In my twenties, I took day trips to the beach, the surrounding countryside, and other nearby cities; alone. My companion was my camera – the perfect tour guide, entree into friendly chats with locals, and a tool for hiding when I wanted to see but not really be seen.
As I grew older, I started to travel more with friends, and when in a travel pack, the experience and connection with locals and other travelers were different. Although there was safety in numbers, safety was not what I was looking for.
I enjoyed the thrill of charting new territory and making my way through strange streets and customs. I was spontaneous with only my wit, a highly developed intuition, a dash of planning, a map (maybe), and a lot of luck.
Solo Traveling While Partnered
When I got married, my now ex-husband and I were two ex-pats living in Japan. We could travel easily throughout Asia but our vacation schedules did not always align. We agreed to both coupled and solo travel, but other couples didn’t understand our arrangement.
Many felt that it was fine for him to venture off on his own, but not me. Surely, if we had kids, I’d have to bid adieu to my habit. When he traveled, he was returning to his mobile man cave, whereas I was selfishly refusing to be stationary, a fixture awaiting his return. Traveling solo within that relationship allowed me the chance to see the world without the inevitable compromise of his opinion.
I went to temples and galleries and retreats he had zero interest in, I moved at my own pace, meeting people I would not have otherwise encountered. It wasn’t that I longed to be away from him, our friends, or our daily routine, but rather, I longed for that personal inquiry into the world I enjoyed in my youth. Perhaps it was selfish. It was certainly liberating.
Wings Clipped and House Hunters International
Since returning to the States, my travel jaunts have been fewer and farther in between. My daughter and I have the safety net of family, but the need to have space hasn’t really pressed upon me in the same way. Oddly enough, I feel like I have less privacy here – not in our home necessarily, but certainly in this culture. Folks want to know – everything! So the need for distance had become centered on creating firm conversational boundaries, doing more meditation, wearing my headphones with no playing music, just to signal my lack of availability. That last trick doesn’t work – at all.
When the pandemic hit, I was well ok with it. My wings felt clipped for about a week and then I slowly eased into a new kind of exploration where my traveling is mostly mental and ‘spiritual’ than physical and geographic unless you count the drive to the supermarket as a ‘trip’. And those binges on House Hunters International could rack up miles.
Whether the allure of solo traveling offers irresistible career opportunities, fulfills the need for adventure or moments of peace, I am more fulfilled when I return than when I left. I may have expanded my perspective or revisited parts of myself that have been pushed to the back burner if not completely forgotten. I am more alive and vibrant when I have that private time and space. And then there is the beauty in absence. It makes the heart grow fonder. My daughter could be the poster girl for that.