How Travel Can Help Your Relationship (And Not Just The Romantic Kind)

I typically write about solo travel, as it’s my preferred style of vagabonding. That being said, I also enjoy traveling with my family, friends and boyfriend from time to time. Not only is traveling with the important people in my life fun, it also helps me strengthen these relationships. Actually, even when traveling solo, away from these people, I still feel as though I’m growing these bonds. Here’s why.

Looking for more travel and relationship tips? Check out these romance-related posts.

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My dad and I exploring Sedona, Arizona.

With Your Parents & Siblings

I find it a bit sad that as people get older they often stop traveling with their parents and siblings. I’ll admit that the two-week cruises and road trips I used to embark on with my mom and dad don’t happen anymore; however, I did get to travel to Turkey and Greece with my dad last year, and Arizona with him this year.

While I talk to my parents on the phone quite a bit, not living at home anymore means I don’t see them very often; however, getting to travel with them allows us to create memorable experiences, the kind that go in photo albums and become stories recounted at dinners and parties.

One really awesome moment on my Arizona trip was getting to do a hike with my dad. As my regular readers know, I’m an avid hiker — sometimes I think my love of travel actually grew out of a love of hiking and landscapes; however, my father is over 70 years old and traversing rocky terrain and uphill descents isn’t really his forte anymore. That’s why, when I mentioned I was going to hike up Shadow Mountain in Phoenix, I was surprised when he replied that he’d like to come along.

Okay, so my dad didn’t make it to the top of the mountain, but he did trek for as far as he could go until it started getting too rocky and steep — about half of the trail. I was very proud of him, and excited that we got to share that experience.

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Exploring El Peñón de Guatapé in Colombia with friends (including the lovely Seattle’s Travels, who’s taking this selfie)

With Your Friends

While I’ve told you some of my personal horrors of terrible traveling partners, I’ve also had some really great trips traveling with others. Most recently, it was a trip to Colombia that made me realize how wonderful it could be to hit the road with friends. Often times, travel is something I share with myself, which can be…a bit lonely at times. It’s one thing to tell your friends about a wild skydive in New Zealand, a crazy bus trip through Peru or a delicious dish you made in Japan; it’s another to actually share that experience with them.

It’s fun to be back home with them, recounting our Colombia trip tales and sharing inside jokes from the road. It was also interesting getting to know my friends beyond beers and dancing in New York City, actually living in close quarters, seeing how each other reacts to different situations and making discoveries about one another, both good and bad. The verdict? I feel closer to those friends now than ever before, and would 100% travel with them again in a heartbeat.

There’s also the fact travelers often enrich the relationships in their life in general, as they form new bonds on their trips. I love making friends on the road, and there are many that I’ve met on tours, in hostels, in money exchanges, and on buses and trains 5+ years ago that I’m still close with today. Take Dan for example. I met him in a hostel in Munich six years ago, and to this day I see him at least once a year when he visits NYC. I’ve even met his parents and sister when they’ve come, too, going out for dinner and karaoke with his family. Even though we don’t see each other a lot, we talk on Skype and social media, sharing life’s ups and downs and talking about travel. I consider him a great friend, and one that will be in my life forever.

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Strengthening my relationship with my boyfriend through travel.

With Your Significant Other

As with friends, this can go terribly wrong, or unbelievably great. Traveling with your boyfriend or girlfriend helps you learn about each other veryyyyyy quickly. Sometimes too quickly, at which point, you might realize the relationship isn’t meant to be. Or maybe quickly in a fun way, where him leaving the toilet seat up and her hair in the drain become jokes you can laugh about together over local food and beer, paired with local music and a sunset.

My current boyfriend, Chris, and I traveled together on our second date. Yes, you read that right. While to some this may sound like we were advancing too quickly, to me asking Chris to go away for a weekend to Lake Placid — located about eight hours from Brooklyn where we live — was no different than asking him to coffee. Travel is my life. If he wanted to be a part of it, he would have to understand that.

And, he did. Instead of acting like I was proposing marriage, he agreed to the weekend, looking at it as a fun, care-free jaunt with a woman he was interested in. We learned much about each other in just three days, and shared a lot of experiences most new couples don’t have right away: summiting a high peak, savoring a gourmet chef’s table dinner, peeing on the side of a highway (hey, it was a long way to the next rest stop!). By the end of the weekend, the amount of laughter we shared told me he was someone I wanted to keep around for awhile.

Now, it’s been over a year and we’re still together — with even more shared trips under our belt (Guatemala and California!), and more to come.

