What is it Really Like to Travel Solo if You’re Married?

I’m really lucky to have the most supportive husband in the world.  Really.

Mike is incredibly understanding of my travel addiction and, for the most part, lets me go wherever I want, whenever I want.  Sure, he makes me pay for it myself and sure, there are a few exceptions, but he’s flexible and encouraging of my interests.  About half of my travel is completely solo and that’s not even including the trips I take with family or friends, but not him.  It’s a sacrifice on his part to let me go, and one I appreciate every trip I take.  (Sorry ladies — he’s taken).

chinese knot bracelets
We renewed our wedding vows on the Great Wall of China and got these Chinese knot bracelets to symbolize good luck in our future together.

Solo travel is challenging regardless of your relationship status, but leaving a spouse at home comes with yet an additional set of trade-offs.  There’s someone else at home to think about and that means taking their needs into account as well when you jet off.  Ultimately, that’s a good thing (at least for me), but one worth considering before you click “buy now” on that nonrefundable adventure of a lifetime.

So what is it really like to travel solo when you’re married?  Well here’s what it’s like in my relationship.

It’s Geographically Limiting

Solo travel is freeing because you only have to fit your itinerary to what you want to do, but traveling without your partner means thinking of their needs, too.  I wouldn’t dare go to Vietnam or Vegas — two places Mike would love to go — without him in fear that he’d hold it against me.  It’s only fair not to rub those trips in his face, since traveling without him is already a little unfair.

And then there are other places — like New Zealand and Mendoza — that I know would be 1000 times better if I had him with me.  I know I’d enjoy both destinations no matter what, but a lot of the experiences I imagine there are coincide with things we enjoy doing together.  I want to share those places with him and I look forward to those trips together.

Sometimes There’s Guilt

Ironically, I never feel bad when Mike pursues his hobbies without me, even if it means he’s gone to Alaska twice without me.  Still, there are parts of travel where I feel guilty for doing things without my husband.

Take Panama City: it’s exactly his type of city.  Western enough to have the comforts of home and different enough to be interesting.  There’s enough people-watching to last a lifetime, great nightlife, a melting pot of cultures, and a cityscape to die for.  I rounded so many corners that reminded me of Mike, but instead it was only me.  To make things worse, I knew he was home shoveling cars out during a crazy winter blizzard while I was soaking up the sun.

panama canal / things to do in panama city layover
Solo at the Panama Canal.

Guilt?  Yup.

It Can Be a Relief

I love Mike and he knows that.  But my goodness…we live in a 600 square foot apartment with enough stuff to fill a mansion.  There’s barely room for both of us at the same time.  If I zig while he zags, boxes topple over.  And if one of us had a bad day and is already short-tempered?  It’s a recipe to get on each other’s nerves since there’s no privacy or place to retreat.

Honestly, it’s not so bad when one of us travels.  When he leaves, I get to watch Chicago Fire in peace.  When I leave, he can turn the whole place into a workshop for his latest, greatest invention without having to clean up on a daily basis.

There’s a limit to how often this is a relief and too much time apart is really, really hard, but yeah — there’s an upside to doing your own thing, too.

There are Moments of Self-Consciousness

Nine times out of ten, I don’t even notice I’m traveling solo.  In fact, being solo often means I am more apt to talk to other people while I’m out instead of staying comfortably in conversation with Mike or other pre-arranged travel companions.

But since I’m solo and not single, there are a few circumstances I’m not conditioned to doing on my own.  I recently skipped out on an upscale (but bargain!) restaurant with an eight-course tasting menu because it just seemed too different from what I’m accustomed to.  I wasn’t embarrassed, but in my head, I associate that type of experience as a date and an excuse to spend time together.

And, depending exactly on the scene, there are sometimes when heading out to bars on my own feels weird.  Considering that these can be venues for music and other events, sometimes that means I miss out while traveling, but I definitely don’t want to find myself in unsafe situations and I don’t want to end up awkwardly in conversation with someone who doesn’t realize I’m in a relationship.  I don’t forego these opportunities altogether, but I do think twice before deciding whether or not to go.

