Monday, November 24th, 2014

Ask Kate: I Want to Travel But My Boyfriend Doesn’t

47

Dark Romance Tulips

This week’s question is about relationships and how they fit into the context of long-term travel.

I thought I might just pop through a question.

I’m currently in a relationship and have been for over a year, but my heart is set on long term travel at the end of this year. I am definitely going to go- i’m not sure if he will come too though. I have mentioned it before, but I don’t want to push it. Only problem is that I feel very selfish for doing this. What would you do in this situation?

I think you already know the answer to this.

Most long-term travelers I know spent years dreaming, planning, and saving money before actually taking the plunge and leaving on their travels.  If your boyfriend isn’t doing any of those things now, less than a year before your departure date, when is he going to?

The fact that you’ve barely even discussed this with your boyfriend is pretty telling.

So that answers that question.  But is your relationship salvageable?

Keeping up a relationship when one partner is traveling long-term is an extremely difficult thing to do.  I would only recommend doing so if you have an exceptionally strong relationship, have phenomenal communication skills, and are planning a future together.

If you have a relationship like that, then by all means, go for it.  But if you’re not quite there, staying together will cause more pain in the long run.

My message to you: It is better to have a peaceful, amicable breakup now than a messy, drawn-out breakup while you’re thousands of miles apart.

Please don’t feel guilty — you’re not selfish.  You’re not married.  You don’t have kids.  Though things might be difficult in the beginning, everyone will heal from this.  You owe it to yourself to go after your dreams.  You don’t want to be on your deathbed thinking about the dream trip that slipped out from beneath your fingers.

I have the feeling that you wrote to me because part of you is ready to end your relationship with your boyfriend.  I give you permission.  Let this be your blessing.

Wishing you all the best of luck in whatever you decide to do.

Want Kate to answer your travel question?  Email kate [at] adventurouskate [dot] com and perhaps yours will be answered next week!

Comments

47 Responses to “Ask Kate: I Want to Travel But My Boyfriend Doesn’t”
  1. Kelli Anne says:

    I just wrote a similar post the other day, but regarding short term trips! I am always surprised at the number of my friends who won’t travel because their boyfriend can’t (read: won’t). Some of my best trips have been with friends, and if I didn’t have them I would most certainly go alone!

  2. Mike says:

    Go without him if he doesn’t want to go. His problem. You will regret it if you don’t go the rest of your life!!!

  3. Sofie says:

    Hm, I can relate to this, but also for short term travel.
    I want to see the world and I want to see it now, but Boyfriend has other priorities.
    He loves snowboarding, it’s his passion.
    Who am I to say he should drop those vacations to go abroad with me?
    Small difference: we’ve been together for more than six years and live together.
    We’re to compeltely different people with completely different passions, but strangely enough, we really complement each other…

  4. Rachael says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this post! I was on the verge of my first Eurotrip the summer after my first year of college and after telling my then boyfriend ‘I’m going to Europe!’…he basically said ‘…well when are you coming back?’ and that’s all he said. If he wasn’t excited for me and my dreams, then why the hell would I want to be with someone like that who doesn’t encourage me to go for a life-changing experience. So we broke up, I went to Europe, had the TIME OF MY LIFE, went back again the next summer, studied abroad, moved to Amsterdam where I’ve been living for the past 4 years and am now engaged to a European who fully embraces travel and adventure. I think some people don’t want to let go of a significant other because they are afraid, don’t want to hurt the other person or are too comfortable. Fair enough! I felt terrible when I dumped that guy before I went to Europe but as a then 19 year old, I didn’t want to have regrets based on the other people…I wanted to be completely responsible for my own choices and paving my own life. I didn’t want my decisions to be based on another person, especially like you say during a time when we don’t have kids, we’re not married and that these years in our 20′s really shape who we are. It’s about stepping out of your comfort zone and that comfort zone might be stepping away from your significant other, no matter how much it hurts now. I’ve seen countless people do the same and ALL of them came out way better in the end.

    Great post Kate.

