There we were, driving nervously along a jagged dirt road, risking our lives and compact rental car for the chance to see arctic seals. After an hour of snail-like crawling along this remote North Iceland peninsula – with no seals or even humans in sight – I made a confession: I may have forgotten to look up tide times. Which are, apparently, integral to finding seals.

When you’re stuck in a car with the same person for six straight days, things could either go terribly wrong or perfectly right.

I considered this in passing when booking an Iceland road trip with my detail-oriented, always- pragmatic boyfriend, quickly letting my incessant wanderlust usurp my sensibility.

Of course we’ll be fine! I told myself, after impulsively buying round trip tickets and six nights-worth of accommodations throughout Iceland. But then I remembered my terrible sense of direction, which would no doubt get us lost on a remote lava field only slightly more hospitable than the surface of the moon. Then I recalled the fact I take decades to get the perfect photo – on three different cameras, from at least five different angles. And there’s my pre-meal “hanger,” when my body says, Feed me now or I can’t be responsible for what happens next.

Ruh-roh.

We’ll be … fine … Right?

Romance and Road Trips: Why Travel is the Best Relationship Test

As Travelette Frankie learned in her round-the-world couple trip, traveling with a partner isn’t all rainbows and roses. While there are rainbows – sometimes set to the backdrop of a hidden Icelandic waterfall – the true perk of traveling as a couple is having the opportunity to answer some of your most important relationship questions.

1) Do we share similar interests?

I’ll be honest. This is the one that had me most nervous going into the trip. I’ve always been a grungy, outdoorsy person, while my boyfriend is more of a sports enthusiast and history buff who enjoys big cities, culture and modern conveniences. If he is outdoors, it’s pools or beaches.

Fortunately, I talked him into to my frigid, nature-filled fantasy – an Iceland road trip – while he was half asleep. Until we landed in Keflavik Airport and got our rental car, I was nervous he’d hate the trip. One half of me was concerned he’d have a miserable time; the other half worried about what that miserable time would mean for our future.

I can’t spend my life with someone who doesn’t enjoy the outdoors!

As the trip went on, he never once complained about our grungy adventures. In fact, he actually loved them.

When we went to Seljalandsfoss, the Icelandic waterfall you can hike behind, it was pouring rain and freezing. I told him to stay in the car because I figured he’d be miserable. He stared at me, mid boot lacing, saying confidently, No. I want to go.

In that moment, I realized that he may not love hiking as much as I do, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t like it. By having different interests — while sharing a mutual love for travel — we’ll constantly be pushing each other to try new things. Who doesn’t want a lifetime of that?

Romance and Road Trips: Why Travel is the Best Relationship Test

2) How well do we get along, without life’s distractions?

For many couples, quality time is spent over Netflix, out on the town or with a constant smartphone buffer. Rarely is there true silence, where it’s up to you and your partner to entertain each other.

That is, until you take an international road trip.

We drove at least four hours daily on our expedition, traveling up and down Iceland’s remote roads. No Netflix or cell phone reception. Just us, the volcanic, mountainous wilderness, and hours upon hours of incredible conversation.

Now, when I say incredible I don’t mean endless hours of deep, collaborative soul-searching. That’s way too much seriousness for six straight days.

But whether it was cracking up about what our dog might be doing back at “sleepover camp”, discussing the ever-important “what’s for dinner” question, or just enjoying a quiet, scenic moment, I learned quickly that even without life’s distractions, we still truly enjoy each other’s company. And that’s just slightly important for a life-long relationship.

Romance and Road Trips: Why Travel is the Best Relationship Test

3) What happens when we hit a bumpy road?

As I mentioned before, I’ve never been a directions person. So when our GPS decided not to work for, um, the entire Iceland trip, I was put in the navigator’s seat with an old-school paper map of Iceland roads whose names I couldn’t begin to pronounce. Hello, bumpy road.

If there was an incentive for argument, this would have been the time.

Why didn’t you test the GPS before we left? I could have yelled.

Why can’t you read a freaking map? He could have retorted.

Fortunately, we had none of that. We almost subconsciously – without even talking about it – accepted that this was the situation; we were going to figure it out. And we did, experiencing only a few wrong turns, met with patience and, more often than not, a good laugh.

36 Hours in Akureyri, Iceland

4) Is this meant to be?

Set aside that Magic 8 ball. If you really want to find out if you and your partner are meant to be, travel the world together. In one week of road tripping through Iceland, we experienced pretty much every important situation a couple will face:

  • Finances: We had to agree on how to spend our money, and who was paying for what. Given finances are a top reason couples fight, I’d say this was a good test.
  • Team work: In travel, some things – or, more accurately, many things – will go wrong. You can either blame each other and fight, or work together to get through it.
  • Compromise: I wanted to sit on a cliffside and photograph the ocean for hours. He wanted to get into town for dinner on time. Even with minor differences of opinion, we consistently compromised, and still ended up with gorgeous photos and great food.
  • Love: After six full days of road tripping, during which we faced conflict, compromise, wrong turns and laughter, we came out on top. Travel provides a helpful snapshot of what a couple’s future together will look like. If you can get through the tough times yet remain wildly in love, then consider it meant to be.

Romance and Road Trips: Why Travel is the Best Relationship Test

Do you need a partner to fulfill your traveling dreams? Um, no. Of course not! If your soul is filled with wanderlust, you’ll find a way to travel the world. I still explore the world by myself regularly  for independent, solo adventures .

But, when you do find that special globetrotting soulmate – the one who enriches your travels and hands you a granola bar for your mid-day hanger, you’re set for an adventurous lifetime of romance, road trips and, most importantly, happiness.

Have you road tripped with a partner? What did you learn during your trip?


This is a guest post by Stephanie Vermillion.

IMG_7587Stephanie is a NYC-based media professional, travel writer and photographer. Her travel blog, The Wanderlost Way, offers tips, guides and stories to help people of all experience levels embrace their spontaneity and curiosity for one-of-a-kind adventures. Connect with Stephanie on Twitter @WanderlostWay and Instagram @TheWanderlostWay.