Can Travel Strengthen Marriages and Long-Term Relationships?

Only a few weeks ago Ben Affleck mentioned the difficulty of marriage in his Oscar winning acceptance speech.

“I want to thank you [Jennifer] for working on our marriage for 10 Christmases. It’s good. It is work, but the best kind of work and there’s no one I’d rather work with.”

It was a bizarre statement to make for the setting, but I think it was an honest look at marriage and the reality of love.

Marriage is tough. It’s long term day in day out, nose to the grind constant work. Every decision you make is centered on what is best for each other, not just for yourself-difficult, as by nature we are pretty selfish.

You get sick of the sacrifice and often, when you are tired, resentful, angry, frustrated and unhappy, a return to singledom looks so inviting.

These feelings are pretty normal.

Rarely are we told about the difficulties of marriage and long-term relationships and how to work through them. It’s all romance and weddings, blissfully rocking babies to sleep (ha ha ha), and happily swinging in the rocking chairs during the retirement prime. (Except for me it would be a hammock, and trust me, I’d be in it because I won the hour-long argument for shotgun rights.)

Tips for Couples Travel
Was that really 11 years ago?

Craig and I have been married 11 years today.

They have been bloody great years, but there have been moments when I thought we wouldn’t make it.

We’ve had financial difficulties and lifestyle constraints that have brought a lot of inner turmoil and suffering. You know the type that says run and start all over again. The statistics say that 1/3 of marriages faced with crises such as these would fall apart.

But we haven’t and I truly believe that the strength of our bond comes from our life of travel.

Travelling long-term with your partner can definitely break you, but here’s why I think often makes you instead.

Benefits of Long term travel on relationships

couples travel
Kookiness

You learn how to put up with each other’s idiosyncrasies

I can’t stand how he sits on a toilet for 20 minutes and it drives him nuts how I always leave the butter out (Yes Mum, I know it drives you crazy too).

Think of the mile-long list you have of things that annoy you about your partner. When you travel 24/7 there is no escaping the irritants, you just have to learn to live with them. We’ve learned to work around these annoyances and adapt to them.

They still drive us nuts, but not enough to take us to the divorce courts. We’ve learned to make fun of them and love each other regardless. (but really 20 minutes?)

You get to know what lies at the heart of your partner

couples travel tips
Tea at a Tibetan tea house in Shrangri la

When you travel everything else in your life gets stripped away: possessions are stored in boxes, friendships are placed on hiatus, and expectations placed upon by others are gone.

For the first time in your life, you can be yourself.

Suddenly you get to know the real heart of your partner (and that can be where relationships turn south! At least it can save you years of heartache finding out later).

Once you know what lies at the core of your partner, it is difficult to not see that when you return home and go through trials and tribulations.

Everything becomes yours

mud bath yangshao China
Two peas in the mud bath – Vietnam

There is no longer any separation of what is mine and yours, except for your clothes and I do have a habit of wearing his UNC sweaters and spilling food on it at the worst times!

You now own little and life becomes about experiencing moments together. You’ve spent months planning and saving and now your combined dream is being played out.

You don’t have girls and guys nights out. The friendships you form along the way are now your common friends.

You start to morph into this one person—which can be kinda scary. But don’t fear, you don’t have to lose your identity, more like take on a second one.

Two souls become one and that one can be the unifying strength you need to get through any major relationship hurdles in the years to come.

You have memories to fall back on

Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park

This is one of the biggest saving graces for our marriage. 11 years of travel has given us a solid memory bank to pull us through.

“Look at all we have done during our relationship. We can’t throw that away!”

In times of stress we can quickly recall that time we went horse riding in Bryce Canyon, or to bring more laughter in our life the time we rode ostriches in Africa, or when we just want to feel chilled, the Jack Johnson concert in the forest by the lake in Raleigh.

I couldn’t ever imagine the memories of incredible adventures in over 40 countries and setting up homes in 5 different countries, suddenly disappear. As we say on this blog it is all about the memories!

Travel more. Create better memories.

