Disappointment. I see it in their eyes sometimes, when they pop the question, while they’re waiting during those long seconds, right before I answer, their hearts filled of hope, awe and respect.
“Do you travel alone? ”
I know what they want to hear. I know what I have to say to make their eyes sparkle, to inspire respect. But I can’t, because I don’t travel solo. I used to, but life happened. Love happened.
And I can’t think of a short answer to give because I don’t want them to think that I’m either brave or fragile. Or that travelling solo is difficult and that with someone it’s easy. Travelling is never either black or white, it’s a rainbow…
So I go for a “well now I’m here with my boyfriend” knowing what’s going to happen, knowing exactly what’s going to come back at me.
“Oh! (*sigh of relief*), I’d also travel if I had a boyfriend”.
Putting aside the fact that that girl just told the biggest lie of her life, she raised questions that I feel, after five years of travelling, it’s time I answer: Is there an easy way to travel? it is easier, funnier, safer to travel with someone? Why are we scared of travelling alone?
** The happy little story **
Our couple went through a year of living in two separate countries, months of living in different cities, sharing a flat and then living apart. We tried pretty much all situations, went through a lot of arguments and tears trying to find a way that could suit us both. Then one day Guillaume tried backpacking with me, he loved it and we built our travel life together. I completely changed my travel habits for him, while he found a balance in this lifestyle. And we are very happy as it is. **
But I still have those questions to answer. And while I could list some reasons why travelling with your partner is challenging, tiresome and hard, I choose to stick to the positive side of things and list the pros of travelling solo and with your special someone. As I said, it’s never black or white.
With all that in mind, I decided to take a solo trip for the first time in years.
It felt liberating.
The whole thing about travelling with your partner being easier than travelling solo hit me. All of the sudden I remembered the assumptions made by some people, I remembered each time, each reaction to the questions and realized I had actually gotten convinced that travelling with someone was easier and safer.
I was in Krakow’s main square when all this came to my mind.
I sat down and laughed.
I laughed because I felt happy. I laughed because unconsciously I had listened to persons who have never set foot out of an organized tour tell me what’s easy and what’s not. And I had forgotten my own experience. I laughed because a lot of people just want to put you into a category and I forgot that I just don’t fit in.
I laughed and another traveler came to me and asked me why I was so happy. That never happens when I laugh with Guillaume.
I learnt a great deal with this trip, I realized that some things are essential when travelling with your love, I realized what really was difficult and what really wasn’t; but that’s for another post.
Pros of travelling solo
- 1It's cheaper
I said that as a joke then realized that a lot of couples don’t know how to find cheap accommodation. Remember prices in hostels are per person. Paying twice the fare of a hostel is the same,or sometimes more expensive, than booking a private room of a cheap hotel.2You do what you want with your budget
Eat what you want, spend what you want. No fighting over prices, no spending hours looking for something that makes both people happy. If you feel like going to a museum, you just go.3Accommodation
Much easier to find one if you haven’t booked before. In couchsurfing, hosts accept you more easily. There’s something about couples that makes us look like we don’t want to interact with anyone, that we need more comfort than solo travelers.
- 4Meeting people
Think about it. If you are in a cafe and there are two tables in front of you: one with a singe person gazing at the view, and one with a couple gazing at the view. Who are you going to talk to and why?
You also get to choose whether you feel like socializing or not… it’s obviously a different situation in a couple.5Security
This might come as a surprising point, but when you travel solo you only worry about yourself. Travelling with Guillaume makes me more nervous, constantly worrying about what might happen to him, that he might get sick or that he might get hurt. Caring about someone is a great weakness.6People take care of you
…even when you don’t want them to. Suddenly you become a child of the world. People just go out of their way to help you, to get you into a bus, to find you an accommodation or to feed you, even if you didn’t eat because you weren’t hungry.
And many more,
but I have to stop writing this post at some point, and it’s time for a little bit of love!
Pros of travelling with your someone special
You know how they say the people you meet make your travels? Well imagine constantly being with someone you like.2Two brains
Travelling like we do is exhausting both physically and mentally. The day will come when I post something about what we really do with our backpacks on our backs, but the point is, when you are two facing the moody universe, problems are resolved much faster than when you are alone. There’s two different opinions, point of views and analysis of the situation… and you’re even more lucky if he/she is a smart one 😉3Sleeping
I’m not talking about intimacy, but actually getting some sleep. Taking a 20 hour train ride alone in a dodgy train/country requires all you energy and attention. The same ride with someone means that you get to sleep for some hours while the other is awake and watches the backpacks, or that no one is tempted to steal from you. And after that 20 hour trip, you also get to sleep in turns while waiting for the bus…
The best weapon against everything. Make the other laugh when he/she is panicking, or getting nervous or angry. Laughing to tears in China when Guillaume gets into an argument with the taxi driver who wants to charge us a ridiculous amount of money, and Guillaume keeps repeating that “we are not foreigners, we live here!”. This section could go on and on about how we make fun out of everything (sometimes long after it happened but still).5Knowing that he/she is right for you
As I said, it gets rough for the couple. There’s very little intimacy, the fact that you spend 24 hours/7 together and that you have basically only one person to talk to. Let’s remind ourselves that he/she is supposed to be your couple, not you mum, not your best friend, not your doctor. Are you going to tell him how your breast hurts because you’ve got your period? Or that you ate something bad and have to spend an hour in the bathroom?
There’s a huge amount of things that makes travelling uneasy (to say the very least) for a couple. And the fact that each person is different and has different needs and envies. But if you survive it (yes, we are talking about survival) then you know there’s no one else in the world who could be a better fit for you.6Personal development
If you have picked travelling as a way of life, then you know you need to travel to feel good, to be a good person. You know that it makes you a better person, that you like yourself better, that you have new strengths. If you find a personal fulfilment in travelling solo, the same will apply when travelling with your partner. If this is what you want/need, your couple will also benefit from it. We as a couple are a lot stronger, more calm, stable and loving that we ever were before.
Travelling with Guillaume is hands down the most challenging lifestyle we could have chosen. I find it even more difficult than having a long distance relationship, and I speak from experience. But I have tried both ways and have found my balance in our travels. I love the couple we are when we travel, I know we feel like we are stronger than anyone.
But to answer these issues, whether you’re at home or backpacking the issues and problems and pros and cons are the same. The only question is: are you willing and ready to have a couple’s life?