Why Travel Strengthens a Couple’s Relationship

I still have to continue sharing to you my Thailand trip! Bear with me, it’s been a busy month! In the meantime, here’s an article I wrote for Tripzilla which was first published on their site on June 22, 2017.

 

In recent years, budget airlines have made it easier for millennials to travel out of our own pockets. Along with this comes the option of inviting our significant others along for the ride. It’s fantastic that we’re able to do this because travel helps the relationship grow in many ways.

You learn to cooperate with each other

travel strengthens couple relationship

Even before flying out, you’re already working on the flights, schedules, hotels rooms, and itinerary together. You ask each other which flight or tourist spot works best for whom, what room price the other is willing to pay for, or what schedule is okay with the other? You learn to consider your SO’s needs and capabilities. You build that aspect of give and take that’s important in any relationship, which brings me to the next point.

You become a team

One of you has to figure out the city map, while the other has to learn the bus routes, right? You can’t just let one person do everything while you travel because that creates a massive headache. Eventually, you get in sync with one another and establish who’s in charge of what.

You see each other’s strengths and weakness

It’s easy to see your partner’s strengths and weaknesses in any normal day. But boy, trust me when I say that travelling can bring out a different side of your partner that you may not have seen before. Travelling, especially DIY travels, can be stressful. You may learn that your Other Half can’t keep up with the situations at hand, or find that they’re actually pretty good at keeping calm during hectic times.

When you see the strengths, you learn to appreciate

You will probably see that your girlfriend is such a boss, once she talks to the airline manager after an eight-hour delay. You might witness how firm and assertive your boyfriend really is, after the taxi driver dupes you into paying more in fare. Maybe you’ll fall in love again, five times over. If not, at least you’ll have a deeper admiration for the person that you previously didn’t see.

And when you see the weaknesses, you learn to be patient

Turn the above-mentioned situations around, and you might see a flaw in your partner during these times. You find out that they’re not as confident, or as clever as you are when the situation calls for it. Unfortunate events – which happen frequently while travelling – need quick thinking and smart actions, which your Other Half might not be capable of doing. But instead of criticising their weaknesses, you learn to be patient with them.

You learn something new about the other person

Even your partner might discover something about themselves that they previously didn’t. You could learn that they’re actually passionate about food or history, or you realise that you have different priorities when travelling. One of you would want to check out the food scene, while the other prefers to check off all the touristy sites and museums.

You learn to love what they love

And then you develop an interest in the things that they like. Soon you’ll enjoy going to every Michelin-starred restaurant in the country, or any well-known restaurant for that matter. You’ll want to check out the specialty coffee places instead of the museums. You’ll enjoy budgeting while abroad because, apparently, that’s what your boyfriend or girlfriend is best at, and you acquire that habit.

It creates opportunities for you to communicate

Image credit: x1klima

I mean, it’s just you two for the entire trip. You have all the time to talk at breakfast, lunch or dinner, during bus rides, even while walking. This likely doesn’t happen, all the time, back home because you both have separate lives, right? Not only that, when a problem arises during your trip, it’s the two of you trying to solve it, which requires a great deal of communication.

So what are you waiting for? If you want to strengthen your relationship, you better start planning that couple trip soon!

Dude, where’s our bullet train?

As I looked up from the bottom of the stairs to the platforms, I died a little inside. How are we going to cover more than 20 steps in 5 minutes? Five minutes was all we had before our bullet train to Hamamatsu, Shizuoka left. I was with five other people, my mom, my brother, my sister, my uncle, and my mom’s friend, each of us carrying a luggage that weighed about 10 to 15 kilos each.

Our day started well, we heard mass, ate a hefty lunch, and finally left Keio Plaza Hotel at 1:00 p.m. in no hurry. We were to go from the Shinjuku train station to the Tokyo station and from there, ride the bullet train to Hamamatsu. Like a leisurely stroll in a park, the supposed 10 minute walk from our hotel to the station turned into 15. We had no time to keep up with – until we bought our bullet train tickets.