It’s a Balance

I can’t travel solo all the time.  My long trips (first to Guatemala and Mexico, then to Nepal and Laos) got lonely and I’m lucky that Mike and I are both strong, independent, and stubborn enough to make things work.  But it’s hard to keep up with only phones and video chats, something anyone in a long-distance relationship will confirm.

Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek Nepal-2-01
Made it to the top of a Himalayan mountain while trekking in Nepal without Mike.

For a week or so, solo travel for me isn’t a problem.  Two weeks, it can get inconvenient.  Beyond that?  I doubt I’ll try again.  These days, I try to overlap my travels when he has plans of his own if that’s logistically possible.  When that doesn’t work out, I keep things on the shorter side.

On the bright side, when we do reunite, it’s that disgustingly cute puppy love (and I adore it!).

I Won’t Give it Up

I’m not saying the way I travel — solo, together, or otherwise — is right.  But these are the realities of my solo travel experience and things to think about if you’re also in a committed relationship and considering solo travel.

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Share your thoughts!

Do you travel solo?  What are the biggest challenges for you, whether you’re married or not?

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What is it like to travel solo if you're married? Solo female travel is challenging and empowering -- learn what it's really like to travel while your partner is at home.
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24 thoughts on “What is it Really Like to Travel Solo if You’re Married?”

  1. Great post, Becky! I also travel solo from time to time , and I’m also married. I agree, sometimes there is guilt involved but oftentimes, it works as a way to balance ‘me’ time and ‘us’ time. We both love travelling together but being away from each other sometimes is probably the reason why we’ve been married for 10 years now haha!

    1. @Jean, Sounds like you figured out the right balance for you! Happy travels (solo or not!) and best wishes for the next 10 years and beyond.

  2. Hi Becky!

    Great post with some nice photos!

    It must be very difficult to travel solo when you are married. Glad to hear that you have mutual understanding about that, and it is working for you, which I am sure will not be the case for many. Best of luck for you around the world!

    If you have not visited Bangladesh yet, you can give that a though, which is an amazing country no one know about.

    Regards from Bangladesh! 🙂

    1. @Raw, Thanks for chiming in and you’re right: it’s not this easy for many people. I would love to visit Bangladesh and look forward to learning more about it!

  3. Hi Becky,
    I love your blog and this is a very timely topic as I am getting ready to embark on a 6 week solo journey…our longest separation yet.
    I like you have a husband who is amazingly supportive and knows that travel is my passion and not his. He also feels like since we are now just recent empty nesters that I have earned some ‘me’ time after raising four children.
    The fact that he has a big role in a Silicon Valley start up company that keeps him engaged 13 plus hours a day helps me feel less guilty. He has something he is passionate about too. That being said it is hard when there are romantic couples around. The funny thing is I absolutely know what feels ‘right’ and what doesn’t. Like you I would never dream of going to Hawaii without him because that’s his favorite place. I am leaving for Indonesia and he has absolutely no desire to trek in the jungle and see orangutans the way I do. So…it is working for now! I figure when it doesn’t I will know it and make a change. I did give him a heads up though that my five year plan is for a year around the world…hopefully he’ll be on board by then!
    Thanks again for all the support!
    Lisa

    1. @Lisa – Six weeks, wow! Hope you have some wonderful plans in place (obviously orangutans sounds like a great start). Enjoy your trial run on this trip…I’m sure you’ll line up more trips when you return 🙂

      1. Hi Becky,
        Absolutely…I already have two months booked in Southeast Asia for the fall and am hoping to find an adventurous friend to go to India with me in the spring. I have read that’s not such a good destination for a female solo traveler. Do you disagree? You’re the perfect person to ask!
        🙂

  4. @Lisa – How funny you mention India since it’s one of the few places I also wouldn’t like to go solo (https://sightdoing.net/places-i-am-afraid-of-visiting/). I know people who have gone and they didn’t have problems per se, but were annoyed by frequent harassment and never got the mental rest they needed at the end of the day because their guard was up. If you mean solo but with a guide/group, I think it would be different. At the end of the day, it’s all based on where your comfort level lies!

