It’s OK to Take a Trip Without Your Significant Other

So, you’re taking a trip without your significant other.

People will say things.

“What does your husband think about you going there all by yourself?”

“Isn’t your boyfriend worried about you?”

“Isn’t it a little weird that you aren’t taking this trip together?”

A few months after my husband and I were married we took separate vacations on our week-long holiday from work. It wasn’t really planned that way, I had a free trip through my company that we could pay for him to join, but he also had a chance to catch up with old friends back in Korea, where we used to live. I was all about a free trip to Malaysia with some of my favorite coworkers and I certainly didn’t begrudge his desire to spend his extra cash on time with friends instead.

There were comments. Suspicious looks. Maybe our new marriage was showing its first signs of impending doom!

But really it was no biggie. We both had a great time and it set a precedence for us; we are independent people and we don’t have to do everything together to have a happy relationship.

Since then (we just celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary) there have been plenty of adventures together but neither of us is afraid to plan a trip that meets our particular interests and goals and invite the other along for the ride, with the option for them to choose to save their vacation days and cash for the next adventure.

When I take the occasional archaeology voluntourism trip, he always opts out, having little desire for staying planted in one place for a week, roughing it, and getting deeply nerdy about the history of an area. On those trips, I am free to connect with others who share my interest and don’t have to spend any time trying to entertain someone who’s not into the theme of the trip, or even worse, missing out on any part of what brought me there in the first place.

It’s ok to plan travel that feeds your soul and then invite the other in- or not. And if they don’t want to go?  Then you are free to connect to the place without filtering it through another through constant attention to how they are feeling and what they are experiencing. You will meet more people and observe more. And, if you spend the whole trip thinking that your significant other would love it and wishing they were there? There’s always the next adventure to plan together.

Photo by Vinh Pham

 

How travel increases your social skills.

How travel increases your social skills.

Picture the stereotype of a bad tourist; loud, obnoxious, asking questions about things that seem obvious to everybody else, and probably dressed a little funny for the setting as well. They are not displaying the best social skills, the ability to pick up on what’s appropriate to their setting and situation and act accordingly.  Take it down to another scale, have you ever gone to a restaurant or bar that catered to a group you didn’t feel you fit in to (think a punk club or a super-ritzy place)? That discomfort comes from not being sure exactly what to say and how to behave.

Navigating a cafe interaction.
Navigating a cafe interaction.

 

Learning how to navigate these fish out of water situations is a learned skill that gets better with experience.  For some of us these experiences can trigger some anxieties and fears, so you may have to go a step to further to dig in to those issues.

So, how can you do this, now, before you even embark on your next out of town adventure?

Observation exercises:

  • The next time you’re eating a meal out spend some time observing how people interact; eye contact, body language. Mentally note what patterns you see and how people react when patterns are deviated (as described in Vemkat’s article).
  • Look at different groups of people where you work and consider the codes in dress and speech that differentiate them (men, women, executives, service staff…)

It’s these exact observation tools that help you adapt to a new culture or setting. When traveling abroad, if I ever begin to feel a bit overwhelmed or like I’m being very conspicuous my best bet is to stop for a minute and just watch everyone. Taking a moment to assess the situation always reveals a good next step to take.

Read this great article on Fluent in Three months for more perspective.

If you’re already living or traveling abroad can you identify an experience you had that should have been simple, but you seemed to have done everything wrong?  Mine would be the time I tried to hug someone goodbye in Thailand (our lovely host on a village stay). Don’t do that. If I had just paid attention to the action of those around me I could have easily avoided that embarrassing situation. I wonder if that guy still looks back on that moment with horror!  Haha.

This article was prompted by an excellent, in depth article on Vemkat’s Ribbonfarm blog that you should read here.

Make new friends now who support your goals.

Make new friends now who support your goals.

One frustration you will discover as you make changes in your life and get excited about goals you are setting is that many of your loved ones will not respond exactly as you would hope.

You can waste a lot of time and energy trying to win people over to your ideas and turn them into the cheerleaders you wish they would be, but that energy is better served cultivating a few new relationships with people who are swimming in the same stream.

I’m certainly not suggesting you ditch your old friends or shut out family members, just manage the relationship as it is, not as you wish it were. This is a big realization when you see it for the first time and you might be amazed by how much those knots in your shoulder loosen when you stop trying to force things and stop seeking validation from people who simply cannot provide it to you at this time.

Use meetup.com or peruse Craigslist for groups meeting locally that share your new interest. Don’t worry about being a newbie, you might run into a condescending jerk from time to time but most people will be excited to talk to someone who’s interested in the same thing as they are. Join online forums about your topic of interest and start asking questions. Look for ways to share what you’ve learned with people who are even newer than you.

Sometimes, it’s not so much that you need to find someone doing what you’re doing, but rather that you just need some exposure to fresh perspectives. If you are part of a rather insular group of friends and family, all echoing the same ideas and beliefs, you can begin to feel that they represent ‘everyone’. I recommend setting up an account on couchsurfing.org. You do not have to let people stay at your home, you can just offer to meet people for coffee when they are passing through town. There will also often be potlucks and other get-togethers. You will meet people doing things with their lives you never even thought of and that can have a really energizing effect when you are exploring your own possibilities.

Couchsurfing pillow fight! This can be you; making new friends and...pummeling them! Credit: Beatrice Murch
Couchsurfing pillow fight! This can be you!
Credit: Beatrice Murch

Let your circle expand outward and get energized by the new, friendly vibes you get back.