The Best Test of a Relationship

I’ve been quoted in many books of quotes as saying, “The best test of a relationship is to take a trip together.”

In my experience, it’s completely true. When you’re on a trip, you’re outside of your comfort zone. Your raw, unedited side comes out, and you get to see what your significant others’ raw, unedited side looks like. I actually think this would make an interesting dating site idea: Your first date is a trip somewhere. It would combine a flight deal and date stuff.

I remember one of the first road trips I took with a girlfriend. I remember nothing about the trip except that I discovered that she drove about 200 miles an hour on the highway, pulling right up behind cars until they moved out of her way. It didn’t change my view of her personality–she really was a lovely woman–but I saw a different side of her. And I had to deal with it for many hours, so part of the test was seeing how I reacted.

This past weekend, essentially on a whim, I used some frequent flyer miles to purchase a ticket to Ireland. For a while (about a week) I’ve been fantasizing about spending some time in Ireland, writing and reading on rolling hills and in ancient castles, buying rounds of Bud Select in pubs for cute Irish girls.

So when I spotted an available frequent flier ticket in the fall, I jumped at the chance. I’ve also lined up a five-night stay at a castle hotel. That’s right. I’m going to live in a castle for almost a week.

My natural inclination is to include someone on the trip. Not someone in particular, just someone, a lady companion. But just like my intentionally single period back in ’09, I really want–and need–to go at this alone. A solo trip will be a huge challenge for me, a huge stretch.

Basically, it’ll be a great test of my relationship with my single self.

Have you ever taken an enlightening (or difficult) trip with a significant other? Have you taken a solo trip abroad? How was it?


13 Responses to “The Best Test of a Relationship”

  1. Harley says:

    Hey Jamey,

    The first trip my husband I took overseas was awful. We’d taken other road trips together and certainly got out of our comfort zones, but nothing like this.

    We went to Germany with our not yet two-year-old while I was pregnant with our second child. It was freezing, all three of us got nasty sick with colds. We stayed on top of his much-older family with horrible bathrooms.

    There were good moments, but I learned a lot about who I was and how I handled that type of situation. I wish I handled it better.

    All this being said, I think that this trip to Ireland will be fantastic for you! I’m so excited you get to do it. Hope you get all the rest, relaxation, and Irish countryside you can stomach. I’m filled with envy.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Harley–That’s rough that you all got sick while on the trip (although I bet it’s not all that uncommon for people to get sick while traveling–it’s yet another challenge to add to the mix!) I’m glad you two made it past the trip and are still going strong!

  2. Penelope says:

    I agree with it being a great test – it’s ironic, I’m planning a post regarding the Costa Rica trip Kyle and I took recently. It was our first extended trip together and I plan to tackle the post regarding what we learned by traveling together – which was mostly good!

    I hope you have a wonderful time in Ireland! I look forward to the blog posts I assume you’ll write on your adventures.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Penelope–Oh good, I’m looking forward to that post. I’m interested to see what you two learned about each other while traveling.

      Me, write about my adventures? I don’t know… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. T-Mac says:

    I agree with you that both solitary travel and extended travel with another person can be enlightening.

    The first time Laura and I took a week-long trip together was a tremendous relationship boost. We traveled so well together and felt very comfortable spending lots of time together, which really solidified our relationship at the time.

    Also (as you know), I moved to Australia one year mostly on a whim with no job, little money, no place to live, and knowing no one in the country. It was the single most enlightening and self-actualizing experience I’ve ever had. My time abroad involved a lot of individual travel, more reading than at any other point in my life, and much introspection. I hope your week in Ireland offers some of the same opportunities. Even a little time away and alone–outside of work, friends, etc–can be self-cleansing.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Trev–That’s awesome that your first trip with Laura actually gave you two a boost. And that’s a great point–although first trips can seem like a test, really they can show you how much potential you have with a girlfriend.

      My leap into Ireland is quite small compared to your leap to Australia, but I’m more of a dip-my-toes-in-the-water kind of guy. ๐Ÿ™‚ Hopefully I get some good self-cleansing in those famous Irish hot springs (does Ireland have hot springs? I really need to read up on Ireland).

  4. Anne Riley says:

    I’ve traveled a lot, both alone and with others. I moved to Spain for 6 months, by myself. I didn’t live alone, but I didn’t know anyone and had to start over completely. I’ve been to London, like, I dunno… somewhere around 10-12 times, many of them on my own (and several of those trips were from Spain, so it only cost me like $25). Truth be told: I prefer traveling alone. It’s refreshing!

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Anne–That’s quite impressive. What is it about traveling alone that you like? And now that you have a family, have you learned to love to travel as a pack?

  5. Emma says:

    It can also be quite the test with friends. For better or worse, prolonged exposure under decision-making circumstances can test any relationship! The way people value others’ time and opinions often emerges most clearly on trips, and can color your view of them! Not that I am holding a grudge against a certain friend who made me late to another friend’s wedding a few years ago or anything… ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Emma–That’s a GREAT point. This applies to any type of relationship. I think one key when traveling with friends is that if you really want to see, say, the pyramids, and your friend doesn’t care about the pyramids but really wants to see an Egyptian market, that you each go see what you really want to see. Some compromise works, but you want to avoid any situation where you might resent your friend for wasting your time doing something you have no interest doing. At least, that’s my two cents!

      Good luck with that hypothetical grudge. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Karen says:

    I was fortunate enough to spend 2 semesters of both college and grad school abroad – Spain, Italy, Argentina, Finland. I think the only time I traveled alone was my break in Spain when I wanted to go places no one else did. So it was either have company and likely see amazing places but not my first picks, or explore those cities and be alone. I jumped at the chance to be a 20 year old American girl roaming Europe by herself. I find great freedom and satisfying independence in doing things alone, especially things others might not choose to do solo or that in some ways might be even better with people. And though this was all school-related, I think there is a difference in this kind of travel versus personal travel. Though I had classmates, I could still be alone – I had no roommate in Helsinki so living, running errands and the commute to/from school were all done alone. I spent most Saturdays in Buenos Aires walking by myself to a part of town I hadn’t visited and back. Some nights in both places I bopped into a bar by myself to meet new people. I think I like the authenticity that comes from this. Those experiences and memories are yours, no one else’s. It’s also the best thing to challenge yourself by doing things that might not be completely within your comfort zone and see what happens. A test. You always learn something no matter what.

    As for travel with a sig other, I agree. I can recall a few trips with one guy that probably should have been red flags. His unwillingness to compromise on a departure time for a road trip, a promise to take care of all things travel related that didn’t pan out, desire to visit his friends but not mine in the same city. I wonder if timing is a factor at all, like there is an ideal time to take a first trip in each relationship. It probably differs from one to the next, but that there may be a window during which optimal couple travel occurs. And if so, what happens if that window comes and goes without a trip test? Early on, each person may be less likely to have a short fuse at inevitable travel woes. Each may want to compromise and make sure the other is happy. And then at some point, each begins to care less about maintaining composure. Maybe this theory just mirrors what might happen during the relationship – best foot forward first.

    So that style of driving didn’t change the way you thought of that woman?! I am absolutely terrified of that kind of driving. I have issues with it and will make a point to mention it if a guy I date drives that way.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      I think you hit it spot-on here: “I like the authenticity that comes from this. Those experiences and memories are yours, no one elseโ€™s.” Very true. I look forward to experiencing that.

      The style of driving didn’t make me form any judgments about the woman, no. It certainly put me on the lookout for similarly aggressive behaviors in real life, but otherwise she really was very kind and sweet. People can change when they get behind the wheel.

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