“Road-test” a relationship by traveling together?

“I have found out there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”
Tom Sawyer Abroad, by Mark Twain

Couple riding a scooter in Bologna, Italy.

Couple riding a scooter in Bologna, Italy. Photo: H Matthew Howarth / Flickr

Naturally, we put up a front when we’re dating someone. We hide our flaws and try to present our best selves. But what happens if both of you are outside of your comfortable environment?

In this New York Times article, the CEO of Lonely Planet discovered his one true love by seeing how she stayed cool under fire: Calm even around Maoist guerrillas, the girl for me. (The NY Times seems to be hiding this article behind a paywall. I was able to access it through a Google search)

To be fair, this is an extreme case. Luckily, most couples abroad won’t have to face gun-toting revolutionaries. Still, Mark Twain got it right when he talked about how travel can reveal someone’s character like nothing else.

When you travel with your partner, you get to see their true personality. How they react to other countries, other cultures. What level of material comfort they require–or are willing to give up. Their views on politics, money management, and philosophy on life. It would be nice to get a honest preview of what they’re really like.

You tend to stick to whoever you’re with when on the road.  So if you take a week together somewhere else, you’ll probably spend more time together than you would if you were both at home. Sometimes I joke to friends that traveling with someone is like fast-forwarding to what that person will act like after you’ve been married for 10 years.

Most importantly, you’ll see how well you solve problems together. Will your partner blame you for everything that goes wrong?  Or on the other hand, they could be so efficient and capable that it’s easier than traveling by yourself. These are the kinds of behavior that can really make or break relationships.

Has travel helped you see a partner in a clearer light? Did you realize he/she wasn’t the right person? Or did a trip together reinforce your belief in your partner? Please share your thoughts and stories in the comments.


Posted by | Comments (7)  | February 18, 2011
Category: Backpacking, Expat Life, Notes from the collective travel mind


7 Responses to ““Road-test” a relationship by traveling together?”

  1. Andrea Walsh Says:

    On my first trip abroad with my boyfriend we both discovered we were meant to be together. We had both proposed new adventures for the other and both enthusiastically took on the challenges – I got certified to scuba dive and he agreed to go hang gliding. On that trip and those that followed, we discovered we wanted to be better people (and that the other was helping us become a better person), we learned to trust each other, we learned to respect each other’s limits both physically and mentally, and we learned we could laugh and have fun no matter where we were or what situation we were put in. The foresight from those trips proved true – we have been happily married for years and have a wonderful family together. We continue to travel often and still learn from each other and our children on our trips.

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  3. Was Once Says:

    My partner I traveled a lot in SE Asia, and it made me appreciate him more and inspired me to be calm even when things screw up. Now 10 years later and still together, I guess you could say it worked, because we traveled together in the beginning as we began to know each other. I recommend it highly to assess how strong your relationship really is and see what potential remains when you return.

  4. Stephen Says:

    As Jane says, its the returning to normal that I worry about. I can get along with a lot of different people on the road, when there are constantly new distractions and difficulties each day. What about at home, though, after “settling down” for a while? That to me would be the true test.

  5. Adriano Says:

    I tend to agree with Jane and Stephen. Travelling with someone, even for a long period, is one thing – day-to-day “settled” life is another. My experience tells me that going back home (in the common meaning of this word) does change the attitude of some people, who switch form the easy-going, travelling/holiday mindset to the serious, “normal” one.

    A curious “doctor Jekyll vs Mr. Hyde” case, which sometimes gets quite close to mental illness, in my opinion. It could be linked to the fact that the “comfortable environment” does also have an influence on people, with its constraints and duties. By the way, this could also be the cause of those affairs which sometimes happen while on a journey (and not necessarily on holiday, as business trips prove).
    The solution is finding a way to bring the travelling attitude into mundane life – or the other way round.

    The question is: which one is their real self? The travelling or the settled?

  6. Adriano Says:

    @ Greg. 40 years? Congratulations!!!!

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