This story was originally published on June 22, 2014.
Maybe you have six roommates — or a three-year-old who throws screaming fits about putting on "real" clothes instead of pajamas. Maybe you and your partner are workaholics, or maybe you're broke. Maybe you're angry, or stressed, or sleep-deprived. There are a lot of reasons you might need a vacation...and improving your sex life could be one of them.
At home, sex can become part of the daily routine. Susie Bright, well-known sex-positive feminist and public speaker, says that "familiarity with your lover is what initially makes sex really good." It's true that sex often gets better after the first time (when everyone is all awkward fingers and exploration). Over time, however, sex can get short shrift. Montreal-based sexologist and counselor Mylene St. Pierre says, “It's difficult to feel sexy when you have babies at home who require constant attention, or when stressors like work and health get in the way of getting 'in the mood.'" And, although there's nothing wrong with scheduling your sex life (Fridays at 9, perhaps?), that can start to feel stale.
Luckily, there's vacation. Taking a trip together can add the exact-right amount of excitement to a couple's familiarity, for a lasting sex-life boost. Still, it's important to avoid expectations. “People may...just leave intimacy for vacation time, when it's important to foster it year-round,” St. Pierre explains. If you go on vacation just to have your best sex ever, you may be disappointed when your partner gets traveler's tummy and has to hunker down in your seaside villa's bathroom.
If that happens, it's okay. It's equally okay if your partner's gorgeous smile and the smell of jasmine in the air turn you on so much that you end up having sex on the roof of a Moroccan hostel in the middle of a sandstorm. All outcomes are possible, and expecting one over another is where couples can run into problems. Going on vacation with an open mind and heart can leave you happier, healthier, and having more enjoyable sex — without any pressure to perform just because it's midnight in Paris.
“Being in a new bed, in a new environment...can be very freeing,” Mylene says. Plus, a morning spent in bed is a whole lot easier when you don't have to run off to work. For Theresa and James, though, vacation's freedom has to be balanced against a lack of income; Theresa works as a freelancer and doesn't get paid vacation. Still, Theresa says: “Having lots of time to lavish on my partner far outweighs any stress of money worries, though.”
The couple also needs to deal with Theresa's ongoing health problems. “I'm constantly exhausted or in some sort of discomfort," Theresa explains, "which makes being sexually adventurous a little more difficult... I wish that my body would cooperate and we could go back to attending the occasional orgy or taking home cute people!” Whether you're dealing with a chronic illness or just jet lag, having expectations of penetrative sex might be aiming too high; you should feel free to explore alternative methods of sexual intimacy. Couples can have just as much fun with lighter sex play, such as stroking, masturbation, or showering together.
Lana & Michael
Of course, vacations can be stressful, and that can seep into your sex life. Lana says: “A 'sex vacation' puts a lot of pressure on both partners to perform...we like sex to be fairly natural and spontaneous — without pressure or worrying about our lost luggage.” Both Lana and Michael agree they find slower sex can be mind-blowing, so they try to make sure their holidays aren’t over-scheduled.
“On vacation, you get to pretend you're a new person," Lana adds. "You can discover things about yourself and your sexuality.” Mylene agrees, mentioning a couple who consulted her for tips on anal fisting: "They were saving that for their vacation so they would have long stretches of uninterrupted time to realize this fantasy.” The relative anonymity of travel can also provide more opportunities to experiment with things such as group sex, public role-playing, or the possibility of getting caught; the stakes aren't as high as trying these in your hometown.
When Lily and Fiona go on vacation, their budget is the main constricting factor. Holidays are likely to involve crashing on a friend’s couch, or staying in a public-hostel dorm room. So, vacation sex can be awkward. Fiona says: “I've tried to have sexy back-of-the-van times on several road trip vacations. Trying to incorporate sex toys can [become] a comedic contortion act." Fiona and Lily agree that it can feel disrespectful to have audible sex when crashing at a friend's. Still, thrifty-traveler sex doesn't mean zero sex; experimenting with different times of the day (when your hosts are at work, for example), showering together before anybody else wakes up, or spending a long time in anticipatory flirtation can all be excellent ways of engaging without making anyone else uncomfortable.
Lily adds: “I suffer from horrible PMS which makes me feel depressed, anxious, and very unattractive... If we were on vacation and that happened, I definitely wouldn't be up for [sex].” For those who have regular periods, keep your schedule in mind when planning vacations — so you don’t end up sobbing through your only two nights in Spain. Regardless, flexibility is the name of the game; if your period shows up, go with the flow. Accept that your plans for banging may fall by the wayside in favour of sensual massage, cuddles, or intimate conversation. Mylene also adds: “Communication breakdowns are the biggest problems facing people's sex lives... At home and on vacation, it's equally important to speak up about issues as they happen.” If you’re feeling hormonal, angry, or just not in the mood, respectfully bring it up with your partner. Vacation has a way of magnifying emotions, so letting things fester is a surefire way to have a terrible trip.
Elizabeth & Alexander
Work can be a major mood-killer, as Elizabeth and Alex can relate. Both have high-powered, full-time jobs in New York City. Elizabeth says: “I work probably 50 to 60 hours per week, and even when I'm not in the office, I'm constantly on the phone, on email, or out with co-workers.” Vacation can provide just the break you need to turn off your "work self" — and turn the rest of yourself on. “When we're home, things can get a bit repetitive," Alex adds. "Being constantly at work in NYC is par for the course, but it's also really draining sexually. Even just going upstate for the weekend can give us some much-needed sexual space.” A vacation doesn’t have to be somewhere exotic or distant to provide the break you need; check the tourist bureaus in your hometown for nearby B&Bs, day trips, or other options a couple of hours away. Be careful not to bring your iPhone with you “just to catch up on emails," though; that's a trap, not a vacation.