Photo: Seth Rader
A test of commitment
You’re thinking, “A test of commitment? Seriously?”
Yes. It’s a test.
As dramatic as it sounds, I’ve learned the hard way that planning a major trip with your partner can signal red flags about the future of your relationship. Planning a vacation takes discussion, research, and initiative. In past friendships and romantic relationships, I’ve learned that it is quite difficult to find someone who possesses that last important factor: initiative.
I want to say that I noticed these red flags in my previous relationships and quickly removed myself from the situation, but I’d be lying. Time after time, I babied my partners, cradling them by continuously sending “friendly reminders,” scheduling our quality time, and eventually doing the work for them.
Tired and burned out from my stressful job, I remember coming home one day to continue research for an upcoming trip and thought, “If I wasn’t doing this for him, would he even go on this vacation with me?”
I took a moment to recall all of the other “favors” I’d done for him: resume editing, online shopping, flight and train tickets buying, vacation research, suggesting a cross-country move…
So, I stopped doing it. I gave him the information I found for the trip, among other tasks, and kindly asked him to fulfill his portion of the research and book his own plane ticket. Annoyed with my “pressure and inconsideration” for his busy schedule, he complained about it. I immediately realized, it wasn’t the trip. It wasn’t the cross-country move. It was his commitment to me.
His commitment was nonexistent unless it was convenient for him.
We had decided to go on a vacation because I wanted to do it and it was easy for him to just say, “Yes.” But he hadn’t factored in pulling his own weight. He assumed I’d do it all for him, because that’s what he was used to. And I don’t think I am the only woman who has done that.
That year we went our separate ways. With 20 / 20 hindsight vision, I saw every indicator that showed all I wanted was effort from him, and all he wanted was for things to be easy.
When I called it off, he didn’t even argue. It took me planning to travel with him to finally see that at that point in his life, he was only committed to himself.
Discovering cultural sensitivity, or the lack thereof
Sometimes you learn people’s true colors when they’re removed from their comfort zone. One of the most rewarding aspects of travel is cultural exposure. More often than not, this is a perfect opportunity for your partner to show how sensitive he is to those who are unlike him.
For me, cultural sensitivity is a huge concern. I want to know that the man I am settling down with is capable of being sensitive, compassionate, and accepting of that which he does not understand. I want him to know that our way isn’t the only way, and respect different ways of life.
Deciding to take your relationship to the next level and then later learning that your partner is insensitive, and perhaps even intolerant, of other cultures may be a huge dilemma for your future together. I prefer to rule this potential situation out immediately.
If it hasn’t already happened, a time will come when everything goes wrong on your vacation. You might find yourself stranded and lost with a dead phone, dark surroundings, and a pressing urge to pee. Times like this are when you should pay close attention to how your partner copes with the situation.
For me, it was a humid summer day and my boyfriend and I decided to alter the route of our 10-day road trip to visit the Luray Caverns in Virginia. Zigzagging across the states, rushing in time to make it before closing, we spent a romantic day exploring the underground caves and building up an appetite. By the time we were done our short excursion, we saw we still had a bit more daylight and decided to explore the scenic drive of Shenandoah National Park.
Speeding through the swerving roads away from a chasing dusk, shadowed under umbrellas of green, we realized it was a bad idea to have placed ourselves in this large park with minimal reception, dying phones, and an approaching nightfall.
Panic clouded my thoughts and we uncomfortably laughed at our foolishness. We were starving, had nowhere to sleep, and were unable to figure out where we were with our malfunctioning GPS. I was afraid this was where the fighting would start: “I told you we shouldn’t have done the park,” “You’re the one who wanted to see the stupid caves,” “Can’t you just ask someone for directions?”
But we didn’t. He quietly asked, “Would you consider sleeping at a rest stop?”
I responded, “Oh my god, that’s like my dream.” A burst of laughter broke the silence.
We ultimately drove around and decided that we should sleep at a Super 8, despite the REDRUM hallways, suspicious noise at our window, and burnt holes in the sheets.
I realized that if it wasn’t for us doing this trip together, and failing horribly at Safety 101, we wouldn’t have seen how well we worked together so long as we stayed positive and laughed a bit.
The endless road
At the end of every trip, throughout my relationships, I often stare out of the window to reflect — whether on a plane, train, or in a car. The one thought that crossed my mind in the past was always: That was fun; I don’t want to go back to real life!
Until I found the one who made me gaze beyond the window.
I recall it as if it was just yesterday: a fresh dawn, the open road and no destination. My feet stuck out of the passenger window and my hair tangled with each whipping gust of wind swooping in from the sunroof. I could feel him frequently glance at me, as if with one look away, I’d disappear forever.
The road felt infinite. And I found myself completely at peace with who and where I was in that moment. I didn’t need a destination, and this was real life.
I saw myself looking forward to an open, endless road of life…with him.
If there could only be one reason why you should travel with your partner, it should be to feel that. To feel like life, whether adventurous or mundane, is one open road with endless possibility. To look forward to those possibilities because you are comfortable with the way you both approach life, together.