Breaking the Marriage Mold

By Nomadic Matt | Published May 5th, 2011

bacon is magic ayngelina flexingThis is a guest post by Ayngelina of Bacon is Magic. She will be writing a series of articles on traveling as a solo female in your 30s.

I had a textbook childhood. I went to university, graduated with a degree, worked hard, and eventually landed a great job as an account director at an ad agency. It paid well, I wore jeans to work, practiced yoga at lunch, and went for pints with co-workers after hours.

But I wasn’t happy. The problem was I wasn’t unhappy either.

I was plugging away, doing my job, with no real highs or any real lows either. I worked, had dinner with friends, and went out on the weekends. I had enough money to go on vacations and do as I like.

This was what life was supposed to be about, right? Work hard to score the great job, money to afford the trendiest clothes and dine in the best restaurants? I chased after that in my 20s but once I hit my 30s, I realized that none of it made me happy.

I had always wanted to travel more than just for a short holiday. On vacations to Europe and South East Asia, I met people who gave up their careers to travel long term. I was envious. I wished I could do that.

After ten years of working, that dream was neatly tucked away in the cabinet of things I wanted to do but was too afraid to do. I had lots of excuses: I didn’t make enough money, I didn’t have enough in retirement, I wasn’t where I wanted to be in my career. None of those were true but they helped me legitimize not traveling. But I promised myself I would someday.

But we all know someday never happens. It is that when what we would consider going after the dream in our head…but only if all the stars aligned, there was a full moon, and we got a perfect Yahtzee score. In reality, someday rarely comes and we resign ourselves to simply dream about it.

What finally pushed me over the edge was turning 32 and sensing my biological clock ticking. I didn’t know if I really wanted to have kids, but I knew if I did, I had to travel now. I believed once you had kids, your life changed too much to travel. My friends with children never contemplated going to Colombia or Mongolia, they just wanted a decent night’s sleep and a sale on diapers. If I was going to have children, I wanted one last taste of glorious independence.

When I fantasized about this one last great adventure, I thought it would be with someone else. I tried to beg, cajole, bully my then-boyfriend into coming but it wasn’t his dream and I was too scared to go alone.

bacon is magic ayngelina in rome

I had traveled alone once before – on a week’s vacation and with a cheap flight to Italy I ate my way alone around Rome. But that was a easy. A week in Italy is much different than selling everything, quitting your job and taking a one-way flight to Mexico. But this time, I would be giving up my comfortable life and that was a scary thought.

However, one lazy Sunday afternoon I was watching a movie with the boyfriend asleep on the couch. I looked around and thought:

Is this all there is? Is this my life? Is my dream to travel over?

I was on this track for the boyfriend/apartment to turn into husband/house/kids and I suddenly realized wasn’t ready for that. There was no convincing him though – I would have to go alone.

Someday had turned into now.

I got up from the couch, went to my laptop, and started figuring out my finances. That was the beginning of the end of my old life. I was so afraid to go but more afraid to face the regret of not going. I made a promise to myself and I was too stubborn to break it.

Somehow thinking that children were the end to independent travel gave me to push to finally go travel. I slowly started selling off all the pieces of my life, from furniture, to clothing, to my beloved book collection.

I put on a brave face when I told friends and family I was going but inside I was terrified. What would I do alone for a year? Would I be lonely the entire time? Would I be scared to travel in countries where I didn’t know the language?

After going away parties, goodbye lunches and farewell dinners, my boyfriend drove me to the airport. We broke up outside the airport security. As I gave him one last hug, I clung to him tightly. He represented all the safety and security in my life. I had a hard time breaking the embrace. I was so scared of the next step.

bacon is magic ayngelina

But he was stronger and let me go. We said goodbye and, as I walked into security, I looked back the entire time, glassy eyed, watching him watching me go. I finally turned around and walked through the security doors. And, as I passed the metal detector, all my fear and doubt vanished. It was replaced with this strong sense of knowing I had done the right thing.

