Solo (but not Single) Female Traveler in South America

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?

It seems general global conception that woman who travel solo must be single. What if you're a solo but not single female traveler? Here are my experiences

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.

Read more: How I gave up my passion to follow my true love for travel.

It seems general global conception that woman who travel solo must be single. What if you're a solo but not single female traveler? Here are my experiences
Living the Olympic dream

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.

The differences

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.

It seems general global conception that woman who travel solo must be single. What if you're a solo but not single female traveler? Here are my experiences
Together

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.

It seems general global conception that woman who travel solo must be single. What if you're a solo but not single female traveler? Here are my experiences
Traveling where our feet will take us

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.

It seems general global conception that woman who travel solo must be single. What if you're a solo but not single female traveler? Here are my experiences
Making my dream to visit Machu Picchu a reality

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.

What is it like to travel Solo (and not single) Female Traveler in South America. I share my experiences with solo travel in South America and share practical tips when you're not a single traveller.
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40 Comments

  1. Travelling solo when you’re in a relationship can make for some interesting conversations with your significant other. I hope I can meet someone who wants to travel as much as I do. But for now I’ll make the most of my time travelling solo 🙂

  2. What an interesting read! I’m currently in discussions with my husband about solo travel as a new travel blogger, and it’s proving difficult as I have some health concerns also, so he is reluctant to let me travel solo. However, there are places I really want to get to and he only has so many days off, so it’s making for shall we say, interesting discussions. I’m starting with local travel plans, within the UK by myself and see how it goes. After all, he has to be happy/ok with me travelling solo for me to do it….

  3. Oh, what a great post! My boyfriend and I have been together for 5.5 years and I love how you phrase “Chasing dreams separate from each other.” Just because you’re in a committed relationship doesn’t mean you have to have the same exact dreams. 🙂 I agree that traveling together is so, so fun and supportive but I still say if it is your dream to travel and NOT his/hers/etc…you have to make it work somehow! And sometimes that means just going.

    That being said, sometimes you’ll buy a plane ticket for a solo trip to Iceland and he’ll get so jealous he’ll book one the next day. 😉

  4. Very interesting. I’ve never traveled solo. I’ve been with my hubby since high school and haven’t traveled without him since. I even tag along on most business trips and know I haul my kids around too. Haha. I hate the idea of us experiencing things without each other, but that’s cool you’ve found a rhythm that works for you.

  5. I travelled a fair bit before I met my husband, who had never had the opportunity. Now we both have the travel bug and enjoy most of our trips together. Every once in a while, he has the opportunity to travel with a pilot friend for really cheap. He goes on a nice guys’ trip for a few days without me. Do I wish it could be us and not them? Sometimes, yes. But I wouldn’t want to hold him back from a fun opportunity. One day, I’ll go somewhere without him and not feel guilty.

  6. Thanks for this insightful post. I wondered if traveling alone while not being single was a strange thing.
    Both my boyfriend and I traveled alone for a year before we met. Like yours, he loves to do long multi-day hikes, which I cannot do due to the problem in my back. So he recently went hiking for a week alone. And while I love traveling with him, some part of me misses solo travel, so I think I’d like to combine solo trips and couple trips in the future.

  7. Thanks for a thoughtful post. I have been married 20+ years and my husband and I travel independent of each other. He does it mostly for business. For me it is business and pleasure. I love traveling with him too but it is a slightly different type of travel as I have to consider that it is also vacation for him. It is his down time so he can go back and make the big bucks so I can travel Solo But Not Single. LOL.

  8. Such a thoughtful post Naomi. My view is that your travel style changes as your life changes as you point out in your article. Once I was a backpacker, with partner and without. Then my tastes became a little more luxurious again with a partner and solo travelling. These days we have a family and things have changed again. I wouldnt have it any other way as each style of travel has helped me see places and people through a different lens. You have followed your dreams and have no regrets and I think you were brave and honest to share your feelings and advice

  9. On numerous occasions, I’ve taken the kids and my mom on vacation while the hubby was forced to work, he just didn’t have the time off to join us and this was the only time my mom would fly up to see me.

    Alternatively, when he is away for work, he tends to travel in his area on weekends and its much too far away for us to join him for only 2 days.

    It never feels ok. And we both try to not visit places the other really wants to do together but sometimes it’s unavoidable; he did a wine tour in Florence with his friend, instead of me. I couldn’t exactly tell him not to because I was jealous.

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