  5. I agree with all of your sentiments! I am very blessed to have a supportive and adventurous husband, but sometimes it’s nice to do my own thing. I get to go places like Ghana or Russia where he wouldn’t necessarily want to go.
    Thanks for the insight!

    1. @The Wayfaring Woman, What a wonderful husband it sounds like you have! Mine would feel the same way about Ghana and Russia, and it’s great to hear you’ve had some chances to get out and explore.

  6. Hi there Becky,

    This is such an interesting discussion! I’ve been married a little under a year but have been with my husband for over 9 years. A lot of people seem to think when you get married, your independence is essentially over. I find it really inspiring and important to feel confidence in a marriage that CAN be flexible and doesn’t equate to staring at each other in silence over dinner every night just because you feel compelled to be under the same roof at all times. Do you meet many other married & solo travelers when you are out and about?

    1. @Crystal, Thanks for chiming in and sharing your own experience. I meet very few married but solo female travelers and when I do, they tend to be a generation older than me (I’m 30). I hope that starts to change because for many women, it’s a great option 🙂

  7. I’m a married, solo traveler too! My husband and I have been married for 7 years and I’ve probably traveled to about 30 countries indepdently during that time. He travels for work and I only have vacation time during school holidays so when it gels for us to travel together then we do. Otherwise, we respect each others’ passions and support each other. I will admit that 5 weeks was about my limit of being away and I wouldn’t choose that length of time again; however, I regularly am gone on trips from 10 days to a month long. I do find my travel experience is somewhat different from other travelers as I’m married and have less interest in some activities than my peers. That’s also because I’m in my 30s too and have less of an interest in going out or staying in hostels.

    Currently, we’re traveling together and are heading to Antarctica in 3 days!!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  8. I completely agree that the act of travel can be very cathartic, especially when your world at home is so seemingly small. It’s wonderful that your husband is so supportive- not many men would be!

  9. I love to travel but admit, aside from work, I haven’t done any solo traveling. I do love having big hotel beds to myself.

  10. I love traveling but doing it alone terrifies me! I would be so worried about getting lost or stuck in an emergency without any familiar faces around. It looks and sounds amazing though. I think it would definitely be something I would consider when my daughter is older. For now, I could never go anywhere without her!

    1. @Jessica, you’re right…there are a few scary possibilities but mostly those can be avoided. I don’t have a daughter, but it sounds like you have a built-in travel companion whenever you want 🙂

  11. I’m really amaze for those solo traveler, you are so amazing. I’ve never tried to travel solo but I think it’s fun.

  12. Hi Becky; I am a happily married man in my mid-50’s who recently went on a
    8-day solo hiking trip to Colorado. Normally, my wife and I travel EVERYWHERE together. But because she had taken so much time off work because her father passed away earlier this year, she couldn’t join me even though I begged her to come with me.
    While I did enjoy the liberation of setting my own schedule and doing what I wanted to do, I was very lonely and missed her companionship dearly. I know she would have loved every minute of my Colorado trip. I missed sharing these wonderful moments with her. I day hiked every day for 8 days. I averaged 9 miles a day. I loved that. I find that hiking in nature really relaxes me. Hiking is so good for people on so many levels…..physically, spiritually, mentally. She would have appreciated every second of it. But I was pretty lonely and found myself striking up conversations with strangers. I felt a little bit like an outcast. So on the whole, I’d rather have her with me than not. Even though we don’t always agree on stuff or if I have to wait around for her while she’s getting ready in the morning. We are planning a big trip together in the fall to Spain so it will seems like old times together. Thank you for your blog. I think it’s really great.

    1. @Jim, Good for you for giving it a shot and it’s definitely okay to want your wife there as a travel companion! Now you know how you prefer to travel and I’m sure Spain will be a great trip. Enjoy!

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