For some, being married means having an automatic travel companion. For me, that's not entirely the case. This year marks 15 years of my relationship, which began back when my partner and I were in high school. Even as a young teen I bounced around the world without him, and I came to realize that solo travel while being in a relationship is my preferred way to see the world.
By the time I met my partner, I had already traveled alone several times. My mom said I was an intrepid teenager, ingraining a love of travel in me at a young age so I could pursue the kind of adventures she missed out on by marrying in her early 20s. From backpacking in Canada to living in a remote part of Argentina, traveling became a major part of my identity — so much so that I pursued travel journalism as a career.
Traveling alone is a unique kind of freedom. There’s no hoping a companion will agree with what you want to do, getting disappointed when they don’t, or worst of all, delaying a trip indefinitely until you find someone who's able to and wants to tag along.
When I was backpacking through Europe and strangers turned into fast friends at a hostel in Florence, I didn't have to check in with anyone in order to continue on with them to Rome. I traded in my original plan to head to Venice for an unexpected adventure, and wouldn't imagine doing it any other way.
I wouldn’t be who I am if it weren’t for travel, and contrasting that with the “wife” title I adopted when I got married has been a struggle. Being a wife isn’t high on the list of ways I would choose to describe myself. While it's true that I’m married, who I am is so much more than that. Traveling is such an integral part of my life, but even that isn’t fully sufficient to define me, just like my relationship.
Of course I continue to enjoy trips with my partner who works a salaried job and simply cannot share a schedule with his travel journalist wife. I treasure adventures with my family, rare though they may be, and I always look forward to group travel, including trips dedicated solely to women. I'm a firm believer that people can and should travel in whatever configuration they prefer, but no one has the right to criticize a solo traveler for wanting to be on their own.
Being alone forces me to socialize and see the world in a way that being partnered cannot. I love the feeling of solving a problem by myself. I love taking care of myself knowing that no one is going to come in and solve my problems for me. In my everyday life, I’m constantly confronted with adult decisions, and traveling alone helps me relearn and gain the skills I need to tackle them.
Solo travel has not only improved the way I see myself; it has also added to the many ways my marriage has benefited from my adventures. After 15 years together, I cherish the memories I’m able to make on my own, and I always have something new and exciting to talk about with my partner. When I return from a trip, what I've learned about myself while traveling makes me a better partner.
This type of travel may not be for everybody, but it’s how I prefer to see the world, and no relationship can change that. Whether I’m on the couch or reverse canyoneering Amazonian waterfalls, my identity includes so much more than a “wife,” and traveling alone is the best reminder of that.