Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we sat down with Dr. Pepper Schwartz, sociologist, sexologist, and co-author of Frommer’s new Perfect Places for Passion to talk about what travel can do for a relationship. Read on for a few of the doctor's favorite romantic destinations—and for how travel can improve your sex life.
Q: There's a similarity between the hormones released during travel and those released during first love or romance. What is the relationship between travel and romance?
A: Travel can produce both dopamine and oxytocin, which are, in fact, the same kind of hormonal release that you experience during sex and in romantic environments and intimate settings. One of the things I love most about travel is how you can be overwhelmed with the beauty of the natural world. These experiences cause the release of several hormones that happen when we are emotionally moved. One of them is dopamine, which is the same hormone we get when we’re really taken with someone, falling in love with them. And the other one is oxytocin, which happens when we’re feeling companionable and comfortable and taken care of, happy to be in somebody’s company. Those hormones do get raised in travel as well as in romantic circumstances.
The United States Travel Association did a study in 2013 about the impact travel has on a relationship and 40% of people surveyed said that their sex life improved permanently after they had taken a vacation. To not think of travel as potentially romantic is to deprive yourself of something that would be great for your sex and emotional life, and that’s a heck of a lot more pleasant than going to a sex therapist.
Q: How can travel help improve a relationship?
A: I think what it does, is it lets you focus on each other. In our day to day lives we get up, we go to our work, we’re tired.
If you look at romantic travel, you’re with your honey; you’ve picked food that will be delicious, hotels that will be beautiful and interesting, scenic sites, museums, things to thrill and surprise you. You’re sharing that with your person.
When I’m trying to design a trip for someone, the trip is about romance. I say the core thing is romance. The core thing isn’t golf, it isn’t about mountain climbing. It’s romance. Let’s remember what you’re here for: to focus on each other, to know how wonderful it is to share this with the person you love.
Q: Are there any specific things couples should pack to get the most out of their romantic travel?
A: Bring your own music—put together some romantic music that has meaning for you. I would also pack something fun to wear. If you’re usually in a t-shirt, pack a nice negligee, and if you don’t have anything, one romantic thing is to go shopping together to find something that would be special to wear for the weekend. Maybe pack a romantic movie or a book of poems to read, something to show you put a little effort into the trip.
Q: What are a few romantic destinations you'd recommend for couples right now?
Caroline Hallemann is an assistant digital editor at Travel + Leisure. You can find her on Twitter at @challemann.