I just completed a camper van adventure through Tasmania with my partner of a year and a half.
We have traveled together before, both domestically and internationally, but we still don't live together. We each have our own reasons for not cohabitating just yet, and they're reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with how much we love each other.
For us, traveling together is the best way to gauge our compatibility. It has brought us closer, taught us what we are capable of giving one another and what we expect from one another and strengthened our relationship tenfold.
Here are four reasons traveling with your partner is a far better way to measure your success as a couple than living together:
1. Don't slide. Decide.
There are many reasons for couples to cohabitate early in a relationship. The most common in New York is perhaps for financial benefits.
It makes total sense: You have a partner whom you love, and now you can get a nicer apartment for the same amount of money you've been paying without the dirty, loud, obnoxious roommates.
But here's the flaw: Haven't we all met someone who stayed in a relationship far longer than they should have out of convenience? Moving in New York is expensive as hell. (Seriously, who has that much money?)
So when our shelter is at risk, we tend to stay on the safe side. If you travel with your partner before you move in, the quirks and communication flaws are already discovered.
Don't slide into your relationship. Decide on it.
2. It keeps it fresh.
I have yet to meet a married couple who said, “Yeah, I wish we had moved in together sooner.” In fact, several have said, “We could have waited a bit longer.”
I know it seems so exciting to move in quickly. It feels so grown-up, solid, comforting and right. But just remember that if this person really is your lifelong partner, you'll be spending a sickening amount of time with them.
Think it's funny and charming when your partner farts in bed? Don't worry, there will be a lot more of that in the next 50 years.
When you travel together, you keep your relationship fresh. You explore new cities, try new foods and nurture each other when traveler's diarrhea kicks in (and it will kick in).
You get the same closeness and companionship, while saving a monumental move for a little later. There's always something to look forward to.
3. You maintain your independence.
Traveling with your significant other offers you everything moving in does. You will observe how your partner handles their finances, how messy they are, what their daily habits are and how they treat themselves and you when they are stressed out (and they will be stressed out).
Traveling allows you to discover everything you would have while sharing a space, except you don't have to put a deposit down or sign a mortgage. You maintain your own independence while still growing closer to your partner.
4. It's a better indicator of relationship success.
A big argument for cohabitation is “try before you buy.” How do you know you want to spend your life with someone if you don't live with them first?
But, traveling allows you to get a better understanding of your partner's quirks, ticks and mannerisms in a much shorter time frame because you are thrust into an unknown environment.
Traveling is beautiful, eye-opening and spiritual, but it can also be stressful as hell. When you are with your partner all day, every day, you see how the stress of getting lost, not understanding a language, being tired and not having enough money affects them. It also forces you to strengthen your communication with one another.
It challenges you because you will also be stressed and frustrated. How will you treat your partner? You will certainly argue, but are you fighting against each other, or with each other to come to a mutual understanding?
I was recently at a wedding where I met a woman who has been with her partner for 10 years. A few years into their relationship, they went on a long European trip together.
She said to me, “When we left, my husband and I both thought it was ridiculous how couples would travel together and then break up. We would never be like them. We lived together and knew everything about each other. But then, a few weeks into the trip, we were able to understand how that happens.”
Living together is not the ultimate test. Traveling is.
I believe the best companions are like two trees. They're both firmly rooted in their place, growing up healthy, strong and independent, but still next to each other.
So often, I see relationships where people have not rooted themselves. They rely on their partner to keep them upright, and then they are never granted the opportunity to grow tall and powerful.
They think they are close, and perhaps they are, but eventually — because they were not strong independently to begin with — one or both becomes uprooted, unable to weather any of the storms.
I am in no way endorsing “no cohabitation before marriage,” but I do think there's a step before that cohabitation, and that is travel.
Travel to become stronger individually and stronger together.
Grow your relationship while you maintain your independence. Experience one another while you experience the world