Reflections, Solo Travel
Comments 46

What It’s Like to Travel Solo When You’re in a Relationship. 

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About this post: It is a common assumption that female solo travel is only for single women. That female solo travellers go it alone for lack of company, not because they want to. So I decided to pen this solo travel blog post, on what solo travel for women is like when you’re in a relationship, and why you should travel solo despite your relationship status.

Update 2018: After 7 years of travelling the world – 5 of those without a home or permanent address – I’ve written a book about my journey! “The Shooting Star” charts my journey from the cubicle to the road and from small-town India to remote corners of the globe. Published by Penguin, the book is now available on Amazon and Flipkart.

I began thinking of this post while strolling by myself along the brightly coloured colonial houses in Havana, the vibrant capital city of Cuba. Over the last two blissful months in Guatemala, my partner and I spent most of our time together – chatting, drinking beer, hiking, occasionally working, cooking, reading, doing nothing. Then life demanded we go our separate ways for a while, so after crossing the border to Mexico, we boarded flights to different corners of the globe… and I landed in Cuba, a country whose culture and revolutionary history has intrigued me for many years.

When people read about my solo adventures, they often mistakenly assume that I travel alone because I don’t have a “special someone” in my life. That I’m single (I’m not), unmarried (I am), looking for love (I’m not).

And others often lament that their own relationships are a strong reason (excuse?) for not travelling solo. It’s almost inconceivable that we could choose to travel to a destination all by ourselves, without the presence of our significant other.

Also read: How I Conquer My Solo Travel Fears

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The picturesque streets of Havana, Cuba.

So I decided to pen this post – an honest reflection on what it’s like to travel solo when you’re in a relationship – hoping to offer compelling reasons to go it alone despite your relationship status, yet being brutally honest about what it entails:

At first, it sucks

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Figuring out life by myself… but growing to love it. (Cocodrilo, Cuba)

I won’t lie to you: the first few days are the hardest. You’re trying to figure out life by yourself, while at the same time, probably trying to figure out the new place you’re in. When you notice an oddity or feel the rush of excitement surging through your body, there is no familiar person to share that feeling with.

Take me for instance: So much happened even before I got into Havana – the flight captain announced that the weather condition over Havana wasn’t suitable so we might have to take a detour and land on the coast to refuel; while in the immigration queue, the electricity conked off (hello Cuba!); they took away my humble Indian passport for further inspection at immigration (that’s another story!).

And I couldn’t share those moments – of confusion and thrill and curiosity – with the one person I had shared many memorable moments in the last 2 months. I couldn’t share the surreal feeling of driving into Havana with Che Guevara murals staring defiantly back at me, or landing on a forgotten island where Fidel Castro was once sent to prison.

But time fixes that feeling of longing, and dispels the “why am I doing this to myself” thoughts. Time not only fixes it, but let’s you grow to love that you’re doing this by yourself.

Also read: What Solo Travel Has Taught Me About the World – And Myself

You end up talking to more people, even as an introvert

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My host family on the countryside of Cuba.

Or should I say, more people end up talking to you? I guess in a way, it helps that solo travellers still stand out like an oddity in most parts of the world.

In Guatemala for instance, I’ve travelled both alone and with my partner. Although people are typically friendly, I ended up having many more conversations with locals while alone. Together, we often attempt to chat with people, but also end up receding into our own little world. And when people see you already have someone to talk to, they are not as likely to approach you or indulge in a deep conversation.

And needless to say, the more locals we talk to and hang out with on our travels, the more adventures we’re likely to get ourselves into.

Also read: Lessons on the Art of Living in Sri Lanka’s Hill Country

The anonymity can be rewarding

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Sleeping on the roof of a Mauritian home!

Imagine if you could wake up one morning and transform yourself into whoever you want to be. No one around you knows your past, or how you normally dress, or where you belong. Travelling alone, despite being in a relationship with someone who knows you inside out, is a lot like that.

Often on my solo travels, I find myself in a world where no one knows a thing about my personality or fears. I can challenge myself, surprise myself and experiment with myself, if I choose to. At times like these, I’ve ended up hitch-hiking in the Indian Himalayas, hiking solo in the Ecuadorean Andes and sleeping on the roof of a Mauritian home.