Now, a year later I look back with certainty that it was the right thing. I have no plans to return to my old life. I have no idea what the future brings on the road but I’ve never been happier.

Ayngelina left a great job, boyfriend, friends and apartment to find inspiration in Latin America. You can read about her adventures at Bacon is Magic (which it is!).

comments 75 Comments

Part of me is a bit envious of your trip but excited for you too. I can relate to a break up experience and traveling. However, I am going to be a bit honest with this (Matt and Ayngelina – hope you don’t mind).

I’ve traveled solo, as a couple, and some as a family. In each case, you do it differently and each type of travel teaches you something you couldn’t have learned traveling any other way. Traveling solo is easy in terms of logistics, harder in terms of feeling alone. Traveling as a couple, you have a built in partner but there is more opportunity for conflict because you aren’t going to always agree and you have to answer to someone else. Traveling as a family brings a whole new set of challenges but at the point, traveling isn’t about just you.

Traveling solo is all about you. Traveling with a partner or group is about you and other people. Traveling as a family may at times, have nothing to do with you at all.

And I have to disagree with Ayngelina with this point “I believed once you had kids, your life changed too much to travel.” That’s not true. Is it more difficult and more expensive? Yes. Do you have to compromise and sacrifice more? Yes. Will there be times you just can’t travel because of your kids? Yes. However, travel is still an option. When you travel with kids, it’s about opening THEIR eyes to the world around them. And honestly, you don’t have to go far to do that. Just traveling an hour away or a weekend getaway with the family camping is an experience that can’t be replaced by any other type of travel.

There is nothing like traveling with people you love more than anyone else. It’s more difficult but also more rewarding. I know a lot of people focus on solo or RTW travel but those with families don’t get the attention or respect they deserve. It’s hard but my motto is a parent is to live my life in a way in which my kids become better human beings than me. Travel will teach them that. And while we may not see Mongolia, there will be plenty of places, people, and cultures that my kids will experience that will be better than any trip I have done on my own.

Sorry if this comes across as a rant but her quote above just got me thinking about this and I wanted to share about this from someone who has traveled in many ways. And like Ayngelina, we are about the same age and I had my first child when I was her age so I definitely can share her perspective.

Jeremy

I totally agree with you about the kids. But before I started traveling and blogging I didn’t know any families that traveled. But here on the road I see marriage and children really aren’t the end.

unserious girl

Wow! Giving up so many things to pursue your dream sounds very intense! For me, I made the decision to travel (not full time) often times without my husband (who likes to travel but can’t always) so I can at least relate to the feeling when you head off to another country on your own! A nice and inspirational story.

My trip to Italy was solo because no one could come with me, not even my boyfriend at the time, but I enjoyed it all the same.

Great post! Inspiring story. So glad you had that couch moment. I get giddy when I hear other people’s “living the dream” stories, especially when the dream has to do with amazing experiences.

I became self-employed six years ago, and haven’t looked back. Somehow managed to turn board games, bad improv, bad dancing, dinner parties, and coffeehouses into a living!!

I’m now on the self-employed path, and wow it makes leaving look like a piece of cake compared to figuring out how to support myself.

Great post Ayngelina! I can 100% relate to this story. At first Randy didn’t want to travel either and I thought I would be going it alone. I was equally nervous. He changed his mind which worked out great for both of us. But reading the beginning of your story was like looking back on my own life. You have a lot of strength Ayngelina you should be really proud of yourself! :)

Wow I would have had no idea reading your site, he appears to thrive in travel.

La Pham Nikita

Great post Angelina!! I can really relate and in a very similar situation. And it’s so awesome that you did it! I did this when I was in my early 20s and had no fear moving to another country, by myself, knowing no one!! As you get older though, the biological clock ticks and the responsibilities add up and it makes everything THAT much harder. We get comfortable and take less risks. The inertia becomes an obstacle. But, for me, it has helped to realize that the best times of my life has been when I was single just went all for it…with no fear and no inhibitions! Somehow, I need to get myself back there as well, so thanks for the post and the reminder!

