“But what is your husband going to do?”
That’s the number one question I’m asked when I tell people I am leaving for (yet another) trip on my own.
“Um, just go on living, I guess!” I usually respond with a laugh, because I don’t really understand the question. As a nurse who travels once or twice a year for humanitarian work, I’m often jetting off to a place where my husband can’t join me. Of course we always miss each other, but I’ve never had trouble imagining how he’ll survive when I’m away.
Maybe that’s because I know from experience that traveling without him isn’t harmful to our marriage; on the contrary, solo travel makes each of us, and our partnership, stronger. So if I could answer that question with all the reasons I continue to fly away without my husband, here’s what I’d say:
We are not a single entity
Contrary to what many people believe, married people don’t have to do everything together! I adore my husband, and precisely because of that, I want him to have his own life. I want us both to feel free to follow our individual dreams, as well as the ones we have together. The idea of giving up the things we’re each passionate about in favor of joint hobbies and strictly partnered travel just sounds restrictive and forced.
Plus, I rely a lot on Aaron during daily life (example: literally everything technical having to do with this blog), but it’s nice to have a reminder that I can still be self-sufficient. Solo travel has taught me more about myself and what I’m capable of than I can fully express. I can handle a cancelled connecting flight in China, rent an apartment in Liverpool, and make a bunch of new friends in a new place without my husband by my side. And if you haven’t wandered solo around a new city all day, bought yourself dinner, blasted music and then danced around your hotel room all by yourself, you haven’t lived.
We can do whatever we want!
My partner and I enjoy a lot of the same things, but not ALL the same things. We both love the outdoors, but you generally won’t see me camping unless it’s the peak of summer (huddled in a tent wearing literally all the layers I packed is not my idea of a relaxing time). My beloved, however, has literally hiked up a mountainside, built himself a snow cave BY HAND, and slept in it for a weekend.
The truth is, there are just some destinations or activities your partner just won’t be interested in. That’s fine! Nothing’s worse than experiencing something you’re truly excited about with someone who couldn’t care less. Which is why, when my husband plans an epic hiking trip in the dead of winter, I tell him to go for it while I happily stay home by the fire with Netflix and a glass of wine.
Sometimes he just can’t tag along
As a nurse, I’m able to travel as a volunteer during international disasters. When I deployed to Sierra Leone to help fight Ebola or to Nepal after the earthquake, my husband simply wasn’t allowed to tag along. Did that mean I was going to pass up the opportunity to help people, explore new places, and experience unique cultures? No way.
Just because your partner can’t go, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Maybe you have more vacation time than they do, or you’re going on a business trip that can’t accommodate spouses. Your partner should be happy (and, sure, a little jealous) that you get to have an adventure even though he or she is stuck at home! If they can’t find their way to supporting you, that’s a problem.
You’ll have more to talk about with each other
Ever heard the quote, “After a week without reading, conversation becomes stale”? I feel that way about travel. Certainly some people can spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with their partners, but I’m not one of them (and if you’re still reading this, I’m guessing you’re not, either!). Does that mean I don’t love him? Of course not. It just means that in my experience, our time together is enriched by having some adventures apart. I love seeing the joy on my husband’s face when he gets home from a week of backpacking, even though I missed him while he was gone.
Every time I come home from a trip, he sits me down and asks to hear every detail, because he’s genuinely interested. The day I returned from a disaster response deployment to Nepal, we talked and talked until the jet lag took over and I literally fell asleep in his arms.
Other relationships matter, too
When I talk about traveling without my spouse, I don’t necessarily mean traveling alone! Society likes to tell you that the only relationship that really matters in your life is the one with your significant other, but I don’t buy that. No two people can be absolutely everything to one another; friendships and family fill essential spaces that partners simply aren’t meant to. We are encouraged to take honeymoons and romantic weekends with our spouses, but our close friendships benefit from adventures and shared experiences, too!
At various times, both my husband and I have gone on trips with our best friends and left each other at home. In college, I used to have girls’ weekends with my mom and her three sisters. I have gone on medical missions with other nurses that have bonded us for life. There is something magical about traveling to a new place with other women that makes everyone feel free to stay up late into the night, talking and laughing about things we might not share with anyone else. That doesn’t take anything away from our partners: Travel makes room enough for everyone.
It’s convenient and budget friendly
This isn’t the sole reason I sometimes leave my partner at home, but it is a fringe benefit. With only one of you traveling, you’re saving the cost of a plane ticket and one of you is still working to pay the bills.
You also don’t have to worry about tying up all the loose ends before you depart. There’s no stress over kenneling your pets or making sure your neighbors are picking up the mail. When I’m gone, I know my husband will hold down the fort at home, just like I do for him when he’s away. I don’t wonder if the bills are being paid, if the lawn needs to be mowed, or if our pup is getting enough snuggles (she is).
Absence makes the heart grow fonder
Yes, it’s a cliche, but it’s true! After a couple of weeks of solo travel, I absolutely can’t wait to be reunited with my husband. We forget about the little things we might snipe at each other about in everyday life. And, as a bit of an introvert, meeting and possibly living with lots of new people on my travels can be draining for me – so coming home to the person with whom I can relax and be completely myself reminds me why I chose him as my partner for life.
And once I’ve napped and unpacked, we can snuggle up together with a stack of Lonely Planet books and start planning the next adventure – one we’ll take together.
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