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Why Solo Travel is Important (Especially if You’re Married)

Why you should travel solo - especially if you're married!
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“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.

Taking a Tropical Nursing course in Liverpool

Playing with parasites on a Tropical Medicine course in Liverpool – not everyone’s cup of tea!

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.

The snow cave Aaron built and slept in for the weekend

No thanks.

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.

A remote village I visited while traveling solo for disaster response after the Nepal earthquake in 2015

After the earthquake hit Nepal in 2015, I wasn’t about to pass up a chance to lend a hand and see the country – even though Aaron couldn’t come along.

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.

Solo travel without your spouse doesn't have to be completely alone! Take your best friend to Vegas.

Take your best friend to Vegas. Drink, dance, repeat.

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).

When I travel solo, my husband and our pup go on plenty of adventures

When I’m gone, Aaron takes Jude on plenty of adventures

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.

When I get back from solo travel, we get to plan our next trip together!

 

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Why solo travel is important (especially if you're married!)

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30 Comments

  • Reply Adventures Abroad October 29, 2017 at 1:42 am

    I found this post super relatable… I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s always great to take time for yourself!

    • Reply Emily October 29, 2017 at 6:55 am

      Agreed! Thanks for reading!

  • Reply omnivagant October 29, 2017 at 4:09 am

    Loving this post, thanks for sharing. I have solo traveled the main part of my travels but am now traveling with my, met on the road, boyfriend. I could not even imagine traveling without him anymore!

    • Reply Emily October 29, 2017 at 11:58 am

      How great to meet your boyfriend on the road! It’s so awesome to travel with a partner who matches your travel style. My husband and I love to travel together, but when one of us can’t go for some reason, we never want the other to miss out!

  • Reply marybethcharles October 29, 2017 at 4:11 am

    Yes, girl, yes! And even when I was single, I always found it amusing how amazed people would be that I did ANYTHING by myself, much less travel… “You went out to eat alone?!” Some folks just don’t get it 😆

    • Reply Emily October 29, 2017 at 12:00 pm

      Haha I know! I love being alone (introverted, much?). I mean I have a blast traveling with my husband, too, but I always think it’s funny when people are flabbergasted that we travel alone sometimes now that we’re married.

  • Reply Sarah October 29, 2017 at 4:22 am

    Love your writing and perspective here – especially this: “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.“ I usually only travel with my husband, but fully cherish the times I have to myself to explore a new place or go to a museum he doesn’t want to or just dance around 🙂

    • Reply Emily October 29, 2017 at 12:02 pm

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! And yeah, dancing around a hotel room alone in a new city is the best 🙂

  • Reply Bill Scott October 29, 2017 at 8:03 am

    Wonderful post, Emily. You can also enjoy the positive experience of doing something separately while still being on a trip together. When we were on a road trip together exploring New Orleans for a few days, Jill went to visit a couple of museums by herself while I spent the same day exploring the National World War II Museum. We both had an awesome day with photos and stories to share at dinner together that same evening. It was a perfect day with no guilt about doing it alone.

    • Reply Emily October 29, 2017 at 12:04 pm

      Thanks, that’s a good point! Even if you’re traveling together you don’t have to do EVERY activity together. Doing your own thing and then sharing it over dinner sounds lovely.

  • Reply RJ October 29, 2017 at 9:18 am

    I can absolutely relate to it on every word!! Me and my husband travel a lot together but due to our personal schedules there are many a times I love taking solo trips 🙂 Nice to see someone wrote about it

    • Reply Emily October 29, 2017 at 12:05 pm

      So glad you relate! I figured I couldn’t be the only married lady getting asked this all the time 🙂

  • Reply Brianna October 29, 2017 at 9:51 am

    Thank. You.
    I’m also a married solo traveler. The question I often get is “Your husband is okay with that?” Like we are back in the 1930’s… Sometimes a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do. A wedding band doesn’t end adventure!

    • Reply Emily October 29, 2017 at 12:08 pm

      Haha OMG I hate that question!! Like, yeah, if he wasn’t ok with it we wouldn’t be married. Also he’s not the boss of me 😉

  • Reply Tracy October 29, 2017 at 10:53 am

    I am not married, yet should I find myself one day I will certainly re-read this post and share with my significant other. As a single woman in her 30’s I love solo travel and hope to continue life that way as in solo trips! Now I need to dance in my hotel room, that’s the only thing missing! I went out to a bar once alone in Vegas and landed up dancing on the bar and made a lifelong friend from that adventure!

