We live in a day in age, where many people have many opinions. Truthfully, I am one of those people. While having many of my own opinions, I try my best to take the time to understand someone’s point of view, even when it may differ from my own. However, sometimes this is easier said than done. Especially when you feel that people’s opinions put you in a situation where you feel you need to justify a decision you have made around something you love.
Today, young people are encouraged to travel – to see the world beyond the four walls of their apartment and work cubicle. You often hear phrases like “Travel now while you’re still young”, “I wish I traveled more when I was your age”, “Travel before you have kids”, “Travelling provides you with great experience and perspective”.
You are encouraged to travel, until you are female and engaged. Or at least, this has been my experience.
All of a sudden, solo-travel becomes a justification process of why you are travelling on your own when you are engaged. You begin being questioned around why your partner isn’t coming with you, who you are going with, where you are going, whether the money would be better spent on a wedding and what you will do when you have children. I have heard how it is “so sad” my fiancée couldn’t come with me on a trip and how I should be saving for a house instead.
I have come to discover, that most times I mention my travels, someone, somewhere has something to say about it. This has seemed to increase since becoming engaged. The first statement is usually similar to, “Oh, I see you’re engaged, is your fiancée coming?”, “No, I try to travel on my own regularly – It challenges me and I learn a lot about myself”.
One of two responses then come. Response number one,”Oh, that’s too bad”. This is a very confusing and frustrating response for me to hear. What’s too bad? Did I sound upset when I said it? Did I say it was too bad? Why are my travels all of a sudden “too bad” now that my partner cannot come? This response makes me feel as though once engaged, my ability to enjoy traveling on my own becomes eliminated.
I then feel obligated to explain that my partner and I do travel together as well, but that I travel alone to have a different experience and to spend time with myself, which many of us are scared to do. I travel alone; to be independent, to put myself in situations where I need to rely on my own strengths, intelligence and bravery, to increase my self esteem, to put myself in situations where I do not know anyone which forces me to meet new people, to not always have a plan and know what each day will bring.
I travel on my own, because I want to.
Sometimes, I get response number two,”Oh, that’s great – that’s important”. This response is heard a great deal less than the first. One would hope that we would be past the whole idea that once you become someones wife that it then becomes your identity. However, there is a large amount of judgement still placed on strong-willed women who stay true to their own sense of identity in a relationship.
I also struggle with the idea of needing to “travel before you have children”. Why do we still think in boxes? Why could I not go camping with my child one day or go solo-traveling while sharing the responsibility of caring for our child with my partner who then could get a weeks break to herself when I come back? Why couldn’t we do family trips? Sure, traveling may look different once I am a parent (or maybe not), but why does it seem like a concept which others judge or discourage? I know lots of parents who travel both with and without their children, and they are amazing at balancing both parts of their lives! I grew up with a parent who solo-traveled multiple times a year, and the world went on and I survived. In fact, I hope that I one day inspire my children to explore the world around them, to think outside the box and experience life for everything it is beyond TVs or video games.
These questions follow me on my travels as well. I hope with time that I get better as addressing them both before, during and after my travels.
I believe it is important for women to travel, and to break the stereotypes that we are fragile and incapable of solo-adventure. I believe it is important for women to continue to do what they are passionate about, no matter who they are in a relationship with, how long they have been in a relationship or whether or not they are engaged or married. Women need to hold onto their identities as this is what makes them unique.
As for my partner, she supports my solo-travels. She always has an itinerary, emergency numbers and always drops me off and picks me up at the airport. She is the one who supports me in buying a ticket I have been thinking about for weeks. She is the one who pushes me to follow my dreams when everyone else’s opinions make me doubt my passion to travel. She buys me maps and travel books and tells me she never expects me to stop traveling, or being who I am. She never tries to put boxes around me, or limit my dreams. Whether she is on the plane with me, or not – she supports me. And that is not for anyone else to judge. Would I like for my partner and I to be able to travel more as a couple? Absolutely. However, even if we could go on multiple trips together, I would still travel on my own.
Because there is a whole world out there. And I am extremely capable of exploring it, with or without a ring on my finger.