Travel and Relationships

Before, During, and After the Trip

If you’re reading this blog, I hope it’s because there’s a little voice in your mind that’s telling you to pack your bags and travel.

The travel community is full of advice about “breaking up before you go,” “leaving him/her behind to follow the open road” or, on the other end of the spectrum, couples who travel.  (There are so many cute couples who travel full-time, everywhere together!)

Everyone from the business traveler or backpacker who’s constantly on the go—to the working traveler with a few weeks of vacation—struggles with the balance between exploring the world on their own and time with their loved ones.

For the part-time traveler, adventuring out of your “fixed-life” for what is hopefully weeks at a time can create some tension in your relationships.  We tend to worry about what we’re missing at home—there are times I come back from a lengthly trip and even feel left out of popular culture (who married who? what happened with that?)  More often than not, it’s not us that needs to worry — it’s our loved ones who stayed at home. (Ouch!)


In Thailand with my man…though there are also many trips we don’t experience together. How do you pursue your own adventures and include your partner? It’s a balancing act.

As a traveler, you recognize the transformative power of introducing your self to new landscapes, new cultures, new people.  Sometimes a few weeks in another country can refresh us, make us feel almost like new.  It’s important to remember…that’s the point. That being said, go!  Have all the life-changing adventure in the world!  I certainly won’t stop you.  In fact, I’ll push you out the door.  However, over the years, the relationships, and the trips, I have learned that traveling changes a person—and failing to communicate, or worse, gushing about it to the people we care about at home can hurt our relationships.  This should in no way stop us from hitting the road, but here are a few tips to consider with travel and relationships:

Before the trip:

  • With work colleagues, professionally inform anyone who will be affected by your absence of your planned leave.  Be sure to put in place any process or person who can cover your workload, and share the steps you have taken with your boss and team (as applicable.)
  • With friends, tell them about your trip plans and allow them to get excited with you and for you.  Be careful not to take it to “bragsville,” and when they exclaim “I’m jealous!” let them know (genuinely, of course) that you wish they could be there, and remind them that it is always possible for them to take a trip of their own 🙂
  • With family, share itineraries/flight details as you see fit.  Moms will always worry so it might help to reassure them of the steps you are taking to ensure your safety and care while gone.  If you like, make plans to check in periodically.  Set up expectations for communication while you’re away, including any limited access to phone or internet so that they aren’t expecting more than you can give.
  • With significant others, remind them how much you’ll miss them and that you’ll “be back before you know it!” (True more often than not.)  But honestly, it’s easy to be caught up in the moment (the beauty of travel!) and be exactly where we are.  Meanwhile, they may be at home feeling a hole in their life where you used to be (one can only hope.)  It is important to set regular times to communicate while you’re away–as I’ll venture to assume that your significant other (or MIP, most important person, could be friends or family as well) is the person you spend the most time with when you’re home.  At the least, again, set proper expectations for your ability to communicate and reassure them you’ll be thinking of them.

During the trip:

  • Work: forget it.  Disconnect.  This is the point.  Drop your work.  If they really can’t live without you for a pre-determined, set parameter of time, I would guess that you need to reevaluate your priorities if travel is truly important to you.
  • Friends: send quick notes when you can to let people know you’re thinking of them.  These are the people most likely to “like” your photos, support your joy…don’t forget to reciprocate at least a little bit.  It’s not all about you, even when you’re off doing exciting/life-changing things.
  • Family: depending on your relationships with various family members, I would assert most of them appreciate a quick “check-in” regarding your safety.  When you find a random wi-fi connection, will it really kill you to send a quick note of “hello, I’m safe?”  If you’re lucky, your family are the ones who care the most…they may be the only ones reading your email updates and clicking through all 200 photos.  It may feel like they are the only ones reading your blog (hi, Mom!)  Don’t take that for granted.
  • Significant others: as mentioned above, do your best to fulfill your promised regular communication.  It never hurts to mention how much you miss someone. Everyone’s relationship is of course different; put yourself in their shoes and do what you can to include them in your trip.

After the trip:

  • For everyone: it’s about balance.  All of the aforementioned groups of people will politely ask about your trip upon your return.  Some (likely other travelers) will engage and be interested in all of what you have to say.  Most will ask you if you took any pictures—I know it’s hard, because I’ve been there, having taken 2,000 photos and not being able to choose just a few to share with others—but trust me, just show them two or three.  If they want more, they will ask for more.  There’s nothing worse than asking someone about their trip and having them whip out two hours of stories and a 500 picture slideshow.  If they want that, they either read a blog (huzzah!) or stalk you on Facebook from the comfort of their own pajamas.  
  • Let others ask about your trip…do NOT be a “travel name-dropper.”  Along the lines of “well, when I was in ____” or “actually, the people in ____ do it this way.”  I’ve been there, guys—it’s not pretty.  No one likes a name-dropper.  Same goes for travel.  Even when you’re proudly exclaiming about your passport stamps and UNESCO world heritage site visits.  (Gary from Everything Everywhere wrote a humorous post about this very topic.)
  • If you’re needing to digest what you have learned and tell the world about your trip, journal.  Write to yourself.  You’ll be more clear and succinct when the time comes to talk about your trip to others, and I’ll bet your journal is the most interested party you’ll find.  Better yet, you’ll preserve the feelings of change and perspective for your future self to look back on, should you lose them.

Above all, don’t forget that while your relationships with others are undoubtedly important–-the most important relationship in travel is the one you have with yourself.  This is why solo travel is so highly regarded amongst travelers.  It’s about why you decided to go in the first place, it’s about how seeing the world and connecting with others changes us in both semi-permanent and lasting ways.  We grow and change, sometimes we even figure stuff out (and this is huge)…and I don’t know about you, but it’s one of the reasons I’m so addicted to travel in the first place.  Most of the time you’ll find your worries about missing out—aside from perhaps catching up on news and gossip–are unfounded.  It’s you that’s done the changing.  You’re the only one that can absolutely feel that.  It’s cliche but true—that in looking to learn more about the world, we often learn more about ourselves. Don’t forget to have that conversation and to savor the travel for just you.  Be a source of inspiration rather than envy.


Awesome! …Unless there’s an implied “I’m better than you” underneath the photo. Any trip worth it’s salt will humble you. Don’t forget to bring that humility home with you.

I could write for ages about relationships on shared trips and how travel brings us closer, but let’s save that for another post and another day 😉

Happy Valentines Day to you and to the people you love—and know that I sincerely hope that one of the people you love the most is yourself.

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  1. this is a GREAT post! bravo!

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