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Traveling Solo: How Long is Too Long Without Your Significant Other

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I book plane tickets in my sleep. I think about what it would be like to jump on a train to the airport to grab a ticket for a random flight leaving tonight. I yearn for the feeling of travel.

This is me… impulsive, determined, excited. The idea of simply planning a trip is just one of the little things about travel that make me happy.

brooke and patrickOnly, I’ve mentioned before that my other half is like the exact opposite… which is totally fine and understandable, if not a huge frustration for yours truly. Because of our travel differences, I am either forced to wait for little bits of travel here and there, or I am forced to go it alone. The latter was the outcome when I had my latest idea to travel back to Kyrgyzstan.

Obviously I had to go… right? My friend was going back, it was going to be right before the worst part of winter, I found a really good airfare deal AND the Russian language refresher was going to be a godsend for future travels on the Trans-Mongolian train. How could I NOT go?

So, I hopped on a plane for 5 weeks of solo travel.

And I regretted it at the airport before even leaving.

questacon brooke pat

Brooke and Pat at Questacon in Canberra, Australia.

I know; how dumb. Why should I feel so reliant on the company of one man for happiness? I guess it’s because we have routines and things we like to do together and we have been doing them together for so long that the absence of that company throws my entire life out of whack.

It was hard, and while I don’t really want to do that again, a part of me inside thinks that I might “do what I gotta do” in the future if more exciting travel opportunities come my way. It’s like a curse!

baby mandarin

Me, showing Pat how tiny the baby mandarins are in Bishkek. One of the photos we'd send each other to keep in touch.

I know everyone and every couple is different, but what length of time, do you think, is reasonable for solo travel without a significant other? At what point does the absence of routines not cause your heart to ache in the slightest? And when it doesn’t, is that when you’ve been gone for too long?

Pat and I managed the 5 weeks apart without too much trouble, and we continued to feel as close as possible during that time.

How? Well, we stayed connected.

  • I got a local SIM card and was able to text and accept phone calls regularly.
  • If the Internet at the school was working, we would send each other quick email messages in between classes or lunch breaks.
  • The Internet was never good enough to Skype video chat, but we did send each other photos occasionally to show each other what was going on in our daily lives.

Yes, it was a lot, but it was very helpful. It didn’t hurt that I was at a language school and not moving around constantly. Five weeks of that could have been much more difficult to come back from.

I’m curious, though, as to your thoughts on the subject. Do you travel without your significant other? What is the longest amount of time you’ll allow yourself to be gone? How do you keep close while abroad?

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22 Responses to Traveling Solo: How Long is Too Long Without Your Significant Other

  1. Ali December 22, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

    I set off a few months ago to do a 5 month round the world trip without my husband (GroundedTraveler) and it’s been really hard. It was something I had wanted to do for years, so I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t go, but that didn’t make it any easier. I ended up flying home 2 months into it to see him for 2 weeks before continuing on. Luckily we already planned for him to meet me in New Zealand for Christmas and New Year’s for 2 weeks, and then I’ll be home 6 weeks after that. We email, send DM’s through Twitter, and talk on Skype as often as possible. We’re still just as strong as ever, but I doubt I’ll ever do anything like this again. 2 weeks tops I think is about all I want to be away again, and only if there’s a really good reason for it. I don’t really want to travel by myself anymore now that I have someone to travel with and we have similar travel styles. But I definitely think it’s important to do your own thing sometimes.

    • Brooke December 24, 2011 at 8:36 pm #

      I’m so glad that you guys decided to spend more time together. 5 months is a very long time apart — you’re very brave!

  2. Katie BouΓ© December 22, 2011 at 3:26 pm #

    My first solo trip happened to be while my boyfriend and I were on a not-my-idea ‘break’ – so it was definitely a unique circumstance, but it really brought us together in the end. Traveling solo gave me a breath of fresh independence, and his time spent without me (and incidentally, with another girl) taught him the value of our relationship. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, and after seven weeks of my independent cross-country adventuring, and his explorations of the heart, we both realized how important our relationship was. We’re co-pilots, and as much as I continue to enjoy my time solo while I live in Denver and he continues school in Tallahassee, I know 100% that my future travel plans all include him.

    Thanks for sharing! It’s great to read about other couples dealing with these unusual situations we encounter as perpetual nomads.

