As the date of my departure for my Central America trip grows closer, I feel that it’s time to address the elephant in the room.
So far, only our closest friends and family have actually vocalized this question (and trust me, they have vocalized it A LOT), but I know that many others must be wondering:
“So, you’re going to go wander around Central America and aren’t sure when you’re coming back? Alone? What about Derek?”
It’s a fair question.
By the time I leave for my trip, Derek and I will have been together for around five years, and living together for a bit less than one of those years.
We’ve had a slow but steady relationship. We’re both quiet yet complex people, which has led to each of us uncovering new details about the other every year since we began dating.
I love having a relationship where it’s safe to grow and change, and where I can learn new things about my partner every year, if not every month.
We’re best friends in every sense of the word. I’ve shared stories, fears and pieces of me with Derek that I’ve never shared with anyone else, and he’s done the same with me. We know each other more deeply than anyone else in the world has ever known either of us.
To put it in simplest terms, he’s my other half. The yin to my yang.
But he’s not the same as me.
As much as we fit together so perfectly, Derek and I are not the same kind of people. We are driven and motivated by different factors, and have different standards of “success”.
Derek dreams of financial stability, a long career, being able to provide for his future family, and a comfortable house with a yard and a back porch where he can sip coffee in the mornings.
The little things make him happy, like making music, tinkering with and customizing his guitars, going for a run, spending time with friends and family, and cooking a good dinner. It doesn’t take much at all to make him feel happy and satisfied with his life, which I think is amazing. He’s so incredibly focused, is an extremely hard worker, and has such a clear vision for the way he wants his future to be.
As much I would like to, I just don’t posses all of those same strengths or same visions for myself.
I’m always on the lookout for a new shock to my senses. I dream of running wild, getting lost, seeing the world, meeting new people, and discovering the best and worst the world has to offer. I don’t care for stability and routine; I crave things that are new and different.
I’m restless and ungrounded. I’m inspired by a million different things, and I think that the only way to truly know myself is to go after all of those million little things and find what really works for me, and what fits with who I am.
Without doing that, I’m not sure I’ll ever really know.
To put it very, very, very simply: I dream of traveling the world extensively and exploring its every nook and cranny, and Derek doesn’t.
The thought fills me with excitement and keeps me awake at night. For Derek, it just isn’t the same. He’s totally into taking a yearly trip, but he’s ready to come home after a week on the road. Living out of a suitcase, moving around to different hotels and hostels and guesthouses every night, and constantly being on the move would be exhausting for him, and make him feel claustrophobic and homesick.
And I don’t blame him. He doesn’t want those things, and that’s okay. But I do want those things…very, very badly.
To sum it all up, traveling the world for extended amounts of time is one of my purest, clearest dreams…and it doesn’t appeal to Derek in the slightest.
We love each other. We support each other. We are connected to each other. We want happiness for each other. So, what do we do? Who is responsible for sacrificing what makes them happy, in order to bring happiness to the other?
The truth is, neither one of us can tolerate the thought of taking happiness from the other. I know that I could never force or guilt Derek into pursuing long-term travel with me. I could never take away the little things that comfort him. And he doesn’t want to hold me back from pursuing something I’ve always dreamed of.
As much as I love Derek, I know that if I were to never take a trip like this because of him, I would regret it throughout my entire life. And I don’t want to put him in that kind of situation–the one where I choose to blame him for my own regrets later down the road.
So, we’re both making a sacrifice. We’re sacrificing our physical closeness, so that we can both have what we want from life.
Derek will stay here, and I will go without him. And it’ll be hard, and I will miss him so much that I’m sure at times I will wonder what in the world I’ve done leaving him behind.
But I’ll be following my heart and my dreams, and I will be able to live a life free from wondering “what if.”
I guess that you could say that I’m greedy. I’m choosing travel and love. I want to see the world and keep my relationship.
And I think it’s entirely possible–for me and Derek, and for anyone else who has faced this challenge, too.
If I was with the wrong person, this would never, ever work. But the fact that Derek has encouraged me to do this, and has supported me throughout my decision, and has given me his blessing to go gallivant around the world and discover myself, and promised that he’ll be waiting for me when I get back, has proven that I am absolutely with the right person.
I’ll admit that this is a bigger sacrifice for him than it is for me. After all, he has to watch his girlfriend take off and explore the world, meet new people, and have new experiences without him. Believe me when I say that that sacrifice has not gone unnoticed, nor unappreciated.
Furthermore, if the day ever comes when Derek asks me to make a big sacrifice for his sake, I know what my answer will be: Yes, yes, and yes. In a heartbeat, no matter what, yes.
Isn’t that what relationships and partnerships are all about?
So, why do I travel solo, without my boyfriend?
Because I want to travel on a greater scale than he does.
Because we love and support each other, and want the best for each other no matter what.
Because our relationship is strong and deep enough to survive the distance.
Because we are soul-mates, and time apart won’t change that.
Because we want to live a life without regrets.
Because we are equals, not co-dependents.
Because we have trust and faith in each other.
Because it will be better for our relationship in the end.
Because we are independent people, just as much as we are partners.
Oh, and a few more things:
No, I did not need his permission to go travel. Refer back to the “because we are equals…” part. This isn’t the Stone Ages.
No, this decision did not come easily, nor without many, many open and honest conversations and heart-to-hearts.
No, we will not have an open relationship or any “free passes.”
No, neither of us is worried about cheating.
No, neither of us is worried about breaking up.
Honestly, if I was worried about a few months of separation destroying our five-year relationship, I think I would have a MUCH bigger problem on my hands. If we couldn’t survive that, how would we survive any situation where things weren’t smooth sailing? How would we survive parenthood, or job insecurity, or any other big upset in our routines?
Our relationship is strong. It has been strengthened by five years of love, communication, honesty, and trust. It has been strengthened by seeing each other at our best and our worst, and loving each other anyways. It has been strengthened by accepting each other completely, and choosing each other every day.
And I believe it will be strengthened by this too.
Maybe, to outsiders, this all seems odd. But is it really so strange to have a relationship where freedom, independence, and personal choice flourish?
Living apart for months on end with limited contact will be tough. But it will also be okay, because our relationship truly has no limitations.
It will be okay because although we want and choose and love each other, we do not need each other. We are both independent people who can stand on our own two feet, and our lives will not fall apart just because we have distance between us.
It will be okay because we are not the kind of people who go running for the hills when things are hard. We are willing to make sacrifices and changes in order to keep our relationship healthy.
It will be okay because we love each other, but we love ourselves too. And we respect that quality in each other.
It will be okay because we honestly believe that my travels will lead to me becoming an even happier, more well-rounded, more focused, and more independent person…which will lead me to being an even better girlfriend and partner.
So, I’m going to travel the world and follow my dreams for as long as I want, both now and in the future, without my boyfriend. But when I get back, I’m going to spend the rest of my life loving him with all of my heart.
UPDATE! See the latest on mine and Derek’s relationship in this post.
Have you ever felt pressured to choose between a relationship and your dreams? What did you do? Have you or would you ever travel the world without your partner?