You know I asked myself – if I were ten years younger would I even be hesitating? I don’t know why but with age I seem more adverse to risk.

One thing is certain in life, and that is change, and it’s usually better for us to embrace it and find where it takes us. I think it’s great that you were able to see that you were not happy in your situation, and that you knew you wanted to see the world before having kids. I have two small children, and though I travel with them, it is definitely not easy (or cheap).

If I have children I will definitely travel with them, I’ve met a lot of really great families on the road.

I loved the way you told this story Angelina. I find it interesting when someone suddenly stops and goes; “I don’t want this, I want something else.”

And then you committed to it even though you left so much security, in to the uncertainty. Awesome stuff and a really inspiring read.

Thanks Anthony – it was always there I guess I just needed one final push.

Well spoken, I respect your courage a lot. Sometimes you have to go with what feels right inside you, even when others have a hard time understanding your move. For some people it’s easy to travel with children, for others it’s impossible, but that’s not the point here. It was just the thought that gave you the final nudge to do this.

So enjoy your time traveling and once you’re ready to settle down, I hope that works out the way you had hoped for as well.

Thanks Esther, I know however this may turn out, at least I followed my heart.

I think anyone who has experienced that ‘moment’ when the decision is made will always remember it. I remember it as being a small whisper that just spoke to me and switched the switch and that was it; it was done. Getting there after that was just logistics. Nice work Ayngelina!

It was a small whisper and then one day I finally decided to listen.

That change took real guts and I admire you for it. I’m a serial expat, but being nomadic isn’t for me (a job travelling weekly taught me that… waking up and not knowing which city you’re in is disconcerting!).

Great article, thank you for sharing.

Traveling non stop definitely can get tiring. I travel slow and stay at least 2-3 months in a place and finally decided to get an apartment to make it even longer. I think I may also be on the expat track.

Ayngelina is an inspiration. I did the same thing, only 25year older than her!

No Inka you are the real inspiration, a great example of fabulous travel at any age.

Great as always! Your story is always one of my favourites :D

Let’s hope it has a happy ending ;)

I’m on my road to doing the same, except I never had a job that paid well, I’m working on grad school and I married the girl. Luckily she wants to be my travel partner as I swing and fling across the globe. Good luck with your adventure and if you are still in South America next year we may just cross paths.

I will definitely be here next year and Peru is on my list to visit again – this time not in rainy season!

brava, ayngelina – for making the change, and for sticking with what you love! and i concur with jeremy – i LOVE traveling with my family, and would choose it over traveling solo any day. i learn so much from seeing the world through our daughter’s eyes – it’s a gift beyond compare. glad you have seen other traveling families, and know that it is possible, and desirable! :)

If/when I have children I will definitely travel with them as well.

Great post! I really enjoyed knowing a little bit more about how you got you started. A post like this makes me think about all of the ways that I still cling to my “old life” for comfort and security. I’ve heard about “these people” having kids and realized early in life that this just wasn’t for me. I feel like people wander through life just doing what they “are expected to do” or following some sort of obscure plan laid out by society and family. Maybe some are happy, but I find most are not. Congrats Angelina on finding your true happiness. You are a rare a soul!

I’m still waiting for the fertility clock to start ticking so far it hasn’t made a sound!

Ayngelina, I never get tired of reading your posts or hearing your story!

At the moment I am part of a traveling/expat couple but I know that solo travel is definitely something I need to do and the BF knows it too. He has always encouraged me that it was something I must do. I don’t know when it’s going to happen or where but I know it is!

We had been a couple that also traveled a lot. It brought out the best in both of us and they were probably our best times. But I lived in an apartment and had no car or bills or debt. He had a car, house and all those things that make you a grown up, that is much harder to leave.

