A recent US Travel Association survey interviewed over 1,000 couples to determine how travel affects romantic relationships. The results were overwhelmingly positive: Around eight in ten (79%) couples believe traveling together has a positive impact on their relationship. Almost two-thirds (63%) of participants believe travel helps couples stay together longer. The survey even found divorce rates are lower among couples that travel together compared to those that don’t. What’s the reasoning? Here’s a list of key things traveling couples do better than couples that stay at home.
Put two people in a place they’ve never been before, out of their comfort zone, and often with very different ideas of what “traveling” actually means, and there’s bound to be some problems. One partner struggles with directions when you’re in a maze-like city in Morocco; one partner gets carsick, after your bus just got a flat tire, on a highway through the Himalayas; one partner confesses they’re afraid of insects while in the middle of a hike through the rain forest.
It’s not surprising, then, that the survey found couples who travel together are around 10% more likely to agree they communicate well with their partners than those who don’t travel together. They’re also more likely to describe their partner as patient. Conversely, couples who never traveled were 8% more likely to suggest their partners need to do a better job sharing their feelings. They also were twice as likely to declare that their relationship conflicts never seem to get resolved.
2. Accept their partner just as they are
Couples who’ve traveled together know no one is keeping any secrets. Because travel often puts us in such unique situations, often with few ways to ‘prepare,’ it’s pretty difficult to keep up a façade. The first partner I traveled with was the first partner of mine to ever see me with unshaved legs and uncombed hair, functioning on two hours of sleep. It was also the first partner to know how I look waking up after a 12-hr bus ride, how antsy I get after a few weeks without a good book, or how bored I always feel at beach resorts. By spending all that time together traveling, it’s impossible not to uncover the parts of your partner’s personality that otherwise could have slipped between the cracks or remained hidden.
3. Understand why independence is necessary
The survey found couples who travel agree they have “a good balance of time together and apart” in their overall relationship. In an article for Psychology Today, psychologist and relationship expert Shauna Springer agreed that taking these breaks for yourself can be a healthy part of any relationship. If a couple prioritizes travel together, odds are they’ve done a fair amount of travel on their own. These couples then more easily understand the value of alone time within a relationship than those who’ve never experienced this kind of solitude and freedom themselves.
4. Keep a sense of humor
That time you spent two days of your ‘vacation’ taking turns in a hostel bathroom after getting food poisoning from the street food. That time you planned a two-night hike in the mountains only to wake up to rain, mud, and a lost map. Couples who’ve traveled together know what it’s like for things to go horribly wrong, often as a result of something completely out of their control. And they know a laid-back attitude can be the determining factor in keeping traveling fun. In the survey, couples who traveled were more likely to say they “laugh and have fun together” and handle conflict well. With these travel mishaps still fresh in their minds, couples who travel understand the importance of perceiving misfortune as an opportunity for jokes.
5. Understand what “romantic” really means
People who rarely travel can get more easily fooled by the consumeristic hype for ‘romance’: a five-course dinner at the top of the Eiffel tower, a $100-plus gondola ride through the canals of Venice, a pricey bottle of Bordeaux in French wine country. Couples who travel, on the other hand, have figured out romance isn’t necessarily about the place or money spent but more the state of mind and the spontaneity that leads you somewhere. My most romantic moments traveling were camping off the side of the road in Patagonia after a day of hitchhiking, watching a sudden lightning storm when drinking wine on a cheap hostel balcony in Nepal, attending a concert in the living room of a musician’s loft apartment in Cape Town. These experiences made it clear the best spots for romance are rarely the most expensive or most well known but instead the ones you never could have imagined yourself.
In the survey, 86% of respondents who travel as a couple believe the romance is still alive in their relationship, compared to 73% of respondents who don’t travel together. Nearly twice as many respondents also believe travel is a better way to improve the spark of romance in a relationship than getting gifts.
6. Act as better friends
More couples who travel together reported their partner is their best friend, something many psychologists consider to be a main factor in maintaining a happy, healthy, long-term relationship. It seems almost impossible to travel with someone who you couldn’t consider a friend, with shared hobbies, interests, or ways of passing the time during an absurdly long layover. Traveling helps us realize what kind of company we like to keep, under any situation or in any environment. When your partner fits the bill, it makes sense that the relationship would become more meaningful.
7. And as better lovers
The survey also found that more than three-quarters of respondents who traveled with their partner said they have a good sex life, over 14% more than couples who don’t travel. See also: Understand what “romantic” really means.
8. Stay present
Relationships are prime breeding grounds for doubts about the future. Is this “the one”? Will we get married? Where will we live? But people who travel often appreciate the value of living by the moment. Couples who’ve traveled have experienced times when plans have changed, the unexpected has occurred and sometimes made everything even better than what you’d anticipated. And they also know what it’s like to be so completely consumed by the intensity of a wonderful moment it’s impossible to think about anything else. With these experiences in mind, couples who travel know there’s no need to overanalyze. What’s happening now is always enough.
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