“Where’s Your Husband” and 9 Other Lame-Ass Things I’m Tired of Hearing as a Married Woman Traveling Solo

“Where’s Your Husband” and 9 Other Lame-Ass Things I’m Tired of Hearing as a Married Woman Traveling Solo
Bornholm, Denmark

You’d think that in our times, when the world has witnessed women serving as heads of state, in combat forces, as astronauts venturing as far as space, and summiting the world’s highest peaks, the people you meet while traveling have had enough time to learn, process, and deal with the fact that women, even those with spouses, often travel solo for weeks or months at a time. As an often-solo traveler who now happens to be married, and continues to travel solo, I can hardly think of myself as an anomaly.

But the world has a funny way of showing you that your perceptions of its people, their ways of thinking, and cultures can be wrong. While most of my experiences of hearing random questions or comments related to my traveling solo while being married have been amusing at best, there have been times when they’ve crossed the line into the territory of the ridiculous and eventually into becoming downright infuriating, especially to me as a feminist who refuses to shut up and play along.

I’m never annoyed or offended when the curiosity comes from someone who lives in a culture vastly different from that of modern society; in fact, I’m only happy to answer their questions because I’m aware that it is opening up their world view to a new, hopefully progressive way of looking at women, their place in society, and relationships. In some small way, it’s telling them that it’s okay to want and dream about things that people in your society or culture don’t always aspire to, it’s okay to venture away from the norm, it’s okay to be different, even if it means raising a few eyebrows at first.

But during so many conversations on my travels, with people who on the surface have a seemingly modern way and view of life, I’ve often stared in utter disbelief when they’ve asked me things that to me should seem ridiculous to them even before they’ve let the words escape their mouths. I’ve come away scratching my head, wondering if this was really happening in the 21st century and the absurdity of it all.

So as a feminist and someone who encourages everyone to think carefully about the bullshit you might be implying by asking certain kinds of questions to a woman who travels solo even if she is in a relationship/married/ a mother, I’ve decided to pour my heart out in this post.

There might be some pointing and laughing as I recollect hostel stories of ignorant dude-bros, but for the most part, I’m going to do my best to tell you why some of these questions are hollow and do little but display a limited understanding of the way the world works today, and try to answer others, so you never have to ask me again.

“Where’s Your Husband” and 9 Other Lame-Ass Things I’m Tired of Hearing as a Married Woman Traveling Solo

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#1: So, Where’s Your Husband?

More than once on solo trips, when I’ve mentioned during conversations as a passing fact that I happen to be married, the focus of the conversation has been thrown off by, “So, where’s your husband?” accompanied either by a grave look of concern, often by other women, or a challenging suspicious look, mostly by other men, as if my marriage were a figment of my imagination and my husband were someone I made up to ward off advances or to hide that I felt sorry about being single.

Though, sometimes the question is innocent, asked even before the speaker can think about it, almost like an impulse follow-up to my telling them that I am married, other times, on some level it implies that wives should always be accompanied by their husbands abroad, as if wives, like livestock, were owned by their husbands. It also implies that there’s something strange/not right/unnecessary about married women traveling solo.

Other times, when asked by persistent men or stupid dude-bros it implies that since my husband isn’t traveling with me, it’s okay to hit on me and I shouldn’t mind because clearly, I’m looking to be hit on by daring to travel without my husband.

#2: Does Your Husband Know What You’re Doing Right Now?

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I know it’s hard to believe but there was this one time in the common area of a hostel in Barcelona that an Italian guy, who was too old to be staying there and spent all of his time trying to hook up with girls half his age, actually asked me this out loud as I sat enjoying beers with my hostel-mates. Everyone turned to look at him in disbelief, somebody exclaimed, “Dude, are you serious right now?” and I burst out laughing, as did the rest of the group. Red-faced, he said, “Oh well, I’m going for a walk.”

#3: How Can Your Husband Let You Travel Alone?

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Just like #1, this question implies that wives are owned by husbands, or women are owned by their men- husbands or fathers.