    • Brooke December 24, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

      Aw that’s so awesome that the distance helped you both realize what you want! Even better that you’ll be traveling together in the future. Awesome πŸ™‚

  3. Antoinette B. December 22, 2011 at 3:39 pm #

    I travel a lot solo since I only work 13 days/month. My boyfriend of 3 years on the other hand has one of those jobs wherein he doesn’t always get to take too much time off from work. As much as I want him with me, I also can’t allow myself not to go just because he can’t. I’d regret it and I’d probably hate him haha jk! But FaceTime/Skype and emails are all to be had always when I’m away. The hardest thing sometimes is when WiFi cuts off in the middle of the night in the hostel/hotel/guesthouse. It’s very inconvenient and annoying but we always make the most out of it. Next month I’ll be heading over to Australia & New Zealand for about a month, and thats the most I’ll be away from him. We’ll see how this goes…

    • Brooke December 24, 2011 at 8:56 pm #

      You only work 13 days a month? That’s great! Good luck on the upcoming travels down Under! Give me a shout when you’re in Sydney.

  4. Adventurous Kate December 23, 2011 at 2:21 am #

    Brooke, you and I have very similar situations — we each met a guy while traveling and followed him back to his country. And you are SO LUCKY that Australia makes it possible for you to do that! The UK is very difficult with visas, and while there are some visa options for me, they’re extreme long shots. I pretty much have to get married if I want to stay in the UK, and I’m not going to get married for a visa.

    So I travel by necessity now. We’ve been together for almost a year, and since April we’ve never been apart for longer than six weeks. Five weeks seems to be the magical number we’ve been sticking to lately.

    But since I moved in and we got our first two-month stretch together this fall, it has been SO hard being apart since! My few weeks in Turkey were particularly torturous. And now I’m gearing up to be away from him for another five weeks in February/March, and though it’s necessary for me to keep leaving the UK, I’m hating being apart from him.

    But we keep in touch — we prioritize talking somehow every day, Skyping a few times a week, texting, emailing funny random stuff from the Internet. That helps a lot — staying connected throughout the day. And we’re planning a three-week trip together this summer.

    One last thing — I am SO LUCKY that he is SO supportive of my solo travels. He could not BE more supportive. He doesn’t just tolerate it — he loves it. After having boyfriends who were threatened by my travels, I’m well aware that I hit the jackpot with him (in lots of ways).

    • Brooke December 24, 2011 at 8:59 pm #

      Yes, I am lucky that Australia has allowed me to stay, but it has been nothing less than a headache believe me πŸ™‚ I hope everything works out for the best for the both of you and that you are both eventually able to settle together in one place without all the drama! Oh, the lives we lead….

  5. Erik December 23, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    I love this post, I think about this constantly. I married a complete non-traveler, but a smart one. She knew it would be impossible to change my need to wander, so she deals with it very well.

    I do agree the keeping in touch is important. When I spent a month in Israel last year, my POS cell phone wouldn’t work there, so I rented one before I left. It was a great value, allowed us to talk as often as the time difference would allow, and was worth every penny. We also used Skype when possible, which was made especially cute by our dogs complete inability to understand why my voice was coming out a computer.

    Our agreement is that I will keep the longer trips in the area of a month (I think I could get away with 5 weeks, but haven’t tried yet), and I she spends as much on the things she likes as I do on traveling.

    One last thing I do is hie gifts for everyday around the house. Somedays it’s just a card or note, other days it’s a DVD or some sweet she likes. I also make sure I let her friends know I’m gone so they will take her out and make sure she’s not lonely.

    • Brooke December 24, 2011 at 9:00 pm #

      Aw you’re little gifts around the house trick is so cute! I need to steel that idea for the next time I’m off πŸ™‚

  6. Jade December 23, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    It’s funny because we are all dating non-travelers! Bob loves to travel, but he also loves acting and needs to be in LA to persue it fully. This is hard for us- I have to travel around but don’t want to be away from him too long. It is something we work on,give and take. Most of my solo trips are around the us but I’m thinking of going to TBU in April in Italy, so that would be my first big solo trip without him. we’ll see how it goes!

    • Brooke December 24, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

      Yes, I remember this coming up before. Bob obviously has to keep on acting or else who is going to model those Chuck Taylor’s or ride motorbikes in dark alleys if he doesn’t πŸ˜‰ PLEASE go to TBU in April! Pat and I are going — I know man, Pat’s going to do some real travel with me! Come, we can hang!

  7. Amanda December 23, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    While I’m not exactly in the same boat as you (or Kate), this is a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I haven’t traveled for huge long stretches in the 2 years my boyfriend and I have been dating. Just 2 weeks to New Zealand on my own, and 3 weeks for my summer road trip with my sister. The road trip wasn’t bad, because we could text and talk like normal (we were doing the long-distance thing until this past fall, so going a couple of weeks without seeing each other isn’t bad as long as we can talk). But those 2 weeks in NZ were rough, because the time difference coupled with shitty Internet made it really tough for me to text him more than once or twice a day.