You learn how to work through challenges together

Monument Valley, Utah
Monument Valley, Utah

Think of most of the challenges that pop up in your life: work, family, friendships, unhappiness. A large percentage of it is individual problems where one has to help the other, it’s not often something both of you have to solve together.

When you are travelling the problems are yours to share. So again, you become that one person. That one mind has to be able to split to see the other’s needs, but bring it back to what is best for the one goal. How can the one mind use each other’s strength to come to the best solutions?

Your lover becomes your best friend

couples travel
cocktails by the pool – Thailand

There are not many other distractions. It’s just you and him. You have to work to keep the lover part to your relationship going, but soon enough you have more than that—a best friend.

People find it weird that Craig and I do almost everything together and I tell him everything. Why? He’s my best friend. I actually enjoying hanging out with him.

When I have a problem, Craig is the first person I turn to to help me solve it. I trust he’ll support and encourage me and give it to me straight. I know this, as for most of our marriage I have only had him to rely on. There’s a lot of strength in that trust and support.

You’re forced to deal with it and find the solution

Tips for Couples Travel
The beginning of the meltdown

Marriage is an easy thing to get out of, 72 days after the wedding you can decide you’ve gotten to know this person too much and those irritating things are too much to bear forever!

There are no divorce courts you can run to when you are sitting in the tray in a pick-up truck on a dusty road in the middle of nowhere in Africa and the wheel falls off mid turn. There are no counselors to steer you past the crash collision course brought on by frustration, tiredness and budget travel fed-upness. You have to find a way to deal with it.

You vent, swear, pick up your backpack and storm off. And storm until the anger diminishes and you realize you don’t like trying to figure this out on your own.

So you both come together – volatile feelings in check – heck you might even have a bit of a giggle at your predicament.

You sheepishly scuff your feet in the dirt and try to work out what next. And then you erupt into fits of laughter when 10 minutes later that old rusted crumbling pick-up truck comes bumbling down the track, wheel back on and ready to pick you up and continue on your journey. (only to break down 30 minutes later, but by this time you are cuddling again)

You work together as a team

hiking zion national park utah
Hiking Angel Falls Zion NP

Strong teammates play to their strengths and support each other’s weaknesses. They inspire, encourage and motivate.

On our travels, we have participated in many adventurous activities. We relied on each other to make it through. Craig always using his strength to help carry me over the line, protect me, and encourage me to keep pushing through. It was that same we-are-in-this-together strength that got me through childbirth twice.

Mentally, when things got too much, whoever was in the clearer frame of mind could bring clarity to the moment and help the other to refocus.

A long-term relationship will only survive if you see yourself as moving towards a common goal as a team.

You’re visiting the world’s most romantic places

Namibia Soussesvlei
Sunrise over Soussesvlei – Namibia

Travel presents you with ample opportunities to have the romantic moments every couple needs: camping under the stars on the Great Rift escarpment in Malawi, watching sunrises on the world’s tallest sand dunes, picnicking under the Eiffel tower, or bike riding through the Yangshuo countryside.

Variety is the spice of life—you know it!

You’re doing what you love

couples travel
Doing what we love together – Port Douglas, Queensland

I think I can safely assume that by travelling the world together you are both doing what you love.

There will be compromises and you may have to ride the odd camel to help your partner check off their bucket list, but at least you are filled with happiness to know you are helping to fill their cup.

Joy is a powerful glue–the most magical of all emotions.

Think about those joyful experiences you have had with your family and friends. The laughter of them for years to come is what holds you together. When you travel there is an overabundance of joyful emotions – that is some sticking glue!

I also feel safe in saying people are generally better when they travel, because they are doing what they love. They are looking after their own interests, discovering new things, learning more about themselves, exploring beautiful parts of the earth and meeting new people.

The wowser moments just keep coming and sharing them with you is your partner. There’s nothing better than doing what you love beside the person who is also doing what they love and together you love each other.

How many loves were just in that sentence? Enough to get the picture.

Sure, there is the risk that travelling the world with your partner could be the recipe for disaster, but so could staying at home. The recipe for a solid relationship could be building a settled life together too. But, I believe travel can build a deep foundation that will hold you steady during those rocky times.

We all need a firm foundation and solid steel pylons to hold the walls of the house together.

