Want to know if your relationship is going to be one for the ages? Take a trip together.
This is not new advice, but it is indeed sagely. So many can agree that travel is the ultimate relationship test.
When you travel with your significant other, you learn so much about the other person, both for better and for worse.
Here’s a secret though. If you’re not ideal travel buddies, that’s okay. There’s no rule that says you must travel together, although if you’re like most people, you hope to enjoy many romantic vacations with your beloved.
But the goal of traveling together for the first time isn’t to make sure you are perfect travel partners, but rather to give you an opportunity to see the other person in a whole range of situations. It’s less about the travel itself than about discovering who you two are, and who you are together.
Traveling brings out some of our best (and worst) qualities, and there’s no better proving ground than a long road trip, delayed flight, or language barrier–all things you encounter when traversing the globe.
Our First Travel Experiences
When Nathan and I first met, we were traveling, both on separate journeys whose paths serendipitously crossed in Scotland’s capital city. Edinburgh, with its gloomily charming atmosphere and rich history made for a truly romantic experience. Though we didn’t officially begin dating until 6 months later, our first meeting will always be incredibly special.
Meeting someone like Nathan in Scotland drove home that oft-shared notion: “you’ll meet the right person when you’re doing what you love.” In other words, when you’re pursuing a passion, you are bound to meet someone else sharing that same passion, and often when you least expect it.
Once our lives joined up, we decided we’d follow that passion together, traveling as a couple and seeing the world. It certainly is amazing to be with someone who shares very similar dreams, goals, and values, and it makes every day an adventure.
Well, not every day….
In fact, blissful as this story makes it sound, traveling as a couple is not all romantic Parisian walks and icy cocktails on tropical beaches. Like anything else in life, we face our share of challenges as a couple when traveling together, though in the end, for us the blessings far outweigh those trying times. We decided we’d share some of our experiences with you now, so you can decide for yourself whether traveling as a couple will lead to romance, or to ruin.
The Challenges of Traveling as a Couple
Nathan: think that being in such close proximity to each other at all times can be difficult. I tend to like having some time to myself, which is hard to come by sometimes when we are on the road. If a couple is not able to communicate effectively (and constantly), then taking a long trip together could definitely strain a relationship.
Another factor to consider is the compromises that will be needed. Even for a couple whose interests are similar, there will be times when their desires will clash. This includes everything from where to go and what to do to how to get there and how much money to spend. No one can get their way all the time, and there will be sacrifices involved for everyone.
Amy: Sometimes being in a vehicle together 24/7 can be frustrating (such as when we lived out of our Australian campervan) Nathan is the driver and I’m the navigator, and sometimes we fail to communicate, resulting in a few minutes of wrong turns and frustration. Why is driving sometimes so stressful? When this happens, we try to remain calm when silly stuff goes wrong. I know at times I try to point out every possible danger and anticipate any problem (“you’re too close to the edge!!!!”), but mostly I need to simply relax and trust my partner to handle everything (well, on his end, anyway!)
Another challenge of traveling as a couple is handling different levels of extraversion. I’m much more of an extravert, while Nathan is quieter and more introverted. We don’t disagree on going out or being social, rather, our differences show up in energy levels. I always have a lot to share, and am happy spending all my time communicating with Nathan. I could talk his ear off all day long, and I’m sure sometimes I do. He, however, treasures moments of quiet contemplation, and a respite from constant chatting. It’s a challenge to satisfy both our needs, but compromise makes it work. I’m happy to give Nathan time to himself, as well as occupy myself with my own musings for a spell. I know he needs this time to recharge, and these moments refresh him, helping to create a happier, more energized trip.
The Benefits of Traveling as a Couple
Amy: Traveling as a couple is as good as it gets, in my opinion. Sharing your life with this person naturally extends to sharing our love of seeing the world together. There are many benefits to traveling as a couple: Sharing special memories with just the two of you. Having someone with whom to witness experiences. Knowing your greatest supporter is right there with you, every step of the journey. Traveling with friends brings a lot of these benefits, but traveling as a couple is special.
Romantic moments are made even more romantic in a foreign, exotic location. (I should note that UNromantic moments are possibly made even more UNromantic. Life in a campervan does not always present one at their best, let me just say)
But it’s great to know I’m seeing the world with the person who knows me best–someone who will push me to extend myself and try new things, and who knows exactly how to help when I’m feeling anxious or afraid.
Travel has benefited our relationship by forcing us to confront issues that we might have avoided otherwise. Spending so much time together, especially when circumstances become stressful, brings to the surface issues of compatibility and personality. We have learned a lot about each other and about how our relationship works. It is also allowing us to grow together through the challenges we face and to build a foundation of shared experience on which to bond.
How Travel Can Be a Relationship Test
Here are some of the ways that couples travel can serve as the ultimate relationship test.
Traveling Together Teaches You Patience (and shows you if he/she doesn’t have it!)
