Travel is the Best Test for Relational Compatibility
For couples, particularly those relatively early in their relationship, travel creates an interesting opportunity to test compatibility. When we think of travel with a romantic partner, it’s often imaginings straight from the movies: fairytale romance, vibrant foods, incredible nature, and constant inspiration for flirtatious adventures.
Of course, it’s often a wonderful part of travel. The ability to share an experience with someone very special to you combined with the opportunity to craft powerful new memories that break free of your daily routines—it’s intoxicating. Elsewhere, I speak to the power of opportunities that take us out of our regular habits. That holds every bit as true when it comes to relationships. Travel creates a very real opportunity to craft new experiences, to get to know each other better and to broaden the foundational memories that your relationship is built upon.
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But, it also comes with certain risks and liabilities. Traveling with a romantic partner, particularly for more than a day or two, comes with a wide range of challenges and insights. These offer the ability to enrich and deepen your relationship and understanding of each other in new and exciting ways. But, they also quite often lead to revelations about the other individual which can be frustrating at best and shatter relationships at worst.
By its nature, traveling as a couple means you’re virtually inseparable for the duration of the trip. It means that every small quirk and behavioral tick suddenly becomes visible. It means that the space you’d normally escape into, or the small oddities of an individual’s daily routine are no longer glossed over or obscured, they’re front and center.
It also means that we have the opportunity to see and explore our partner in different contexts—to see them under stress, to see them tired, to see them hungry, to see them feeling poorly. We learn how they navigate if they have a good sense of direction. We are exposed to how they deal with exotic foods or smells and if their personal hygiene aligns with the glorified version of dating. Through it all, we get to see how they react and deal with our own quirks. It’s also a wonderful insight into interests. Perhaps they refuse to do anything but sun tan on the beach. Or, perhaps they’re so caught up with chasing the next adventure they forget to pause and enjoy the moment.
There’s also nothing quite as revealing and bond-inducing like realizing you’ve got a bad case of food poisoning, shit-puke included, halfway through a hike with no privacy, no toilet paper, and no opportunity for dignity. As traumatizing as experiences like these can be, they’re also opportunities to see how the other person relates, if they’re reliable, and how that chemistry aligns beyond what you’d have during a date, or a day or two spent together as the relationship got progressively more serious.
It’s for that reason that one of the best ways to test partner compatibility, especially while early in the relationship, is a trip together. It’s also why I’d never consider a relationship to be serious until I had spent at least a week traveling with a woman. Ultimately, the greatest insights come when we’re co-present long enough to let our guard down and we start to show all aspects of our real selves.