“You have boyfriend? Husband?”
“Where is he? Why does he not travel with you?”
This is a conversation I often have while on my current solo trip. Sometimes the situation calls for a good, old fashioned: “Oh, but I am travelling with my husband! He is meeting me in [insert nearby town here]!” I even wear a fake wedding ring to reinforce this statement. It tends to keep unwanted visitors at bay while travelling.
However, the truthful answer is that I really wanted to go travelling and my boyfriend, Gabriel, was starting a big project and it was not the right time for him to travel.
Luckily, we are both madly in love with each other and with travelling, so he understands why I want to go and I understand why it is hard for him to watch me leave. We’ve actually done a lot of travelling together. In fact, a week after meeting me, he followed me to Mexico on a trip I was going on with my mom. This ended up being a really great test because I believe that if you do not travel well together, then how will you be able to get through moments of stress or obstacles together in your relationship? On the other hand, I also think that perhaps your ability to successfully travel without each other is also the mark of a great relationship. You’re able to love and support each other no matter the distance.
Fun Fact: My dad also stalked my mom to Jamaica before they ever really hung out and they will celebrate 27 years this fall. They are the ones who instilled the travel bug in me at a young age and they often go on trips without each other throughout the year.
Choosing to travel without your partner can be seen as a big deal. As someone who has travelled a lot without significant others at various points in my life (and who is doing so as I write this post), I feel as though I can offer some things to think and talk about before you decide to travel sans partner.
The best and scariest thing about travelling without your partner is that it gives you some space. Some perspective. The great thing is that you will hopefully go away and be able to grow, look at your relationship and see what works, what you want to do more of or be better at and when you get back you have this free fresh start. The scary thing is that this fresh perspective can also make you both (or just one of you) realize that maybe things aren’t as good as you thought they were. But relationships are as much of an adventure as travel, so don’t let your fears about your relationship stop you from travelling.
I think there are four main things to think and talk about before embarking on a solo trip without your significant other.
1. Why are you travelling without your partner? Why do you want to?
Perhaps an opportunity came up and they are unable to join. Maybe you’re just curious about solo travel. Perhaps tensions are running high (or low) and you feel like you need to just get away.
There are lots of perfectly normal reasons that you may want/have to travel without your partner, but if your reason is because you want to escape or get away from them, then maybe you need to take a serious look at your relationship before running away from the problem. It’s always best to sort out these things before your trip, no point in carrying extra baggage around with you… Once you have figured out the “why”, you should figure out the “how long”.
2. How long are you planning on travelling for?
Let’s be honest and say that two weeks is going to be way more manageable than six months. Are you okay to be intentionally separated from your partner for the amount of time you have chosen? Are they okay with it?
I knew that a two month solo trip was a long time, and Gabe wasn’t ecstatic about it, but he has a project he’s working on while I’m gone, so it gave us each a good timeline. Once you have the why and the how (and presumably the where), it’s time to talk to your partner about it if you’ve not done so already.
3. Is he or she supportive of your solo travels? Are you able to have an adult conversation about it?
Now, let’s assume that in a healthy relationship your partner is incredibly supportive of it, though probably not thrilled about it. They are hopefully going to miss you a lot and also probably want to know why you want to do this. This was my situation. Gabriel was rightfully hurt and thrown off that I would want to travel for two months without him. However, we were able to have adult conversations in which I said the reasons I thought it was the perfect time for me to do this and he explained to me why it was hard on him that I wanted to do this and what he was worried about, but that he also found it really cool and exciting that I wanted to go on this adventure.
If you cannot have an adult conversation about this or if you are not understanding of EACH OTHER’S feelings, then perhaps you need to have a serious look at your relationship as a whole.
I had a boyfriend when I was 17 and I went to live in Barcelona on my own for a summer and I was really excited to go, because it was Barcelona, and also because I was feeling trapped in the relationship. I was mad that he was being possessive and not supportive and I didn’t take any of his feelings seriously because I was honestly ready to get out of the relationship, but I had not yet admitted it to myself. I could have saved him two months of anxiety and fear and hurt feelings if I had only realized that since my feelings about the trip were of escape and I couldn’t have an adult conversation about his feelings then I really wasn’t ready to be in a relationship. And, thinking selfishly, it probably would also have made my trip way nicer if I didn’t have that looming over me the whole time. Once you have had your amazingly supportive and enlightening conversation about your travels and relationship, it is time to start talking logistics.
4. What are your lines of communication going to be like?
It’s important to set up realistic expectations for the amount you will be in touch. What’s the time difference going to be? Will you be jungle camping or in cities with lots of WiFi and cell phone service? Sometimes you may realize what timing will work better once you get there.
My plan of action is usually that I will try to check-in whenever I get to a new place if I have WiFi and if not, Gabriel always knows my itinerary/ general direction of travel and that I will check in when I can. Sometimes we aren’t online at the same time, but it’s always nice to get his messages when I wake up in the morning.
**Travel Tip: If you are worried about intimacy while you’re gone: don’t forget the power of words! Just make sure you are sending them to the right phone number, chat window, email, etc. It is always nice to know that your partner is thinking about you like that even when you aren’t together.
And, remember: you are travelling! Sometimes things come up that you cannot control that impede Skype dates: Power outages, monsoons, last minute plans with friends, happy hour, shoddy WiFi, etc. You and your partner both need to remember this and not blame each other when something comes up.
My current trip is amazing, but there are some moments that are really hard. I miss Gabriel butt loads. I cry whenever I Skype him; everyone keeps asking me if I’m lonely and how hard it is to eat dinner by myself (it’s not that hard); and I keep wanting to turn around and show him everything I’m seeing.
But, I am challenging myself everyday. I am figuring things out on my own. I am continuing to grow and gain more confidence, which is something I can bring to our in-person relationship. I am confirming that Gabe is an absolute gem. And most importantly, I will finally have new stories to tell him because he has either heard or been a part of all my other stories.
Happy travels, ladies!
About the author:
Avalon McLean-Smits produces commercials and travel films for resorts, hotels, and outfitters around the world. She writes short stories, goes on lots of adventures, and has travelled to at least one new country a year since 1990. You can read her travel diaries on her Tumblr or catch up with her on Instagram @mcleansmits.