It implies that a man’s approval is necessary and if you happen to be married, that approval has to come from your husband.

Even worse, it implies that a man should know better than being okay with his wife traveling the world on her own.

It implies that women can only do things when the men in their lives ‘let’ them. As if women can vote today because some old dude somewhere once said, “Oh yes, women, let us give you the right to vote beginning tomorrow”.

I’m a grown woman and have been since I turned 18. Since then, I’ve taken my own decisions and guess what, this might be shocking, haven’t needed anyone’s permission to travel, work, educate myself, or do as I please. That is what being an adult means, yes even for women, even married ones!

Think about it, would you ask a married woman with a job or career, “How can your husband let you work?”

Sounds absurd in today’s context, doesn’t it? The same reasoning applies to. “How can your husband let you travel?”

#4: How Can You Leave Your Husband to Travel?

The reason I hate this question is that implies that a woman’s husband/ marriage/ relationship/kids are at the very center of her existence and her choosing to travel solo is a conscious choice to abandon him/them so she can travel. It also implies that she must place being with and available for her husband above every other dream, aspiration, and priority in life.

Marriage is just one of many parts that makes a complete, fulfilled life. Modern women like me don’t think it’s the only important or even the most important part of our lives or happiness. Everything in our lives does not revolve around our spouses/marriages.

Like me, many married women find solo travel as a great time to enjoy some alone time, reconnect with who they are as individuals and a way back to their passions and creativity. When one feels so strongly about traveling alone, the right question to ask is: How can you not leave your husband to travel?

#5: Is Your Marriage in Trouble?

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This question displays such a narrow, childish view of marriage, an institution that has evolved in so many ways through the times but is still viewed with such an archaic lens.

This question implies that for a marriage to be successful, spouses must never be apart. They must be so needy that they couldn’t do without each other. It assumes, unrealistically, that if the marriage were a happy one, there would be no need for a person in it to do anything by themselves that gave them a sense of fulfillment such as travel alone, or climb mountains, or learn a language, or write a book.

It assumes that a healthy marriage is built of two sorry-assed halves that become a complete entity only when they find and are with each other. That idea is hardly romantic, it’s lame, unrealistic and dangerous because it encourages unhealthy dependence. It’s pre-conceived bullshit like this that puts so many young people off the whole marriage/commitment thing.

The way I think of it is that spouses do not belong to each other, they belong only to themselves, and they are free to do as they please. You have to trust their actions are influenced by their love and loyalty but also by who they are as people and what their goals and dreams are made of.

We’re all individuals first and unless we acknowledge and nurture our individual passions and dreams and personalities, we’re never going to be able to make a healthy contribution to marriage or other relationships. To be in a happy relationship of any kind, one must first be a happy, content individual.

This question also makes a hidden assumption- that a woman traveling alone is doing so not for the sake of travel or her love for the intrepid or for adventure but to escape something- and if she’s married then it must be her marriage/husband, the center of her universe.

While many people travel to escape situations and gain some perspective or clarity, it’s wrong to presume marriage troubles for women who travel without their spouses. Stop putting people in boxes and do away with stereotyping them.

#6: Isn’t Traveling Solo Selfish?

Human beings are selfish. We spend our entire lives chasing our dream, our ideal career, life, family, and what have you. Everything that we do is a step in the direction of the pursuit of what we believe will make us happy/successful/rich.

While I can’t speak for other solo traveling women whose life situations I know nothing of, there’s nothing especially or unusually selfish about me traveling solo.

Get over it.

#7: Don’t You Miss Him?

This is such a stupid and highly inappropriate question that isn’t anyone else’s business. If you’ve been in any loving relationship in your life- your parents, family, friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, or spouse, you’re obviously going to miss them the longer you stay away.

But for spouses who like to travel solo, that is just a little technicality that is not big enough to make them not want to travel on their own. Our love for solo adventures/travels obviously trumps missing our spouses, or else we wouldn’t do it. While different couples work out differently what works for them, I don’t shy away from solo trips that are from a few weeks to a few months long. I know that I won’t be gone long-term and will return, so it gets easier to handle the missing bit.

