It’s a common misconception that solo travel is reserved for single people. I’ve been traveling solo since I was 18 and, despite now being in a serious relationship, it’s still my preferred method of seeing the world. I still enjoy the freedom and autonomy that traveling solo gives me, and I believe the lessons I’ve learned during my adventures have been invaluable in many other parts of my life.
Over the past 6 years of my relationship, I’ve traveled solo to dozens of countries across five continents, including three long trips that spanned four months or more. While traveling alone, I’ve trekked in South America, wandered through Central Asia, and backpacked my way through Europe. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, my solo travel experiences have actually strengthened my relationship with my partner through a stronger sense of independence.
How traveling solo improved my relationship
My partner and I both travel alone almost every year because our vacation schedules conflict and we enjoy our own space.
The most valuable benefit is an increased understanding of expectations. We have a mutual agreement that we will stay within the boundaries of our relationship while traveling solo, and that we’ll communicate as frequently as possible. When I’m on the road, this gives me both the freedom to make my own travel decisions, as well as the responsibility of communicating them to my significant other back home.
When we’re both home though, the communication doesn’t go away. We’re quick to talk about problems if they arise, directly and tactfully. It also didn’t bother us as much when we’ve had to go months as a long-distance couple - we’ve been there and done that through our various solo trips.
In our free time, we don’t need to be together constantly, and can hang out with our own friend groups or colleagues without the other person. Both at home and on the road, we have our own separate lives, and when we spend time together we get to share these new experiences and stories. The independence we’ve both learned from traveling solo has given us a gift that we’ll never take for granted: trust.
Personal benefits of solo travel
Although it might sound intimidating, I believe everyone should travel solo at least once. As much as I enjoy traveling with my significant other, I’ve definitely learned the most and had the most memorable experiences during my solo adventures.
I’ve now become completely self-sufficient while on the road. I can get myself from place to place, learn enough of a language to get around, and organize my own adventures and tours without the help of anyone else. I’m alert and vigilant all the time, relying on my own instincts to keep me out of dangerous situations – a good skill to have for anyone who travels frequently.
I’ve learned how to make friends on the road and put myself out there, minimizing feelings of loneliness. On the other hand, I’m also comfortable being alone, and I don’t always feel like I need to constantly be around people to be content (despite the fact that I’m actually an extrovert).
Most importantly, spending a lot of time on my own has given me a strong and unwavering sense of independence. I love being able to do what I want, when I want, and make my own decisions about where I want to go. This independence has translated to virtually every aspect of my life – my job, my friendships and even my relationship.
Challenges of traveling solo while in a relationship
While traveling solo provides tons of personal and relationship benefits, it can be difficult at times. It’s not unusual to feel lonely, especially if you’re traveling alone for days or weeks at a time. You might start to miss your partner and wish they were with you. These feelings are totally normal, and they’ll come and go no matter how long you’ve been traveling.
When you’re off seeing the world, your partner can sometimes feel jealous or resentful. Worse still, if there’s a time difference or connectivity issues, communicating can be difficult and might have them feeling left behind or ignored at times.
The best way to mitigate these feelings is to set very clear expectations before you leave, and provide as much information as possible about your itinerary. This way, they’ll know if you’re planning on being in a small village with sparse WiFi, or if you have an all-day activity planned. Additionally, let them know how much time you think you can commit to talking while you’re gone, and decide on the best method of communication for both of you.
Establishing consistent communication with your partner can be difficult at first, but it can help alleviate a lot of the negative feelings.
Advice for anyone wanting to travel solo without your partner
It’s not always easy to be away from your partner while in a new, foreign place. However, there are a few things you can do to make the distance less difficult on your relationship.
Communication is a key aspect of traveling solo that you and your partner should discuss before your trip. It’s important to establish norms on when and how often you and your partner will touch base, especially if you’ll be in different time zones. Before I travel, I usually sit down with my partner to discuss when the best times to talk to him may be.
Set boundaries on what’s acceptable to both of you. For example, you may want to go out to bars alone every night, but that might make your partner uncomfortable. Establish these boundaries ahead of time so you both understand all expectations while you’re apart.
Trust is the backbone of any kind of relationship, but especially if you’re going to be off traveling. Knowing and trusting that your partner will stay safe and faithful is only half of the equation – that trust needs to go both ways. Handle your solo travels right and your trust will steadily grow.
Traveling by yourself is an incredible experience, and I’d recommend it for anyone, even if you’re in a relationship. Having the space to learn and grow away from your partner is an important aspect of a healthy relationship. Now, you’ll just need to decide where in the world your solo travels will take you...