Whether your relationship is still full of butterflies and giggles, or you’ve been together so long you can communicate through a simple raise of the eyebrow, overseas travel will change you.
I’m not talking about hopping on a jet bound for an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. This isn’t to say resorts are a bad vacation choice. But there just isn’t much you’ll learn about each other in an environment that’s catered to your every desire.
I’m talking about the type of travel where you get out of your comfort zone. Where you alone call the shots.
Your relationship will never be the same. Here’s why:
1. See each other at your best and worst
While traveling in another country, all your flaws will be exposed. Your partner will witness how you deal with stress and will see how you look after spending the night on the airport floor. If they love you after 4 days of hiking in the Andes – unwashed hair and all – they’re a keeper.
You’ll also experience each other at your best. The look on your face when you finally reach Machu Picchu after dreaming of it for years. The sound of their laugh as the have the dead skin nibbled off their toes by doctor fish.
If you don’t come out of a trip abroad more in love than you were before, you may want to reevaluate your relationship. Only kidding… or am I?
2. Praise your partner
Remember when you first started dating, and everything your hunny did impressed you? Now that you’re in a more serious phase in your relationship, how long has it been since you really praised them?
Too often, we overlook our partner’s strengths because we can find help elsewhere. Your boyfriend is a whiz at fixing cars? There’s a mechanic down the street who can get it done faster. Your wife’s got a built in GPS? Siri already has that covered.
While traveling, your partner is all you’ve got. Know their strengths and applaud them. Make them feel appreciated and let them know how sexy you think it is that they can speak three languages (even if their skills in two of them are minimal).
3. Unplug and connect
Relationships today are different than they’ve ever been before. With social media making a large presence in our lives, people are becoming less adept at communicating in person — something that generations before us never had to deal with.
In today’s ultra-connected world, there are ways access internet and social media in practically any country you visit. But I urge you to reconsider upgrading your phone package to international status before jet-setting.
Being disconnected from your group of friends, family and people you regularly Facebook stalk, will force you to be truly one-on-one with your partner without your eyes darting to your news feed. Traveling is the perfect opportunity to shut out the world of social media, and instead focus on your place in the world together.
4. Problem solve together
When you travel, things will go wrong. There’s no question about it.
It might be big; your flight gets canceled, your wallet stolen, or one of you gets sick along the way. And it may be something small; you order the wrong thing on the menu, or a rainy day ruins your plans.
Your methods of communication will be tested, and you will have no choice but to work through your struggles together.
If you’ve run out of money on an Ecuadorian island and come out with your relationship still intact (like us, cough, cough!), you’ll be equipped with the strategies needed to get through the bumps along life’s crazy journey.
5. You can’t run away
After a fight is spurred at home, you have the opportunity to retreat to your own space and talk only when you are ready. Not the case when you’re traveling.
Petty arguments that could result in tension for days at home will need to be resolved right away. It’ll likely take just a few minutes of wandering the streets of a new town, alone and angry, before you’re begging to make up. You’ll quickly learn that you are more valuable as a team than apart, and it will put your problems into perspective.
6. Bond like besties
You know when you’re with your closest friends and you rehash ridiculous memories from your college years that involve using stolen lunch trays as sleds? Your inside jokes are what continue to bond you even though it’s been years since you’ve shared a bunk bed.
It’s so important to continuously create memories with your partner — the kind that has you in fits of giggles, and will have the rest of the world wondering if you’re high or just that in love.
When traveling, everything is an adventure — from ordering food from an indecipherable menu, to befriending people with whom your shared language is miming.
In day to day life, we sometimes don’t make time for crazy escapades. Instead, we head to the new sushi joint down the block, take selfies and check social media until the food comes. I’ll admit, I’m a culprit.
I love a good spicy salmon roll as much as the next person, but I won’t remember the ridiculously overpriced sashimi in one month from now, let alone twenty years. Ben and I will, however, be telling our grandchildren about the Colombian man who taught us how to play a local game involving beer and explosives. Maybe we’ll wait until they’re eighteen to tell them…
7. Fall in love again
There’s something special about the first weeks you start dating someone. All is new and butterflies abound. Being in a new place together can reignite those sparks and remind you why you fell in love in the first place. Everything surrounding you is fresh and full of possibilities.
Can you imagine anything more romantic than sipping a local drink in a new city that you’ve just begun to explore? You have the whole day ahead to get lost in the culture, the food, the sunsets, and in each other.
8. Face your fears
There are few things that will bring a couple closer than stepping out of your comfort zone and tackling something that scares you together.
Whether it’s as simple as initiating conversation in another language, or as terrifying as riding a bike on the world’s most dangerous road, you will emerge not only stronger individuals, but as a more solid couple as well.
The experiences will forge an impenetrable bond you can’t build while sitting on the couch watching Criminal Minds for the ninety-seventh time.
9. Less is more
On your travels, you’ll realize how freeing it is to live with just the belongings in your backpack. And you may encounter people along the way happily living with less. You’ll see that life can be rich even if it doesn’t include luxury cars and regular pedicures.
People travel not to come away with something tangible, but instead, to create memories. One of travel’s greatest lessons is that the value of experiences will outweigh material items every time.
Along the way you’ll most certainly learn that romance doesn’t need to mean jewelry and a five-course meal. Likewise, true adventure doesn’t require hundreds of dollars and a bungee cord.
Travel will help you see the beauty in simplicity. You’ll soon discover that with a spontaneous attitude and the right partner, romance and adventure can be found around just about every corner. Add a cheap bottle of wine, and you’re in for a really great time!
When you are happy with less, you will have fewer financial obligations to argue about, and instead you’ll focus on shared experiences.
10. Dream together
Any relationship will go stale if you don’t set goals. Cozy up to your hunny, unearth an old journal, and start scribbling away as you gush about your wildest dreams. Forget being practical. Just write.
Reach Everest Base Camp. Grow a garden. Go skiing in the Swiss Alps. Learn how to surf. Dance to salsa music in the streets of Havana.
Now choose one dream to make a reality. Answer the hard questions like, “How will we pay for it”? and, “When can we take off work?”.
Now make it happen!
There’s nothing quite like fantasizing about tasting wine in Tuscany, planning it, and then actually doing it. When you create dreams together and accomplish them, your relationship will flourish and you’ll see that together, you are an unstoppable team.
This is far more than crossing an item off a list. It’s about relishing every moment along the way — from the initial, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if…” conversation, to booking the flights, and then finally tasting the strong tannins and oak finish.
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After traveling to more than 45 countries together, we can say with all certainty it’s the best thing we’ve ever done as a couple.
How has traveling together changed your relationship? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!