Eco-Travel as a Relationship Builder

Vacations are not what they used to be. Lazily sipping cocktails all day, doing as little as possible while lolling on the chaise in front of the pool, maybe fitting in a little shopping – this all seems to have gone by the wayside. The new trend in travel for many couples is eco-adventure vacations – but not for the reasons you may think. Yes, many couples are interested in living a more eco-friendly lifestyle, one that tends to include outdoor adventure activities (think hiking, surfing, kayaking, etc). However, these couples report not only that they enjoy a more active, nature-oriented vacation that injects a sense of adventure in their lives, but also that their relationships and sex lives are strengthened as a by-product.

What does this mean? Eco-adventure travel fosters several skills that can positively reinforce traits couples seek. The desire to get “out of the box” of an everyday life also serves as a way to combat boredom in a relationship. It shakes things up enough for them to garner experiences that more typical couples would not experience on the standard trip to a resort in Florida.

While some individuals may find the idea of trekking glaciers or surfing in Indonesia daunting, these activity travelers say they experience a sense of rejuvenation. Many return home and are able to apply the skills they have learned on their trips. Rebecca, a 32 year old mother of one, says, “My husband and I seem to communicate better now than we ever have. While rock climbing all over the United States we discovered that the challenges put upon our ability to communicate in sticky situations and negotiate difficulties seemed to train us for everyday life. When you are in a life and death situation on a mountain, arguing over who takes the trash out at home is a moot point.”

Researchers John Gottman and David Schnarch reinforce the importance of a sense of individuation within one’s couplehood as well as creating spontaneity within a relationship. These two attributes can often have a “make it or break it” effect on long-term relationships. Eco-travel allows people to continue to individuate by excelling on their own but to also bond under uncommon circumstances.

Tim says that he feels closer to his partner Martin because the trips they’ve taken whitewater rafting become all about them as a couple. “How we navigate the river is a direct metaphor for our lives. We’ve shared things together that we haven’t with anyone else.” This increased sense of emotional intimacy can carry over into the bedroom.

An interest in “healthy risk-taking” poses an overlap into sexuality. There can be a sense of spontaneity that may not exist otherwise – that anything can happen on these trips. This ability to seek out adventure spills over into sex lives. “Having sex in non-traditional places, breaking out a new sex toy, experimenting within our own boundaries, all of these concepts grow out of our overall desire for adventure,” Rebecca says.

Again and again, these couples reiterate that life and therefore relationships should be fun, at least some of the time. There is a pervasive sense of openness, a willingness to try something new, and possibly even fail in front of a partner – to be emotionally and physically vulnerable, an ability to communicate needs and desires. These seem to be the most important traits – whether a couple is bonding through eco-travel in the jungles of Borneo or experimenting with their sexualities in the comfort of their own bed.

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