Travel Tips: Travel Companions

Yesterday I read an article on CNN’s travel section called “Make or Break? Travel tests your love life” about traveling with your significant other to find out the reality of your relationship.

The article had several vignettes from couples who:

  • traveled early on in their relationship and knew they would work well together as a couple
  • had a rough start at traveling together but grew closer together and learned more about one another throughout the process, leading to greater success in their relationship
  • learned a great deal about their differences while traveling together and used travel to get away from one another, to the detriment of their marriage
  • met each other while traveling independently and learned enough about one another during those experiences to lead them to a long-term relationship

I never cognizantly considered using travel as a tool to “make or break” my relationships– I think I’ve just unconsciously known that significant other = travel buddy. It couldn’t be any other way–we would have to travel well together, literally, around the world, and figuratively, throughout our relationship.

I do know what it’s like to watch relationships change as they are shaped by travel. All of the friends I made while studying abroad were the result of our travel and living together, and those experiences bonded some people to others more closely and more quickly.

When you experience things on the road together, you share something that you can’t quite relate or recreate for others who didn’t go through the experience. You have irreplaceable and unforgettable memories of things you’ve seen, heard, breathed–that have shaped you and changed you. All of that can certainly shape and change your relationships as well.

I’ve had the awesome experience of taking road trips within the states with family, friends and significant others, and I’ve also have the amazing opportunity to travel internationally with family, friends and my fiance.

On all of those trips, I learned a great deal about those individuals and which parts of their true nature came to play during unplanned instances; all true reflections on how they approach their lives. I also learned those same things about myself, and I can look at how I’ve changed– and stayed the same–over the years through the way I’ve approached my travels.

What You Learn Traveling With Someone
  • When I backpacked around Europe with my middle brother coming off my study abroad experience in 2005, we clashed over the itinerary. I wanted to see as much as possible, and he wanted to take time to really experience every city we were in. I couldn’t wait to get out of Spain, and he was loving the experience, having taken Spanish throughout high school. He wanted to stop into bars and pubs and enjoy some adult beverages in the evenings, I wanted to lay in my bed at the hostel and plot out our plans for the next day and get a full night’s sleep. By the time we were half-way through the trip, he was dragging his feet about going to the next city and country, and I felt like I was bullying him to keep moving. To me it was about taking it all in, and to him, it was about taking our time to take it in. I learned a lot from him coming away from that trip.
  • When I backpacked around Europe with my youngest brother following my college graduation in 2007, we got along great and took the lead from one another throughout our travels. I consciously tried to keep the itinerary open for exploration, not wanting to repeat my mistakes from the previous sibling trip, and it was a good thing because we were constantly getting ourselves into and out of trouble. At one point we were almost kicked off a train in Hungary for stretching out our legs on our seats (luckily we were able to pseudo-apologize and ride quietly to Austria), another time we were being yelled at by a guy from the Czech Republic through a lady who spoke Czech and Austrian through a guy who spoke Austrian and German through a guy who spoke German and English who informed us we were on the wrong train with the wrong train passes and we might be stuck in the wrong country (luckily we made it back to Germany on the last train of the night), another time we were walking along an active railroad outside of Pompeii, Italy, because we missed the bus back to the train station… I could go on and on. My mom would have died if she had heard about it as we went along and not as funny recaps when we were safely home. I am a planner and don’t take well to situations where I have to fly by the seat of my pants. My brother is calm and untouchable–nothing phases him. We were able to balance each other out.
  • When I went to Mexico with Brian in 2009, we started out wanting two different things. He wanted to relax, enjoy the never-ending service of the all-inclusive and spend time by the water (possibly he already knew I’m a freak about packing the itinerary). I wanted to explore the surrounding area, take a couple of day trips and get it all in. We managed to agree on a balance almost immediately upon arriving. I was totally in for some pool side book reading under the sun, and he quickly tired of lying around and led our whale watching trip and travel into Cabo for some guac and exploration. The trip ended up a great balance and we were both happy. I think we continue to do a good job of compromising in our relationship– his taxidermy is on the first floor of our house and he accompanies to more musicals than he would ever care to admit.
  • When I traveled with Brian to Germany in 2011 to meet up with one of my best friends, I had no idea what to expect. She and I have known each other a long time and we’ve both lived and traveled abroad a great deal, and we’re both planners and like to experience things. I didn’t know how that dynamic would work, or how Brian would fit into the picture. We had an amazing trip. The three of us get along so well–no one is ever the third wheel, but when necessary, two people can gang up on the other person to the group’s benefit. I could never have imagined it going so well. It’s a trip I’ll never forget and a friendship I’ll never give up.

If we go back to being figurative, life is a journey, and the relationships we have with our travel companions–those we choose as well as those we meet along the way– are constantly put to the test. They are constantly shaped by the little trips we take and the way we react when we get lost or discover something amazing along the way. I hope I’ve a travel companion worth keeping.

Brian and I continue to travel often–although never as often as I would like– and the trips keep getting better and better. He is always and forever my very favorite travel companion.

Do I still throw fits when my itinerary is thrown off? Absolutely. Like I said, some things never change–but at least I know this about me and (whether anyone believes me or not) TRY to be better about it. Plus he’s captured video of it so now I can never live it down.

Does he whine and complain leading up to every trip about how we will never be able to pay off our house or buy land out west so we can someday live in solitude because we keep spending millions of dollars gallivanting around? Absolutely. But now I know he lightens up a little once we get to our destination so I try to temper our conversations leading up to the big event to alleviate his worries (and pad the savings account).

I know our relationship is better for the trips we’ve been on, and I hope there are lots more as we continue to grow together.

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