Happy Anniversary Craig. 11 years of 24/7 with you has been tough wonderful. Sure don’t ever get sick of you!

Can you get off the toilet now? ( I need you to put the butter away).

Read our 9 tips for couples travel to help you survive!

Our travel story in podcast

  1. Episode 1: Solo Travel and Working Abroad before we met
  2. Episode 2: Our 5 year honeymoon living and traveling the world
  3. Episode 3: The Dark times and Birth of the girls and travel blog
  4. Episode 4: Embracing Family Travel and our 18 month Australian road trip
  5. Episode 5: Getting a green card and traveling the US (our dream realized)

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how travel can strengthen a long-term relationship or marriage? Do you have other tips for keeping the love strong? When has it been tested for you and how did you pull through OR did travel break your relationship?

43 thoughts on “Can Travel Strengthen Marriages and Long-Term Relationships?”

  1. When I explain the battles in our life (health) over the past few years, people always ask “But you two are stil ok/still together?!” I just look at them and say “Of course we are!”

    I’ve been a little dumbfounded by why people think that we would get divorced or separate over medical conditions that can’t be helped!

    I often look at people who make comments like that and wonder how happy they really are with their partner.

    All I know is everything is easier with Ben my my side! It’s rare we don’t want to do anything together – it’s fantastic being able to do everything with your best friend. Even grocery shopping!

    I can’t wait until Ben is a bit better so I can keep showing him the world. His first flight anywhere was a whirlwind 24 hour trip to Adelaide, so I think I successfully planted the travel bug 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Vanessa. I think there is the idea out there that difficulty will usually end in the end of a marriage. It’s the tough times that will in fact strengthen the relationship if you can just hold on and find a way to work together. I think when battling with health challenges, your partner is the one you need the most. And you can easily find happiness there like you are obviously doing. I hope the travel bug keeps growing for him!

  2. God willing, we’ll celebrate our 31st anniversary on June 6th. We did not do what you did in terms of long term travel, but we love to travel and we love to travel together. I’d say I’m the true wanderluster and Steve (my husband) is willing to let me plan our trips–after a pre-marital trip to Spain to test the waters, we landed in Peru for our honeymoon and we’ve been to 32 countries at last count. When we had two high stress jobs and two high maintenance sons, being able to travel alone together was truly a special time out (i.e. a good time out, not a go to your room time out). Now that one of us is a recovering lawyer/ travel blogger (moi) and we’re empty nesters, we still love our travel time together. (I don’t “get” marriages where the people take separate vacations because their interests are so divergent. Usually, one of them doesn’t like to travel). We have our travel memories in common, but after 31 years, we also have all sorts of other shared life experiences. Obviously we have our disagreements, but I can honestly say that somehow early on, we realized that we wanted our marriage to be a port in the storm — not part of the storm.
    PS: Hmm. I can’t really say that his strength got me through childbirth twice. Fortunately, that was a long time ago now, but childbirth and delivery is still my anxiety dream — not elevators or forgetting an exam.

    1. I think childbirth will be an anxiety dream forever for all women!! Thank you for sharing your experiences Suzanne. I love your approach to marriage, travel and spending time together. I love this “we wanted our marriage to be a port in the storm — not part of the storm.” Just beautiful. I hope all couples ready to marry can understand this.

  3. Jeremy Branham

    Congrats on 11 years! That’s an awesome accomplishment. Even better, your relationship is stronger as a result of triumphs and struggles. You have gone through ups and downs and come out of it even better than you were.

    A little known secret – I’ve served as a counselor for couples and these are fantastic lessons. These are lessons for any couple – regardless of whether they travel or not. I appreciate your honesty and candor and admire the depth of your relationship. I hope it continues and others can learn from you.

    As for sitting on the toilet for 20 minutes, it’s awesome. It’s our alone time. We’re not using it that long but it’s our solitude and escape. We can read, think, and enjoy the quiet. You have to understand that for what it is 🙂

    1. Well another great thing to learn about you Jeremy! I think they are good lessons for any married couple. The whole toilet thing I don’t know! Can’t you find solitude in a fresher environment?