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Enjoying a moment to myself in a beautiful place.

With Yourself

Ah, solo travel my absolute favorite way to hit the road. Traveling on your own gives you absolute freedom to explore a destination the way you want to, without needing to compromise. Not only is traveling solo a great way to immerse yourself in other cultures and get out of your comfort zone; it’s an excellent way to grow your relationship with yourself.

Think about it. Most of us live our lives by crazy schedules. We barely have time to breath, let alone spend actual quality time with ourselves.

Traveling solo changes this. You’re forced to spend time with yourself, in unfamiliar territory having novel experiences. You discover foods you never thought you’d like, talents you never knew you had, strengths that have never emerged before and the power to tackle absolutely any situation because, well, you’re on your own and you have to take care of yourself.

Traveling solo, you might even realize just how little you knew about yourself before the trip. Give yourself the opportunity to get to know you.

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Me and the boy, kissing.

With Loved Ones From Afar

And for those times when you’re on the road without your loved ones, you can still help your relationships. They say “distance makes the heart grow fonder,” and I firmly believe this is true — at least in the case of the people who truly love you.

On the other hand, there are those that may forget about you while you’re gone, or be angry at you for leaving them behind. The first step if this is someone’s reaction is to explain to them that you’re not abandoning them, but that you’re doing something to enrich your life and better yourself. Invite them to come along, but let them know that if they can’t you’ll stay in contact and are already excited to see them when you return. If they don’t understand, well, it’s up to you how important seeing the world is. The way I see it, life is too fluid and presents too many surprise twists to turn down amazing opportunities.

When I was 22 I wanted nothing more than to backpack Europe; however, I had a boyfriend who was completely against the idea. There were times when I wavered in my decision, almost cancelling the trip numerous times because I felt bad leaving him behind for the summer. Long story short, before I left I found out he was cheating on me…with multiple girls.

“How could you do this to me?!” I sputtered, choking on my own breath.

He laughed, a manic, almost scary cackle. “Until you have a ring on your finger, you shouldn’t expect so much.”

Can you imagine if I would have cancelled my unbelievable, life-changing, solo backpacking trip through Europe for this [description not suitable for blog] jerk? I thank the stars I didn’t. The trip ended up being more than I could have ever asked for — wine tasting in Italy, tapas crawls in Spain, bungy jumping in Switzerland, falling in love in Amsterdam, biking around Germany, meeting lifelong friends in hostels. These are experiences that have forever shaped the person I am today.

I’m not saying your boyfriend/girlfriend is cheating on you, that your fiance will break your engagement or that your life is doomed anyway so, what the hell, go have some fun. I’m saying that life is short, life is unexpected, and life is precious; you need to do the things that make it worth living for yourself.

I have a friend in her 30s who is married and left her husband for a year, exploring far flung corners of the world on foot (it’s a walking pilgrimage). Of course it wasn’t easy to make the decision, and there was a lot of discussion and planning that needs to go into embarking on a journey like this, especially when you’re married; however, her husband knew how important the trip was to her, and so he let her go, agreeing to meet her at certain points along the way. Maybe some people might look at her as being selfish to leave her husband on his own for a year, but I think sometimes you need to be selfish to reach fulfillment. While her husband couldn’t get off work to join her for the full trip, the year also gives him the opportunity to get to know himself better while staying local.

My whole point with this post is to a) help you realize you don’t need to be scared about losing your relationships because you’re going traveling and b) realize the potential travel has to strengthen those relationships from both near and far. Allow your trip to nurture the relationship you have with yourself, share experiences with loved ones or give yourselves the gift of missing and appreciating one another.

Do you have any relationship tips in regards to travel? What has your experience been with dating and hitting the road? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Also Check Out:

10 Locals To Befriend On Your Next Trip

Notes On Dating A Non-Traveler (And How I See Love On The Road Differently Now)

The Travel Quote Collection: Inspiring Nomads Everywhere

4 Comments

  1. “But I think sometimes you need to be selfish to reach fulfillment.”

    I love your friend’s story. Sometimes you need to give your loved ones the space to do what they need to do.

  2. It’s great to see the wonderful journey you experienced. You’re right. Traveling with someone close does make things more special and different. I remember traveling to different places in Central America with a few close friends. It was pretty fun and we had some memories of it.

    1. @Michael: It’s true. Even though I still love solo travel more than anything, I’ve taken a number of trips with family/friends that I cherish very much. I love thinking back on them and smiling at all of the new experiences we all shared. Happy trails! 🙂

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