Last month, Emmy-nominated TV host Nina Parker tweeted that relationships need to be vetted by seeing how your potential partner behaves in the airport. The large response that followed proved that many, including myself, feel the same way.
As someone who has lived as a digital nomad for over a year, after reading this tweet, I recalled the moments I’ve had with men I was dating and traveled with: One memory that immediately came to mind was the time a guy ditched me for TSA pre-check on an international flight, which left me feeling like an afterthought.
In these moments, I never stopped to think about what their actions said about the way they navigated relationships.
“I haven’t traveled with a partner yet, but when I do, and if he leaves me just to go through TSA pre-check, I might just have to pre-check our current relationship status,” Lauren from Ohio told Sweet July.
I wished I had seen the glaring red flags that I had naively mistaken as light pink.
While taking a “baecation” may be cute for social media, there’s quite a bit we can learn from traveling with a potential partner before they become our official significant other. Meghan Watson, a licensed psychotherapist and the founder of Bloom Psychology & Wellness shared that traveling with someone can reveal much about their leadership skills and communication style.
“You can learn about how they make decisions (where should we stay and for how long?), how they respond to disappointment and loss of control (how do they react when plans change unexpectedly?), how they compromise and respect your opinion when it comes to what activities and plans you make, how they speak to and connect with people from different cultures, how they handle stress and pressure (will we miss our flight?), and even how they process emotional experiences such as excitement, jealousy and discomfort,” Watson tells Sweet July. “Traveling as a couple offers opportunities to observe how your partner responds to new ideas, people and experiences. It’s also a great place to explore shared hopes, values and fears while trying new things.”
When it comes to my specific TSA abandonment example, Watson offers sound insight.
“If this isn’t something you’ve discussed and agreed on ahead of time, it likely indicates a lack of care and consideration for the other person,” she says. “No one likes to wait in long security lines, but traveling together gives couples great opportunities to experience inconveniences (minor and major), compromise and handle conflict together.”
The reception from Parker’s tweet inspired me to do more exploring. I discovered I was not the only woman who had experienced a vacation that took a significant left turn before it even really started.
“I went to Cancún with a guy, and he left me before I got [through security],” Brandi from the DMV told me. “Even if you go through, wait for me on the other side of security. He walked ahead of me the whole time and didn’t turn his head not one time to at least check and make sure I was still there and ok. It set the tone for the whole trip.”
“[He] had zero patience at an airport and once spoke really badly to a flight attendant,” Ana from Boston shared about her now ex-boyfriend. “I should have known he wouldn’t change.”
Outside of navigating a chaotic airport as a couple, Waston recommends that if a conflict arises while on vacation, both partners should be mindful of the new elements that each individual is experiencing.
“Being in strange and new settings and handling interpersonal conflict can strain and agitate even the most cool-headed people,” says Watson. “Be honest about how you feel without excessive criticism or condescension. If things get heated, take space to cool off and put things in perspective. Remember, impact doesn’t always match up with our intent. Take accountability, apologize and/or agree to disagree if needed and necessary.”
Watson also offers the below steps to ensure the trip runs as smoothly as possible:
Prepare your itinerary ahead of time
The last thing anyone wants is to go on vacation and realize that the person you’re traveling with wants to have a packed day of activities when you might want to relax and read a book (or vice versa).
Commit to communication
If you haven’t been dating or known each other for a while, use your trip as a chance to learn more about them. Shared vulnerability drives connection, so take a minute to consider what you want to know about your partner and what you’re comfortable sharing.
Be in the moment
Try to enjoy the experience of being together instead of anticipating everything that might go wrong. Practicing being present gives you space to be thoughtful with each other while exploring a new environment.