Married....with Solo Traveling

Thinking of traveling solo while married? Get tips for enhancing communication, building trust, and setting healthy boundaries so solo trips bring you closer instead of pushing you apart.

Married....with Solo Traveling

I’ll be honest with you, i’m a single man. Shocking isn’t it? But it’s true. As an experienced solo traveler, I have often pondered whether fellow solo travelers are also single. Surprisingly, many solo travelers are actually married. It raises the question of why married couples would choose to spend time apart. After all, isn't the purpose of marriage to spend a lifetime with someone? You share a bed, dine and do activities together, watch television together, and manage expenses jointly. However, just like any committed relationship, it is essential to have some time apart. The commonly quoted saying, "absence makes the heart grow fonder," holds true at times and applies to all relationships. It is necessary to have moments of separation, such as working different jobs, enjoying a "guys weekend" or a "girls weekend," and even pursuing individual travel aspirations. Perhaps having distinct interests that do not always align could either strengthen or strain a marriage. As a single man who has never been married, I am curious to understand the perspective of those who are married or in committed relationships.

We Need To Talk

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Different solo travelers who are married have shared various examples that highlight the nuanced nature of this situation. Ultimately, the decision to continue solo traveling or not depends on the dynamics of your relationship. Just like you would discuss future plans, having children or not, and work-life balance, it is equally important to have open conversations about your travel plans. If solo traveling was a significant part of your life when you were single and it continues to hold importance for you even after getting married or being in a relationship, it is crucial to express your desires and concerns through dialogue. In a conversation with Travel Noire, Devin Payton explains her perspective on solo traveling while married:

If you are seriously dating, I would recommend having some serious talks early in the relationship. I found it extremely fulfilling to be able to set and manage my expectations early on with my partner. He knew how important solo travel was to my overall happiness. By actually creating space to be realistic and honest about our relationship and individual desires, we made sure we were on the same page. It can be scary, but knowing what you each want will definitely contribute to a stronger relationship. I respect his wants and needs, and he respects mine.
If you’re a traveler or starting to explore and want to enjoy your solitude, you need to communicate that. Make sure you’ve set up a healthy structure that can allow you to do it. There is no rulebook or manual for relationships; we are all kind of making it up as we go. You have to figure out what works for you and adjust as needed while creating healthy boundaries and opportunities for self-discovery. If there’s one thing I want people to know it’s understanding you can be both a traveler and in a healthy relationship; don’t let other people’s insecurities get in your way.
Devin Payton, interviewed by Travel Noire

When entering into a marriage or committed relationship, it is important to acknowledge that solo traveling may become less feasible. There are certain responsibilities, such as caring for pets or children, that cannot be avoided and may require both partners to share the burden. Additionally, it is logical to assume that as the number of responsibilities within the marriage increases, the amount of time available for solo traveling decreases. In fact, once you have children, your preferences may shift towards family vacations rather than solo adventures. It is crucial to understand that sacrifices will need to be made when entering into a relationship or marriage, and solo traveling may be one of them. Be prepared for that, and have the talk.

Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone

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Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash

When embarking on a solo journey, it can be likened to testing the waters before fully immersing yourself. Naturally, you instinctively gauge the temperature and sensation of the water before fully committing. However, there are instances where you are either pushed into the water or willingly decide to take the plunge. This metaphor is quite simple yet profound, as it signifies stepping outside of your comfort zone. As an individual, your responsibilities are generally less compared to those who are married. Marriages entail effort, compromise, and love, which necessitate the complete involvement of both partners. Nevertheless, venturing beyond your comfort zone may also require you to temporarily separate from your partner. It demands a great deal from both you and your partner, and the time spent apart may entail certain risks that you are both willing to embrace. One particular example from Zanny Steffgen in Fodors Travel of her experience as a married solo traveler entitled “I’m Married and Still Choose To Solo Travel” showed that it helped to strengthen their marriage:

When I walked by some particularly interesting scene or looked out over the placid morning waters of Lake Atitlan, I felt the urge to share what I was seeing with him. I also admittedly missed the things he would do for me—make me my coffee in the morning, or ensure we were going the right way, or hold the particularly heavy shopping bags—and at the same time, I felt acutely aware that I might be in danger as a solo female traveler.
As the days passed, I became more attuned to what I was thinking and feeling again. In general, I lead an independent life within my marriage, but my husband’s wants and needs and moods and tastes still influence much of what we do together and the decisions we make, as is natural in any equal partnership. Traveling solo when married allowed me to reconnect with my own needs and wants in a way I hadn’t in years.
I relished this feeling of self-intimacy when I returned from my solo trip, plus I found that I appreciated my husband more than ever. I no longer took all the little things he did for me or our home for granted, and knowing how supportive he’d been of my decision to travel alone made me feel more secure in the relationship. The fact that we’d missed each other so deeply during our time apart was also a nice reminder to stay present when we were back to spending most of our time together.

My takeaway from this is, it seems that she experienced feelings of vulnerability and loneliness once again, failing to recognize the value of her husband in her life. It is important to note that Ms. Steffgen's perspective is solely her own, and we cannot ascertain the thoughts and emotions of her husband. Could there be any underlying resentment or jealousy? The article suggests that he was incredibly supportive. Engaging in solo travel is one thing, but within a marriage, it necessitates trust and support from one's partner. Without these elements, the foundation of the marriage can be severely compromised. This serves as yet another example highlighting the significance of open communication.

If You Leave Me Now

What we have discovered about solo traveling while being married is that open communication and support are crucial. However, it is important to acknowledge that not all marriages and relationships are the same. Solo traveling can either strengthen your marriage by making you appreciate your partnership more or it can potentially harm your marriage by causing your partner to question the future of your relationship. The lack of communication during this time apart may lead to anxiety for your partner and could potentially breed feelings of jealousy and resentment. It cannot be emphasized enough that communication before, during, and after solo traveling is essential. Although I am currently not in a relationship, I still make it a point to keep my friends and family informed about my whereabouts and activities while solo traveling, and this principle applies to marriage as well. An article in Lonely Planet caps off the experience of solo traveling while married:

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.

Throughout my life, I have witnessed contrasting scenarios. My parents, being quite traditional, rarely deviate from the norm when it comes to marriage. It is highly unusual for them to even consider pursuing separate interests. Having been together for nearly five decades and still going strong, perhaps they have discovered the secret to a successful union. On the other hand, I have friends who are in marriages and relationships, some with children and some without. One particular married couple exemplifies this dichotomy: the woman participates in marathons at both Disney World and Disneyland, while the man embarks on biking trips, sometimes accompanied by friends, across the Rocky Mountains and the deserts of the American Southwest. Both instances demonstrate marriages built on a solid foundation, where couples establish clear expectations, engage in open communication, set boundaries, and trust each other to make sound decisions.

Closing Thoughts

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Photo by Luke Porter on Unsplash

Solo traveling while married can be a significant risk, as it has the potential to either strengthen or strain the relationship. The outcome largely depends on the dynamics of the relationship and the associated responsibilities. Couples with children or other significant responsibilities are less likely to engage in solo travel due to the priority of fulfilling those obligations. On the other hand, individuals with fewer responsibilities have more time and opportunities for solo travel while maintaining their marriage. Establishing boundaries is crucial in this scenario. Even among the couples I know who engage in solo travel, they limit themselves to a few specific destinations and maintain constant communication. Additionally, there is usually a purpose behind their respective trips. Trust plays a vital role in all relationships and marriages. Throughout my life, I have observed that trust is always at the forefront and is closely intertwined with effective communication and well-defined boundaries. It is essential to have faith in your partner's actions, whether they explicitly express their intentions or not.