Over the years that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve gotten lots of questions regarding how to navigate relationships when it comes to travel.
We’ve explored how to gently tell someone you’d rather travel alone, whether it makes sense to break up to travel, and I asked a group of women in relationships to explain why they travel alone.
Most recently, I was asked how I navigate traveling alone though I have a partner, whether I do it often, and if it makes me feel guilty.
It made me realize I never talked about traveling without your partner from my own perspective, because I didn’t have it to draw upon. But now I’ve been in a relationship for the past three years and I can finally do this topic some justice.
I travel all the time without my partner, and no, I don’t feel one bit guilty about it.
This is the why, the how, and the reasons behind it:
He Supports My Happiness
I am very lucky that my partner has a flexible work schedule and that we are able to travel together often. Given that I travel almost every month, it would be really tough if he could only take one week off per year with me. But even if that were the case, it wouldn’t change the fact that I would still travel without him.
I spent years working at a job where I only got 14 days of paid time off per year. I yearned for the days when I could have more freedom, and since that is on the menu for me now, it would be a pity if being in a relationship took that away.
Garrett knows that I traveled extensively before I ever met him. He did the same. It’s one of the early things we bonded over. I don’t think that just because we are in a relationship now, either of us should give up that sense of adventurousness that you get from a solo trip. It would be different if I decided to go take a solo trip that we had both been dreaming of doing together for years – that would be kinda fucked up – but most of the time it’s just me taking a road trip, or doing diving stuff that he’s not as into anyway.
When I know it’s something he’d really want to do and that we should experience together, I save it for a time that we can both go. He can’t always go on every adventure to me that would appeal to him, but I take his feelings into account, too.
But when it comes down to it, he supports my desire to go, and he is genuinely happy for me when I’m having fun and enjoying life.
It Would be a Red Flag if He Didn’t
Real talk, I have been in relationships in the past where there is no way I could’ve traveled solo as much as I do now.
They would get jealous, or they didn’t fully trust me. They were controlling, and when I look back at it, I wonder why I wasted so much time in these toxic relationships.
Garrett and I trust each other, and I think we would have to take a really hard look at the reasons why if we didn’t. I know that when he meets up with friends or goes on trips without me, that he is out having fun, and I am genuinely happy for him. I don’t have any reason to be jealous, because I want him to do what brings him joy. As his partner, that’s my job.
It would be unfortunate for me to make him feel guilty about enjoying his life. If he consistently did so at the cost of our relationship, that would be different, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. We are talking about healthy time apart doing what we both enjoy.
I like to draw on the example of compersion, which is often referenced in polyamorous circles but I think it applies here as well: It’s the opposite of jealously. It’s the sympathetic joy we feel when someone else experiences happiness, whether it directly benefits us or not.
We even go days without checking in or talking much when I’m traveling alone, but I think of him often and I know he’s thinking about me, too. It comes down to trust, and if we don’t have that, we need to examine why.
I Show Up Better in the Relationship
As mentioned earlier, I haven’t always been in healthy relationships that I can look back on fondly. In fact, most of them have been toxic, with expectations, control issues, and conditional love. Once I recognized this pattern in my life, I knew that I had to change it. I spent years reading books by relationship counselors and psychologists about how to have a healthy relationship, because I realized I had no idea. One of them talked about the importance of always doing the self care things that make you show up better in the relationship.
When I travel alone, I am not going out and partying. I am not doing anything that would put our relationship in jeopardy. Quite the contrary, I am out having adventures that make me feel alive. I get a chance to return to myself and remember who I am without anyone else’s opinion or reflection.
I get to come home feeling empowered. I don’t have to look back on my single life and lament anything, because I don’t have to miss the person who I was before I met my partner. I get to remember who she is every single day, both with his support and with my own by taking time off and being on my own. Any other reality would be unfortunate.
I Encourage Him to Travel Solo, Too
It’s important to note that this has to go both ways. It wouldn’t be fair if only I got to go have adventures and he didn’t get to enjoy traveling alone as well. I fully support him going out and doing whatever he wants to do, because I know that it’s not going to put our relationship in jeopardy. On the contrary, I know it’s important that he gets the same solo travel benefits that I do.
That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Sometimes he gets to go do things I would love to do, but I trust that we can do it together in the future, and I just tell myself he’s checking it out so he can be the expert next time we visit that place together.
Why I Don’t Feel Guilty
One of the many psychology books I’ve read (wish I could remember which!) talks about how we often unconsciously (or consciously) make ourselves smaller or hold back because we don’t want to make those we love feel inadequate somehow.
We think that if we shine less brightly, we won’t make them feel bad for having less of that thing, whether it’s happiness, success, or in this case, the ability to travel.
But when someone truly loves you unconditionally, you shouldn’t have to dim yourself for them. They should be genuinely happy for you when good things happen and when opportunities come your way, whether they get the same opportunities or not.
It honestly has never occurred to me to feel guilty about being able to travel when my boyfriend can’t. For one thing, it’s my job, but for another I think I would only feel that way if he somehow made me feel guilty.
If you’re reading this and you’re in a situation where you have freedom, time, and money to travel, don’t hold back. You never know how long this will last, and the beauty of traveling alone, whether you are single or not, is that you get a chance to be totally selfish and I think that’s good for everyone.
I truly believe that it has the potential to make your relationship even stronger, and if it does the opposite, maybe that is something worth looking at.
Either way, nobody wants to look back on the opportunities that they didn’t take, so grab it with both hands, and have an adventure.
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