These days, it’s pretty common for ladies to venture off on their own and travel the world as a solo female traveler. Nothing wrong with that and there are numerous blogs out there, encouraging solo female travel. A lot of people think solo equals single. And it might be in a lot of cases. If you don’t have a boyfriend or a close friend to travel with, the best thing to do is travel solo. But what if you do have a boyfriend, or a husband or any other form of significant other with whom you share your life? What if you’re a solo but not single female traveler?
Solo traveler at 15 years old
Ever since I started to earn my own money, it has been my main priority to travel as much as I can. My first trip was with my brother to London when I was 15 years old. After this, trips with a boyfriend followed. After our brake-up, I booked my first solo holiday. I discovered solo travel. In the years after that, many trips followed, solo, with a friend, with my parents or flying solo again.
The man of my dreams
And then I met him. The man of my dreams. A patient fellah with a heart of gold. It felt like coming home. I can be 100% myself when I am with him and I feel really good when I am around him. But when we met a couple of years ago, I already had my travels booked. I would go solo to Spain for 2 weeks and a week to Rome with my parents. We only just met when I had to leave him behind again.
He didn’t mind. Like I said, he is very relaxed and wanted me to have a good time. We used WhatsApp almost non-stop and I wanted time to move quickly so I could return home and see him again. I also had the dream to visit the Sochi Olympics in 2014, but this was my dream, not his. So I went by myself.
Solo travel becomes couple travel
Of course, we also traveled together as a couple. He likes to try new things and can really enjoy “la dolce vita” so we took relaxing vacations and city trips to Pisa and Florence in Italy and went to Orange, France together. What a nice thing to travel with someone you love. Explore together, get lost together and laugh together.
But his vision of travel is a bit different than mine. He likes to camp in the wilderness. He likes to go on through-hikes without any facilities. He wanted to walk the Kungsleden trail in Sweden.
As much as I like the idea of spending time in nature, I just can’t. My Crohn’s Disease has me bound to civilisation and traveling for days without a bed to sleep in, a roof over my head and a toilet to sit on, is not something I can pull off. It is simple impossible and I don’t feel the need to try and ruin our time together and our time away from work.
Chasing dreams separate from each other
Last year, my boyfriend told me he really wanted to hike the Kungsleden in Sweden. We talked about it. I asked what it would be like and encouraged him to follow his dreams. I was busy with buying my own house at the time so it took a while for the idea to really sink in. He would travel on his own. Alone. For four whole weeks. Without me.
As much as I wanted him to live out his dream, I hated the idea that we wouldn’t share such an adventure together. That we wouldn’t travel together and not share a common dream and work together to realise it. I was gutted. How was it possible to have found the man of my dreams, but we have different dreams to chaise? How could we be a couple if we couldn’t do the one thing in life I love the most: travel together? I had some serious issues to deal with this. It’s not that I wanted him to NOT go. I just wanted to realize a common travel goal. But it would be impossible. I had to be patient and wait for time to pass.
Realizing my own dreams
It took me a few months to come to peace with the idea. I tried to accept things and make the best of it. It wasn’t easy and I’m still not sure if I accepted it completely. But a new idea grew in my mind. If we wouldn’t be able to travel together for the next year, I might still be able to travel on my own. For the past decade, my big travel dream has been to go to South America. I fantasize about traversing the continent with my backpack and taking in all the wonderful sites and cities. I wanted to go to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile and the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. As South America isn’t high on the wish list of my boyfriend, I decided now would be the best time to take on this epic solo adventure in South America.
Solo Female Traveler in South America
I’d go to South America alone. I’d live out my dream as he would realize his dream. I would be a solo but not single female traveler again. And let me assure you, it is quite different to travel solo and not be single. Not that I paint the town red and hook up with every random stranger I meet, but it is different. I wanted to stay involved with my boyfriend’s life back home. I wanted to talk to him and share my travels with him. I also had to explain a lot of people, that yes, I do have a significant other, but no, we do not travel together.
Locals would ask me why I would travel alone. And then ask me to marry their cousin/brother/son. My response would be: thanks but no thanks, I have a boyfriend. But they couldn’t rhyme the two together. You travel solo but you are not a single female traveler? It seems a general global conception that you have to be physically together if you’re together with someone. And I wasn’t. I was half way across the globe, while the person I love was back at home. Doing his thing. The thing we normally would do together.
So, did I hate it? Actually not at all! Yes, I had some difficulties accepting the idea before I left. And the first two weeks of my trip were really rough as I got really ill and felt absolutely miserable.
Solo traveller again
But when I started feeling better, I met all kinds of interesting people. I enjoyed myself a lot. I didn’t have to think about anything or anyone besides myself. I was doing exactly what I love most and didn’t have to worry if my boyfriend would enjoy himself. If he was ok, if he was still having fun. And why he would want to go left when I knew our hostel would be to the right. I felt like an individual, thinking and making plans for 1. I didn’t mind sitting in the restaurant by myself. Booking bus tickets for only 1 seat. Snagging the last bed in an overbooked hostel. It was lovely. I realized I missed it. I forgot what advantages solo travels have. I forgot who I can be when I travel solo.
Read more: Is solo travel in Iran safe for woman?
Should all solo travelers be single?
But I am not the person to promote solo travel as other bloggers do. I don’t think you should ditch your boyfriend if he doesn’t want to come with you on your travels. Traveling together can be really rewarding. You feel less vulnerable, you’ll have more to laugh about and you can snuggle up in the middle of the night when it’s cold outside and my most important argument: you’ll make memories together that will last for a life time.
So do you have a life partner who doesn’t want to join you on your travels? Or they just can’t come along on your next trip? I have a few tips for you to handle being a solo but not single female traveler.
5 tips to consider when you’re a solo but not single female traveler
- Make agreements on how often you’ll contact each other. Every day? Once a week? Only when there is news?
- Don’t spend the whole day checking your messages on your phone. Especially when you’re in a different time zone, it can be difficult to stay in touch. But don’t overdo it. It is perfectly ok not to talk to each other every single minute of every single day. It happens. You travel. You’re busy with traveling.
- Meet other people. It is ok to meet other travelers and you do not have to feel guilty for going out for dinner with another person. The fact that you’re both solo, doesn’t mean you’re single or interested. Not all dinners are dates; you can still have fun with other people as a solo but not single female traveler.
- Keep sharing how you feel. If you’d be sitting across the dinner table, you would be honest with the other person. If you travel you might have the tendency to sugar coat certain things. You don’t want the other to worry about you, but be honest about how you feel. Do you feel lonely or tired? Tell the other. Maybe a different time will be better to talk.
- Let the other person share their story too. Of course, you’re the one traveling and experiencing all kinds of epic adventures. But your significant other might want to say a few words as well.
Are you a solo but not single female traveler? Do you have a story about leaving your loved one behind and venture off into the world of solo travels yourself?
Please share it with me, I’d love to hear it.