Last year, a flight delay almost ended my marriage.
My wife and I were en route to a West Coast wedding when a storm diverted us from our layover in D.C. to an unexpected landing in Richmond, Virginia. Ever easygoing, my wife embraced the situation, securing us a flight out the next morning and reserving a room at a boutique hotel. Prone to panic, I soon broke the serenity when I realized our bags were still on the original flight. To save our orphaned luggage, I forced us back on the plane to our nation’s capital—headed to an airport we no longer had tickets out of. Tensions were high; regrets were immediate. As we approached, the pilot announced that another squall had us rerouted, once again, to Richmond. We submitted to fate, and ended the evening sharing laughs, Korean tacos, and one-too-many craft brews in the historic Virginia capital.
Though the stakes may be exaggerated, the point is sound: Travel is a test kitchen for a committed relationship. When a couple spends uninterrupted time together for an extended period in an unfamiliar setting, the challenges that arise truly test their mettle. But for those who endure through adversity, the rewards of a travel-eccentric relationship are bounteous—and research backs this up.
A 2012 survey by the U.S. Travel Association revealed that couples that took regular trips reported higher levels of satisfaction with their relationships, and considered their vacations an important venue for romance. Similarly, a 2013 Journal of Travel Research article by experts at Texas A&M found that partners who traveled together experienced improved communication, and that connectivity extended into their life back home—with one important caveat. For a couple to reap such benefits, they must want the same thing out of the vacation, and that experience must include shared activities that nurture the relationship.
“Vacation experiences are made up of seeking and escaping motives. Some are seeking adventure; others are escaping and want to relax. The dyad has to match up,” says Dr. James Petrick, professor of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences and co-author of the Texas A&M review. “Outside of your usual environment, you have to process much more and evaluate situations in an in-depth manner. Vacations awaken all your senses. You’re more in tune with each other, with the environment around you.”
Cincinnati residents Jocelyn Gibson, 34, and Justin Leach, 33, were married last October after dating since 2014. Part of what drew them together was a mutual love of travel—the pair have already flexed their compatibility on excursions to Madrid, Copenhagen, Marseille and Berlin in that three-year span. While they cop to the occasional argument—Justin likes to plot things out, while Jocelyn prefers to wander—they have similar interests, leaving much to bond over.
“We are constantly noticing the historic architecture, street life, public spaces,” Gibson says. “We both love food, so our meals are satisfying and memorable. On countless occasions we will be doing something ordinary, and we’ll recall a specific memory from one of our trips and be struck by nostalgia.”