  5. Robyn says:

    I left a relationship over a year ago knowing that I had plans to travel and he didn’t have the desire nor the financial means to come with me. I’ve always planned to travel solo. As for my current relationship status, I’ve been with someone new for 6 months. Before we even started dating I told him point blank, I’m travelling at the end of 2013, with or without you. I’ve been saving for over 2 years and nothing is stopping me from leaving.

    Within a month of us dating, he started putting away $1200 into savings to come with me. Now we plan to travel as a couple. I know that travelling could make or break us and it’s going to be an incredible test of our relationship. However, I know this going into it and am willing to accept it if it happens.

  6. Sara says:

    Great post and (I think) good answers to what can be a really tough and painful situation. It’s really hard to make these choices sometimes, but I think a lot of people let their unwilling or unable partner be their excuse, as it were, not to spread their wings.

    I feel really lucky that I happen to be dating a guy who a) values travel and travels a lot himself (we’ve traveled a lot together and it has really strengthened our relationship) and b) was the one who encouraged me to quit my job to travel all this year after vaguely toying with the idea, even though it meant having to do long-distance for awhile. Having someone support you and your dreams is so important, regardless of whether it’s in the same city or across oceans.

    I definitely agree with you, Kate, that it is incredibly challenging and requires a lot of commitment from both parties. And to be really honest, I’m glad I was single the first few times I traveled abroad! I had a blast! ;-)

  7. Scott says:

    Interesting read and equally interesting comments. Out of curiosity, I raise this question: I’ve seen plenty of blog posts from male authors (I’m sure you guys have too) proclaiming ‘similar’ ideas. The desire to hit the road without a partner or a steady back home. Many a time the comments to these blogs drag the author over the coals for his desire to ‘sleep his way around Europe…’ Or so it’s perceived. Do the same rules apply to male and female travelers? I’m not sure, what do you guys think?

    Scott.

  8. Steph says:

    This is such a tricky question because I don’t think anyone will take the advice unless they are absolutely ready to, but I also believe it’s 90% of the time the best answer. I had to break up with my (long long longterm) boyfriend to go study abroad b/c he didn’t support it, and it was the best decision I ever made. I lost a boy and gained the whole world.
    Generally, I think that if you really want to travel long term and your boyfriend isn’t into it, you probably have different life priorities, at least for right now. Break up, go on your trip, then see how things stand when you get back.

    • So glad that you broke away when you did!

      My friends were in a similar situation — she was set on studying in Greece, he wasn’t really into the idea. But he followed her, and now they’re married. :-) (They also have one of my favorite stories of all time — he was drunk in Athens and got into what he thought was a cab and told the driver to take him to the sandwich place. It was actually a cop car. They were amused and took him.)

  9. Susan says:

    On the other hand, travel was not something that interested my boyfriend before he met me. But when we had been together three years, he came with me all the way around the world. We’re getting married in May.

    In the end, he chose me and my goals over his own. At first he was reluctant–he has a career that he loves, he has a home that he loves, and he was *scared* to travel and live elsewhere. If it’s fear holding back your own boyfriend, he may get over it. I showed my partner beautiful pictures, we watched travel movies and documentaries, and we read blog posts of people who had done it before. Now we’re planning our honeymoon in Cuba!

    That being said, if he doesn’t come, I agree that keeping up long distance might not be worth it over longterm travel. It’s better to be free!

  10. Tom Bartel says:

    I almost broke up with my then girlfriend (now wife and world travel partner) while we were on an extended road trip through Canada. Since then, I’ve always believed that the true test of a relationship is whether you can travel together. Because traveling together often means that you get absolutely no break from each other for an extended period. By our 10th day or so, we were ready to kill each other, and it took another week or so after we got home to realize that it was Canada’s fault. Now, when anything goes wrong, I blame Canada.

  11. Missy says:

    I am leaving in May to travel South America for 8 months… My boyfriend (Ive been with him for 5 years) has travelled all over the world with me on 2-3 week trips for the past few years… But I have always wanted to take the leap – quit my job and go travelling for a long period of time.

