Travel brings out both the best and also the worst in people. If you want to discover all aspects of a person, instead of just what’s presented normally as one’s ‘best-self’, then you should embark on a trip together. Even more so when you’re about to commit to your partner for life, or are about to step into a new romantic relationship. There’s no better test than travel where you have to work with each other, constantly over waking hours, for few days, weeks or even years, as you traipse across foreign cities and lands.
I’d only known my husband, Chris, for two weeks before we traveled together. He was on his round-the-world trip while I had a full-time job in Singapore. We’d decided spontaneously with a few other friends to escape Singapore for the weekend, but the other friends dropped out at the very eleventh hour. We went anyway because we wanted to enjoy the sun and the sea, even if it was just for a night. That one seemingly insignificant trip turned out to be a catalyst for our relationship to blossom into a permanent one as time passed.
Here’s why you should travel with your partner before getting serious.
Planning (or none at all)
I love buying bus or flight tickets impulsively, but when I was working a full-time job, it wasn’t so easy. My traveling had to involve some sort of rough planning, so that I could optimise whatever time I had at my destination. When Chris and I decided to head to Tioman Island for the weekend, he was thoughtful enough to book ferry tickets and accommodation at Mersing where we’d spend a night before taking the earliest ferry out the next day. My job on the other hand was to look into bus schedules. We had tasks that needed doing and we had split it amongst us without fuss. He turned up at our meeting point punctually, with snacks and drinks – because he thought we might get hungry on the way. I was impressed and was glad that I didn’t have to worry about a thing.
This told me that Chris is a responsible person and can be trusted with tasks. He also respected my time and helped out in the planning since I was the one with a full-time job. A big part of any relationship is having a partner who can see the bigger picture, and who can step up to taking charge if needed.
Previously, I’ve had experience with travel buddies turning up late, or without the right travel document, or even worse, had left all the travel planning to me. Chris, on all accounts, was already a winner.
A test of patience
Travel plans don’t always turn out as how you envision them. There’s a good chance that life will throw you an unexpected curveball while you’re on the road: flight delays, bus breakdowns, a nasty fever, long queues, visas not granted, cockroaches crawling on your pillow and so on. In such a situation, you need your partner to be composed and unflustered. Even better when they can calm you down when you’re the one freaking out.
When Chris and I left Tioman and were at the Mersing bus station, we were told that the bus that was supposed to pick us up had broken down and would take about an hour to arrive. An hour turned into four, and Chris responded to the event in an utterly Zen manner. He never once lost his cool. He even made that 4 hours fly by like a breeze. That led me to the insight of…
How one deals with monotony
I always thought that if two people can share a few ‘boring’ hours together, doing not much, without any other forms of entertainment or distraction, then there’s a foreseeable longevity in the relationship. After all, a long-term relationship isn’t about only about the highs, the amazingness and the awesomeness. A marriage is more than just a magical wedding or a romantic moment. It’s made up of many little boring, insignificant fragments of existence.
And at that very moment, despite being in that empty bus station, with no Internet connection and nothing interesting nearby to explore, we felt comfortable in each other’s presence. Sometimes we had a lot to talk about, and sometimes we didn’t, but we never felt awkward or bored. This, to me, was a significant building block to a long-lasting relationship.
And I was right. After so many journeys taken and moving to so many countries together, here we are, still enjoying each other’s company without needing much.
Problem-solve your way out
How does your partner solve a problem? Does he or she complain and lament, or does he or she tackle it head on? Does he help you out financially if you just got pick-pocketed and lost all your valuables? Does she blame you when the way that you suggested resulted in getting lost?
Traveling is the perfect way to see how your significant other reacts to problems. It is the perfect team-building exercise you need before making the ultimate commitment.
The Art of Compromise
Chris is German while I’m Malaysian. We both don’t always share the same interests or curiosities. He enjoys doing things, while I enjoy sitting back and observing things. I like to have three warm meals a day while he can get through the day with just sandwiches. A sandwich for dinner? No way!
It gets annoying sometimes, when I want to sleep in and he wants to go out, but travel challenges us to make a decision that we both can agree on. And a large part of relationships involves compromise. Travel teaches you to live with each other’s flaws and differences, so you can put aside your disagreements for a while, and appreciate the fact that you’re both in a foreign country catching a beautiful sunset together.
If you squabble about dinner plans, you might miss that sunset.
How someone spends their money and who’s paying what
Is your partner calculative and always splitting every bill down to the middle? Or are they generous and easygoing? Also, what are they willing to spend their money on? A luxurious hotel room over great food? Or on a rental car over public transportation?
Seeing how your partner deals with their finances during travel is not only a great way to decide if he or she is someone who throws away money on things or is too stingy, but also a brilliant way to gauge their values and see if they match with yours.
Chris and I, for example, are happy to endure long bus rides. With the money saved, we’d spend it on food instead.
At the end of the day, traveling with your partner isn’t just about challenging each other’s limits; it’s also about the awesome stuff too.
Just knowing that your partner is not only someone who will watch the stars with you, but also someone who’s got your back, and someone with whom you can laugh over setbacks and hardships, will help cement your relationship like no other situation can.