Brutal Truth: “My Girlfriend Says She’ll Leave Me if I Travel Solo”

There are a lot of fears we have to confront when we decide to travel solo. Is leaving my steady paying job a wise move? Will my friends move on without me? Will my family be disappointed in me because I’m dreamy/ impractical/ immature? These fears can weigh us down, but the heaviest fear, the one fear that I’ve seen domesticate even the wildest of spirits, is the fear of losing a relationship.

Yesterday, the travel publication I work for received an email from someone we’ll call Mike. We don’t normally answer personal emails sent to us through ZenDesk, but this question arrises so often within the travel community that we decided to address it.

Here’s Mike’s email:

Just in need of some advice. I have been in a relationship with my girlfriend for over 5 years and it’s now getting to the point where it is time to settle down, get married and have kids, etc. I’m turning 29 this year she is turning 31. I have been dreaming of traveling solo everyday for nearly 3 years and I realize this feeling is not going away. I feel like in order for me to be truly happy, I need to travel. I want to do it alone so I can be free to do whatever I like when I like. I have raised this concern with my girlfriend but she says she will leave me if I travel alone, which is fair enough. She said she wants to go together which is fine by me, but i still want to travel a few months solo. It gets really complicated because we live together. I feel really bad because when I return I’d like to marry her. She is marriage material. What should I do? What do I tell her?”

Mike, here’s the brutal truth.

Indecision is our hearts disagreeing with our minds. Our mind enjoys routine, patterns, and predictability. Because we are social creatures our minds feel obligated to our communities, and we have a need to identify with defined groups. We seek approval from the people we care about, and it’s only natural to want to please them. As a result, our minds get comfortable on the path of least resistance. Because its easy to live conventionally and live the life that you’re “supposed” to live, rather than the life you want to live.

But then there’s our hearts; full of wonder, curiosity, and a sense of our true potential. People are often way more capable than they give themselves credit for, but our minds disconnect us from that truth by reminding us of the times in which we failed or faced difficulty. But your heart is your intuition. It knows that no matter what happens you’ll be able to navigate through whatever challenges that lie ahead of you.

If you didn’t have the need to travel solo for a while, then there would be no issue. There would be no confusion. You would simply be able to settle down without questioning yourself. But because of external pressure — society, the expectations of your girlfriend — it’s the obligation of living by the rules versus achieving your personal goals that may be seen as unconventional by those from which we seek acceptance.

Our natural instinct is to fear the unknown. We fear that if we leave the lives we know we risk ending up worse off than when we started. But our decisions are not this absolute thing. There’s this illusion that our decisions can make or break our lives. In reality, our decisions are just the turns we make going down the path of our lives. And you can either let your heart be your compass that leads you down the path of your own personal fulfillment, or you can choose your mind and go down the path of worldly fulfillment; the societal milestones we use to measure the “worth” of one’s life. The beauty is either way, we get to decide which ways work best for us. There are only two certainties in this World; the day we’re born and the day we die. All that matters is if we enjoyed ourselves in the time in between.

I hear too often people say “s/he’s the one”, “s/he’s the best person I’ve ever been with”, or “I’m never going to find anyone as good”. This kind of thinking holds us back. We shouldn’t settle because we fear that there’s nothing better for us out there in the world. We’re not trusting that we can guide ourselves to our version of happiness. That feeling of indecisiveness is our hearts’ way of telling us that there’s something more out there for us. It’s our hearts way of telling us we crave more in our lives. Trust in that intuition but also know that nothing you want will be given to you, you have to go out there and work for it.

Aside from that, a true partner respects the needs of his or her significant other. It is not a healthy dynamic to threaten leaving the relationship if one partner doesn’t do what the other one wants. Your girlfriend raises legitimate concerns and is not being needy or clingy in feeling nervous about you leaving, but throwing away over 5 years of work because you need some solo time is not helping a strained relationship. If that is something that doesn’t work for her, perhaps you and your girlfriend should discuss boundaries of the relationship and come to a compromise.

Mike, you already know the answer, but you don’t want to make the hard decision to make it happen. The worst case scenario would be you denying your need to travel, and then subconsciously self destructing within the relationship, forcing your girlfriend to make the hard decision for you. The key here would be being completely honest with yourself by listening to your heart. Ignoring the heart hurts us in the long run and hurts others in the process.

People grow, people change, people have different needs overtime. Your girlfriend could be the right person but at the wrong time. But I am sure, if you follow your heart you will create a deeper connection with yourself, and when you returns from your travels, you may be able to create a deeper, more intimate connection with your girlfriend… or with someone else. The way to get closer to one another is to first know thyself.

Go live your truth.

“Brutal Truth” is a weekly advice column where readers ask me questions and I give you the brutal truth, because sometimes we already know the answer, but it’s too hard to face it alone.

Tweet your burning questions to @KaeLaniSays or email them to kaelani.kennedy (at) gmail (dot) com.