    I decided last year that I had to live this dream.. If you give a dream up for someone you have know for a year you will regret it when you are older (trust me, I know)

    I say GO! If you current boyfriend supports you then keep in contact and just see what happens… Life needn’t be so complicated.

    My boyfriend supports my dream of travelling South America and we will keep in contact via Skype while I am away… He cant come with me as he loves the job he is in and is saving for an expensive car :) He is done with spending all his $$$ on travelling for now… and I can understand that.

    I am going to miss him like crazy… but hey, if we are in this relationship for the long term – then what is 8 months??? Easy!

    Best of luck – enjoy your travel adventures! Have the best time of your life!!! You will learn things about yourself that you never even knew! Dont let anyone hold you back :)

    • Jess says:

      I like how you both understand and appreciate your different priorities and work together to come to an agreement. It shows that you are mature and if it is worth it you will be OK if not you will still be OK. I am sure it feels more complicated than it actually is. I have found your words very helpful x

  12. Laryssa says:

    Going on a limb here, and I could be wrong…

    If she feels selfish for something she’s been planning/dreaming about for awhile, I’m going to guess the boyfriend has been negative towards the entire idea. Not flat-out verbally abusive or anything, but he may be casting a negative light just by being disinterested and not asking about it.

    True love supports the other in anything and wants nothing but happiness for the other, even if it means long distance for awhile. (I can vouch for this, but I’ll spare y’all the details!)

    • That could be, Laryssa — but I’ve found that most Americans in general view long-term travel negatively. The boyfriend could be in favor of long-term travel; the worries about selfishness could come from other friends or family members.

  13. I loved traveling alone, and having my partner meet up with me (if I had one) for short trips during my long trip. That worked in the past. I also loved being single on the road, and not having to worry about finding an internet connection or a phone every day or two to get back in touch.

    I’m currently in a relationship with a woman who fully supports my dreams to continue traveling, but I am working a steady 9-5 right now and have only been able to take <= 2 week trips for the past 5 years. She has supported me when I wanted to go alone every year once or twice to another country, and it is fabulous. I love not feeling held back and yet not feeling guilty. Solo travel is really my preference. I think you can find happiness in a relationship that fits all your needs in your daily life.. I think we'd travel OK together, but I Know I"m more adventurous and want to run around a lot more than she does. It's just easier to be selfish on my short vacations, I think!

    I do wish she loved travel more because I think I'd love to talk to someone about all the wonderful places I've been and want to go. She does really enjoy traveling and has been out of the country a few times, etc., but she doesn't have the bug as much as I do :)

    I've toyed with the idea of quitting my job again and doing a 3 or 5 month trip, and it makes me nervous, because I don't want to leave her for that long, or my dog for that matter.. So I don't know how that will work out.

  14. “Ask Kate” is like “Dear Abby” for travelers. I say go. If travel is important to one person but not the other there is always going to be problems.

  15. Amanda says:

    Solid advice, Kate. I totally agree. If you are in a relationship where your partner doesn’t fully support you and shows no real interest in your dreams, then it’s better to let them go. There might be nothing *wrong* with the relationship on the surface, but, at the end of the day, if you don’t want the same things, it’s just not going to work in the long run.

    I traveled for about 3 months last summer solo, with a boyfriend back home who always swore he wanted to travel with me, yet made no effort to actually do so. We had a pretty good relationship, but as I was traveling around Europe alone, I came to the realization that things weren’t going to work out between us. I NEED to be with someone who loves traveling as much as I do. So, as difficult as it was, I ended the relationship when I got home. I know that part of the reason I stayed with him as long as I did was because it was easy and part of me was scared of being single again.

    But you know what? It was definitely the right decision – for both of us – to let him go.

    • Agreed. And “just travel” isn’t enough — the right person needs to have an active understanding of just how much travel means to you. It’s more than just going on occasional trips — it’s everything!