Patience is definitely a skill that can be developed and honed, but it doesn’t come naturally to all of us. Travel requires a lot of patience, however, if you want to have an enjoyable journey. Not only are there long legs of transportation to be dealt with, but more often than not, you’re going to experience some delays and cancellations. How does your partner react in these situations? If he or she gripes and complains unceasingly…well, I hate to tell you, it’s going to be a long trip (and a long life!) Of course, don’t bail at the first sign of impatience. Some elements of travel are inherently stressful, and your mate is only human. Give them the freedom and acceptance to vent some of their frustrations. This is perfectly normal. If you start to see a pattern of excessive whining, consider a gentle reminder that life is short and some circumstances are out of your control. A self-aware partner committed to being a better person will likely try to temper some of this behavior…if only for your sake.
–> Beyond travel: our friends at Happily Ever Adventures have 7 relationship tests that all partnerships should pass. <–
Couples Travel Means Dealing with the Unfamiliar
A short road trip in your home country is not generally a huge leap out of the comfort zone, but traveling to another country can be, particularly if one or both of you are novice travelers. First of all, what an adventure! If you are able to embark on an international journey with your significant other, this is a rare and beautiful gem. This is also a fantastic chance to see how he or she deals with the unknown.
How open-minded is your partner? Will she try that deep-fried bug with you in Thailand? Will he attempt to use a few foreign phrases with the locals? It’s great if you’re on the same page from the start, but a more adventurous and bold partner can also help bring a shy soul out of his or her shell. Likewise, a more reserved partner might keep the more reckless one in check. It’s all about balance. Again, these factors on their own don’t signal an impending breakup, but instead are part of a larger pattern. You should witness growth in your partner, however small. Travel is a HUGE way to grow, and together you can watch one another become better people. That’s how it should be anyway. Travel should be bringing out the best in you at least 85% of the time. (That’s our own invented statistic, for the record).
You and Your Partner’s Temperaments Will Show Their Ugly and Beautiful Faces
Is your boyfriend or girlfriend an extravert or introvert? You’re about to find out in the ultimate test of true love. These differences in temperament can provide a wonderful balance amongst couples, and may be the basis of the adage: opposites attract. Extraversion and introversion do not merely refer to how social a person is, although that can be part of it. Rather, they deal with how an individual gains or loses energy. Travel and adventure require a significant output of energy. As you explore Rome in the summertime with your partner, for instance, this busy and colorful city may seem simultaneously to invigorate one of you and deplete the other. Introverts are often affected by sensory overload and may begin to feel overwhelmed by the hordes of people, noises, and activity. Most extraverts, however, will seem to grow more enthusiastic as the day wears on, apparently electrified by the crowds, smells, and sights. These examples are somewhat extreme (most people fall somewhere in between these two polarities) but they do paint a vivid picture. Without talking together about how the two of you are feeling and learning to respect the needs of the other, you could be in for a tense argument.
Honestly, You May Want to Punch Them
Let’s get real. Fights are inevitable. Bickering is to be expected. At some point during your trip, you will want to slug the one you love. Nathan and I essentially lived in our campervan last year when we crisscrossed Australia on a lengthy roadtrip. I will honestly tell you there were a few times we drove each other a bit bonkers. When you’re with someone 24/7, it’s impossible not to get a little sick of one another. But the lesson is in how you deal with these moments.
Do you let minor annoyances stack up until you’re crabby and snapping at every remark? Do you sulk silently for miles of the trip? These unpleasant and irksome times will happen, but it is how you work them out together that matters. Spending even an hour apart or taking time to go on solitary walks, meditate, or read can make a monumental difference for each of you personally. Being able to move through these trying times (or complete a 6-month road trip with both of you still alive) shows you’ve got what it takes to make it through the long haul.
Advice on Making Couples Travel Easier
Amy & Nathan: It’s all the usual relationship stuff: Be honest and polite, and be patient with each other. Confront issues as they arise rather than putting them off. Take care of yourself and your own needs and desires rather than sublimating them for your partner’s sake. By the same token, don’t expect your partner to meet all of your needs and completely fulfill you. Work on being your own source of strength and assurance rather than expecting your partner to do it for you.
We believe strongly in self-love and self-care, and know that this is vital for a healthy relationship. It’s important to remember that even though we are a partnership, we are two independent people with separate needs, desires, personalities, and ways of viewing the world. We celebrate our differences and enjoy our independence, knowing that at the end of the day, we’re continually choosing to love one another, and choosing to be together. We keep our relationship as a huge priority in our lives.
For travel specifics, try to reach a general agreement on how to spend money, and keep your bank accounts separate. We share all major expenses (transportation, accommodation, food) but spend our own money on extras like coffees or souvenir items. Keep track of how the other is feeling throughout the day, and try not to overextend your energies if one partner isn’t feeling up to it. Make sure to take some time for yourself, especially if solitude recharges you. Even a quick walk can help revamp your energy and keep you both feeling more positive. Most of all, treasure each and every moment out there together in the world, and be forever grateful you’ve got an adventurous, beautiful soul to share it with.
Want some additional advice on couples travel? Check out more of our tips on traveling with your partner.
Amy Hartle is the co-founder and owner of Two Drifters, where she blogs about romantic and couples travel, relationships, honeymoons, and more. With a Master’s in English and a BA in Musical Theatre, Amy loves to write quality content as well as to entertain, and she hopes to do a bit of both here on the blog! Amy is happily married to her husband Nathan, and when not working on their sites, Amy & Nathan can be found cuddling, reading, and enjoying delicious lattes.