Trisha

Thank-you so much for the awesome blog.

I’m going to Costa Rica (alone-eek!) in July. It will be my first trip out of the country and inside I am terrified. I am also exhilarated!

I too am single in my 30’s. While I do have a five year old son, I finally got to the point of thinking, “I may never be married again and I can’t wait around to find someone to travel with.” So, I’m going alone. Can’t wait to read your other blogs.

Trisha

Thanks so much, I’ll be writing here on a monthly basis about the highs and low of traveling solo and you can get more frequent writing on my site Baconismagic.ca where I write about Latin America.

Sadly I only spent two days in Costa Rica but I’ve heard it’s fantastic. In fact Matt spent some time there and has written about it on this site.

Find a great hostel and you’ll meet tons of people. Traveling solo doesn’t mean traveling alone.

This post made me a little teary eyed. I can relate to it in many ways. I did this same thing with my ex husband about 6 years ago (although my trip was only 2 months and I was ready to split up before I decided to travel). It was really hard to say goodbye at the airport, but much like you, once I stepped through the security gates I felt a sigh of relief. Now, thankfully, I’m with an amazing guy who wants the same things I do. :)

Wow Christy I had no idea. One of the things that I am so thankful for is that as I begin to open up and tell my story so many people share theirs as well.

What a great, introspective first article on Matt’s site, Ayngelina! I have to say, I agree 100% with the very first comment, though. Taking with kids may add another level of complexity to travel, but it’s beyond worth it.

Thanks Jennifer, it’s been really inspiring to meet so many traveling families.

Fantastic post! I am going through the same experience right now, but I am one year behind you… Just left for S. A. 1 month before my 32nd birthday. Gave it all up and am presently exploring Patagonia. My sentiments, thus far are the same: I have never been happier.

I just recently found your blog and I’m excited to follow your adventures!

Angie if you are in Buenos Aires in the next month definitely look me up.

Don’t want to break the marriage mold, besides it’s way too late…but your story is still inspirational. Here’s to hoping someday my husband and I will kiss our then adult daughters goodbye at the security checkpoint, and just meet up with them in random places from our nomadic life. I think he wants to RV around North America first, but after that…the world is our oyster. Thanks for the encouragement.

I would love to RV around the States, even though I am Canadian I still have the great American road trip dream.

Great to see that you took the plunge and followed you dream to travel. I am sure you have been offered a multitude of great opportunities by going on this trip and now your life will never be the same. Hope to meet up with you later on this year somewhere in South America. Great first article for Matt and look forward to the coming articles ;)

Within the first few months I realized there were so many opportunities I couldn’t see because I had blinders on. Travel really opens you up to new possibilities.

So much of what you talk about feeling, I have felt and know too well. I feel like my RTW trip (even though it was only 6 weeks) was like getting my feet wet in the big world of long term travel… and I would love to dive in. For me, I do want marriage and kids (we already have two dogs), but we are also really excited about finding ourselves before all of that happens. Congrats on 1 year and setting yourself up for true happiness and self discovery.

The need to travel really intensified after a 4 week trip to New Zealand, I felt the same way that I had dipped my toes in, didn’t want to go home.

Great post Ayngelina! Whenever I see a sale on diapers, I will think of you… ;)

Well diapers are expensive…

Kim

I really appreciate that you talk about that biological clock. A big reason that my husband and I are planning our RTW NOW is because we do want to have kids someday and the window gets smaller with each passing year. I know that many people travel with kids, and I believe that we will also travel with our kids, but I want this year (or more) travel experience to be just the two of us, without kids, because kids obviously change everything!

