The obvious reason that traveling with another person causes you to get to know them is the vast amount of time you’ll end up spending together. This is doubly true if the trip involves lots of travel time (by car, train, plane, bus) during which there aren’t many distractions and you don’t have much to do besides be together. You’ll probably end up talking a fair amount. You’ll see this person at all times of day and in many different moods (excited, tired, cranky, hungry, interested, relaxed, etc.). It’s harder to hold onto a public persona under these circumstances; the mask tends to slip.
You’ll discover, if you don’t know already, how they interact with the world around them. How do they respond to trying something new? What about something new that they’re trying just because you want to? What activities do they end up actually advocating for or spending time on? Which ones can they obviously not stand? How much downtime or quiet time do they need? How do they react to crowds? Discomfort? Fatigue? How engaged are they in what they’re doing?
Traveling also requires many decisions, and watching what someone decides, how they decide it, and how they try to communicate with you can also be very revealing. When and what are you going to eat? How are you going to find a restaurant? On what activities will you spend your time? What souvenirs do you buy? Even the timing of when you go to bed and when you get up in the morning can be a point of contention.
And then there’s that inevitable moment when things go wrong. And make no mistake about it, things almost always go wrong at least once during a trip. Often a lot more. These moments are among the most revealing of character and personality: how he deals with stress, what kind of fiber she’s made of, how resilient he may or may not be, how creative she is when thinking of solutions. And these are also the moments that can make or break a relationship, either throwing the two of you into conflict or bringing you closer together.
Of course, even if we can’t travel with a certain person, we can learn a bit just by spending some time asking them about their trip. What do they tend to talk about: the logistics? the food? the physical activities they did? the beautiful painting they saw? the people they met? Do they turn their trip into some kind of narrative through which they find insight or meaning? Do they dwell on what went wrong (the weather, bad food, lost luggage, etc.) or what went right (or maybe a bit of both)?
Traveling with someone is challenging, so don’t do it to keep the peace and maintain the status quo. I’ve heard stories of friendships ending during trips because they aren’t strong enough to bear up under the additional stress. But if the end goal is not to keep a friendship going at all costs but rather to know a person more deeply, then travel might give the insight we seek. We might not like everything we discover, but sometimes we’ll also find that we love that person anyway.
Your turn: Where would you like to visit? What aspects of a trip do you tend to talk about once it’s over?