#8: Isn’t Travel Better With Your Husband?

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Sometimes this question tells me that the person has already made up their mind and answered it in their heads. It tells me that they think that solo travel is for losers who have no one to go with them or loners who’d rather be by themselves. It tells me that they’re wondering why anyone would travel alone when they have a husband they can take with them.

It tells me that they’re restricting the idea of travel, in their heads, to a holiday and for them, a holiday isn’t complete unless you have someone to go with.

Of course, it indicates a total lack of understanding what solo travel is- meeting new people on the road, learning about different cultures and immersing yourself in new ways of life, or developing your passions while traveling- such as cooking, writing, sketching, art, or language learning.

Some of us like to travel by ourselves because we’re not distracted by the company, or lazy because of it, and our experiences are richer when we’re on our own. Some of us do it because our spouses don’t enjoy the same style of travel or might have jobs or careers that don’t let them get away for as long as we’d like. Sometimes, it could be a combination of the two.

Personally, I like solo travel better than any other kind- whether it’s with my husband or a group of friends. I enjoy the freedom to make of each day exactly as I please, to hike for days just for my love of the outdoors, to live like a local in new places, and to immerse myself in new experiences with the kind of singularity and unaccountability that solo travel offers.

Moreover, I have this obsessive need to seek out remote places, to go as far as I can afford to and manage to safely, to hike in the most remote and wild places I’m physically fit enough to, and my husband doesn’t have this need- so I’d hate to force him or worse, guilt him into doing these things when he didn’t love them as much as I did or hated doing them.

I’m unapologetically addicted to that kind of travel and the highs it brings- it makes my personality shine through like nothing else and helps me carry some of that travel-inspired fairy dust back into my daily life back home where I’m cooped up indoors behind a laptop screen, writing till my wrists hurt, filing invoices, and generally being boring and nerdy. It’s an important reminder of those other more interesting, adventurous, and spontaneous parts of who I am as a person.

#9: You’re So Brave To Travel Without Your Husband

You can call me brave for going zip lining when I have a fear of heights, you can call me brave for hiking alone on remote islands and sure, you can call me brave for sleeping soundly in old creaky, wooden houses where the wind hurls the windows open and the leaves outside make rustling noises as if to challenge your guts (even I surprised myself there), but don’t tell me I’m brave to travel without my husband.

One, there’s no kind of danger that my husband can protect me from that I cannot handle fully well on my own. Two, are you really going to tell me it’s brave of an educated, English-speaking, confident woman to hop on a flight, arrive in a new city, stay someplace she can book online in advance after reading reviews, navigate new cities with Google Maps, communicate with Google Translate, and do everything she needs with the help of an app on her phone?

The women who train to summit Everest are brave, the women who fight patriarchy in rural communities around the world are brave, the women who build small-businesses to bring their families out of poverty- they’re brave. But me, who can afford to travel, and so I do, I’m hardly brave. I’m just privileged and I make the most of my opportunities to do what I love.

#10: A Beautiful Girl Like You Shouldn’t Be On Her Own

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This is such a condescending, sexist remark, and it is so irritating because usually the person who makes it has no idea how offensive it- to them it sounds like a compliment. It implies that a beautiful woman is a moving target, at risk because of her gender, and so a woman must find a man to accompany and protect her. It tells her that in some weird, fucked up way, being attacked or attracting unwanted attention is her fault- because she is attractive.

Everywhere around the world, people get mugged, attacked or assaulted, irrespective of their gender and physical appearance, and that has little to do with how they look and more to do with the intention of the attacker and their need to assert power and control. Women are attacked in their own homes and cities, often by people they know and trust, so really that has nothing to do with traveling alone. The sad truth is that women are viewed as the weaker sex and are thought of as vulnerable, and the only way to fight that is by us women doing exactly as we please and asserting our strength, survival skills, and our ability to take care of ourselves.