      1. Jeremy Branham

        That’s not really the point. When a guy is sitting down on a toiler, he KNOWS he won’t be disturbed. That’s the real escape. It’s not that we can’t go somewhere else. It’s that no one else will bother us

        Help me out here Craig! 🙂

          1. Jeremy Branham

            Caz, if you want to be married another 11 years, leave him alone when he’s in there. It’s worked so far and it may be the secret of success for your marriage 🙂

            Craig, you and me bother – phone is my source now. I also like books too 🙂

  4. Whenever I see B.H. heading for the toiler (like that term Jeremy), I sprint and cut him off “Can I pleeease go before you”, and he graciously says “well make it quick” – outrageous. I mean who wants to wait 20 mins and who wants to go in there afterward! We started our life together with a 9 month trip to Europe. That will make or break it – luckily it made it. More than 30 years later we are back in to couple travel again with the chickies flown, and it makes us feel younger and closer than ever. I am forever saying – Do you remember that time we….. Great Post!

    1. Oh yes I often have to do the plead to get in there first and it is met with Hurry Up! I’m glad I don’t have any sons 🙂

      Love hearing how you are still so strong and loving your couples time again

  5. Congrats guys! Great read Caz, esp. Nice for someone who just tied the knot. BTW, you are one yummy mummy! You look great.

  6. Lump in my throat reading this. You guys are such an inspiration. My man and I haven’t travelled but have weathered many storms that have come our way. I know I couldn’t have come through it without him. He is my rock. Marriage is bloody hard work, but the best things in life always are.
    Happy Anniversary to you both
    xxxx

    1. Thank you Caroline. I think you find your strength through the storms, and once you’ve made it you can’t really ever turn back.

  7. Happy Anniversary! Thank you for sharing. Yes marriage is much work. My husband and I dont travel much at all. Once the kids came along it was family or kid trips, now that we are down to one child left in the home I want to start traveling but he doesnt. I know if I can get him to go somewhere he will love it and we would have a great time. Its been 24 years and not all good. We are doing much better now due to maturity and knowing how to better communicate and lean on each other. I look forward to traveling real soon.

    1. Communication is such an important part and it’s not always easy to do that. I think if you start with small trips away or even explore new things in your local area, your husband will start getting a taste for travel. It only takes a few lovely short breaks to inspire you to take longer ones and then it will grow from there. I’m sure you’ll find your travel groove together soon

  8. I wish you many years together from now on! You look like best friends one to each other and I admire you a lot. And I also think that your daughters and travelling really strengthen your relationship.

  9. What great advice~ This such a great summary of why it is so nice to have your best friend and travel companion as your spouse. We will celebrate our 10 year anniversary this summer and can’t wait to keep traveling together.

  10. Happy Anniversary!

    I totally agree that travel can strengthen a relationship. Andy and I haven’t traveled together for more than a few weeks at a time (yet), but good things come out of it. You have to make adjustments when you travel, you have to be more flexible, and it all just spills over into dealing with each other. We both enjoy travel, so it’s something wonderful to share.

    We’re about to start a 7 week trip in Europe, and we’re planning on lots more travel in the future, so we’ll see how it all goes, but I imagine the bumps in the road will help strengthen our relationship even in their frustration.

    1. Can’t wait to hear how your adventure goes. I am so excited for you both. There will be challenges for sure but you’ll be strengthened by them. You’ve had experiences already and you didn’t kill each other!!

  11. Yes, I really think that travels can strengthen marriages. I am not yet married but it is how I see couples who travel together, they just have that bond that other couples do not have and if in the nearest future I get married, I would really like to travel with my husband 😉

  12. Congratulations! I love to read your stories, it’s really motivating. I met the love of my life when I started travelling and I really believe I attracted him through the happiness I felt while being on the road. We met in Sydney while both travelling and a couple years later decided to go and live/work in Sydney together. We ended up staying 2 years and it was amazing. Our relationship got so strong by having to rely on each other so much (without any friends or family), that we really got to understand each other and most of all appreciate each other. I can totally see us stepping into a similar adventure and cannot wait to hit the road with him again soon. I love your quote “Strong teammates play to their strengths and support each other’s weaknesses. They inspire, encourage and motivate.” Thanks for sharing to remind us!

