Five Reasons to Be Single Before Going Abroad

Posted on August 21, 2011


By Eileen Rush

You might want to kiss your significant other goodbye before heading abroad.

Is it easier to travel when you’re single?

This article might seem a little ruthless. But trust me, it’s written with a traveler’s best interest at heart. Trying to travel and maintain a relationship at the same time can be difficult, and there are people who have done it. You can check out our article about Long-Distance Relationships Abroad for more advice on this topic. However, from my experience, being single while you’re abroad makes you more open to experiences you couldn’t otherwise have.

For most of my life as a traveler, I was a serial monogamist and jumped relationships like I was hopping international borders. Twice, relationships ended because of experiences I had overseas, and some of those reasons are outlined below. From my experience, if you’re thinking about packing light for your experience abroad, let go of the emotional baggage, too. It will feel worse than hauling around 50 pounds of red Samsonite luggage. Here are some important reasons to stay single and let the experiences flow naturally:

1. This is your chance to grow. A semester abroad isn’t just a great chance to immerse yourself in a language or a study topic of interest, it’s a time to learn about who you are in a completely different setting. If you’re flying solo, you can take time to figure out what that means, instead of attempting to fit into the mold your relationship has carved for you. Set yourself free and take this chance to learn about who you really are.

2. You need to be flexible. It’s almost impossible to juggle booking train tickets, finishing the paper for class, getting ready for dinner at the café down the street, and finding time to call home and chat with someone for an hour. Being single means you don’t have to keep looking over your shoulder, making sure the other person has their needs met. Ditch the relationship, and you’re losing a lot of strings and obligations that might keep you from experiencing your trip to the fullest.

3. Long distance is hard. It gets harder when you’re traveling, because you might not be planning on having phone access [link to Globetrotters article about phones in Europe] or your Internet may be unreliable [link to Globetrotters article about the Internet]. Ask yourself how much your partner needs from you right now as far as contact goes. Do you text, call or see each other every day? What will it be like for that to change for a few weeks or months?

4. You’re going to meet people abroad. I hate to say it, but a lot of women I’ve known who have studied abroad have cheated on their significant other back home. The stories all tend to sound the same: there was this beach, this beautiful Dutch guy, this amazing sunset, nothing could be done to stop it from happening… Face it, avid travelers are the cream of the crop, and when you’re on the road you find a lot of likeminded people who see the world the way you do, in a way that the boy or girl back home may never understand. Do you want to pass up an opportunity to have a fun memory or a good connection because you’re worried about someone back home?

5. They’ll be there when you get back. Maybe, if they’re the right one for you, they’ll understand you taking time to be free, see some of the world, and get a little wanderlust out of your blood. You know that cliché, what will be will be? Well, there’s no need to force a relationship while you’re still young, figuring out who you are, and seeing the world.

If I Had Only Known

I would have ended a relationship before I ever studied abroad. In 2007, the guy I was dating at the time – we’d been together almost two years – came with me on my study abroad. We made each other miserable. Our group would go tour a beautiful temple or see something amazing, and he’d talk about how much he wanted to go to McDonald’s. It showed me how much he wasn’t right for me, and when he left to go home I didn’t go back with him. The rest of my trip was amazing. I felt like I could breathe, made amazing friends, and took off on adventures I never could have done with him weighing me down. Even more importantly, I discovered who I was without him. It was one of the most exhilarating times in my life, and I have no regrets about breaking off the relationship and living a joyful life as a single woman abroad.

My last bit of advice is this: if you’re considering breaking up with them before you go, do it now instead of over there. Or, ask your significant other to come to some kind of understanding – a temporary break, or a “let’s see what happens” agreement. Life is too short, and travel is too good, for there to be a lot of strings preventing you from getting the full experience of your journey abroad.

Travel pushes you to your limits. It’s going to change you. And who you are when you come back will be very different. Being single teaches you so much about who you are – and the same is true for travel. You won’t be the same person coming back as you will be going in. So give yourself the opportunity to grow, and if your sweetheart is right for you, then they’ll understand.

More Articles About Being Single Abroad:

– From a male perspective: “There are plenty of reasons to be single abroad. Mine is traveling Australia.”

– A look at the differences in travel styles for single people, couples, and honeymooners.

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