By Katie Paddock Broyles
The beginning of a relationship is like living in a fantasy world. You are always polite. You try your hardest to be charming. If something seems questionable, you give your love interest the benefit of the doubt. Everything seems so potentially perfect. So why would you want to take your budding romantic relationship and put it through the meat grinder of a messy, extensive vacation, complete with the possibilities of unnaturally early cabs to the airport, spirit-grinding layovers, missed connection flights, exhaustion, crankiness and lack of personal space? For one reason: to cut through the bullshit.
It could take months for you to really get to know your new boyfriend or girlfriend. Or, you can take a shortcut and go on a trip together. When you travel with someone, you are out of your comfort zones. A host of factors that can affect your trip are out of your control, and you can’t escape from each other. Sounds terrible? The payoff is that you find out who you are really dating. It’s a risky gamble not for the faint of heart. Your trip is either going to be a relationship-ending disaster or a confirmation that the two of you are a simpatico new couple with a future filled with more amazing voyages ahead of you.
If you are looking for a relationship, what you are really looking for is someone who you can be happy with in close quarters for long periods of time. That may not sound very romantic, but it’s a practical and essential foundation of compatibility. Without that base, your romance can easily turn out to be a flash in the pan. When you travel together, you find out the deep, dark secrets of your new sweetheart. Inevitably, you will both get a little bit tired and a little bit cranky, and that’s when the magic happens. You can’t control whether you get a nice or a rude stewardess on a flight. Is your new boyfriend going to blow up at the snippy stewardess or take it in stride? What happens if the two of you are running late, or get lost and need directions? Will setbacks end in tears or laughter? These are the real life situations that committed couples deal with all the time: lost shoes, lost car keys and faulty alarm clocks. When you’re on the road, you can learn a lot about how both of you handle stressful situations, and more importantly, how you handle them together. These scenarios go a long way toward determining if you are truly compatible.
Consider this – you may be seeing someone who seems great. It’s a new relationship, so you never spend extensive amounts of time together, but that’s normal. You both have things to do and places to be. But what happens when you take away the safety valve and just keep spending time together? Does your potentially perfect partner get annoyed at you, become irritable, start to lose his temper? Are you desperate to get away? Or do you just keep having a fantastic time? When you’re stuck together on a trip, you will find out very quickly.
You can learn a lot about each other just by picking activities for the day. Does your sexy, new love interest only want to shop while you want to go sight-seeing? Who is complaining about the hotel room, and who’s looking at the sunny side? If you like to travel, you can discover if your new significant other truly likes to travel too or was just saying that because it sounded good. You could spend months wading through pleasantries before obtaining this kind of solid information.
When I had been dating my now-husband for one month, we went on an impulsive trip to Alaska. Plenty of things went wrong on our romantic vacation. My husband lost the key to our lodgings; after an extended, frantic search, we found them in the trash. We went on a sea-kayaking excursion where I stupidly wore jeans, which quickly became soaked in ice water. By the time I was able to get warm, I was reduced to pathetic moaning in the backseat of the rental car. My husband caught a cold, and I had to wait around in the cabin for a day and a half before we could go on the glacier hike I was looking forward to. By the end of the trip, we were so worn out we tried to sleep on the bare floor of the airport during our layover. But we also did a lot of amazing things. We saw sea otters, whales, bears and waterfalls. We were named honorary DJs at the local hamburger joint and given free reign of the jukebox. We picked wild blueberries. We met Japanese students studying ice worms and had an impromptu party at the inn where we were staying. The trip was messy and certainly not glamorous, but we loved it. And that’s how relationships are. Things are constantly going wrong, and then going so right. The tricky part is how you handle when things go wrong. And if you are brave enough to pack your bags and head off into the unknown with your new relationship, you may discover that you have found yourself something amazing.