How Travel With a Companion Can Test a Relationship4 min read

by Darcie
young couple fighting over coffee

Travel typically takes you to an unfamiliar place. For some, this can lead to anxiety, and very quickly a trip with a companion can take a turn for the worse.

Over the years, I’ve traveled with many different people – family, friends, boyfriends, classmates, and professors. In the process, I’ve considered ways to prevent or reduce conflict by identifying the biggest stressors that travel puts on relationships. Awareness of these stressors can serve a warning to consider how you might react and help you to prepare for when they do.

Here are 5 ways travel with a companion can test a relationship.

You have to change plans.

It’s inevitable – your plans will get thrown off at some point. You plan to go to a garden, but it rains. You want to go to a museum but learn it’s closed in honor of a local holiday. You oversleep and miss a train. These things happen.

Some people lean into change and adapt quickly, and others fixate on the injustice of the situation. Of course it’s natural to feel upset when plans change, but travel requires the ability to adapt without dwelling on the frustration of it.

When I was in Paris with my parents last year, we decided to go to Musée de l’Orangerie and had walked many miles to get there. It was closed when we arrived. (Our fault, we’d assumed it was open on Tuesdays.) We were disappointed because we were leaving the next day, but we couldn’t do anything about it. We just had to accept our mistake and find something else to do.

You have to ask for directions.

Cell phones make navigation a hundred times easier than it was a decade ago. Still, at some point, you’ll end up on a street you didn’t intend to and have no idea how to get to the castle you have tickets to tour at 3 pm.

I once traveled with a friend who is an extreme introvert and refused to ask for directions from anyone. Every time we were lost and needed to ask for help, she’d say, “But I don’t know if they speak English.” The only way to find out was to ask, but my friend never would.

She’d stand there, whimpering about the situation, until I stepped up. The trip was exhausting, and I learned that if I ever agreed to travel with her again that I would have to be okay with pulling more weight.

You (or your travel companion) get sick.

You’re sleeping in a different time zone and eating different foods. Your body’s equilibrium is thrown off and reacts by getting sick.

On the trip to Paris last year, my mom was unable to sleep. She felt very weak the next day and didn’t want to do anything. It was Christmas Eve, and we’d planned to attend a service at Basilica Notre Dame. We were disappointed that she couldn’t go, but my dad and I decided anyway.

If you’re traveling with just one other person, you need to be aware that if your companion gets sick, you may be touring the city alone. If you’re not okay with this, think twice before booking the trip.

You have to compromise.

Traveling with a companion means it’s not all about you. You have to take your companion’s interests and desires into consideration.

When my parents and I were in Paris, we walked everywhere. My dad, at 67, was the ringleader and never wanted to take the metro because he believes walking is how you see a city. My mom and I agree with this, but sometimes we were tired. Typically, my dad understood, and the majority ruled.

Travel with  a companion means constant compromise. If you aren’t willing to compromise, don’t travel with anyone but yourself.

You have very little, if any, alone time.

Unless you’re a true extrovert, you will need alone time.

My dad is an extrovert, so when we went to Hawaii together last year, I warned him that I would need time to myself. He appreciated the heads up, and I was glad that he understood my needs.

Travel can test a relationship in many ways. I’ve learned that discussing travel styles beforehand is one of the best ways to determine compatibility and identify potential areas of conflict. If you do this, you’ll put yourself in the best position to reduce stress on your relationship.

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