Leaving Behind a Partner?


I am, and I can tell you, it sucks.

I’m going to be completely honest with you here, because I think that leaving a partner (or anyone you’re close to) to travel, is a very difficult thing to do and is, quite honestly, one of the reasons often used to justify not traveling.

How many women do you know, for example, that would love to do a safari across Africa, but couldn’t stand the thought of being away from their partner for a month? I’ve been on both sides.

My boyfriend and I have been together for about a year and a half now. The first time I left to travel, we had been together only about three months and it was wretched. We spent all of the night before, sobbing, professing our love for each other and promising that nothing would change.

I kept that promise, but it wasn’t easy.

In order to keep that closeness, I called him just about every day, at every opportunity I had. Each time I saw a payphone or got internet connection, was a time to talk to him, and I enjoyed it. But I wasn’t living in the present.

I was so caught up in him and our relationship, and the incredible amount of guilt I felt in being the one doing the leaving, that so many nights I can remember just wanting to be home so that I could really give it my all to make the relationship work.

I was, emotionally, sacrificing the thrill of being in South America by being so caught up in what I left behind that I could barely keep my head on straight. My heart literally hurt, every day.

This time I’ve promised myself it will be different.

This isn’t our first time on the merry-go-round, for one, so that will help. Traveling for me these days is no longer about random hook-ups in dirty backpacker bathrooms (thank god), so I’m really not at all worried about staying faithful. Rather, I’ve made a promise to myself to not let my emotions rob me of being present and in the moment on this trip, or any future trip, for that matter.

After all, I’m going to work my ass off! Covering Thailand inside and out to write a women’s travel book is no easy task, and I know this time there will be nights when I’m going to be too exhausted to call home.

I think we’re going to be okay. But I’ll be damned if it didn’t take us months of dreading my upcoming travels and many, many nights of long heartfelt conversations to get to this place.

Melanie & Justin

If you are leaving a partner behind to travel, there’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • Decide your status: Are you staying together? Are you committed? Is it fair to assume you can stay faithful? What about your partner? How do they feel? When it comes to distance, you’ve got to talk these things out.
  • Establish some ground rules: If you’re staying together, how often do you need to talk to feel confident in the relationship? Is twice a week fair or does it need to be more consistent?
  • Keep in touch: So, you’re going forward as a couple, and you’ve decided to talk regularly. Good for you. Regular conversation is so important to keep your love alive. Now, how will you do it? What will the time difference be like? What are good times to call? If you can plan a schedule, awesome. If not, try to email when you can’t call, and call when you can. You both have to agree to be flexible as well, because things will inevitably come up while you’re on the road.
  • Never Forget Where You Are: Leaving someone behind is a horrible, gut-wretching feeling. But you must always remember where you are, where you’re going, and why you ended up here in the first place. Life is too short. One of my biggest regrets in my South America trip is that I feel like I didn’t enjoy it to the fullest potential, as my heart was somewhere else.
  • It’s only time. Remember this. Your time apart will be over before you know it, as will your travels. Go into it knowing this, and really try and enjoy your time traveling. Once you’re back home and your relationship is still standing, you’ll be happier for it.

If you think about it like a challenge, than maybe you can actually have some fun being apart from each other while you’re traveling.

How can you spice it up on the phone? How long can you go without talking until you are bursting at the seams to hear your partner’s voice? What about Skype sex? (Hey, you’ve got to do what you can to keep up the mojo!)

Traveling does not have to make-or-break your relationship. So, the night before you leave, instead of crying and being sad, try to be excited. Go out to eat something you both love, have a night of great passion, and when you leave don’t say goodbye– you’ll be back.


What about you? Have you ever left a partner behind to travel? How did it work out for you? Let us know!


About Author

Kelly Lewis is the founder of Go! Girl Guides, the Women's Travel Fest and Damesly. She's an optimist, an adventurer, an author and works to help women travel the world.


  1. Great advice- leaving a partner does suck, but mainly because you know how much ythey’d enjoy the journey, too. Bob and I travel together a lot- but every now and then can’t because of money or other obligations. Even though I try to stay in the moment, sometimes I find myself thinking: wow, bob would really like this. So, I think a bunch of pictures, hundreds, even. and when I get home, I make a simple slide show and we watch it on our computer. It’s fun and that way we both feel involved. Silly, but a simple way to stay connected!

  2. Kel, I loved this article. You and I have had some serious chat time on this issue.

    Not only did I witness your relationship up-keep first hand but I have experienced this and its reverse too many times myself. When I first left to embark on what was at the time the four year-no less travel plan, I left my live-in boyfriend who I was crazy about. Seeing that I was leaving indefinitely and Australia being Australia, I got over that one pretty quickly.

    For me, the more devastating travelling reality is leaving behind the many potential soul-mates. It is agonizing to think back on the number of people who have absolutely shook me to the core while travelling. To share the same outlook, humor, aspirations and intense attraction with those certain special someone’s is one of the best parts of travelling. One of the hardest parts is leaving those people behind after such short periods of time; either to travel on, go home or what have you.

    As much as I might have resisted Facebook and the like, it is the sole reason I have not only kept in touch with those amazing people but I have met back up with a number of them in different countries; with plans still in the works for more reunions. Gotta love the world!! Gotta love this site, I’m getting right into it!!! GO! Ladiesss.

    • Aww Kat! Thanks for stoppin in. You know first hand how hard it was on me, yes, and I think it’s something we all struggle with. Actually, we’re going to be doing a post on love while traveling. It’s so so hard. Sometimes you have to just let them go, with love, and sometimes, the very special ones, stick around in your life until you meet again.

      If you want to badly enough, you can always meet again.

      Love ya lady, thanks for the great comment. Glad to know you’re digging the site!

  3. Kelllll

    Ahh i can so relate! What a lovely put article….”not letting your emotions rob you of being present”…NICE. I too left behind the love of my life at one point to pursue a commitment of service and travel. We did well for a while, doing many of the things you mentioned, but being apart is hard! Your advice is very good.

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