Coming from a culture where wives are expected to submit to their husbands, it was quite something to attempt to pull off a decision to go backpacking in Southeast Asia all by myself. Mind you, I was only gone for over a month, the first week of which, my husband joined me. We’ve gotten different reactions, from enthusiastic ones, to plain disbelief. “Why would you let your wife go alone?” and “Are you guys okay?” are the most common responses we’ve gotten. Truth is, my decision to go alone has completely nothing to do with my husband or our marriage. I did put them in consideration, but I never really felt the need to explain myself to anyone. I wanted to travel, and I wanted to go alone– so I did. That was really all there is to it. I guess it can’t be helped for some people to wonder and even go as far as putting some meaning behind it. Though it doesn’t bother me, I’d like to share with you the reality of what it was like to leave my husband at home while I went off to see a beautiful part of the world.
Are we unhappy?
There’s a few common misconception about solo travelers. They want to find themselves. Something is missing. They’re unhappy with their lives. Blah blah blah. But if you’re married and you’re traveling alone, apparently, you’re marriage is going down the drain. But the answer is no, we are not unhappy. We are in a very happy, healthy, and *enviable* marriage, as a matter of fact. He was very supportive about my decision to take off without him. He knew it’s always been my dream and instead of making me feel guilty, he encouraged me to chase it. And no, he was not banging someone else while I was gone.
Because I stayed at hostels, I was surrounded by young ones; gap year travelers, college students and graduates, and twenty something backpackers like myself. I’m not really surprised at the reaction I get when I say I’m married, because at 28, I don’t look particularly my age. The great thing I love about meeting other travelers is that no one ever judges you. Everyone is on the same level. Even the older ones are easy to connect with because married or not, it’s simple, we have the same desire to see the world. I still get hit on by guys until they find out I’m married, but that’s probably because I wasn’t wearing my ring. Wait, I WASN’T WEARING MY WHAT? Oh yeah, I broke my ring while traveling. (Don’t ask why, it was the stupidest thing that probably happened while I was traveling– because it happened in a hostel. On my bunk.)
Doesn’t your husband worry?
First of all, if my husband didn’t trust me, and I’m not just referring to infidelity matters, but also with my safety and my judgment as well, I wouldn’t have just left that easily. But besides his confidence, I also assure him that there’s no need to worry by doing little things, such as, messaging him or calling him when I leave and come back to my hostel, telling him where I’m at, giving him my itinerary, etc. I don’t feel obliged to do so, but I want to. And since I’m traveling alone, I make sure I limit my drinking. Not because “married women shouldn’t”, but because 1) I was being a cautious solo traveler, and 2) It’s one less thing for him to worry about. The purpose of my travel wasn’t to wild out and get drunk to begin with, but to see and learn new things. I don’t have anything against that travel style neither, because I definitely travel with that intention too, just not when I’m alone.
As I’ve said earlier, I never felt judged by other travelers. I got questioned as to why my husband didn’t come, but that’s about it. For some reason, it’s a mutual understanding between travelers that when you’ve got the lust for the world, there’s no stopping it. The judgments I received were from the locals. Oddly enough, they were usually from cab drivers. Then again, I was in Southeast Asia where non-submissive wives are frowned upon. A cab driver in Manila once questioned my ability as a wife because I was sleeping over at a female friend’s house 2 hours away from mine. “That should not be allowed”, he implied. So imagine people’s expressions when I told them I was traveling for a whole month alone. I got called crazy a few times, but that wasn’t going to stop me from seeing the world.
I’m not going to lie, I do have a strong attachment to my husband. I cried when I dropped him off at the airport in Thailand and it wasn’t easy sleeping without him every night. Although it wasn’t the first time I traveled alone or without him, I get a little melancholic when I see such beautiful places wishing I could have shared it with him. I’ve gotten so used to traveling with him and we always have a wonderful time together. The first day was the hardest, traveling from Bangkok to Siem Reap. It was long, it was tiring, and I was quite new to this travel style. Though I very much enjoy eating alone, seeing couples eating dinner made me a little bitter. I allowed myself one bad day, and that was that. I still missed him every single day, but I was too busy to really focus on that. It got lonely sometimes, just as any traveler gets, and I dealt with it like anybody else would– I submerged myself in those new places.
The outcome was exactly what I have expected; I was able to experience something I will forever thank myself for. Everything about the experience– including the judgments, were all very humbling. To be fortunate enough to chase my dreams in my “unconventional” circumstances and still have a supporting husband to come home to, is something I may never be able to articulate completely. My arrival wasn’t until 5:30 am, but he was at the airport by 4, with flowers and my favorite local fast food meal. Did it make our marriage stronger? I can’t honestly answer that our marriage is better BECAUSE I traveled, because as I’ve said in the beginning, our marriage has nothing to do with my travels at all. We’re just as happy, if not happier, today, but I won’t say that my traveling is accountable for that. Traveling alone was solely for me. Not for him, not for my marriage, not for anyone.
Will I do it again? Absolutely. Probably not for a month anymore, but I still will. Once a year, if I could. We’ve still yet to try backpacking together though. As much as we’ve traveled as a couple, I’m sure backpacking will be a different experience for us. I’m also trying to encourage him to go travel alone as well. I’m a huge believer that solo travel does the soul good, and that everyone should try it at least once.
I know not everyone is lucky enough to just go off the way I did. With even stricter cultures, unfortunate circumstances, job and financial matters, I understand that traveling, solo or not, is just not something anyone can instantly do. But the way I live my life, I believe that dreams and your own happiness are just as essential as those. Forgive me if I sound a little self-centered, because in all honesty, it was probably a little selfish. But guess what, life doesn’t end when marriage begins. Dreams don’t shatter, and ambitions are supposed to get bigger. After all, marriage is all about inspiring each other to become a better version of yourself.
So I guess when all is said and done, it comes down to just one significant factor to pull off traveling solo without guilt as a married girl– a healthy marriage. But then again, would I let an unhealthy marriage stop me from seeing the rest of the world? That’s something I hope I’ll never have to find out.
How do you feel about married solo travelers? I would love to hear your two cents on this. Tell me if you’ve done it and what responses you received! If you also enjoyed what you read, follow me on Facebook so you can stay updated on my latest travel finds and blurbs!