    • Reply Emily October 29, 2017 at 12:11 pm

      Yasss that sounds amazing! Solo travel rocks regardless of your marital status! When people are blown away that I travel without my husband, I always think – I did it before we were married, why would I stop now?

  • Reply Brooke (@roamscapes) October 29, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    High fives to you and all the other commenters here! Both me and my partner often travel separately and solo travel has actually strengthened our relationship. On a side note, thank you for doing the work you do!

    • Reply Emily October 29, 2017 at 12:14 pm

      Thanks, that’s so nice of you! I agree, I think solo travel has strengthened our partnership. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE traveling together, too – but sometimes a solo adventure is necessary!

  • Reply Jessica - Notes of Nomads October 29, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    Yes to all of this! My love for solo travel has only strengthened since getting married. Probably because I feel much more confident in myself than I did all those years back, and I have my husband to thank largely for that too. I’m actually going on a four-day solo trip this week. Always happy to discover like-minded women who don’t let others tell them it’s one or the other when it comes to marriage and solo travel. Keep doing your thing!

  • Reply Stewie Overseas October 29, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    This is great! I’ve thought about this too. Why would I stop going places on my own? Of course I love to travel with my husband, I also like to have my own adventures. It’s like a huge confidence boost to do things alone. It’s so empowering. Plus sometimes he just can’t come for duration I would like to go. Thanks for writing this.

  • Reply Michelle October 31, 2017 at 10:09 am

    I got married only recently, but your post really resonated with me. I certainly don’t intend to stop my solo travels now! I love travelling with my husband, but travelling solo is a completely different experience, and – like you say – it actually helps me appreciate him more, haha. It’s easy to take someone for granted when they’re always around to help you out! The only thing I really dislike about travelling solo is creepy men who think you’re an easy target. Never happens when my husband is around – surprise, surprise =/

    • Reply Emily - Two Dusty Travelers October 31, 2017 at 12:03 pm

      So true, I definitely get treated differently when my husband’s with me versus traveling alone. Congrats on your wedding, by the way!

  • Reply kattrinna October 31, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    Great post and I can relate to most points (especially because it wasn’t until when I have “the one” that I experienced traveling solo while being in a relationship. And this: “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.” A big YES! I am quite laughing because sometimes, I feel jealous of the places that he went to without me, only to be reminded that I embarked on a different adventure myself (matter of preference).
    All of this… every single thing I truly truly agree and understand! Great post!

    • Reply Emily - Two Dusty Travelers November 1, 2017 at 11:30 pm

      Yay, thanks for reading! I know Aaron was green with envy when I went to Nepal without him, but he’d never think of telling me to stay home (that why I married him haha!)

  • Reply Anne Betts January 9, 2018 at 6:00 pm

    You’ve nailed it, on every single point. There’s another one, that might apply to some people. Just because someone is an adored family member, or a very close friend, that doesn’t qualify them as a compatible travelling companion. My partner is my favourite travelling companion if we’re going camping, but not on international trips. If we do travel internationally together, it’s a very different trip than one I might take with women friends or going solo.

    • Reply Emily January 10, 2018 at 6:22 am

      Thanks so much! That’s a great point, too. There are definitely different trips I would take with different people. It’s so important to be honest about what kind of trip you’re planning so your partner can choose if it’s something they’d enjoy or not!

  • Reply Clarissa Thatcher January 13, 2018 at 9:31 am

    I loved this article! I’m single and not having anyone to travel with is what inspired me to try solo travel. Now, when I consider the requirements for a significant other, having him comfortable with me traveling solo is a very important qualification. I want to find someone to travel with, but I also want to find someone who is willing to take his own route through life while I take mine, even if we have to be away from each other at times. This post really puts into words what that looks like in practice. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply Emily January 13, 2018 at 11:55 am

      Yesss!! It’s so important to me to have a partner who I travel well with, but also who is stoked about us both pursuing our own individual passions. To me, that freedom and trust is so much more comforting and supportive than having to be together ALL THE TIME.
      Also, a million points to you for not letting the lack of a travel partner hold you back from going for it!

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