There is no shortage of articles and blog posts written about the virtues of traveling solo. It’s empowering to do whether you’re taking a gap year to discover yourself or out in the world reconnecting to what you love. But what happens if you’re in a relationship and want to travel alone?
As I prepared for my three months abroad I read blog post after blog post about how the author broke up with their significant other when they left or after their relationship fizzled out during their travels. Most of them say it worked out for the better and they’re happy the relationship ended. The second group was couples who traveled together. It seemed like the only two options were to break up or travel together.
I became anxious. Traveling together wasn’t a possibility for us. I would be studying and D had already finished his degree. He couldn’t take classes with me (or it would be a waste of money to do so). He also just started a new job that he couldn’t leave. We had not been together THAT long. When I left we had been together just over a year and a half; but we weren’t looking to break up anytime soon. Our relationship was stable and still going strong. But what if all of these authors were in the same place but travel changed them so much that they couldn’t work it out? I spent the entire 9 hour flight panicking, thinking that I had made a mistake. That it was selfish of me to leave for such a long time. I didn’t consider that it would disrupt his daily life as well.
It’s now been three months since I got back, and our relationship is still going strong. I promise it can be done and in some ways, travelling alone is actually pretty awesome.
You learn what you really do for yourself.
When I left I thought I would go on a 3-month vacation from shaving and wearing makeup since I would have no one to impress. I realized after a week that I actually like shaving even though no one can see it but me (I wore pants for three months straight anyways). I also realized I feel more confident when I put my contacts in, blow dry my hair and conceal my uneven skin on my face. Maybe it’s subconscious because the world is a nicer place when I wear makeup and look cute, but who knows.
You think about what’s actually important to your relationship and your future together.
Being apart is tough and you have to be committed to make it happen. Some couples break up during their time apart because they realize it’s the right thing to do. If you’re going to stay together you have to have a lot of open communication and be clear about your common goals. If both parties want to stay together, they can find a way to make it work.
You learn to entertain yourself.
Who else is guilty of relying on their partner to keep them entertained or occupied? I certainly was. After spending so much time alone I realized that I can keep myself perfectly content. In fact, I learned new skills and picked up new hobbies as I got to know myself better.
You can indulge in things your partner hates.
I don’t mean cheating or regressing into bad habits and addictions, but sometimes it can be liberating to be able to eat at the restaurants your partner hates, or watch shows they don’t like, or go to art shows alone when they hate the idea. I know D enjoyed the same thing with me gone. It’s fun to be able to be totally selfish for a while!
You can’t have sex, so you have to figure out other ways to be intimate.
Some sexy things can be fun, like exchanging sexy texts or photos. But for the most part, if there’s a huge time difference between the two of you, your communication will mostly be in writing. You’re forced to actually talk to each other, and this I think is more important than physical intimacy. You get to shower each other in compliments, talk about the future, talk about your problems, or your fantasies, it’s all fair game. I think even though we were thousands of miles away from each other, we connected emotionally in a way that hadn’t happened since we first got together.
There is freedom in being alone and it feels so good.
I LOVED being able to go where I wanted when I wanted. I could eat wherever I liked, see whatever I liked, travel to wherever I liked. It can sometimes be difficult and expensive to always accommodate two people. Two of everything adds up quickly. Plus, it’s sometimes hard to get two people to agree on where you want to eat or what you want to do that weekend. When you’re all by yourself you get to call all the shots! I reveled in the fact that I could literally do anything I wanted.
You appreciate everything they do for you so much more.
One thing we sacrifice for freedom is a little security. It’s all fine and good to be totally free like the wind, but sometimes you realize it’s hard to do everything by yourself. It’s so much easier to have two pairs of hands and two minds working together to solve problems. It’s more efficient to have one person call the Uber while the other looks up the address. Or have one person translate while the other reads the map. These things take twice as long when you’re alone.
Besides travelling things, I really noticed how much D does around the house to help keep me from drowning in my own filth. Small things like taking out the trash or doing the dishes or helping clean the bathroom help me out so much.
It feels that much better when you get to see each other again.
You get to have your very own Love Actually moment in the arrivals terminal once you get home. Need I say more? You appreciate every little thing about them again and get your own little second honeymoon phase. I’ll be honest, reverse culture shock is real. I hesitated for a long time to write this post because when I first got back I really didn’t think our relationship would make it. If you get culture shocked while travelling, the idea of going home to everything being exactly the same is a welcome relief. But things will probably be different. If you’re away for a long time, your partner will also be different. This doesn’t mean that it won’t work out, just know they change too! There is an adjustment phase when you get back, and if you can communicate your stresses about it effectively, everything will work out fine.
Overall, I’m so glad I went. I think if you’re an individualistic person in a relationship that wants to travel solo, go for it! Circumstances don’t always allow for us to travel together, but it’s still a worthwhile experience. Have you ever gone solo while in a relationship? Are you planning a solo trip in the future? I love hearing from you!