Before my mom has a heart attack, I want to make it clear that I didn’t surreptitiously get married.
But I’m writing from the perspective of married solo travel because I’ve been in a committed relationship for 13 years now, and I travel solo frequently.
In speaking with fellow female travelers, I’ve learned that I’m not the only one in a long-term relationship who goes it alone. And I’ve also discovered that there are a significant number of women who would like to begin to travel solo, even though they have a significant other.
Why, you might ask? And how does that work? The answers are as varied as the relationships.
The Why Behind Married Solo Female Travel
Something in my genetic code drives me to travel. Not to go on vacation, though that’s nice. To travel. Explore. Go see it all, just because it’s there. I need variety or my brain withers. I’m one of those extroverts who gets totally filled up by external energy — though not as the center of attention, but as an observer. Put me in a buzzy coffeehouse and let me silently soak up the stimulation.
My guy? Quite the opposite. Where the sights, sounds, smells and movement of a crowded city wash over me like a cool breeze, they’re an assault on his senses. I can make a beeline for the restaurant where we have reservations, while he’s looking around for the street sign, noticing the Bugatti that drove by, and trying to dodge pedestrians. New territory is exhausting to him, and his introverted nature frequently needs a sofa and a Marvel movie that he’s seen before.
I’ll try almost anything once. Any food. Any destination. Any activity. (Short of shooting a gun or eating raw monkey brains.) Did I mention that I like novelty? Adding to my list of new experiences makes me feel alive. I think this makes me pretty easy to travel with … unless you’re a person who, like my SO, has narrower preferences and prefers familiar foods, destinations and activities. Hence my penchant for married solo travel.
My partner struggles with anxiety: most of all, flying. I know that he’s frustrated by this — it takes him much more time and money to get from our place in Denver to our place in Michigan by a long combination of Uber, Amtrak, commuter rail and the car that someone drove up to the commuter rail stop for him. It’s roughly 48 hours for him versus three hours for me by direct flight. At times, his travel anxiety extends to random nearby places that are simply unfamiliar … the very kinds of places that, because they’re unfamiliar, call my name.
These are our greatest hurdles to traveling together, but there are other reasons for married solo travel: different vacation benefits or work schedules; differing physical abilities; the desire for the kind of distance that can make the heart grow fonder. Kudos to women (and men!) who still fulfill their own travel needs, even if their partner is unable or unwilling to join them.
If you’re on the fence, however, about traveling without your spouse, and you don’t have friends or family who share your wanderlust, consider these benefits of married solo travel.
The Benefits of Married Solo Female Travel
When I took a solo trip to Paris a few years ago, I booked a hotel just a couple of blocks from the Louvre because that’s where I wanted to spend four days. Yes, four days in one museum. (It could take four months to see the whole thing, but I did it justice as best I could.) I also spent one day in the Musee d’Orsay, and another day exploring the painters’ haunts in Montmartre. Aside from strolling along the Seine and perusing a few shops as I walked from one place to another, I only looked at art. Would my guy do this? Yes, because he’s nice like that, but he would be miserable. I geeked out on art that I’d been studying since I was in high school.
(I skipped the Eiffel Tour because it seems like a romantic place, and I still hope that my SO will go there with me one day. Ditto for any romantic cruise. It *is* sometimes sad to travel without your partner.)
Too tired to go out for dinner? You can get a feast from the corner store and eat it in your king-sized bed while watching House Hunters to your heart’s content. Want to try out that swanky place for dinner? You can probably snag a solo seat at the bar. When you’re a party of one, you’re light on your feet.
If you’re traveling solo in a place where your language is spoken broadly, you’re far more likely to engage with people in your destination as a solo traveler. When you have a built-in companion, you tend to talk to that person as you shop, as you eat, as you wander a historic site.
During married solo travel, you’re far more likely to share an observation with a fellow museum-goer, chat up a barista, or ask the opinion of a store clerk. It’s trickier in a place where your language isn’t spoken widely, but we have some tips for managing the loneliness that might pop up in a foreign country where language is a barrier. And sometimes, like me, you may also enjoy going quietly inside your head as you take in the world.
Energizing the Relationship
I really do long for shared travel with my man. When we go to new places together, we have a blast. It puts us on more equal footing, versus the times when he’s on turf familiar to me or vice versa. We notice different things. And while I have a long list of safety measures for traveling solo as a woman, it’s nice to be able to experience the world with the added protection of another person looking out for me.
But too, when he goes on his biannual golf extravaganzas with his buddies in rural Kentucky, or to the remote corners of Canada where the only other humans are devoted hunters and fishers, he returns filled up and happy. I’m happy for him, and I’m happy that I didn’t have to play six rounds of 18 holes of golf in three snow-filled days (not exaggerating) or seek medical care because the biting bugs that call parts of Canada home made my eyes swell shut. Give me Cairo, Cape Town, Columbia, Cinque Terre…just don’t make me see any on repeat.
Making Married Solo Travel Work
Aside from an obvious, fundamental need for tolerance for your partner’s differences, there are a few ways to make married solo travel work better for everyone involved:
- Plan far, far ahead. It’s taken a decade to convince my significant other that planning is useful (FOR SO MANY REASONS!). But now we sit down at the start of the year with a shared Google Doc and block out periods of time when each of us has a hope or a plan. We also block out family commitments, which narrows the available time really quickly.
- We also try to block out one period of time to do something together. This is new and long overdue, but the one time we tried it, we had a fantastic time. We need to improve upon finding mutually agreeable new adventures that won’t be waylaid by anxiety or guilt trips/family needs.
- We use technology when we’re apart. I Facetimed him from the shoreline of La Jolla, California, at sunset, surrounded by sea lions. I called him while sipping wine in my hotel room in Milan. He sent me a photo of his golf ball lying on the green at the bottom of a 50-foot cliff that separates it from the tee.
- He’s much more consistent with this than I, but we often will slip a note or a treat into the luggage of the departing traveler or under the pillow of the person staying home. I should be more consistent; it’s really nice.
Married solo travel doesn’t get a lot of press, but it can be a great way to satisfy different personalities and needs within a relationship. To quote the 17th-century French writer Roger de Rabutin, “Absence is to love what wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small, it inflames the great.”
Or, at least in my case, it prevents my very soul from withering and saves my guy from 32 hours in an art museum.
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