The Travel Test

The first weekend Taylor and I traveled alone together was to Montreal for the Osheaga Music Festival last August. Towards the beginning of the drive, I was eating a cookie and using the paper directions on my lap as a plate to catch the crumbs. When I was done, I rolled the window down to let the crumbs out and with no regard to how fast we were going, leaned the papers into the wind. They instantly flew out of my fingers, disappearing behind us.

We made it okay, but I remember thinking, oh no, he’s never gonna wanna travel with me again. Little did I know, the next few days were going to be an obstacle course of obstacles: malfunctioning credit cards, no cash, losing each other in the crowd, waiting exhausted in the herd of drunk festival goers to get back on the subway, finding a place to pitch a tent outside the city (one night ended with sleeping between a deserted dirt parking lot and train tracks) etc. As our first trip, patience and motivation were at their highest. And despite the trouble, Osheaga was an absolute blast.

There is an old cliché; the best way to test the strength and compatibility of a relationship is to travel with them. I’ve been thinking about this saying more lately, as I reflect on mine and Taylor’s time together. It is true that travel uproots a couple from their daily routines, throwing them into unfamiliar and often stressful situations. How they respond is the Travel Test.

What’s different is that Taylor and I have done nothing but travel since the day we met on a trail crew in the Adirondacks. We quickly grew accustomed to each other in ways that normally take longer. Normally, you get dressed up for a date, and if it goes well, see them again the next week. Slowly, you see them more and more. For Taylor and I, we knew early on what each other looked (and smelled) like without a shower for ten days. For that reason, it feels like we’ve known each other much longer.

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Taylor and I at the top of Mount Colden in the Adirondacks. The most difficult, tiresome hike of our lives up the Trap Dike.

Travel brings out unseen sides of people, the good and the bad. If a couple can deal with the ugly sides, the GPS acting up, the lack of parking spaces, the darkening night, the foreign streets, the aggressive traffic, the growing hunger, the need to agree on a restaurant, and still manage to sit at a table, take a breath, laugh it off, and clink drinks, then that’s a good couple. That’s what the Travel Test is all about.

Of course, not all travel makes a good test. Taking a nonstop flight to Florida to chillax on a hotel beach with a margarita in hand all week, well, say goodbye to stress.

The travel that tests a relationship is the kind where most of the day is spent planning logistics down to the tiniest decision. What music to listen to, where to get gas, which lane to be in, which way to turn. The other day in the grocery store, Taylor and I spent at least five minutes picking out a type of peanut butter. It gets easier.

It’s been a little while since August, so we’ve had moments our patience and motivation wore thin. But I am quickly reminded that we remain a good team for practical reasons: we share similar values on money, aren’t picky eaters, and know how to tough it in the outdoors. Not all partners would be okay with sleeping next to train tracks. I guess our level of risk taking in light of adventure is similar, too. In a stressful situation, one of us might have more sanity than the other, but the sanity switches back and forth for a good balance.


Restful day at Jordan Lake, NC

Practical reasons are important, but it also comes down to pure desire to work it out. We have to know that it’s all outside forces – it’s not within us.

So far, the Travel test has taught me that talking and listening to each other is the only way we’ll get things done so we’re both happy. I’ve also learned that the Travel Test is not about how perfectly things go or how easily decisions are made, but how we manage to work through tough situations as a team and leave them behind in the dust.

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