  16. Melanie says:

    Great advice! I agree. It really sounds like she is looking for someone to confirm what she is already feeling.

  17. This is really tricky, but I think if you listen to your heart you know what the right decision will be. If it is real love you will find a compromise, but if it is not maybe you should bite the bullet like Kate said.

  18. Sofie says:

    Looks like you picked out a great question to reply to on here, Kate. And I’m glad you did. As I said, this is something I’ve been thiking a lot about on and off as well and it’s nice to know I’m not the only one and to read what other people have done with those doubts.

  19. Kat says:

    In my rather limited dating experience, I have found finding a longterm boyfriend and travelling long term to be mutually exclusive. All the guys I meet never want to travel. So I appreciate seeing posts by men who are also into travel!

  20. While I think traveling is the greatest thing in life, I think love is even greater. If this guy is the love of her life, which I can’t tell from her question, then she shouldn’t pass him up for travel. If he’s just another guy then I think you definitely gave her the right suggestion!

  21. Colleen says:

    If he was the right guy for you, he would be enthusiastically planning along with you. The fact that he’s not means that he’s like the vast majority of the population, travel is just too ‘out there’ to conceptualize for himself.

    Be free, sister, and trust the beauty and possibilities of the unknown. There are lots of men out there and lots of time. Never settle for someone who isn’t a suitable companion for you in truth.

    If he is ‘the one,’ he will be there for you when you return. Let it go for now, make a clean break and look forward. No looking back.

  22. I didn’t study abroad in college because my boyfriend at the time wasn’t going to and I didn’t want to be away from him. That is something I’ve always regretted, especially since I broke up with him the following year anyway. The plus side is that I was even more driven to live abroad in my adult life and ended up marrying a man with the same passion for travel. We’re now living in Shanghai and have traveled to 29 countries, with at least four more on the horizon for 2013. What I learned the hard way in college is that you should never, ever hold yourself back for someone else. If they are truly right for you, they will raise themselves up to meet you. If they don’t, you’ll find some better suited to the person you will become after your journey.

  23. Here’s the thing – If this relationship were worth it, you probably wouldn’t have to ask the question. Three years ago I decided I needed to go somewhere long term. Anywhere. I wanted to travel and the fact that I’d been denying it for so long was making me miserable. And it was making my husband (then of 3 years) miserable, too. So he said, GO!

    And I did.

    Was it selfish? Yes.
    Is that a bad thing? No.

    My husband is in the military and couldn’t do a long-term trip. But it was something I wanted, and he supported me 100%. I wanted to do something fairly long-term for around 4-6 months, but I compromised on 2 months. It was fantastic. And now that we know we can handle it, it’s not a big deal when I travel solo.

    With the right relationship, it’s entirely possible. But if you’re more comfortable asking someone you’ve never met over your partner, that should probably tell you something…

  24. Great post and great advice! The significant other’s role is to facilitate your development and not to hinder it.

  25. I ended a 4-year relationship to travel and have no regrets. Ironically, sometimes you meet mr. right while traveling.

    Your advice is nice, but it has to be a case-by-case thing. One thing I would not recommend is a long-distance relationship while traveling. Those tend to unravel pretty quickly.

  26. Alice says:

    I had a boyfriend too that didn’t want to travel, but I told him this is what I’m going to do and if you don’t want to be there with me, then I can do it alone. Needless to say, we are still very close friends, but I’m glad that I chose what I wanted and am happy for it, because I know I will regret it if I decided to try to salvage a relationship with a partner that is not supportive.

  27. currybadger says:

    Yeah ditch em if they don’t want to go. Traveling will break up relationships, but it makes you stronger as a person.

  28. Linda May says:

    What are you doing if you’re boyfriend simply is not making enough money to travel with you? I already support my boyfriend financially, but also my money runs out soon :(

    That’s my story: On my long term travel I fell in love with a guy who lives in .. let”s say a second world country. It was love at first sight, I missed all my following flights and stayed with him. Now I’ve been here since 9 months and I don’t regret it. We really love each other very much.

