We all know this story. Whether we lived in, heard about it or maybe are stuck in it now, it’s a pretty common situation for travel lovers. When you’re in a relationship and 1 wants to go and the other doesn’t, what do you do? You're probably left with thoughts like, how do I convince my boyfriend to go on vacation with me? Or, insert girlfriend, husband, or wife into the mix and it's all the same messy concoction.
Rewind to 2012 and this was me. I was in a serious relationship with my college boyfriend and honestly thought he was the “one.” *Spoiler- He wasn’t. He wasn’t even close* I had just been accepted into the Peace Corps upon graduation and was counting down the days until I left. He was too but for other reasons.
See, he had 0 desire to travel. Sure, we went on weekend getaways to the mountains or the beach but he really couldn't have cared less about experiencing new cultures, languages and food- all the things I was genuinely passionate about. We were young and naïve and thought we would get through those 18 months I'd be abroad. I thought long distance wouldn’t be a problem, my travel bug would die and I’d go contently back home when my service ended. Although breaking up before a trip wasn't in my mind, we did end up breaking up during it.
Let me tell you now, our relationship ended because I was wrong about all of those things, long distance only being one of them.
For me, the more I saw the more I wanted to see.
My time abroad didn’t kill my bug, it made it grow into an all consuming monster (but a really cute monster that I continue to love and nourish every day).
So, I’ll be honest here:
Sometimes it really comes down to that.
You chose: your partner or your spirit. Maybe that seems dramatic to some but to me, that’s what it felt like. Travel fuels me more than most things can and I just wasn’t willing to swallow it. *Spoiler 2- I met and married a wonderful man while we were both working abroad in Panama that values travel and adventure just as much as I do. And he’s sexy, smart and kind. So it does exist!*
But sometimes it doesn’t have to be one or the other.
There are plenty of highly functioning, happy, supportive relationships out there that are able to make it work. But how?
I see posts daily on various travel groups I’m a part of asking strangers for tips on what to do in this situation. Typically they want to travel but their S/O isn't into it or even worse, is guilting them about their desire.
In my opinion this is something so very personal and not anything someone else can tell you what to do in black & white but some outside guidance can definitely help.
You guys saw how I handled the situation in the past and I promised myself I’d never even go on a date with someone who didn't share this view with me. But that doesn’t mean that’s how it should be for each one of us.
I recently connected with Mara, a really awesome girl who joined our community and reached out for a chat. Mara (say “Hi” to her on insta!) is a nomad at heart but her partner is more risk averse and isn’t as excited by the unknown.
Here are some highlights from our conversation and from chatting with a few other travel-minded friends. *For length purposes, I’m solely focusing on when one person in the relationship wants to move abroad or travel extensively, not just a small trip or weekend getaway.*
Tips to get your partner excited to travel:
1. Take Baby Steps
Before making the jump, try going on a shorter trip to get your partner use to the lifestyle. Take a road trip in your home country or go on a week-ish trip abroad. Stay in accommodations that you would be able to afford for your long trip. Don’t go to a resort if you plan on backpacking and staying in hostels during the real thing. Give your partner a true sense of what the experience will be like. You could talk about something for hours but to really get a sense of it, just do it. The idea of it could be a lot more intimidating than the real thing.
Also, make sure that first plane ride, especially if it's a long one, is a comfortable one. Show your partner that a long flight doesn't have to be something you dread but instead can be a platform to building excitement and resting up for the trip. Find out some of my flight essentials are that I never travel without!
2. Plan Your Work
If you plan on working online, get prepared. Learn a skill, build your brand and even find some clients. If your partner is nervous about the travel life, don’t add a new job at the same time. On the other hand, if you prefer to work in person, figure out what kind of job you’re suited for. While it's a tougher way to go than deciding to work online, it is possible to land your dream job abroad. There are so many options out there and many will hire you before you even step foot in the country. Ease some of the anxiety and at least know where your paychecks will be coming from.
Use your LinkedIn account to start connecting you with companies in countries you're interested in. Take some tips from someone who has worked around the world, all thanks to LinkedIn.
3. Have a Home Base
Regardless of the job you chose, consider building a home base. Traveling for an extended period of time is exhilarating yet exhausting. After years of the backpack life, I got tired. My husband and I both still love planning trips but we’ve chosen to have a “home base” to travel from. A years ago we lived in Seoul, last year we were in Ho Chi Minh and then we moved to Da Nang before going full on nomad.
HCMC is an amazing base for travelers. It’s centrally located in SE Asia so flights are short and cheap. Rent and living is also affordable so even if you just use it to take some breaks between trips it won’t blow your budget. It’s really nice to get home from a long vacation, take your pants off, lay on a couch (that you know is yours) and just not think about your next move for a bit. Your partner will get the comfort he/she desires while you’re still actually abroad, fueling your sense of curiosity just outside your door.
Trust me when I say there are so many female expats out there. What you're suggesting to your partner might not be the typical route but you absolutely aren't the only people taking advantage of this lifestyle.
4. A Break from “Normalcy” is a Good Thing
Maybe you want to move permanently abroad but maybe you’re just trying to convince your partner for a year or so out in the world. Remind them it’s a good thing professionally!
Some people fear that taking a year off will destroy them in the job market when they come back. I’ve yet to meet anyone who has transitioned back and felt hindered. All of your hard work doesn’t go out the window when you leave.
Actually just the opposite, travel is something you can easily market. It shows you’re open minded, willing to adjust and probably have a different viewpoint than those who have never gotten out. Sell it! Plus, I guarantee you’ll learn more about yourself abroad than you ever would have in your routine.
5. Express Your Opinion
Don’t be shy with your partner. Tell them, openly and honestly, how important travel is to you. Most partners want to make their S/O happy so tell them how. Don’t suppress your desire and build up resentment. At the same time, ask for them to tell you their fears or uncertainties and LISTEN.
6. Compromise is Key
When you start the conversation from #5, be ready to compromise. And I’m sorry, but if compromise is not an option, your relationship has a bigger issue than travel. Work with your partner to see what they are willing to do. Maybe they don’t want to move abroad but are willing to go on extended trips. Is that enough for you? This isn’t something anyone else can tell you how to handle. It’s so personal and depends deeply on both of your personalities and priorities.
7. Doing Things Solo is OK
As part of compromising, if there is something that you can't agree on or resolve together, it may be possible to do something on your own in a way that's still respectful of your shared life together.
I believe you can travel solo when part of a couple if necessary, as long as you do so with respect to and for your partner.
A few examples: if you're saving for goals together you want to be conscious of the money for your trip not taking away from those goals. Your partner may be okay with you being gone for a month or two, but a year may be out of the question. Maybe your partner needs a daily check in, or photos, or maybe is fine with checking in less often. Setting those rules and compromising where you can makes sure you have a great trip while also keeping your S/O happy.
Solo traveling is equally as rewarding as traveling in a couple, just in completely different ways. It's an experience I think people both in relationships and not have a lot to gain through traveling solo. Check out the top 10 things traveling solo taught me to see what you could also learn.
8. At Least You Tried
Before you go, let your partner know that nothing has to be permanent. Listen and reassess a few months in to see that you both are happy in your current abroad situation. Realize you can change your travel plans, move to a new city or even go back home. It’s not a failure if it just isn’t for you. But, do give it an honest shot. Be open to new experiences, roll with the punches and get ready for the ride of your life!
Now, when your S/O gets home, open a bottle of wine, breech the conversation and start the course, Is moving abroad right for you? to find out where you both stand. It'll help you understand what will work for both you and what steps to take to get there. You got this!
Don’t hesitate to reach out, I’m always available for a chat. Send me an email!