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After another 15 minutes of figuring out the maze that is Japan’s underground metro, we finally reached the gates to the JR Line. I asked an information officer how I could buy tickets for the Shinkansen (bullet train). She said that I could either buy it in the ticketing office next door, or buy it once we were in the Tokyo station. I chose the first option.

In the ticketing office, my mom and I were informed that the next train leaving Tokyo for Hamamatsu was at 2:26 p.m.

Time check: it was 1:45 p.m.

I asked if we had enough time to get to it, and he shrugged it off like 40 minutes was a life time. In retrospect, as a tourist, I never should have listened to a local who’s probably been living fast paced his entire adult life. But I did, and so we bought 6 bullet train tickets for 8,290 JPY each. That was including the fare from Shinjuku to Tokyo. We said our thank you’s and went back to the rest of the group waiting by the platform gates. I distributed the tickets one by one and, in a fuss, prodded everyone to move quickly into the electronic gates.

In my worry and hurry, I forgot to ask which platform the Rapid Line for Tokyo was on. This was the second lesson learned: never forget to ask. So we all stand there like a bunch of lost kids on a field trip, looking at the signs and directions for the rapid line. Alas, I find platforms 11 and 12 and, with hesitation, went down the steps hoping that I would read the word Tokyo on the walls somewhere below. You know the names of places that they usually put underneath the platform numbers to tell you which big stations the train will be stopping at? I knew Tokyo should have been on the list for 11 and 12. It’s a main stop, for crying out loud! But in my desperation at catching the bullet train, I still went down, hoping that Tokyo will be in the more detailed list of stops. What a joke. Third lesson: keep your common sense.

What’s even funnier is that we actually waited there for a minute or two until we asked two locals for other platforms of the rapid line. The first person was a young lady who spoke no English and wasn’t really sure which platform we needed to be in, although she was kind enough and made an effort of googling it. I would have so done that if I only had data or wifi, or if I even had the time to pull out my phone. The second person was an old man who spoke impeccable English and was very sure that we had to transfer to platform 8. I swear to goodness, those were the longest three minutes of my life. When we finally set foot on number 8, it was 2:00 p.m. only 26 minutes left till our train in Tokyo Station choo-chooed (zoomed? –modernization and all) away without us.

I was going crazy, thinking that we were about to waste a total of 49,740 JPY – or add another certain amount to it, like a fee for catching the next train. Then again, due to my lack of research, I don’t know how the system works in Japan. But I digress.

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As I sat in the train going to Tokyo station, I counted the minutes that passed between every station. Four minutes, then five, sometimes three. I believe there were about 4 stations until we finally reached our stop. But the craziness didn’t end there. We still had to navigate the underground chaos and we had to do that in under 10 minutes!

I remember going down some stairs, going out one gate and into another, and then asking two different station staff which platform our bullet train was in, you know, just to be sure. We could have saved 2 minutes If I hadn’t. But if I hadn’t asked the second staff, the train would have left us because there I was standing at the bottom of the stairs, thinking how we were all going to carry our bags up there in less than 5 minutes – until the staff pointed behind me. There was an escalator that I previously had not seen. No joke, it seemed like spotlights were shining on the thing, telling me what a blessing it was.

I didn’t expect the train to still be there once we arrived, but it was. The funny part is that I went in the number 7 cart and came back out because my brother told me that our seats were in cart 16. Outside, I was turning around on the spot because I couldn’t find the 16th cart until that same brother suggested that we just get back in and transfer carts inside. We could have already done that a minute before, but all my common sense just goes out the window whenever I’m in a fuss. So we went inside cart 7 once more and covered two carts until the doors of the train finally closed. How horrible would it have been if we were still outside running towards cart 16? I was finally able to sigh in relief and laughed at how crazy everything was. Trying to catch the Shinkansen, in under 16 minutes, was a great big adventure all on its own!

