Last Updated on 23/12/2020
I met my boyfriend knowing that I wanted to travel solo. I had planned a fairly short three and a half month trip away but the year leading up to it was filled with apprehension about the prospect of travelling while in a relationship. Would it survive the length and distance? Who knows, but my only certainty was my conviction that I had to go. He knew better than to get in my way.
I’m not going to lie, leaving your partner at home to travel is hard but it’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. You spend so much time wrapped up in each other’s lives that it’s easy to lose track of who you are.
Of course, you miss them, there’s no way around that, but if you allow yourself to be apart from them you’ll find a strength that you never knew you had. Here’s why:
Don’t let anyone get in the way of your dreams
I’m a member of several travelling groups on Facebook and I sometimes see people posting about their partners trying to prevent them from travelling. It’s sad to see them agonise over the choice between their relationship and their dreams.
Unless it’s for a very good reason (and one I haven’t encountered yet), if your partner stands in the way of your travelling then I’m sorry to say but I don’t think they care about you – or at least, they care for all the wrong reasons.
In this situation, your partner only wants to stunt your experiences of the world and this behaviour is kind of controlling if you ask me. If they’re all too ready to ruin your travel plans then they could just as easily destroy the rest of your dreams and aspirations. The reality is you don’t owe them anything and if they try the guilt card then it’s a big red flag.
Entering into a relationship doesn’t automatically glue you to the hip of your partner. You’re not obligated to do everything together. You’re just two human beings that have decided to hang out a lot. You’re allowed, if not encouraged to be your own person.
Your relationship is doomed if they stop you from travelling. You will simply regret not going and those feelings will manifest into bitterness towards your partner. I firmly believe that a relationship is not meant to last if it gets in the way of your dreams.
It’s okay want to go travelling alone while in a relationship
It’s a myth that once you’re in a relationship you have to do everything together. It’s perfectly okay to have different dreams.
You can still be with someone and want to travel solo. There might be a certain place in the world that’s only special to you. Or maybe you both just have differing travelling dreams. It’s normal.
You also can’t expect someone to drop everything and travel with you. We’re all at different stages in our lives. A trip you’ve been saving up for months might not appeal to someone who has just started their dream job or a new business.
Travelling solo when you’re in a relationship is such an underrated experience and frankly, everyone should do it at least once.
It’s easy to forget who you are once you’ve been in a long-term relationship for a while. Solo travel offers you a rare opportunity to reclaim yourself and your independence.
Just because you have a different set of experiences to your partner it doesn’t mean you’re any less close. In fact, being apart from them can make your relationship stronger.
It’s not easy leaving your partner behind
Heading off into the horizon on a solo trip without your partner is no walk in the park. It’s actually pretty hard and no amount of mindset planning could prepare me at all.
As soon as I said my goodbyes and boarded the plane the tears were unleashed. I like to think this wasn’t completely my fault. Apparently your emotions become heightened due to the altitude on a plane so you’re more susceptible to crying…
Whatever it was, I was a mess. I couldn’t stop crying. I was heading to the other side of the world alone for the first time and I didn’t have a clue what to expect.
After all those months of excitement leading up to my trip, I was ashamed to admit that I just wanted the plane to turn around so I could go back home. I was so disappointed in myself. I felt like a terrible solo traveller.
Time makes separation easier
During those first few weeks, travelling solo was hard. New Zealand wasn’t exactly a culture shock but the timezone still took some getting used to (you can read about my New Zealand solo travel itinerary here). I even caught myself counting down the days until I could see my boyfriend again.
After a while, I started noticing a change. I immersed myself in as many activities as I could and I started to enjoy my surroundings the more I engaged with them. I forgot why I was so hung up about counting the days, and I even stopped thinking so much about my boyfriend.
I was enjoying the time to myself immensely and the thought of going home filled me with dread. The less I spent thinking about the days I had left the more quickly they went by. Typical really.
By the time three and a half months had passed and I had to board the plane home I didn’t want to leave. In fact, I could have quite happily stayed an extra three or four months.
The tears shed for my boyfriend on the flight at the start of my trip had been replaced by the sadness of my solo travels being over. That’s the problem with the travel bug. Once it bites down it very rarely lets go no matter what you’ve got waiting at home.
I was happily in a relationship but solo travel had given me more freedom than I had ever known and I was thirsty for more.
Don’t let your relationship dictate what to do
It is possible to travel solo and be in a relationship at the same time. They’re far from mutually exclusive. Still, it’s worth bearing in mind that a relationship can influence a solo trip whether you want it to or not.
You might find yourself shortening the length of your travels from what you originally planned or wanting to postpone it because you just can’t bear to be apart from your partner. It happens. We’re all human after all.
You ultimately have to listen to what you really want. No one else can or should tell you. Think about the real reasons why you want to shorten or delay your trip. Is it fear in general or the fear of missing them that’s holding you back?
Ask yourself why you want to come home early. If you know that a part of you would quite happily stay but you feel obligated to as it doesn’t feel fair on your partner then talk to them. You don’t want to hurt them but you really don’t want to regret coming home too early because you feel like you have no choice.
Sure, long-distance relationships have a bit of a bad reputation, but there’s always a way even if you love someone as much as you love travelling. I met a couple of long-term travellers in relationships who would go home to their partners every few months before continuing their travels. You just have to find a way that works for you and your partner.
Be open and honest about your solo travel plans
Don’t confuse genuine apprehension with guilt-tripping. If your partner expresses concern about your upcoming trip, allow yourself to listen to them and take note of what they’re saying. Encourage them.
It’s a daunting time for loved ones left at home. They might get worried about what you’ll get up to and they might feel like you’re moving on without them. It’s perfectly normal.
Address each concern with openness and honesty. If you feel it’s right, set rules that you both agree to like getting in contact four or five times a week, for example.
Reassure them that you’ll make them a priority on your trip and share details of your itinerary so they’ll know roughly where you are (this is a good solo travel safety trip anyway. you can read more tips here).
The big question: Should you break up?
You know your relationship the best and if it can handle the time away. No one else can tell you what you and your partner should do. If you both want to make your relationship work then it will. It’s as simple as that. Distance doesn’t have to get in the way of it.
I’ve met loads of people in international relationships who go a long time without seeing their partner. Make no mistake it’s hard work but it’s possible. You just have to work at it to find your solution.
Of course, if your partner tries to stop you from living your solo travelling dreams then dump them. Frankly, you don’t want to waste valuable time on that!
Final Thoughts on solo travel and relationships
Leaving your partner behind to travel the world is easier said than done. Believe me, I’m not belittling it. Despite all the challenges, it’s still possible. You can absolutely travel solo and be in a relationship. Be open and honest with them about it and you might just find that your relationship is so much stronger for it!
Need more convincing? Check out this post about why women in relationships travel alone by Be My Travel Muse.