    1. My pleasure Nienke and thank you for all your support of us. It sounds like your relationship is very strong, I am so happy it started in my home country and city. I think your future adventures will be so amazing as you continue to grow together.

  13. This is such a great article. Not just for married people / or those in long-term relationships but also for anyone, I think, with a long history with someone that’s important that they don’t want to lose hold of. I just shared it in our official Faceboook page (https://www.facebook.com/foftravel) and Twitter (@foftravel). You should come check us out sometime 🙂

  14. I loved reading this! My first date in my current relationship was a weekend of walking up mountains in North Wales. Our second was cocktails and our third was a few weeks backpacking around Singapore, Malaysia and Borneo. It was my first backpacking trip and was honestly the happiest time of my life so far. Since then we have visited about 12 more countries together, have got married, and are currently working to save up for our most ambitious travel plans yet!
    We have a lot in common, both in terms of recreation and values, but I think our strongest bond is our mutual love of travel – it encompasses everything: sleeping, eating, living, learning… the list goes on, and I feel buoyed up with happiness just thinking about it!

    1. Great story Itaif! Thank you so much for sharing. I love hearing how travel has strengthened the core of relationships–what a great way to start one like the both of you did.

  15. Wonderful post!! Drew (Mr Adventure) also takes 20 minutes! I still don’t understand it lol. I posted a story a bit similar to this (http://mrandmrsadventure.com/2014/03/11/how-are-you-guys-always-so-happy/), but you both have a lot more experience to share – we have been together 5 years and are just trying to figure out our “escape plan.” I pray that we make the right decisions and SOON – I can’t stay in one place much longer – I know you can relate. I look forward to reading just about every single one of your posts 🙂 Thank you for writing.

    1. Thanks Brittany!! Keep working and believing in that dream. You’l figure it out and step back a bit and allow the Universe to help you

  16. 20/30/40mins? What can I say, it’s a guy thing. Whats best is an outhouse with a view, such as in the Canadian Rockies or the Namib dessert, or the Okavango Delta in Botswana, I have photos. This I guess is one of the things that my wife of 4 years now has learned to live with, she just leaves me alone until I am good and done, same as I have learned to live with her ‘things’ that irritate me.

    To cut a very long story very short, we met while working together as overland safari guides in Southern Africa. I was a driver and she was a tour leader. We worked together for 5 months, then left the road to get married and to make an attempt at a normal life, we failed, at the attempt to have a normal life. So we went back on the African roads as a married couple leading tours for a few more months. Since then we have run a ski chalet in Austria, driven an RV with a serious (petrol) drinking problem around the Canadian Rockies, sailed the Greek Ionian Islands and run a backpackers lodge in the east of Johannesburg.

    I am South African and my wife is Belgian. We are currently in Belgium, our home base, and are in the process of starting our own blog/website to share our full story, and then some. I have taken a short term job on a production line in a local car factory, not my style I know, but it brings cash in while Sabine is busy with the website, although it is going to be a team effort. Then we are back out there, in the hopefully not too distant future. We have lots more dream destinations.

    What I think we realised on our last trip to Canada a few months ago is we maybe need an extended time in one place, to collect ourselves, so to speak. We have been travelling for 5 years now, planning a trip, then another one, and another one, and it has been great, but we think it’s maybe time to reflect and re-group and go through all the photos, video and diary writings lest we forget where we’ve been. We won’t stop dreaming, we are just going to park off for a while. This I think might well be as close as we will come to ‘normal’ life for the foreseeable future, but it is necessary. Having a house to yourselves as a married couple is, well, priceless. For everything else we use the Mastercard.

  17. I just came across this while perusing your site for travel info. You are one of my go-to sites! I echo these sentiments completely. We’ve been on the road 24/7 for going on 9 months now and wow have we come a LONG way in terms of how we communicate and handle situations. I feel so much more confident and secure in our relationship and the fact that we are building such a solid foundation for our future together. It was great reading you feel the same way yet still have those moments of irritations too 😉 <3

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