Also read: Practical Ways I’ve Learnt to Stay Safe While Travelling Alone

You start valuing your partner more

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Hanging out together in Slovenia.

I think it’s only human to take someone you spend a lot of time with, for granted. You don’t hold back getting mad at someone you’re always with, or failing to acknowledge how important they are in your life. I know many relationships that have deteriorated over time that way. (And no, having a kid is never the solution, I think 😉)

But when you spend time apart, on your own, introspecting about your relationship and what makes the other person special to you, you are bound to gain perspective. You are likely to value, far more, the time you spend with your partner.

Besides, the road is a great teacher. And among other things, it keeps teaching me that life is too short and unpredictable to spend some of it fighting with someone you love.

Also read: Six Alternatives to Travelling Alone

You notice your weaknesses but gain some emotional independence in the process

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Plenty of perspective when you travel solo. (Northern Thailand)

Not reliant on my partner, or anyone else, when I travel alone, I’ve learnt so many surprising things about myself. Especially the things I don’t do so well. Like figuring out maps and directions, handling stressful situations without being able to control my tears, finding myself unexpectedly without connectivity and dealing with particularly bad travel days.

Learning to identify, accept and work through my weaknesses (although there’s no figuring out directions for me, I’ve realised) has helped me gain some amount of emotional independence. How? By no longer feeling overwhelmed by the things that I expect to feel overwhelmed by or rely on someone else to handle.

Also read: Meet the First Solo Female Traveller From the Maldives!

There are times when you inevitably crave company

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The weird one who wants to revel in her own company sometimes. (Kerala)

As much as I try to stay optimistic about my solo travels, there are days when I inevitably curse myself and my choices. Bad days, triumphant days, days when I’m unable to have a good chat with my partner, days when I realise the geographical distance between us, days when there is no one to challenge me to be more daring, days when I feel selfish about having humbling experiences all by myself… those days make me wonder why I’m choosing to live the way I do. Why I’m that weird person who wants to revel in her own company, who wants to travel alone halfway around the world and live among strangers.

These feelings surface every once in a while, leaving me conflicted. Yet I can’t quite explain why I still continue to push myself to travel solo…

Also read: Solo Travel Moments That Left Me Scared Shitless

Solo travel can change you in unexpected ways

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Learning about life from my solo travels. (Bavaria, Germany)

Travelling alone, especially for a long period of time, has certainly helped me gain confidence in myself, build my self-esteem and value my independence – especially as a young, unmarried girl from small town India.

In addition to expanding my comfort zone in unexpected ways, it has taught me a lot about my relationship too. That we can support each other’s dreams without sacrificing our own. That we can resolve any challenges as mature adults. That honesty is greater than any public certificate of commitment.

That I can be emotionally sufficient and dependent at the same time. That I can chase my dreams without guilt, and yet have a shoulder to cry on if I crash along the way.

Also read: Meet the Courageous Indian Women Travelling the World Solo – on a Wheelchair!

The going is easier when you have someone to trust on the other end

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Someone to trust on the other end. (Caucasus Mountains, Georgia)

There are so many fears, hopes, expectations and disappointments on the road that I just can’t explain it to my family or friends. But having experienced some of them together, I can trust that there is someone I can call who will understand what I’m going through. That when I find myself disappointed or overwhelmed by a place, I will only hear words of encouragement, not worry or panic. That when I want to shorten a trip or walk away from an adventure because I just can’t convince myself to go through with it, I will only hear words of support, not judgement.

Also read: Easy Ways to Take Awesome Photos of Yourself When You Travel Solo

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Sunset in Havana <3

I watched my last sunset in Havana sitting alone on the Malecon, with the cool sea breeze in my hair and besame mucho (written by Mexican songwriter Consuelo Velázquez) playing on repeat in my head, reading a book written by Che Guevara’s wife. As the brilliant orange sun dipped into the ocean and I reflected on the last two weeks spent alone in Cuba, I desperately searched for words to describe how exactly it feels.

Luckily, these beautiful words penned by Che came to my rescue:

“Farewell, my only one
Do not tremble before the hungry wolves
Nor in the cold steppes of absence
I take you with me in my heart
And we will continue together until the road vanishes…”

Would you consider travelling solo while in a relationship? What are your hopes and fears?

