24 Dec Which Road Are You on: Marriage or Solo Travel?
You can only really pick one at a time.
Society dictates that after graduating from university, we should find a good job, choose a partner, get married and have children immediately. Or else we may never be truly happy. Bonus points if you do all of these before you turn 30. I wonder how many people have gotten hitched before they were completely ready. How many proposals have been made in the drunken revelry of Christmas/New Year/Valentine’s or someone’s birthday? How many women around the world have said “yes” impulsively? How many choose to stay in abusive relationships thinking marriage will solve all their problems?
What if not everyone dreams of being a bride? What if not everyone’s lifegoal includes the traditional white picket fence suburban home? What if some women thrive on freedom? A small minority have decided to take on different journeys, and that too, should be acknowledged and celebrated.
Some of you may wonder if I am against the idea of marriage. I am merely pointing out that independent solo travel will not only force you to grow as an individual, but also see the world from different perspectives shaping you into a more empathic being.
When you’ve seen and done everything your heart has always wanted to do, you’ll have no regrets if and when you finally decide to settle down. Prioritizing marriage at a young age on the other hand, gives you a sense of love, belonging and security. However, remember that with this lifelong commitment often comes overwhelming responsibilities, a mother-in-law, mortgages, endless compromise and babies.
Marriage and traveling should both be conscious decisions on anyone’s life, the responsibilities or consequences that follow deeply considered.
Looking out to South America, Central America just on the horizon
Here’s another ugly truth for solo female travelers. You may have passports full of stamps, and have formed bonds with friends from all over the world. You may sail the most dangerous oceans and endure hiking the toughest mountains. You may immerse yourself in completely new cultures, learning different languages as you go along. You may boldly embark on life changing journeys and conscious self-exploration.
These experiences are what you breathe for. Travel fuels your fire. You are living beyond your wildest dreams, and you wont, you just can’t settle for anything less.
But no one, absolutely no one will give as much of a f*** as when other people get engaged, married or pregnant. Sad truth is, your independence will not be celebrated as much as a partnership. Who cares if you’re now able to speak x number of languages? So what if you’ve explored xx number of countries? While your few close friends may organize a small get together when you depart or arrive from a year of backpacking, it will never be as prioritized as highly as a bridal shower.
People might even find you strange and make you feel guilty for not being home. Personally speaking, one of my siblings have stopped talking to me entirely for almost 6 months now. Maybe there are other reasons behind his passive agressive behavior, but my intuition tells me that a large part of it is because I’ve chosen to leave everything behind. I honestly can’t say whether my niece and nephew will even remember me when I decide to come back home.
Another one of my brothers worriedly said “You’re crazy!” when he found out that I planned to go through most of Latin America by taking cheap local buses. But my mother’s brutal words reverberate in my head, “Honey, Go get your own life!” after breaking the news that she wanted to live elsewhere. I cried for days, but now I have my mother to thank for making me realize that it’s okay to prioritize myself above anyone else.
We might forever be a bridesmaid, the third wheel and the odd one out. You will have to eat countless meals alone. Walk the streets of Colombia, getting catcalled by dirty old men every goddamn minute. Get used to it and continue on your carefully chosen path, one step after another. You may hear questions like, “What are you doing with your life?” or “So you never wanna get married and have kids?” My opinion is that, you can always satisfy your wanderlust first, and then form a partnership when the time and situation feels right. True love should be timeless, afterall.
Roos from the Netherlands, 18 years old and traveling halfway around the world solo
Not long ago, I was dating a beautiful soul from Costa Rica. It was a union unlike any other I’ve had. From the first moment we met, sparks flew. We talked about everything under the sun, made delicious healthy meals and practiced yoga together. We stayed up drawing maps and mandalas past midnight and gave each other coffee scrubs and coconut oil massages. He encouraged me to see the rest of Latin America, and we planned to travel around Asia together eventually. I felt great knowing that I was welcome to stay at his home indefinitely.
It seemed like the perfect set-up, a relationship that gave each other freedom instead of boundaries. However during one of our usual late night talks, a deep seated truth came out “I don’t think I’ll ever feel complete without seeing the world first. Travel will give me a sense of satisfaction more than any relationship ever will.” It was then time for me to reveal that I didn’t believe in traditional marriage, and that I don’t plan on having my own kids. Shortly after, our relationship went downhill from there.
When we eventually stopped taking, I thought I would hurt and cry for days, just life my old self. However, quite the opposite happened, I felt an overwhelming sense of contentment realizing that I am happy on my own, I feel whole with or without a partner. I felt immense gratitude for my freedom. Looking back, my biggest regrets in life were always wasting too much time, sometimes even years waiting for some reciprocity from people who didn’t value me as much as I valued them.
Friends and family may show some level of support but only those who know the value of solo travel will understand you completely. At the end of the day, we’re not out there for validation anyway. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for your life choices. Even if you change your mind at the very last minute. Your memories of solo travel are yours to keep forever. No one can annul the lessons you’ve learned or the experiences and adventures away from you.
So go and see where the road takes you.
Photo from Workaway.info
Special thanks to a recent inspiring article “Why don’t women celebrate travel accomplishments the same way they celebrate engagements?” by Amanda Machado on the Matador Network.
“Similarly, I wonder if we’d see more women taking the risk of travel, exploration and adventure if we celebrated it in the same way we celebrated marriage. I wonder if these badass female travelers ever were recognized for their bold daring as much as they were recognized for their choice or partner. I wonder if the reason we don’t see more women climbing mountains, flying planes or simply taking time off to adventure on their own, is because we have convinced them they should be focusing on a different prize.”