 

So that was me, but I’m sure I can’t be the only one- if you’re married and like to travel solo, I’d love to hear if you get asked questions like this and how you deal with them. Tell me the funny, ridiculous, annoying, and the downright stupid ones!

35 Comments

  • Roley says:

    Hahah! Can relate to this very nicely, dear. I am a solo travelling woman who is happily married to my man for more than 10 years now. Yet, even after disclosing this, people have some weird comments about you. I remember the last time I was in Africa (in December 2017) and this male journalist who was with me on the safari had some really personal questions for me. He seemed dumbfounded when I said it was my decision to travel solo.. Pffft!

  • As much as it must be annoying for you, I am laughing here right now! People can get so nosey right? So glad your travelling solo in spite of all the *drama*.
    By the way, my favourite one is “Is Your Marriage in Trouble?” LOL. Seriously? I don’t even get it. If someone’s marriage is in trouble, they start travelling? Jeez! 😀 😀

  • Elisa says:

    Entertaining article! The worst comment, in my opinion, is #2 but cool that you got that guy replying to that idiot. I suppose that you heard all these questions more than once and now I am curious to know what are your favorite answers to each one. Or do you just ignore them?

    • Natasha Amar says:

      Depending on who’s asking, I’ll either answer with as much humor as I can gather at the time or ignore them. I try not to take them seriously but sometimes it’s important to discuss why these questions are irrelevant in our times.

  • Ghia Lorenzo says:

    I think there is nothing wrong when it comes to a woman who loves to travel solo or because s it is her chosen career or passion that is why she travels alone. Really laughed really hard with these questions like Does your husband know what you’re doing right now? and Isn’t travel better with your husband? Haha! DO they really need to ask that? I think it is too personal to ask.
    What if their husbands are busy also of their chosen career path? For me it is called love, because they really support each other’s passion right? Ohhh people nowadays… Anyways I say yes to travelling alone and my favorite part is that a the end of the day, you will be in each other’s arms again and talk about life.

    • Natasha Amar says:

      And a lot of solo traveling spouses have agreed that a little bit of distance is healthy for marriages- but of course that is subjective.

  • Julie Sykes says:

    Hi Natasha. These ring so true, and your point about being “so brave” made me laugh out loud. Sadly I’ve heard a fair few of the others too, even from my own mother. Sigh. I think if someone I’d never met before had the gall to ask me if my marriage was in trouble they’d get a piece of my mind! How the hell did you react to that? Happy (solo!) travels, Julie

    • Natasha Amar says:

      Hi Julie,
      Oh yes, it seems like the basic rules of respecting someone’s privacy do not seem to apply to solo traveling women sometimes- we’re like exotic species or something and sometimes it can feel like we’re inviting scrutiny by traveling alone, especially if we have someone to go with. I usually say something like, “me traveling by myself is not at all about my marriage actually. It’s who I am.” That usually works.

  • Jody Robbins says:

    I get a ton of these, too. Before we were married I was in Europe 50% of the time for my mktg job. Now as a travel writer I’m off a lot again. I think it actually strengthens your relationship.

    • Natasha Amar says:

      I agree a 100%. When you’re not needy and dependent all the time, you tend to be together for the right reasons.

  • Skye Class says:

    Maybe I’m not the best person to be commenting on this as a man, but from my viewpoint, you have a fantastic marriage and life, and your husband must be the luckiest guy in the world. It’s interesting that as a solo male traveler, I get lumped into stereotypes that I want nothing to do with. So I totally get where you’re coming from. Perhaps someday we’ll see a world where people accept what is, and not demand what they think should be.

    • Natasha Amar says:

      Oh yes, absolutely. I see plenty of people stereotyping guys traveling around solo as well- some I’ve heard liken all of them to guys who want nothing else but to drink, party and hook up their way around Asia, and while there are plenty like that, I’ve met so many more who want so much more out of travel than that.

