

They never chose the well-worn routes and crashed the scooter on a back road outside of a small village. The villagers took them in for three days, fixed their scooter and sent them on their way.

This experience helped instill their ability to move forward when things went wrong, a skill they apply daily to their relationship. “I think this is something that just comes with time, but you can’t worry about all the little stuff, they say don’t sweat the small stuff, and that’s true,” Marian remarked, adding, “You have to keep a sense of humor about things in marriage.”

Adventure and travel is the main passion they share and is credited as the stickiest glue that binds them together.

The first day they met, they discovered their shared love of freighter travel. Prior to moving to Austria, Marian traveled solo to the South Seas via freighter, boarding in San Francisco. She traveled for three months to lands such as Samoa, Tahiti, Fiji, Tonga and New Guinea.

They were married in Innsbruck, Austria in 1957. Soon after, George sold his Vespa to a friend in London, bought a VW and brought it home on the Queen Mary.

They drove across the country, met each others families for the first time, and stopped in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, lured by a teaching job that included skiing and two months in Mexico each spring.

After two years at the Whiteman School in Steamboat, George joined the Foreign Service, taking them to Rotterdam, The Netherlands and Cali, Colombia. While living in Cali, a former colleague offered George a full time position as a professor at a new college in Steamboat Springs. He didn’t hesitate, accepted the offer and taught there for 35 years, raising their three daughters in Steamboat.

During their Steamboat years, George ventured overseas on his own on Fulbright scholarships, and again during his sabbatical. He traveled to places such as Pakistan, Berlin, Morocco, Tunisia, Japan, China, India, and Turkey. Marian remarked that “Sometimes you have to allow people their spaces,” although she did meet George for portions of these trips.

To this day, travel is extremely important to them. They venture away at least three to four times a year, and always on the less worn path. Marian recently celebrated her 80th birthday, and showing no signs of giving up the adventure, they have two trips planned in the near future.

One of their secrets to happiness is never going into debt. Even though they did not have much money, they lived within their means. They were frugal and traveled light, independently and inexpensively. They see the financial strain of debt in modern day couples, and feel that they had a great deal of luck.

They are great believers in serendipity, “I have often felt that this kind of perchance meeting takes you in different directions that you couldn’t possibly plan out,” George said. That first perchance meeting on that ski hill in Austria led them to a rich life full of adventure, travel, and love that they could not have possibly planned.

When asked to summarize the glue that holds their relationship together this is what they said:

Marian: Travel (finding new places), reading books and food.
George: Love of travel, love of reading and love of good food.

They both said “food” at the same time, followed by hearty laughter, when the laughter died down they added the importance of their family, and that they enjoy spending time together.

What keeps you and your loved one sticking together?


Editor: Jennifer Cusano

Want more like this? Like elephant Love on Facebook.

Read 3 Comments and Reply

Read 3 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Gillian Pierce  |  Contribution: 400