by Lori Zaino
Solo travel isn’t always easy — especially for women. And most married women may not want to travel alone. I get it. You’ve finally found your match, so doesn’t that mean you have a built-in travel partner for life?
But truth be told: my marriage is better because I continue to travel alone.
Thanks to solo travel, these traits shine brighter within myself and my marriage:
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Shortly after I got married, I went on a yoga retreat in Thailand alone. As the plane began to bump over the Bay of Bengal, I was filled with dread. I hate turbulence. My husband always holds my hand and reminds me to breathe when planes hit bumpy air.
He wasn’t there to do either. My heart was racing, and I felt I’d made a huge mistake doing this solo. I’d always traveled alone before — but now I finally had someone to come with me. What was I thinking leaving the hubby at home? I forced myself to gulp air and slowly breathe it out. As I attempted to practice deep inhales and long exhales, the turbulence subsided. I was fine. I had gotten through it.
I realized I was still me, still a strong person independent of my husband who was capable and could get through situations that scared me. Just because I’d gotten used to having someone around didn’t mean I couldn’t do things alone anymore.
Throughout my trip, I faced feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. Nights were the hardest. Alone with my thoughts and nothing else as I listened to the waves crashing and Thailand’s jungle critters night symphonies, I confronted my emotions head-on: I was alone, bored and a little scared — though of what — I was unsure.
The nights got easier as my trip continued. Instead of pushing my thoughts away, I allowed them to flow freely, accepting them and moving on. I let all the doubts and questions that plagued me enter in and flow out. Did I want kids? Was I on the right career path? Was living abroad the right choice? I didn’t really come up with any answers, but I stopped fighting the questions. Every time I craved attention or social interaction, I instead pushed myself to think of one thing I was grateful for or something I love about myself. This helped me settle into some much-needed inner peace.
The days, luckily, were easier. Little by little, the twice-daily yoga retreat classes (something I love but bores my husband) made me feel strong and healthy both mentally and physically. It felt delightfully indulgent to spend so much time on an activity I love, versus having to think about my husband’s needs and interests as I would when we travel as a couple. Being alone helped me, normally a Type A control freak to act almost whimsically — deciding to take a spontaneous bike ride to explore my Thai island or engage a woman carrying a basket of fruit on her head in a conversation on the benefits of tropical produce.
Spending so much time on myself made me feel a little guilty at first, but I recognized that all the self-care and healing would benefit not only myself in the long run, but I would bring a happier, healthier self back home to my marriage as well.
By the end of my two weeks away, I realized I had made it. Being alone helped me to rediscover some key things about myself: I was a powerful woman that could tackle any challenge — from mundane annoyances like flight cancellations to insomnia caused by racing thought/self-doubt to navigating the Thai jungle by bike. I discovered that stressful emotions can be temporary. Giving them space usually ensured they would disappear shortly thereafter, enabling me to live calmly and more in the moment.
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Having harder moments and allowing myself to recognize them also made me realize how wonderful the good times are. Sometimes, there is no big ‘cure.’ You just have to let your feelings flow. That is the cure.
The feelings of gratitude I have after returning back from a trip are immense. Coming home to my husband after what seems like ages away reminds me of how much I love him. I feel more grounded, confident and calm, which translates to a stronger, more stable marriage. I feel grateful after waking up alone for several days to wake up next to him. Traveling alone allowed me to work on myself, something married couples often forget or don’t take the time to do, especially when work, children and other life occurrences take priority.
Traveling alone has made me realize how much I actually enjoy being part of a couple instead of just doing it because society tells me that’s what I should be doing. When I am better as an individual, my husband sees a difference in me and strives to be better. Therefore, we are better together.