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My mom’s passport was mistakenly reported as lost/stolen (Japan Edition)

So my family and I flew to Japan on May 7. At 11:30 a.m., I went through immigration without a hitch. Each one of us was checked by a different officer. My brother, my sister, and my uncle all went through smoothly as well. My mom didn’t.

She was brought in by another officer to that secluded room everybody knows about. So we waited in that area where passengers can loiter, behind the immigration booths. 10 minutes passed, no update. 20 minutes, nothing. I thought,  “Okay, so my mom didn’t tell them that she had people waiting for her? We couldn’t be talked to by these officers?”

When 12:00 came by, I decided to approach one of the guards walking around. He was nice enough to talk to the immigration officers for me. A pretty Japanese lady came out and informed me, in broken english, that my mother’s passport had been reported as lost (maybe stolen? I got distracted). Mama made no such report.

We were assured that, in terms of her rights and security, she was fine but they were still calling the Philippine Embassy in Roponggi District to clarify the report. So she had to be kept there until a staff from the embassy picked up. Apparently, after 30 minutes of trying, no one had. At 12:50 p.m. we were told to transfer to the waiting area that’s past customs and wait for my mom there. One airport staff was holding my mom’s luggage. Uh oh, this doesn’t look good, I thought. We couldn’t take it because “it wasn’t ours.” At this point, my mind was getting ahead of me. My mother is going to get deported!

So I asked if there was even the slightest chance this could happen, but they couldn’t give me an answer. Fine. We’ll transfer.

At 1:45 p.m. – a realization.

Today’s a Sunday. Is the embassy even open? So I kept calling anyone who needed to know about our situation -our travel agent, my aunt in Shizuoka -in case we had to wait there until the next day. Finally, my mother came out at 3 p.m. with news that she was cleared but that she had to go to the embassy the next day to straighten things out.

So here’s what happened the next day,

From the Shinjuku Station to Azabu-juban Station

Our hotel was in Shinjuku. We rode the train to Roppongi, where the embassy is located. We went down at the Azabu-juban Station, the nearest station from the embassy. We followed the arrows that directed commuters to the exit for the other Asian embassies. Once we exited, we asked for directions and were told to turn right up the hill by the stop light.

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By that stop light is the road going up hill on the right

Up on the hill

It’s about a 7-10 minute hike to the corner for the Philippine Embassy. There are alleys where the other embassies are. Like the Embassy of Singapore is in the very first alley that we reached since the start of the hike. We kept walking straight, thinking that the embassy will be in the other official-looking buildings right by the main road. By the time we saw a Snoopy Museum, that’s when we decided to ask around. Apparently, the Philippine Embassy is in the alley right after the museum.

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After this door/building is the road to the Philippine Embassy

In the embassy

Where is the Philippine Embassy in Japan Located

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Inside the embassy, we were asked to write down, in detail, our dilemma, the events that led to it, and the actions we took to solve the problem. And so we did. We gave it to the young man managing the door, as instructed, and waited for a little over 10 minutes.

Next thing I knew, my mom’s name was being called. She was given another piece of paper – a format for an affidavit, in which she had to state that she is the rightful owner of the passport that was flagged as lost/stolen and that it was mistakenly reported. She also put her purpose for being in Japan and how long she’s staying. Talk about stressful.

So what happens after your passport gets flagged as lost/stolen?

Apparently, the Philippine Embassy in Japan submitted a certificate to immigration, clearing my mom of any passport-related problem. So on the day that we left Japan, she went through immigration again without delay. But it was also suggested to my mom that she renew her passport once we were back in our country (even though she still has another year on her passport), because the flag is irreversible.

All that took less than an hour, even though the embassy was full with other Filipinos bearing their concerns. Now that we are actually back in the Philippines, and thankfully in one piece, what’s left to be done now is to renew my mom’s passport for our future travels!