When I travel solo whilst being in a relationship, I’m often confronted with questions and remarks like: “Oh… you have a boyfriend? Where is he?” “He lets you travel all by yourself? WTF?” Then follow the looks of disbelief and suspicion.
For some reason, there seems to be a misconception that only women who are single, travel solo. Or that if she does have a person in her life, it’s probably nothing serious. Married women alone on the road? No way… Impossible! And yet, we exist!
Now, I can understand why this may shock most non-western cultures as the idea of women traveling alone is a relatively unknown phenomenon in those areas. People there are just starting to get used to this concept. I can see why they would have a hard time imagining a woman leaving behind her boyfriend/husband for leisurely travel.
What surprises me is how people in the West, supposedly accustomed to female empowerment and independence, often have the exact same reactions. Men and women alike. They ask me if my husband “allows” it?
“Allows”? Seriously? What age are we living in? I may be married, but I aint no prisoner!
I love traveling with my partner but when he is not in the mood for travel or not in a position to do so, I don’t let that stop me from doing “my thing”. I just travel solo even though I’m in a relationship and this is why I love it:
Meeting a different crowd
When I travel with my other half, we tend to meet types of people we both enjoy. When I’m alone, I connect with a different crowd than I would if it wasn’t just me. As a duo, you (unconsciously) take each others personalities into account and you are less likely to start socialising with people you know your partner wouldn’t particularly get along with. I find myself making friendships with a wider range of people when I’m alone.
Reconnecting with myself
You’re on your own. There is no one else to take into consideration but you. You decide everything: where to go, what and when to eat, who to meet, whether or not to party… You can change your mind as often as you want, you’re the only one that matters.
That being said, there is no one to blame when things go wrong or when certain activities turn out to be dull. This pushes you to rediscover your likes and dislikes, your stronger and weaker points. There is no influence from your most trusted friend, which forces you to hear your own thoughts louder and clearer.
Indulging in those guilty pleasures
Some things, I rather not do when my partner is around. Mostly girly things or stupid quirks like chowing down a burger at Mc Donalds (or any other fast food chain) with a large coke, something he strongly opposes himself to. Even though I’m not a big fan either, every once in a blue moon, when on the road, I like to indulge in a nutrition less meal with a horrible ecological footprint. When he’s not around, I can do so shamelessly and enjoy evil without getting the “I can’t believe you’re actually going to eat this” glare.
In a relationship, you form a team, you become interdependent and learn to rely on each other. It’s a beautiful thing. Yet I find it important to remain functional when your other half is not around. We tend to forget how strong and capable we actually are on our own.
Dealing with scams, finding your way around town/a country, bargaining with your taxi driver… So many things are easier when there are two of you. By dealing with everything by myself, I find inner strength and learn to depend on myself again. There is no one to fall back on, you’re the one doing all the “work”. This evokes skills that may have been forgotten and it surely toughens you up. I had forgotten how fiercely I can bargain with hotel management, as Douglas would usually take care of finding a place to stay while I sat with the luggage.
Taking care of yourself on the road gives you a huge confidence boost. I believe that dealing with all the bullsh*t by yourself, only empowers you and makes you a more complete and interesting individual.
While this has nothing to do with having a relationship or not, it’s definitely worth a mention. Every time I travel alone, even if just for a few days, I always seem to land invitations to something unexpected or unusual. I’m not sure if the invitations are out of pity for a “lady with no friends or family, forced to travel alone” or if we are simply more approachable as solo travellers, but either way, I seem to find my way into the most -random- diverse activities. Weddings involving elephants, marlin fishing, photo shoots, secret turtle hatching spots, wool spinning, VIP champagne parties, coffee harvesting… As a couple, we get these kinds of invitations too, just not as frequently.
Admittedly, it’s not really a reason more than it is a consequence. Finding strength in yourself, having time for you as an individual and having the chance to miss each other, are elements that contribute to a warm reunion and a strengthened relationship. You have a suitcase full of new stories to tell each other and a revived realisation of your feelings towards one another. Adding in the heightened dose of trust, you’re left with a strong and healthy relationship. If all goes well, that is.
Here are some tips to help things run smoothly…
* Communicate before you leave. What are your expectations from one another, especially in term of communication during the trip. Roughly how often do you want to get a text/mail? Respect the terms.
* Don’t travel to your partner’s dream destination without him/her. Du-uh.
* Don’t stay away too long. Personally I found 10 days a perfect amount of time. Longer than 12 days starts to feel a bit too much. But everyone is different, do what works for you.
*Bring along a picture of you together. Some people will think you’re making up this boyfriend/husband. It might save you a lot of hassle to be able to present a photo of the two of you.
* Ladies, the fake (or real for that matter) wedding ring trick doesn’t cut it anymore! If you’re going to lie, better make it count. Add some fake children to your story to be seen as off the market.
* When approached by someone who seemingly has dodgy ideas, never admit you are traveling alone. Your husband/friends/ whatever are waiting for you in the hotel.