I’ve often said to friends that I think traveling with someone is in many ways a microcosm of marriage. Rich experiences are plentiful and countless decisions are made in a relatively short amount of time. Budgeting, finding lodging, how you’ll spend your time, etc. are all negotiated constantly. To do so gracefully requires communication, compatibility, and commitment – all obvious key elements to successful long-term relationships.
In light of my recent, post-masters-degree trip to Argentina (see previous vulva puppet post), I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the chemistry between travel companions. I went to Argentina with a good friend with whom I’d never traveled before and, to our mutual delight, discovered that we travel very well together. We both love long, leisurely breakfasts and frequent stops to enjoy coffee in scenic parts of town. We both like to spend a similar amount of time shopping or wandering around a museum, but neither of us relishes late-night clubbing. We got to see different sides of each other and have, not surprisingly, become closer friends because of it.
The opportunity to see someone respond to unforeseen variables is also a benefit of travel. Once while traveling with my partner and my parents in England, my (subsequently very embarrassed) father locked the keys in the trunk of the rental car on our way to the airport for out flight home. We were stuck in a McDonald’s parking lot in Barnstaple for about six hours before someone could come unlock it for us, and consequently missed our flight. My partner (who’s birthday it was, I might add) saw the whole thing as an epic adventure; getting into the car was like a puzzle and our mutual dilemma was a great opportunity for solidarity. He still views this day as one of his favorite birthdays ever and I remember it with gratitude that my partner stays cool in an, albeit minor, crisis.
Whether you’re traveling to another continent or another postal code, exploring new environments can bring out the best (and worst) of people. As with relationships generally, open communication, clearly articulated expectations, and forgiveness can mediate the low points and help celebrate the highs. Being present and expressing gratitude also doesn’t hurt and can make the lessons learned more meaningful and long-lasting. Finding the right companions for travel or romance can be challenging, but the experiences undoubtedly bring us closer to understanding what we want out of life and love.
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