Shocking that in 2016 I still have to explain myself, but here we go.
I love my husband so much. Amongst other things, he is extremely kind, he is fun, and he is wildly intelligent– really, I could espouse his virtues all day long if given the time and space.
But the clincher for me, at least in the very beginning of our relationship, was a shared passion: he loves to travel.
And I love to travel with him. We do it a lot: we have seen 50 countries together, if not more, and he is the best travel partner I’ve ever had.
But I also like to travel without him, and I do it often. I just completed a month-long trip through 8 countries on 4 continents, solo; at this exact time last year I travelled to Brazil and Colombia with 5 of my closest friends; I’ve done a fair amount of travel with family.
Yes, all without him.
However, for some outsiders-looking-in, the fact that I would venture afield without my man, especially one I am married to, is surprising, dismaying, or simply doesn’t compute. Especially when they discover that he could have come with me on my travels, but I/he/we didn’t choose for that to happen.
They say: “You mean, your husband had the time off, but didn’t go with you?”
They think: “Wow, he let her/she wanted to go off without him? Hmm, must be something wrong with that relationship.”
And I somehow feel myself getting annoyed at their incredulity, consternation, or confusion. Defensive, too, because my life choices vis à vis my relationship feel like they’re being dissected under a microscope. I feel as though I’m an anomaly, or that I’m doing something wrong.
Look, I don’t owe anybody an explanation, but I think it’s important to discuss why I travel without my man, why I feel it’s important to do so, and why I feel other women should do it, too.
Having experiences independent from one another is healthy
A strong relationship is one where partners don’t need each other but want to be together. No (wo)man is an island, but self-sufficiency, I feel, is important to one’s self-esteem and overall happiness. When both members of a relationship have experiences and interests outside of one another, that is, when they are “whole” people before uniting, there is less insecurity and there are more things to talk about. Your partnership can only be enriched by the hobbies and activities (like travel) you engage in external to the union.
I was an individual before I met him
I was a fully formed being long before I met my husband at the age of 27. I had already lived in 4 different countries, had a few real jobs, and had experienced love and heartbreak– all before falling for this wonderful man. I also had dreams and opinions and fears and character traits that were shaped by prior experiences; namely, I’ve always been a strong-willed adventurer who is a bit of a loner. So why would these unique aspects of who I am change simply because I found myself in a long-term relationship? My individuality doesn’t dissolve because I found a life partner. Three decades single doesn’t just disappear like that.
It allows us to miss each other– distance makes the heart grow fonder
I just finished 25 days of solo travel. While I enjoyed myself immensely, there wasn’t one waking hour that went by without me thinking, “Wow, Liebling would have really enjoyed this” or “It would have been nice if Liebling were here to share in this moment”. I uttered his name constantly to the people I met and detailed our history. Does that mean I regretted travelling alone or without him? Absolutely not! But I did miss him, and by far the best thing about walking in the door after 25 days abroad was seeing him. Call it a fault of human nature, but I treasure him more when I’m away. Which means the homecomings are particularly sweet.
Nurturing other relationships is important… even when you’re married
Marriage is probably one of the most significant convenants you’ll ever make, but we must take care to not neglect other relationships that provide just as much stability in our lives. I’ve lost friends because they’ve allowed their marriages/long-term love relationships to swallow them whole– so consumed they’ve been by their “boo” that they no longer had time for friends and family. I hate that.
This is why I make it a point to schedule quality time with friends and family that doesn’t include my husband: I can’t tell you how reaffirming it was to traipse through South America for two weeks with my best girls last year, shopping, gossiping, and bonding. A boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse shouldn’t be the nexus of one’s existence; building and sustaining other relationships is just as important (especially considering the divorce rate these days).
I’m not restricted by his schedule, likes or dislikes
I am a middle and high school teacher by trade. I’m not going to lie, one of the reasons I got into the profession was for the paid 13 weeks of vacation us educators get (and so desperately need). I value my free time and use it to travel the world, so this career path was a very conscious decision. My husband, though blessed with a good number of vacation days, works in finance and thus has a schedule that is not as flexible as my own. If I only travelled when he could, I wouldn’t travel as much as I do. Likewise, there are places that I am interested in seeing that he simply is not. Again, rather than be restricted by these factors, I do my own thing, because I can and I want to.
We need to rethink how we view women and relationships
The underlying premise is basically that women are weak(er than men), and that a woman’s “duty” as a wife or girlfriend precludes her from living life on her own terms, being independent, and exercising her agency. It’s as though this “status change” also changes who you are fundamentally as a person, reducing you simply to a man’s arm candy or a baby receptacle (oh yes, because motherhood supposedly has a similar effect).
[An aside: do you see how much we laud women’s marriages and births vis à vis academic or professional achievements? That’s a whole ‘nother post.]
We’ve all heard the rhetoric that women shouldn’t travel alone– I am hugely against this view, so write blog posts like 9 Tips for Solo Travel if You’re a Girl to encourage my sistren to get out there. But even sadder is the premise that our independent lives should end once we’ve “snagged a man”.
To belabour my point: romantic relationships are beautiful and require compromise, but they shouldn’t, by definition, be limiting or all-encompassing. Again, a boyfriend/husband (or child) shouldn’t be the nexus of woman’s existence, or mean that she shouldn’t exercise her right to do the things she enjoys without them.
So wonder no more. This is why I travel without my husband, why I feel it’s important to do so, and why I think other women should do it, too.
And please, let’s banish the idea that individuality and independence end when marriage begins, and that a woman is not “whole” or complete without a man in the picture.
What are your thoughts on the matter?
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