I solo travelled without for the first time last year around Eastern Europe. It was only a short stint of solo travel, but it was enough for me to know that I would be doing it again. It was also my first experience of travel while in a relationship, as I had my fiancé at home waiting for me.
We had been travelling together and he had to return home because, alas, there is a such thing called annual leave (and I know Australians complain about our lack of it – myself included – but we are actually pretty lucky compared to other countries).
I, on the other hand, didn’t have a job to go back to, so I travelled on my own for another 3 weeks. In only a few short weeks, I learned so much about myself as a solo traveller, as an individual and as someone in a relationship.
Before departing on the trip, I did the usual Google/Wiki research and typed in: ‘solo travel while in a relationship’. I was surprised by the lack of recent and relevant articles that came through in the search results.
The majority of articles that I came across focused on ‘single’ solo travel and the clear implication is that if you are travelling solo, it’s because you don’t have a partner.
Is travelling without your partner simply not done?
Doubts began to flood my mind and I thought to myself: am I doing something completely crazy and misguided? Why was I choosing to travel alone without my parter? I began to question whether I was doing the right thing, but, at the same time, I knew that I had to take this opportunity. I had reached a crossroads in life and it was time to do a little soul-searching. I couldn’t think of a better way to do this than to get away and travel alone for a little while.
I’ll be the first to admit it. I was petrified when I said goodbye to my then-fiancé-now-husband at Amsterdam Airport. We had had such an amazing time travelling through Iceland, Norway and Germany and I didn’t want him to leave. So, yes, there were tears. Plenty of them: scared tears, I’ll miss you tears, oh-why-oh-why-am-I-doing-this tears.
And then I caught a plane to Lithuania and I didn’t look back.
It is amazing how capable you become when you realise that you are your one and only ally in a strange and foreign place. Your lifelines get taken away and it is liberating – overwhelmingly so – because you begin to recognise how independent you are and how the life you build with the people around you is a matter of choice.
Whoa. Yep, I did some serious soul-searching.
It was funny to witness the reactions I received when I slipped the topic of my partner into conversations, where strangers-turned-friends tried to mask their surprise and immediately asked where he was and why wasn’t he travelling with me (weirdly enough, only 2 people noticed that I had a ring on my finger). They were innocent questions to ask but there is also an implied assumption that partners should be travelling together. Solo travel seems to be reserved for the realm of the single-and-ready-to-mingle crowd.
However, there are circumstances that sometimes make it necessary for you to take the plunge and to travel solo; for example: your schedule may not align with your partner’s, you’re experiencing a different set of challenges, i.e. one partner may be physically burnt out at work, or perhaps one person simply has an incurable case of wanderlust (cough, cough).
Why you should solo travel while in a relationship
There are various factors and scenarios that may act as an impetus for solo travel for people in relationships, but the sheer benefits of solo travel also need to be recognised, which may prove even more valuable for those in a long-term and committed relationship.
1. You will reassert your independence
Sometimes the default position in a long-term relationship is to turn to your partner any time that a difficult situation arises (I can’t open the pasta jar!) or when tough decisions need to be made. You become accustomed to having your partner there to hold your hand and to make everything better.
However, it is when you are alone and forced to depend on yourself that you will truly realise your strength as an individual. You will realise just how self-sufficient and capable you really are without your nearest and dearest next to you. And, truthfully, there is nothing more attractive than someone who is independent and able to rely on themselves in the most demanding of situations.
2. You will cherish the time alone to reconnect with yourself
We all crave ‘me’ time from time to time and solo travel is the perfect way in which to reconnect with yourself again without the distraction of everyday life. Additionally, when you’re in a long-term relationship, you may find that you have inadvertently fused your mind and body with your partner’s, and getting some space through solo travel may be the answer to re-discovering your path and purpose.
Have a deep and meaningful conversation with yourself (preferably in your head so as not to disturb the people around you) and work out where you are in this rollercoaster of life. Are you experiencing a high? Are you experiencing a low? Are you just wanting the ride to end so that you can hop on another ride altogether? Take advantage of this time alone to really be honest with yourself and to partake in some deep soul-searching. You may be surprised by the epiphanies that you’ll have.
3. You will have an experience that is yours and yours alone
In a relationship, the sharing-is-caring mentality reigns supreme and you and your partner will share bank accounts, friends and family, and experiences as you both work towards building memories and a life together. However, it’s still nice to have something that is yours and yours alone, something that you can take complete possession of and which you can be proud of achieving on your own terms. Solo travel while in a relationship allows you to forge your own memories and experiences independent of anyone else.
4. Your relationship will become stronger
Travelling solo is no easy endeavour, particularly when you’re juggling a committed relationship back at home. Trust is fundamental in every healthy relationship and you will be even more aware of the firm foundation of trust and respect that your relationship is built upon once you return from your solo travels.
Just remember that you are the one of the lucky ones: your relationship is strong enough to enable you to travel solo without any fears or worries, and after all of your adventures, you’ll be able to return home to a loving relationship. I think that’s called a win-win situation.
Advocating for solo travel while in a relationship
I returned from my trip as an advocate for solo travel while in a relationship, which is not to say that I don’t enjoy travelling with my partner – he is indisputably the best travel partner I could ever have hoped for. It’s more the fact that I don’t think that being in a relationship should prevent you from travelling alone – nor from doing anything else, for that matter.
Travelling without your partner needs to be talked about more, so that it isn’t seen as something that is outside of the norm. A conversation needs to be started to encourage people in relationships to travel solo and to let people know that solo travel is not only reserved for single and unattached people.
Start the hashtag: #takenandtravelling
Read more on solo travel while in a relationship
The Benefits of Solo Travel While in a Relationship (My guest post for Pin the Map Project)
Why You Should Travel Solo While in a Relationship (A Girl who Travels)
How Do You Choose? Relationships vs. Travelling (a fantastic read about choosing between travel and relationships and how to balance the two)
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