    When I met him, he lived with his family, he moved out and moved with me together, because I could not live with his family (and I didn’t want to.) He stopped going to university and found a job to support me with the monthly expenses. But seriously, it’s not enough. He only earns 300 Dollar a month (average here – it’s a poor country). I still live on my savings, but after traveling for more than a year and living here for the past 9 months, I have not much cash left :(

    So I run out of savings, and I don’t know what to do. Beside, I miss traveling so much!!! I don’t wanna go home to my home country (Austria), but I guess I have to go soon to make more money. He can’t go without visa. It’s hard for him to get any Visas. People from his country never travel. A passport here cost as much as his monthly salary. Even if he could manage to get a visa, I’m financially not able to support him for the first months until he speaks the language of my country. And would he find a job in Austria? Without working permit? I don’t wanna go home anyway, I wanna travel.

    I could be selfish, fly home for 6 month or a year, work, make enough money and travel again.
    But I don’t wanna leave him, I love him so much. But as long as we stay here, we don’t make any money to save up for new trips.

    Any advises what to do here? Thank you Kate!!

  29. Jess says:

    Hi it’s interesting to see all the comments on here and to see whatever happened it worked out well! I am struggling because I love my boyfriend who is very supportive and happy for me to travel solo for a few weeks. Problem is we have been together for 9 years ( I am now 27) I have gone through everything with him and we have a house together but now I hardly do anything on my own! I want to get out there and meet lots of different people before I am older. I have lots of friends getting married and having children and I thought I was happy with that but I do not want to settle! I want adventure and freedom! On the other hand I dont want to lose a loving partner though I feel like I have been pushing him away. He isnt ready to travel (no money, committed to job)I want to go next year. This is not a life long plan but something that has just hit me like lightning and feels like the time. Probably a quarterlife crisis! Dont know what to do. Talk about crossroads?

  30. Kayleigh says:

    How about if my boyfriend actually can’t go travelling? He would absolutely love to drop everything and come with me, but he’s caring for a sick relative so it’s simply not an option…

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  32. i says:

    Not sure if this will receive a reply or is relevant but i’ll post it anyway…

    I am 27, I’ve been in my current relationship for 5 yrs minus a break of a couple of months a few years ago. We travelled to France and Jordan at the beginning of the year for nearly 5 weeks with only a few issues (France where we had an accident in the apartment we were renting). It was very amicable, and enlightening for both of us, yet costly. This was the first time we had travelled anywhere together (even in our own country). I miss this experience and was told we could do it again at the end of the year by significant other. He has completely turned around and decided “no” it is too hard for him to catch up on work, and that he wants to buy a house.

    I am sick of spending my southern hemisphere summers doing nothing but watch my partner waste money on going out, alcohol and meaningless expenses in general like the $10,000 watch he thinks he needs to feed his ego. I have always wanted to travel, and spent part of my gap year learning Italian in Italy. It wasn’t enough though. I didn’t want to do a tacky tour of the places I wanted to go, and always hoped I’d find the right person to share my passion. My friends have gone in different directions and I never wanted to travel with them anyway, as it would be too close for comfort. To be fair, I am still studying and he paid for a large part of our previous trip, I guess I just thought we could do something more adventurous and less expensive. This was something I thought I could contribute towards more myself this time round. I should be finished at the end of the year.

    I guess my thoughts are this: it feels like the person I’m with is heavily swayed by his friends who are settling down, have investment properties, want babies etc with absolutely no inclination for travel – especially not anything off the beaten track, outside of the developed world, in general anything that may change their perceptions of different cultures and people. Is this some sort of male as provider thing i’m coming up against? Or am I just wanting something unattainable right now?

    • i, if you want to travel, go on your own. If you’re short on cash, go somewhere cheap like Thailand or Nicaragua or Peru. Your boyfriend has made it clear that travel is not his priority, so you shouldn’t expect him to join you. Telling him you want to go on your own will probably open up a dialogue with him about your goals and what you want to do.

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