They say travel can make or break a relationship because you learn a lot about a person when you’re in unfamiliar circumstances. Travel can open your eyes to a person’s hidden strengths, hone your problem-solving skills, and increase your capacity for compassion and empathy. Through years of traveling with others, I’ve learned a few things about what it takes for travel to connect you with your companion, rather than tear you apart.
Here are 4 ways that travel can benefit a relationship.
You share the burden of travel responsibilities
It’s not fair for one person handle all of the planning for a trip (unless he particularly enjoy it), and we all have skills and preferences that make certain “jobs” better suited for one person versus another. While you might like researching activities in a city, your travel companion might enjoy searching for lodging. Having a discussion before the trip to determine who’s responsible for what and then continuing to communicate during the trip will put both you and your companion in the best position to enjoy the experience.
For our father-daughter trip to Hawaii last year, I booked the AirBnB and researched activities, and my dad handled the car rental. On the islands, he did all of the driving, and I split the navigation responsibilities with Google. Thanks to the division of the tasks, we both felt valued for our contributions to making the trip a success.
You connect through shared experience
One of the most powerful ways to connect with another human is through shared experiences.
In 2015, I lived alone in Bali for several months. While I learned a lot about myself, I felt lonely at times. One morning, I got up at 2 a.m. and hiked to a mountain summit. As I watched the sun rise over a distant lake, I felt like I was missing something. That’s when I noticed that I was surrounded by people sharing the moment with others.
There’s certainly tremendous value in independence, but my most meaningful moments have been the ones I’ve shared with someone I care about.
You share the accomplishment of solving a problem
A hundred problems – small and large – arise when you’re traveling. You can declare the trip a disaster, fall to the ground, and cry, or you can talk with your companion and figure out a solution. More than likely, you’ll choose the latter and be happy about it because solving problems feels good.
A few years ago, my friend and I took a plane, ferry, and pick-up truck to get to a resort on the island of Ko Samui, Thailand. It was exhausting, and all we wanted was curry and cocktails when we arrived. Unfortunately, we didn’t get either because the resort had overbooked and didn’t have room for us.
While my friend argued with the hotel attendant and got on the phone with the booking company, I researched new hotels. After hours of delay, we received a full refund, found a new resort, and felt a shared sense of satisfaction at resolving the unforeseeable issue.
You learn to comfort each other in the face of stress
Anxiety comes with traveling to foreign places, and often things don’t go as planned. Stress levels rise, and you have a choice to make: lash out, or figure out a way to comfort your companion. If you don’t want to ruin your trip, choose the latter.
Empathy is a great place to start. It’s as simple as saying, “I know this is stressful,” or “I get that this is frustrating.” The more you know about a person, the more you can be prepared for how he handles stress and how you can best help him cope.
My parents and I were on the Eurostar from London to Paris last year. We’d taken the train in the opposite direction that morning. It was a super long day, so when the train had a mechanical problem which caused hours of delay, we were frustrated. Of course there was nothing we could do about it, so we reminded each other that we were safe and didn’t have to get up early the next day. Instead of perpetuating complaints which would have added to the stress of the situation, we spread comfort and reassurance.
Travel is a great way to strengthen a relationship. Sure, it can test a relationship as well, but if you and your companion are willing to work as a team and rely on each other for support, travel will more than likely benefit, instead of burden, your relationship.
How has travel tested your relationships, and how have you grown? Share your experiences in the comments below.