Join me on InstagramTwitter and Facebook for solo travel experiences around the world.

46 Comments

  1. Hi Shivya, I am married and I travel solo and I love it. Travel is my priority and not for my husband and we respect that. But I put a cap on my travel to 15 days of my own volition. I totally agree that we can support each other’s dreams without sacrificing our own. Beautiful post as always, Shivya! Very inspiring!

  2. Lovely post as usual, Shivya – can relate with so many of those things! I am super curious about this mysterious partner you talk about on and off – must write about this person some day 😉

  3. I am married. And I do travel solo. Despite having a husband who enjoys traveling much as I do ( perhaps more). It is different….and no amount of reading or thinking about it would have prepared me for the solo trips… As much as I love traveling with my husband, traveling solo is something I yearn to do as often as I can.

  4. You’re an inspiration to me. Such profound thoughts you’ve penned here. Would love to attend if you conduct any bloggers’ workshop someday. 🙂

  5. Anupama chib says

    Hi Shivya, I am married and have a daughter , I do travel alone a lot, without feeling an iota of guilt. This time is never going to come back, so I have to follow my dreams. I don’t even doubt that it’s something I should not do because I have a family. We are individuals with our own dreams, so we live our lives and then share our experiences when we are together.

  6. OMG Shivya, there’s much you say that resonates. I’m 67 and I just spent nearly 7 weeks in Japan and China without my husband of 20 years! It was challenging to say the least, especially since we were only a year out from nearly 6 years of nomadic travel, together every day. And I’d not travelled solo since I was your age. Plus I was still recovering from a hip replacement. Yeah, challenging, so I get your down days and tears, and also that it’s worth it in every way. Just because your significant other can’t go doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
    I would like to do more solo travel now that I don’t have to worry about my hip so much (I learned just how strong I am) and now that I know I’ll survive missing Don.
    Alison

  7. Although there were hints earlier, I didn’t know that.

    Glad to read this one !!!

    As always, brilliant write up with major life-goals.

    Gratitude 🤗

  8. Shivani Mani says

    Hey Shivya…I was just wondering bout this facet of your life just 2 days back and here I find the answer blogged down by you. Glad to know this side of you 😊
    I used to travel solo before I got married and I absolutely relate to what traveling solo means to you. However, now with my partner, I continue to travel as much. I feel really glad that he enjoys travelling as much! Given a choice I’d still choose to travel with him as he doubles my adventures always 😄

  9. I am married, have twin toddlers and still travel alone whenever possible. Without any guilt, mostly. Gives me some space for myself and keeps me grounded everytime I come back from solo travel.

  10. Kartik says

    Shivya, how do you deal with the first point ? That longing to talk to your partner and tell them about the most happening things of your day when you are traveling solo, given that as you said there might be days you two might not make out time for a call ?

  11. Shivya, as always I love your posts and opinions about travelling solo as a woman. Since being a single again for 8 years, I so very much enjoy travelling by myself. I went to so many countries within the last 8 years, India was my greatest solo travelling experience and don’t even feel a bit of being lonely or desperate at all. Yet I agree that at times it would wonderful to have a partner next to me, to share the beauty I experience. Since I am a professional photographer, my camera has become my partner, where I capture feelings and moments to document what I see. I have been a rather quiet person, but through out my solo travels I have conversations and connections with people which I wouldn’t have had before. The socializing as a solo traveler becomes like second nature, there is always a choice I have to talk to others or not if I just want to enjoy the moment of the beauty by myself. Well nothing is perfect, you pick your choices and go with that. Thank you Shivya and happy travels to you.

  12. I travel independently some, and you’re right, I’m usually less introverted. However, the best of both worlds for me is when I travel travel with my husband, but it’s a work trip for him, so I make all my own plans/decisions for the times when he is otherwise occupied. I’ve been married to my husband for 36 years. We have enjoyed good times together and apart, but I value most that we have been able to be each other’s “port in the storm” throughout the years of our relationship. The key is to stay connected which might mean that you offer to stay when you sense that he actually needs you to do that. Conversely, he should sense when you need to recharge by going. Of course, having children makes the stay/go equation even more complex, but that’s a whole other blog post. 😊

  13. Meera says

    I do travel without my husband or children, but never solo (yet). Always with a friend or two. THAT is the barrier I want to break someday.