    Next summer, I’m planning a 6-week trip to the UK and Eastern Europe. I am a bit worried, because we’ve never gone that long without seeing each other, and I know we won’t be able to communicate as much as we’re used to. He’s really supportive of my blog and my travels, but he’s already told me he wishes I wasn’t going away for that long. So I guess we’ll see how it goes! I figure if we can make it through that, we’ll be good. πŸ™‚

    • Brooke December 24, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

      Ugh, it’s so frustrating when you don’t have that access to communicate. It is tough when you’re having a bad moment and really need that comforting reassurance from your partner and you can’t get in touch. You start to feel so far away. But… again… you guys are talking about it now and preparing so it should all work out in the end πŸ™‚

  8. Rebecca December 27, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    My boy and I are exactly the same as you and Pat – I can’t wait to head out somewhere and am constantly planning the next adventure, while he’s perfectly happy at home. How did Pat feel about you travelling, was he a little nervous or is he completely supportive? I know it can cause arguments sometimes, believe me! πŸ˜‰ Love it that you go it alone though, you cna’t keep a good woman down! πŸ™‚

  9. Kristin December 27, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

    My situation with my boyfriend has always been interesting. We met when I was studying abroad, then did long distance for three years before I finally moved back to Brisbane (and during that time, we only got to see each other once every 5 months or so). I guess it was the long distance that really helped us with the trips we’ve taken since then — I’ve done a bunch of 2 week trips to America, the UK, and Singapore, and he’s done a massive 4 month trip to snowboard in Whistler. Like you said, the important thing is communication. When we’re both settled in one place — both in uni, or one of us working and one settled in a chalet in Whistler village — it’s easy because we can call, Skype, chat online, etc. It did get difficult during the times when I was hiking in the backwoods of New Zealand and didn’t have a guaranteed internet connection when I wasn’t. I went through a lot of phone credit, but we made it through somehow!

  10. Bret @ Green Global Travel January 10, 2012 at 11:00 pm #

    I don’t ever travel without Mary, unless I absolutely have to. Because I’m a working journalist as well as a blogger, there’s so much gear involved in our travels (notepad, camera, video, backpack with extra lenses) that doing it alone is impractical at best. But, more importantly, we both really prefer being able to share each other’s company when we travel. It’s almost as if the adventure doesn’t mean as much if we can’t share it first-hand. I was in a long distance relationship with someone for two years, where we only saw each other every 6 weeks or so, and I learned then that long periods of separation do not work for me.

  11. Edna July 17, 2012 at 4:10 am #

    I didn’t realize our stories were so similar! I also met my fiancΓ© while abroad (we were both expats in Singapore) but I never wanted to settle down so early — so I’m still traveling the world and chasing my dream career like I’ve always wanted, and we’re doing the long-distance thing for a while.

    We’re going on 9 months apart now, and he’s been able to meet up with me every 2-3 months — NYE weekend in Sydney, a week in Ireland, and a week in Paris (where I live now, and that’s when he proposed).

    I think it’s a bit easier being an expat than a traveler — I always have good internet at home, so we skype daily, and having a local phone contract with data means we iMessage (which is free) all the time.

    Like Kate, I think we’re incredible lucky to have found guys who aren’t threatened by our travels and couldn’t be more supportive or understanding of our desire to see the world and chase our dream careers!

    • Brooke July 30, 2012 at 10:23 am #

      Wow 9 months apart is quite difficult, but I’m so happy to hear that you are both making it work! So when and where will you be settling down in now that he proposed?! πŸ˜€

  12. Sam October 13, 2012 at 11:49 pm #

    I am so glad I found this blog.
    My boyfriend and i are in a 2 year relationship. we moved in together after 6 months and havent been away from each other for more then a weekend.
    he has a travel bug though. and this January 2013 he wants to make a month or longer trip to thailand.
    i would love to go but it just isn’t the right time for me as i am pursuing my schooling here and trying to make a living at the same time.
    im very frustrated with the fact he wants to go still considering it ended up I cannot do it this year.
    he works for a municipality parks department so he gets laid off for 3-4 months during the winter. so he has a lot of time to do whatever he wants. i just think about what it will be like with him gone. im new to this city we just moved to here so im going to be very very alone. its not that i dont trust him. i donttrust anyone (not many people in my life have been very kind to me) he has been kind to me but now that my trust issues are damaged i just think something bads going to happen and im going to be here getting screwed around and not even knowing it.
    but from reading all of your replies to brookes blog, it has opened my eyes that its possible for people to be away from each other for long periods of time and still go on as a couple. still having a very hard time with this but i want to be able to give my blessing to him as i do not want to hold himback from his only dream in life. any advice would be very helpful!

    • Brooke October 15, 2012 at 7:41 am #

      Hi Sam! I wish I had some better advice for you, but the fact is that if a person really wants to go and is committed to you then the only thing you can do is probably support that decision. Otherwise, he might resent you… then again, you might resent him for going. It’s tough and it’s really something you will have to sit down with him and discuss. Wishing you the best with the outcome! πŸ™‚

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