Want to improve your romantic, friendship, or family relationships?
Here’s an easy method that works, and is even backed up by science: Travel for a day trip or longer.
Why does travel enhance human connections? Expansion.
To elaborate on the research behind this, let’s draw from the excellent New York Times article, “The Happy Marriage is the ‘Me” Marriage.” In this article, Tara Parker-Pope pulls together a number of recent studies to explain that happier relationships are those in which each partner helps expand the other’s horizons.
Parker-Pope explains, “If you’re seeking self-growth and obtain it from your partner, then that puts your partner in a pretty important position, [...] and being able to help your partner’s self-expansion would be pretty pleasing to yourself.”
The author continues, “The concept explains why people are delighted when dates treat them to new experiences, like a weekend away.”
It is certainly true for me that shared new travel experiences build stronger relationships! Here is how this played out with me and my fiance (who I met and got engaged to because of travel in the first place!) earlier this month. You see, we’re both teachers, and we often spend our weekends grading papers in our apartment. Unfortunately, when you repeatedly do the same thing in the same place, it starts to blur together. All I usually remember of a 48-hour Grading Weekend is black and white words flashing in front of my eyes above the same gray couch.
“We gotta travel somewhere else,” I exclaimed. “We can still work, but we need a change of scene.”
“Okay!” replied Colin. “Where?”
“Anywhere,” I sang. “How long are you willing to drive?” (Recall I can’t drive, myself.)
“One hour and thirty minutes,” declared Colin, “maximum.”
I pulled up Google Maps and did several driving directions searches to ascertain the radius we could geographically achieve with ninety minutes in a car. Like Sherlock Holmes, I sleuthed out several towns that fit the bill, plus seemed to be in pretty areas as judged by the “Terrain” view in Google Maps.
Next, I opened internet tabs for about fifteen different hotel booking sites and quested for an hour until I found a great price on a hotel in a thrilling place: Ogunquit, Maine. We’d never been to Ogunquit before, but had heard others rave about it.
It was 11:55pm on Friday when I made the booking, and by Saturday afternoon, we were packed, in the car, and on our way to the seaside!
We still got an epic amount of grading done, but it was infinitely better by the beach, breathing fresh air, devouring lobster. We even took a short break to walk along famous Marginal Way: the beautiful Maine equivalent of the Newport, RI Cliff Walk.
When we got back home, our relationship felt different: stronger and expanded.
We’d created fresh new memories together that wouldn’t have happened staying in Boston all weekend, and we felt happy and in love!
So what about YOU?
Have you also experienced how expanding horizons with a partner, friend, or family member boosts your relationship? Do you have plans to, now?