While I’d like to think I’m a fairly good traveler at this point in my life, like most people I’m not always great when it comes to inter-personal relationships. Although I’m not technically an only child, the difference in ages had the same effect so I “suffer” from those same personality quirks that afflict most only-children. Add to that a natural predilection towards hypersensitivity, moodiness and introspection and yeah, I’m not always great when it comes to dealing with other people. While I do have a high level of natural empathy, I’m usually too abrupt when it comes to my friends or even closer relationships. That being said, I firmly believe that we all learn and grow as a result of the travel experience, many times in ways we don’t even realize. One of the beneficiaries of these experiences are those close to us. Partners, husbands, wives, children and best friends, they all benefit from our personal growth as a result of travel. So today I thought I’d share a few of the more salient ways in which I firmly believe travel helps us become not only better individuals, but better partners as well.
I have my foibles, as we all do; I’m prone to getting annoyed fairly quickly and my personality errs on the side of crankiness. Travel though has helped temper these negative sides of my personality. When commingled with the gentle maturity that aging provides, travel has made me a much more patient and even tolerant person. It’s hard not to improve in these areas when you travel; delays, lost possessions and other travel mishaps teach us all to slow down and relax. Tolerance comes from meeting so many new people from around the world and understanding that we’re really not so different after all. Patience is of course key in any relationship, biting our tongues when prudent and dealing with the eccentricities of those close to us. Travel helps us learn the fine art of patience, even if sometimes we choose to ignore it.
Happier and Healthier
Yes, it’s true, traveling helps us be healthier people. Studies have shown a whole host of benefits including a lower risk of heart disease and coronary death in people who take annual vacations. No surprise there really, taking a vacation helps us relax and calm down in what is an increasingly stressful world. The act of travel itself is also healthy, I know I get much more exercise when I’m on the road than when I’m at home. That same study also showed a lower percentage of depression amongst people who travel, so getting out there and seeing the world helps us be happier people too. Happier people are of course healthier people, so the act of travel helps us physically and mentally. Trips don’t have to be long or expensive for you to realize health benefits, the simple act of taking time off and leaving the house, even on a short trip, yields tremendous benefits. In any relationship, if we aren’t happy in our own skins then the relationship suffers. I’ve been taught this lesson again and again and am thankful for those natural endorphins that travel seems to create.
I live in Washington, DC and am therefore a natural born cynic prone to cranky outbursts. Over the years though I have been drawn out of my shell of skepticism through the people I meet, most notably when I’m not at home. All over the country and the world, I have seen countless examples of good acts and genuine kindness from mere strangers. This has a unique pay-it-forward effect. I truly believe that this behavior is imprinted on all of us as we travel and when it comes time for us to aid someone in need, we are standing by the ready to help and assist. Sure, there are always going to be bad actors and unfortunate events that happen when we travel, but on the whole it is a wonderfully positive experience that (almost) always makes me proud of my fellow man. This natural empathy is essential to any healthy relationship. If we can’t empathize with our partners or relatives, then WE are the sour apples in the relationship. Understanding and relating to the emotions of others is key, and travel is a great way to hone that natural inclination.
Traveling as a couple
Travel as a couple isn’t just about spending time with the one you love, it’s an experience. When you travel new challenges and hurdles arise and it’s important to solve them together, as a couple. This applies the same to people dating for a month as well as those who have been married for thirty-years. These are skill sets that we use sometimes at home, but never in the frequency at which they occur when you travel. Finding the way to the hotel, trying to read foreign metro maps, agreeing on a restaurant for every meal – these are team-building exercises that many people spend years in therapy trying to replicate. Travel throws two people together and forces them to figure all of this out on their own. In the process couples can argue, you bet, but they also get closer. They earn a little more respect for each other and remember what it’s like to work as a team. At home we all have our busy schedules and rarely do we have time to approach issues together. On the road it’s a completely different story and so travel, I think, is key to building any healthy relationship.
What else would you add to this list?