Ben and Frog

“What does your boyfriend think about that?”

I usually crack a joke, something like “eh, he’s used to it,” but the constant questioning of how Ben feels about my travels begins to rub the wrong way. Everyone who has asked that question doesn’t even know him, so the motivation behind the question is less “someone I care about might be lonely” and more “wow, your boyfriend lets you travel on your own?” I’ve seen a clear difference in reactions to male friends’ travel plans; there is never any doubt of them being allowed to march where they please.

I suppose this is just another thing that solo women travelers often must deal with. Of course, there’s the sexual harassment, which is even harder to navigate in another culture and in an unfamiliar place. In many places there’s the continuous barrage of “are you married yet? What, no? Why?” But the skepticism of women moving around independently begins at home.

Yes, I’ll be leaving Ben for five weeks. He’ll be working. Sure, he’ll probably be a bit lonely, which is sad. But he also understands and encourages me to not only travel but to take all the time I can, when I have the opportunity. I’ve been abroad for two three-month periods before and here we still are, over four years later. We want each other to do what makes us happy.

Ben and I, Pastoruri Glacier, Peru

The day Ben and I started dating we sat on a bench and talked for hours about our previous travel adventures as the night sank coldly around us. There was the feeling: you understand me, like many others do not. And partners are partners. Ben doesn’t tell me what I can and can’t do. In fact, I’m probably the more commanding one, in a Hermione-esque way. We’re both independent people. And I refuse to defer to others solely because of their gender.

Of course, I discuss my plans with Ben and seek out his opinions because I value them. To answer the question of concern, what does Ben think about me going abroad?

“I think it’s good, because traveling is important; it builds character, and you learn about people and places. It’s an experience. And I know traveling makes Leah happy. I want her to do the things she likes. I’m excited to hear her stories and see her photos. I am a bit jealous of her adventures though!”

I wish all people would come to view women moving around and traveling independently as normal. I hope to provide an example that not only can women explore the world on their own, but that they can do so while in a healthy relationship, even if their partner is unable to join in on every adventure. There are many women, including friends of mine, who serve as further evidence of this fact. Build equitable relationships, be confident in your abilities and independence, and you’ll go further, individually and together.