  • Brianna says:

    Bravo! As a married woman, for quite a few years now I’m amazed at some of the questions I get even now. My husband is a very important part of my life but I certainly don’t need his permission to travel.

    • Natasha Amar says:

      Yes, society is quick at labelling women into boxes such as -old, mother, married, spinster etc- which are all just really other names for ‘doomed’.

  • Medha Verma says:

    Haha I love your gifs, they’re so appropriate! I totally get every single point you’ve mentioned here because I travel VERY OFTEN without my husband too. Mostly, its because he doesn’t get as many days off from work as I do and also, I am WAY more passionate about travelling than he is, he is more focused on his work life and although I have a full time job as well, I prioritise travel. So we have decided that I will not hold myself back because of him. I do love to travel with him but since I have started to travel alone, I’ve realised that there’s something special about solo travel, something very different and amazing! And if people do not understand the value of it (and most people don’t), they need not. I am happy with our arrangement!

  • Sofia says:

    Haha, I don’t even travel without my bf that often and I get this too! It always baffles me…

  • Stacey says:

    LOVE THIS! I started traveling solo when I was single and got a lot of the “Brave” comments and “isn’t it lonely” questions. Now that I’m in a serious relationship people often say “oh now you don’t have to travel by yourself” like solo travel was a last resort. I don’t think many people will understand until they try it. I’m headed to Spain next week and leaving my boyfriend at home!

    • Natasha Amar says:

      I love how you bring that up- solo travel isn’t a last resort at all for those of us who love it. That’s the first way to travel that comes to mind when I am planning a trip.

  • Rajkumar Amar. says:

    Yes women are capble of doing on their own. We are in 21st century.

  • Brianna says:

    YES TO THIS!!! Ladies can travel without their husbands! I’ve gotten pretty much all of these questions. And honestly, sometimes that little bit of time apart helps our relationship. It’s healthy to miss each other!

    • Natasha Amar says:

      I went away for three months last year, and it was the best thing that happened to our marriage at the time. We returned to it with a much healthier way of being together.

  • Emily says:

    Yessss I love EVERYTHING about this. I’m a nurse and I often travel without my husband for medical missions. The most common reaction when I tell people I’m leaving again is, “But what is your husband going to do??” Seriously, I don’t even know what that’s supposed to mean. Like, I guess he’ll just go on living his life until I get home? He is capable of cooking and cleaning for himself. Can’t believe people are still saying this stuff in 2018. Thanks for the solidarity, sister!

  • Maike says:

    I am married as well and like to travel without my husband sometimes. I also have to face this questions. It is so ridiculous and annoying!

  • Heidi says:

    OMG, THANK YOU for my Saturday morning laugh! The sad thing is: it’s all true! But your post was so freaking funny that I just had to laugh about it. Where would we be without our husbands?! It’s funny how the world seems to think we still can’t function without a man or if you don’t have a man, your family. I guess we can only keep working at and maybe one-day people will realize women do so many things men could never even think of doing and we’re good at it!

  • Lori says:

    Crazy! But then again, people always come from their own point of view, and that makes me sad for the inexperience of many men and women out there. #10….ugh!! But independent women who travel solo are still a minority, but that won’t be forever because of women like you, and me, and so many others! Awesome post 🙂

  • Dorothy says:

    This post reiterates that some people really don’t think before they speak.

  • BirdsTravels says:

    I get it all the time, it’s so annoying! Good post 🙂

  • Lucy says:

    Love it! I have been laughing when reading this. I’m also a married women and my husband works on a cruise ship and I tag along, but he is working most of the time, so I go and explore the world without him. I get asked many funny questions why I am cruising alone! When I explain they don’t really understand why I am not at home looking after children. Then the most annoying question comes ‘why don’t you have children?’ again quite a personal question. But my favourite answer is I have a life! Have a great time travelling alone, it is the best way to see what you want.

  • Hahaha, LOL Natasha. This post really made me laugh. Especially this one: ‘Does Your Husband Know What You’re Doing Right Now?’
    But it’s true, I have had these questions over and over again as well.

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