I didn’t travel until later in life compared to a lot of my friends. I never holidayed with family and I think I was about 20 when I took my first flight apart from flying when I was a newborn, which obviously I don’t remember! Because of this, by the time I got around to it, I had already met the love of my life. So I never had to travel alone, which can have its pros and cons. I think that travelling alone gives you a sense of independence and courage that I have never experienced and never HAD to develop. I so admire people that travel by themselves, especially to the third world and I’m sure it offers you a sense of freedom that is unparalleled. Especially for females, travelling alone can mean all sorts of things and a lot of the travel blogs I follow are from girls who are out there doing it, solo!
I started planning my first trip when I was in University. I knew that after I graduated I was going to move to Japan to teach English, which I did! In the meantime, I met my now husband and we ended up going together. We moved to Tokyo, sight unseen with very little money and since then have been to many other, countries. While I can’t say which is better between travelling with your significant other, or travelling solo (that’s up to individual opinion), I can speak of my experience of travelling with my mate.
Travelling with a significant other has taught me so many things. To put someone else before me if that other person is feeling sick or having a crisis is one of those things. As well, and perhaps more importantly, to compromise and devise a plan together, through teamwork and finding things that we both like to do and adventures within our journeys that allow us to be independent. My husband loves surfing. So far, much to my disappointment, I do not. He goes surfing and I do something else, like read on the beach and suntan. I love taking classes wherever I go, my husband not so much. He explores the city, while I learn how to cook local food. It works for us and it gives us that alone time that every couple needs.
Travelling together has taught us patience. We are now very accustomed to living in crazy tiny spaces (see Tokyo, above) and making it work. I tend to go to sleep earlier than him and when we are in one room, this means I wear an eye mask and earplugs. This means I get up earlier than him and he also wears earplugs (no eyemask though, at least not yet!) This allows us both to work at our most active hours of the evening and morning respectively. We often have lived in multi-purpose one-room apartments or guesthouses where your kitchen is your sleeping area etc. Space is at a premium and we can get up in each others grill sometimes, but so far we’ve developed a pretty high level of tolerance for each other!
Travelling with a significant other (or even a friend for that matter) has its share of conveniences too. When one of us goes to the bathroom in a train station, we don’t have to take our backpack with us or leave our stuff unattended. We can watch each other's stuff, help carry each other's things if necessary and share the load of “shared” items like cables, cameras etc. When we’re sleeping on a train, we can lock our bags together with something and when we need information, one person can go ask someone, while another person looks something up, or stays with the bags. One person can get food for both people while reserving a seat etc. The list goes on.
Travelling when you’re sick is nice when you have someone to take care of you. I will speak more about this in one of the next parts of this series, but I’ve had my fair share of illnesses abroad, some of them semi-serious. I have friends who have endured some of the worst tropical illnesses, all by themselves. When I am sick abroad is one of the only times I miss my own bed at home, wherever that might be. Having a significant other to fetch food and water, and just make you feel like maybe you’re not dying can really help. They can see what you may not be able to, and push for going to a hospital when you otherwise might put it off. Depending on what illness you have, it might not even be a good idea to be alone.
Travelling with a significant other is nice because you have someone to share the experience with. I am grateful that I have someone that can see the same things I am seeing. When I get back home and try to explain things to people, sometimes it doesn’t really “explain” well, and the feelings behind the experience are really hard to convey sometimes if that person has never been to where you are describing. Whether you are experiencing something horrible, or something beautiful, it’s nice to have someone that is also experiencing the situation or scene first hand. Photos work, but sometimes it’s not the same and often I find myself not really even bothering to explain stuff.
I’d like to reiterate, I am not undermining the solo travelling experience in any way! I would be travelling with or without someone and my overall message here is just do it whether you have someone or not! Travelling solo, for men and women is becoming increasingly popular and is almost always safe, depending on location. And remember, even if you are travelling solo, you are going to meet tonnes of people when you are away, and if you don’t want to, and are in need of some solitude and reflection, you have that option!
Do you travel solo or with a significant other? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages you face?