10 Things You Learn When The Love of Your Life Is a Photojournalist

When I originally started writing my book, I had planned purely to chronicle Jeffrey’s adventures around the world and not include myself in any way. But then several of my fellow writers, for whom I have deep respect, started nudging me to reveal what our life was like from my perspective. So this is for you, my friends. I’m branching out from my THEN and NOW format just for you.

When you’re married to a photojournalist…

1)  You confirm that Timbuktu really is a town in the West African nation of Mali and not just a place your mother threatened to ship you off to if you “didn’t shape up” when you were a kid.

Photo of Mali

The Grand Mosque in Djenne, Mali, a couple hours southwest of Timbuktu

2)  You figure out how to fix things when they break, or more accurately, who to call when it happens, because inevitably it occurs when he’s boating down the Yangtze River or working in some remote village in Burma. Water heaters, computers, car batteries…you name it…they’ve all called it quits when he’s been gone.

Photo of Burma

Children making their way home after a day at the market in Burma

3)  You learn to celebrate birthdays and other special occasions on a flexible schedule. If the love of your life is in Papua New Guinea on your big day, you learn to pamper yourself anyway and enjoy it with aplomb…then celebrate it all over again once he’s back.

Photo of New Guiena

The Kambaramba stilt village on the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea

4)  You stay in tune with what’s happening around the world. If your spouse is heading off to photograph Nelson Mandela’s inauguration in South Africa or Hong Kong’s handover to China, you try to learn as much as possible about the country’s history prior the event, then drink in the details of what it’s like when he’s there on the ground, experiencing history in the making.

Photo of Nelson Mandela's Inauguration

An exuberant supporter of Nelson Mandela shows his enthusiasm during Mandela's inauguration

5) You learn that if you go on an assignment with him, you are NOT going on vacation–even if it’s to Spain or Italy or Tasmania. You will be working your hiney off, getting up at the crack of dawn, chasing the light,carrying heavy equipment, zipping around from place to place, keeping track of all the film and captions, and barely remembering to eat. That’s what photographers do. Still, there’s nothing like it.

Photo of Becky and Jeffrey Aaronson getting on a plane

Jeffrey and I jumping on a plane in Denver. ©David Hiser

6) You learn to be patient with the airlines (well…mostly), even when they snatch precious moments of your time together with delays or mechanical issues. When your husband has flown well over a million miles though, and has been delivered home safely each time, you try to overlook the bad stuff and appreciate what they do. But you do learn to always call ahead before going to the airport to pick him up (even if you live across the street from the airport like we did for many years) because seven times out of ten, his flight will be delayed.

Photo of an airplane window

The view out the window at 38,000 ft. on an assignment we did together in Australia

7) You learn the art of converting a mind-numbing pile of Chinese taxi receipts from yuan to US dollars when billing clients, and you figure out ways to keep your sanity during tax season when wading through wadded up scraps of receipts that need to be converted from Moroccan dirham, Indian rupees or Bhutanese ngultrum.

Photo of a Chinese taxi receipt

A modern Chinese taxi receipt. Most of the ones I converted over the years were funky hand-written scraps that were barely legible.

8)    You learn that little things make a big difference to somebody who lives much of his life on the road. Tucking love notes into his suitcase or using special code words in faxes or emails, which are meaningful to him but leave the Chinese government guessing, helps you stay connected. Also stocking the fridge with all his favorite foods or organizing a massage when he gets home makes him dizzy with appreciation.

9)    You learn that distance really does make the heart grow fonder. Reunions after a month apart don’t get any more romantic.

Photo of an Aspen tree carved with LOVE

Aspen trees

10) Most importantly you learn to have a life of your own and not put it on hold until he gets back. You take advantage of solo time and fill it with all the activities and people you love. In fact, you learn to appreciate it so much that you feel sorry for all those couples who rarely have time apart.

These are but a few things that come to mind when I think about the gift of our relationship and our lifestyle. I’m sure it wouldn’t be for everyone, but for us, it has been a dream. Jeffrey often says, “I can’t believe people pay me to do this job,” and I say “I can’t believe I have the best of all worlds.”

I’d love to know what you think and welcome your questions or comments so I hope you’ll drop me a note in the “Leave a Reply” section below!

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20 thoughts on “10 Things You Learn When The Love of Your Life Is a Photojournalist

  1. I was directed to this post in your blog by my good friend Reid. He sent it my way I’m sure, because my husband is a cinematographer and travels a great deal to far off lands as well. Most of what you said resonated so perfectly with me. It was refreshing, however, to read your positive take on reasons why the traveling husband is “good”. I appreciate that so much. Too often I dwell on the difficulties of the situation – instead of embracing the good that comes of it. Thank you!!

    • Anna, I’m so glad Reid shared my blog with you! It sounds like we’ve had many of the same challenges in common. It’s definitely not an easy lifestyle, but even with all the tough stuff, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Thanks again for taking the time to comment. I hope you’ll drop by again soon. There’s also another woman who follows me who shares our similar experiences.

  2. Becky, I totally related to this blog! I too feel that Steve and I are so lucky to have so much time apart. I think it makes us stronger individuals and a stronger couple. You really learn to appreciate the time you have together and not take it for granted. You nailed it right on the head “flexibility” is the name of the game. :)

    • Kristine, I’m sure out of anybody, you can relate most to the benefits of time apart. It definitely helps give one balance, and an appreciation for one’s partner. Another benefit…eating whatever you want for dinner, WHENEVER you want, and not having to answer that same question EVERY NIGHT, “What should we have for dinner?” : – )

  3. Becky,
    I have to say that I am really enjoying your posts. I anxiously await the next one, each time. Evy, and I have found it to be a great topic of discussion on our runs. As I was reading your posts I was thinking how distance at least once in awhile would be great for any marriage. I’m sure it gives you time to think about even the little things that you love about your partner. Keep up the wonderful writting!

    • Shannon, I’m so glad to see you here and know you are enjoying the blog. Thanks for taking the time to drop me a comment. Yes distance…or breathing space…or creative time…or whatever you want to call it gives one a wonderful sense of balance. It also makes you appreciate the love of your life even more when you don’t know how much time you’ll have together before he has to jump on a plane again. Thanks again for commenting. My next post will be coming soon. Stay tuned! : )

  4. It’s intriguing to see the POV shifting from that of the rugged individualist to that of a couple, a family, and, by extention, a culture. Our culture has such mixed attitudes about your role, and I look forward to reading each of your posts. I’m glad you’re getting the story out there from your POV instead of a biography about your talented husband’s amazing career. Shift happens. :)

  5. most telling is #10. While I don’t necessarily feel sorry for couples who are never apart (because I am one of the lucky ones who really enjoys living life with my Jeff – something not to underestimate!), I definitely concur that this time can be a reminder, or kick in the pants, to be sure you always have your own life! Thanks for another great post-just a pleasure.

    • Thanks, Beth. I think it helps that besides having a lot of great friends, I have a lot of interests that are best enjoyed solo (reading, writing, designing art projects, going on long runs). During all those years I never had to feel guilty about indulging myself in those things for hours because I could be as selfish as I wanted with my time. Now, as a mom, my biggest challenge is trying to find balance and chisel out a tiny bit of that same quiet time. I’m sure you know exactly what I mean! : ) Our lives are chapters, and I love each of them.

  6. It sure helps to have your attitude about flexibility! In fact, if we all lived that way (not getting bent out of shape about change) our lives would certainly be a lot more peaceful. How wonderful that you and Jeffrey appreciate low lucky you both are!

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