Recently, my husband and I went on separate trips. In some cultures, this may not be a big deal, but in others, it really is. Guess which culture I belong to.
As a married couple, people do expect us to do things together all the time, but these separate trips shattered that particular societal norm. It was not planned this way, but our schedules did not allow us to be present on both trips. Therefore, he went to Hong Kong for 7 days while I went to Austria for 3 days. It was an amazing experience, and while we are always happy to travel together, there shouldn’t be any stigma around traveling by ourselves when married, as long as we both agree on it.
When you live with someone, and I mean happily live with someone, it is difficult to not have them around all the time.
As we were in completely different parts of the world, there were more differences than we could count. Time differences. Availability differences. Living situation differences. Let me state this clearly: It was not easy. When you live with someone, and I mean happily live with someone, it is difficult to not have them around all the time. It is not a question of being “used to” to them, but a question of simply missing their presence. But at the same time, there were so many advantages to both of us traveling solo for these trips.
To commemorate this, we decided to do a photography project in 8 parts. Why 8 parts? Because here are the 8 things our respective post-marriage solo trips taught us:
Part 1: Before getting married, we both traveled solo. He had traveled to 8 countries, and I had traveled to 19 countries alone. So, we already knew the joy of a solo trip and the advantages of it as well; but once we got married and started traveling together, we loved each other’s company so much that it never occurred to us to travel by ourselves after that (except for work trips, or short family visits).
It is not always socially acceptable in many cultures for spouses to do things by themselves, or even to have a life of their own.
In some cultures, it may not be a big deal but in others, it really is. As a married couple, people do expect us to do things together all the time. It is not always socially acceptable in many cultures for spouses to do things by themselves, or even to have a life of their own. True story! That was our first motivation for this project: to showcase that it is COMPLETELY okay, and should be acceptable, because it is healthy.
Part 2: Just because we both agreed to go on these solo trips did not mean that we needed space, or that we did not miss each other’s company. The first few days, our texts constantly involved phrases like, “You would’ve loved that place”, or “wish you were here.” From both ends. The point is, though, that just because a person is traveling without their partner, doesn’t mean that they should feel obligated to explain themselves to anyone else. We are great together, but we are also two strong and independent individuals who constantly encourage each other to follow their desired paths. Again, what goes on in a marriage should be no one’s business. And should the couple choose to have identities and interests separate from each other, that should be considered totally normal.
Part 3: We both have similar interests, but separate interests as well. These solo trips were a chance to reconnect with ourselves, and the solo traveler within us. Even though we constantly support and celebrate each other’s individuality while respecting it too, some things, such as solo traveling is simply practical. It showed us how we were able to support each other even when not in each others’ physical presence.
Part 4: Hong Kong and Austria are very different places in different parts of the world, so when we reunited, the travel stories were endless. He kept going on about all the things I would appreciate in terms of culture in Hong Kong, and I kept going on about how he would fall in love with the Alps in Innsbruck. Even as travelers, our knowledge of these countries increased, which we were then able to share with each other. Usually when you travel together, you still talk about it the place you’re at, but since you two are there together, a lot goes unsaid because you are experiencing it right there with your other half. We saw our catch-up sessions as story-time conversations.
Part 5: Making global friends. You meet more people, and get to know their stories even more. When we travel together, yes, we still meet new and interesting people, but we are also focused heavily on each other, and just having a good time with one other. But, when you are by yourself, you notice other people more, and make new friends. I remember making many friends across the globe as I traveled solo in Japan, Turkey, China, etc. I am still in touch with them, and it is a wonderful friendship I was able to build in a new country.
Part 6: Personal growth is another advantage that comes out of solo travel. As every place has different rules, and you aren’t always familiar with them, these experiences teach you how to deal with different places, people, and situations which adds to your confidence, and travel value too. When we travel together, we have assigned roles. He takes care of some things, and I take care of the other things. But when you are alone, you can only count on yourself, which teaches you a ton. You end up discovering new parts of your personality which may surprise you, because we don’t always know how we will react in certain situations, until we face them.
Part 7: You do things for you. Solo trips are all about you, and you plan your agenda solely for yourself. When we are planning a trip, me and him, we have a rule that he picks one location, and I pick the next country. When we plan on a country, we look at “things to do” according to both of our interests, which is super fun, and we get to experience way more, but on solo trips, you get a chance to do whatever you want which is wonderful as well. It teaches you that sometimes, it’s okay to look out for your interests, because that way, you won’t ever lose yourself in your relationship.
Part 8: With such solo trips, or time apart from your partner, even if you don’t discuss it, you really feel how great of a relationship you two have built, because without any trouble, intense discussions or compromises, you are able to take this solo trip with 100% support from the person you are meant to spend the rest of your life with. It reinforces how healthy the relationship you share truly is. Also, you see how secure you are about everything, and can truly be happy for him while he does the same for you.
My marriage is between me and husband, and not between us and society…
I leave you with this: I shared these images on an all-women travel group on Facebook, and it got over 18,000 likes with thousands of comments from women who loved the project, and also shared their experiences regarding their desire to travel solo being questioned by many people around them. They spoke of the sense of judgement they felt, and how discouraging that was.
My marriage is between me and husband, and not between us and society, so we decided a long time ago that our life, our decisions were going to be made only because we were comfortable with the decision at hand. Both of us truly respect each other, which is why we are able to discuss everything, talk about anything, and that makes us do things which many might not do due to cultural stigmas. And to be honest, we are all the better for it.