  14. Love the post. Yes travelling alone despite being married or in a relation is a different experience. Happy Travels Shivya..

  15. Hi there,
    I truly believe travelling solo gets you connected with yourself and am sure that self awareness and how it makes you independent and confident as a person, reflects in your relationship.

  16. This was so lovely to read and give me a lot of hope for the future. I love travelling solo and agree, even as an introvert, you make friends much more easily when alone. I don’t have a partner but I hope that when I do, we will be comfortable enough together to travel independently

    Jenny | localleo.co.uk

  17. Absolutely to all of this. I have spent months away from my partner and I think it has made me a better person, and us a better pair. I honestly think stints of long distance aren’t relationship breakers, they only expedite a process that would have happened. I appreciate this honest post because even though traveling sans partner can be so rewarding it isn’t easy all the time; but also, we’re not weird for doing it! Thanks for another thoughtful post.

  18. Loved this post Shivya! I also shared it with my partner since surprisingly we were just talking about doing solo travels each, after our family trip to Scotland. It is a different joy traveling with your family but I feel that becomes more of a vacation than travel if your child is small and cannot appreciate sights and culture. Since both of us love traveling in the sense that we like to appreciate another place , it’s food and people, we agreed to plan solo travels and a family vacation trip now onwards. Your post came in at the right time for some added inspiration!😊

  19. It depends on the purpose of travel. If you are traveling with a partner or a loved one, there are certain limitations. Traveling solo can be more fun and no limitations. Though I’m married with children I prefer to go solo to achieve my set goals. Traveling with family is for family.

  20. Manita says

    quitting ur job and leaving everything behind just for solo travel, felt surreal, U r huge inspiration for everyone, Thank you for sharing ur stories. Love reading ur advanterous journey.

  21. Solo travelling is a great experience. One must go for such a trip in the life time to learn some exceptional experiences.

  22. Such a beautiful post. I hope, I can go it solo, very soon. Here’s to many more adventures on the road 🙂

  23. I so so so love this article Shivya! You’ve spoken literally my mind in much better words. THIS is exactly why and how I’d want it. I wish people (significant ones around me) understood!

  24. Really this is hard to travel solo when you are in relationship but when you travel you meet some people who make your trip delightful. I had lots of solo trip and guess what i always found company. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  25. nadyasiapin says

    This is beautiful! I don’t know if I would, as I’ve never had a partner or significant other while travelling, but I would hope we’d be confident enough in each other to do so occasionally.

  26. Solo travelling is good but some time it gets boring if we are not know about the place perfectly. Because if we want to enjoy alone a place we have to collect all the information about that place.

  27. I’m married and traveling solo currently. I was reluctant at first for various reasons. But, this ended up being the best decision for “me” and something that I’ve wanted for much of my life. So, the timing didn’t work out when I was single, but it did work out when I was married. I could relate to everything you said about your emotions. Yet, at the end of the day, boy, I’ve come so far in very little time just because of my international travel experiences!

    • Shivya Nath says

      That’s inspiring! I guess we’re conditioned to be so dependent on our relationships that we forget all about personal growth – which is almost inevitable when we go solo. Glad to hear it’s working out for you and you could relate to how it makes me feel.

  28. Shivya your post was inspiring. I ended up traveling alone for a couple of months last year. My partner and I were staying on Antigua when we had a major row. We decided to continue our journey in different directions. I went to Europe and he headed to Venezuela. It was very hard at first, not having someone to share my experiences with, but it forced me to talk to people. My partner and I eventually made up, but it was an interesting and rewarding adventure.

  29. Amazing post Shivya! Traveling is dream, but due to some problem, i have to drop my trips of traveling. Your blog is very inspiring, and i going to live my life by own with more adventures and traveling to dreamy countries.

  30. These are pure wise words Shivya. I am a traveler and married too 🙂 , Been in a long distance relationship too post my marriage and totally understand. Your blog has always inspired me.

  31. Hina says

    Amazing post i want to know
    Is misunderstandings occur?

    Koz of lack communication?

  32. Amazing article Shivya. your blog is inspiration for the women’s. Everybody has dream to travel the world and explore the new things but can’t everybody can fulfill this dream.
    You doing very good job. Am viewed many places through your blog. Thanks such an amazing article.

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