What can you learn from traveling with your significant other?

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Over the past week, I have asked friends and family members of a variety of ages, orientations, and relationship statuses to provide input on what they have learned from traveling with their significant others. I was anticipating that there would be clear differences between male and females responses and between those who are single, dating, and married. What I found, though, was actually very different. First of all, most people were timid to respond, but by giving them a little reassurance, I got some interesting responses. People provided me with very similar insights, only differing by the tone (positive or negative, most often based on life experience). Below I have captured their insights, which I promised I would keep anonymous to not offend our significant others.

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What can you learn from traveling with your significant other?

A few people commented that a trip with your significant other is a microcosm of life. One person wrote such an insightful response that I decided to include the entire quote:

“You know, it’s funny the things you learn about your significant other when you are cramped into a ridiculously small space for far too many hours in a row. This includes even the times when you ‘travel in style,’ and splurge for amenities like business class and suite living on your trips. I actually saw a post that showed up on my Facebook feed about this just the other day. It went something along the lines of, ‘if you can travel with someone close to you for that long and not punch each other, then you can make it through a lot more.’ It really rang true to me. While we all have those little things our other half does that irritate us, embarrass us, or we can enjoy only in small quantities, the summary effect of all these things when squeezed into a small space for 8+ hours overseas on a plane only to be cramped into a hotel together for a week or more can be overwhelming. You certainly learn where your red lines for your tolerance, and hence, your relationship seem to be. I’ve learned these lessons a couple times, and I should have taken the lessons I learned from these experiences to heart moreso than I did. Long story short, the travel experience can be an amplified microcosm that can help you determine whether or not you will ultimately succeed in a relationship. I’m not saying this to scare anyone from traveling with his/her other half, but one thing is clear to me: you will learn a lot about each other. Some will be not so great, but hopefully you can relish each others’ company for the duration of the trip. I’ve had experiences on both ends of the spectrum, and they really can make or break a long trip. The real message from all of this should be…if you enjoy similar experiences, similar dining, similar entertainment, and have similar curiosities, a trip together could be a hugely memory filled experience. However, if your interests diverge and your tastes contrast, it might be better to stay home and enjoy the things you know you enjoy together. It’s all about learning what you know about the other person and hoping to take it to the next level. A trip with your other half will certainly let you know where you stand and just maybe how bright your future is.

You will learn about each other’s scheduling perspectives. Is he an early riser or a night owl? Does she like to have every minute planned out or is she spontaneous? Is he active or laid back? While this may seem small, it can affect a relationship in terms of how you spend each day together and what kind of routine makes each person happy.

You will learn about the type of traveler you are and he or she is: The adventurer. The camper. The foodie. The historian. The prince. The groupie. The bar hopper. And the list goes on. Some types are complementary and others clash. The only way you will find out is if you travel together.

You will become aware (for better or worse) of each other’s hygiene. For those who are dating (and not married), you may only see your significant other at his or her best; freshly showered and groomed. When you travel, hygiene conveniences are not as accessible, so you will learn about each other’s hygiene habits. Does he shower too often or not enough? Does she wear too much perfume? Does he only brush his teeth once a day? Hygiene again may seem like a small issue, but can be a pet peeve, which can lead to greater issues in a relationship.

You will learn how each other responds to emergencies. Does he panic? Does she overeact when something is not serious? Is he resourceful? Dating in the comfort of our own homes often lends itself to smooth sailing, whereas traveling leads to unexpected situations, and it is interesting (and important!) to see how your significant other reacts.

Along with emergencies, you will learn how each other responds to adversity. Travel is not always glamorous. You will get lost. You may not speak the local language. You may experience poor customer service. How does your significant other respond? Is he patient? Is she respectful? You will be able to learn the true colors of your significant other’s attitude when faced with challenges.

You will learn about your significant other’s ability to adapt to change. Traveling exposes us to new places, new people, new cultures, and new customs. With all of these changes in a short amount of time, you are able to see how quickly your boyfriend or girlfriend (fiancé, husband, wife, etc.) can adapt and how flexible they are to adjust to experiences out of the ordinary.

You will learn about the role of religion in your significant other’s life. Do they attend religious services regularly? Are they interested and willing to learn more about your background? Are your backgrounds compatible for a long-term relationship? You are able to gauge this when learning about religious customs in other countries and whether or not your significant other is open to discuss this. As many of us know, religion can make or break relationships and it is important to establish a consensus up front about the topic before making serious commitments with your significant other.

You will learn about each other’s perspectives of the world. When you stay in one place, you may not be exposed to the same level of diversity as when you travel. What are his political views? How does she respond to diversity? Does he view the world from one country’s point of view or from a global point of view? While you don’t have to think exactly the same way as your partner, it is important to understand each other’s perspectives of the world and whether or not they are compatible in a long-term relationship.

You will learn about each other’s willingness to take risks. Does she prefer a routine trip that establishes family traditions and involves few risks? Does he like to go on an adventurous trip to a new location every year? While traveling, does he prefer to have a well-planned itinerary or will he go on a spontaneous excursion? Willingness to take risks while traveling often translates to willingness to take risks in daily life. No approach is better than the other, but you should know how risk averse you are and whether that meshes well with your partner.

You will learn about each other’s budgeting habits and priorities. How responsible is he with a budget? How does she prioritize where she spends her money? Do you have to split the bills or is one person more generous than the other? Are your buying habits compatible? Similar to religion, financial issues can make or break relationships, so you should establish a good understanding of each other’s budgeting priorities and whether you agree or disagree with each other’s habits.

Who’s the driver and who’s the passenger? This is an interesting way to think about travel. One partner will be the leader, the navigator, the decision-maker, whereas the other will be the passenger and the follower. Or there may be a middle ground where partners divide these roles evenly. These roles can change throughout a trip, but it is important to understand what role makes you and your partner most comfortable. This can translate to any experience you have with your significant other.

You will learn about each other’s introvert or extrovert tendencies. Does she prefer to travel independently, choosing select excursions separately and other excursions together? Does he prefer to spend every minute with his significant other? Together, do they prefer to travel with family, a group of friends, or by themselves?

You will learn how you work together as a team. As you experience a new place together, you will need to be each other’s advocate. You will help each other when you need to, you will divide up chores, you will make decisions, and you will enjoy new experiences together. You will learn together about what you like and do not like about the world around you. You will learn what you have in common and where you differ. Do you have enough in common that you can be away together for an extended period of time? In the end, are you and will you continue to be a winning team or a losing team?

You will be able to keep the relationship exciting and grow together. Staying in the same place and establishing routines can cause complacency and boredom if they become too repetitive. Are you having fun in your relationship? If not, does travel help make your relationship more exciting and rekindle the fire? Traveling expands your perspective of life, and doing that with your partner helps your relationship grow as well. How well do you grow together?

I hope all of these insights are helpful and inspire you to travel with your significant other. Just as traveling helps us grow as individuals, it helps us grow in our relationships. Bon voyage, with a reminder of one of my favorite quotes:

who you travel with

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