When I was in San Pedro de Atacama I met a couple on a tour who always takes vacations alone even though they have two kids. She said it was really important for them to have time as a couple and not only exist as ‘mom and dad’.

another interesting read from Ayngelina …
i feel that getting off the career bandwagon is the easy part :) getting back on after living life the way you want to is going to be tough … i am at a point when i am thinking of getting back to a career etc, it’s tough
… I hope to prolong the decision as long as possible … !

BTW, loved the pic :)

Cheers,
Madhu

I’d love to hear how it goes. It must be satisfying to be ready to go back but also with mixed feelings.

In its own little way that trip to Rome was just as courageous as what you’re doing now – maybe that’s where it began for you?

Perhaps you are right, it also came down to staying home or going alone. Rome was amazing on my own.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work in an industry that is all freelance work so I can work, travel, work, travel repeat but recently I’ve been thinking a lot more about just travel, travel, travel but I either need to stop traveling and work for a year straight to feel comfortable with finances and build up my bank account, or I just give it a go right now and fingers crossed what I currently have will be enough and I can start making money while on the road. A lot of things to figure out! I don’t have a boyfriend or anything at the moment that I would be leaving behind aside from my family however I just need to figure out how to take that big leap and you are very brave for being able to do it :)

Having financial stability did help make the decision. I had no debt, a good amount already in retirement and the ability to save money pretty quickly.

But I don’t think you need that in order to do it. Ten years ago I finished university with a huge debt and moved to the Philippines for 9 months on an international internship, it only took me ten years to do another big trip :)

Like a lot of people here I am very inspired by your story. I myself am in the middle of preparing for an RTW solo and am glad to know that there are 30 something women doing this already. While everyone else I know is getting married or having kids I’m pursuing an alternative path and it’s damn exciting!

Once you get on the road you realize that the path is not so alternative…

DORIAN ZULETA

“What finally pushed me over the edge was turning 32 “…LMAO!!!!!! When asked about my age my reply is, “I’m 29.95 plus tax”.. Great story Ayngelina……

I was lucky enough to travel throughout my childhood and leading up to the birth of my son… Yes, it’s not as easy to travel with a child and that’s why you don’t..lol.. My son is 6 now, I feel like we can jump on a plane for weekend getaways now that he kinda gets it and is old enough. Taking those 6 years off of traveling was well worth it with that one smile from his face…

I really look forward to reading more of your stuff

-dafunny1-

My father died when I was five so my mother was raising us alone and we didn’t have a lot of fancy vacations BUT when I was 16 she sent me to France to learn French. I know she must have spent years paying it off but felt that it would open up the world to me – and it did.

My husband and I did this – two years in China, best honeymoon ever. Now that we’re back home, I’m left with this feeling of, Now what?

I’ve heard it’s really common to have post-travel depression. I would think after 2 years it’s completely normal to be feeling a bit down once you resettle.

Hi Angelina,

I really enjoyed reading your post and can totally relate as I am 31 coming up to 32 in September and never did the whole ‘Gap year’ experience.

As I now work in the travel industry many of my colleagues are hardened ex back packers with a million stories and experiences to tell and have inspired me to finally book a trip to Peru in 2012, something I’ve always wanted to do :-)

There are two things that worry me firstly being a female alone and secondly if you want to keep on travelling as I want to do after my mini trip to Peru do you advise saving a massive chunk before you go or have you found it easy to work abroad?

Peru is a great place to start with South America. It is very tourism friendly and also very safe for women. If you want to read about my experiences there, including working at a hostel you can find them here – http://www.baconismagic.ca/peru and Matt has some great travel tips here: http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-guides/peru-travel-tips/

You can easily budget $1000/month for Peru, excluding Machu Picchu and I highly recommend not getting any tours until you get to Cusco as they are often 1/10 of the price.

But before you get ahead of yourself why not take the mini trip and then if you want to do more you have inspiration to go back home and save money. It took me about a year but Central America I easily lived on less than $1000/month and in South America the only countries that have challenged my budget are Chile and Argentina – where I am right now.

If you have any other questions don’t hesitate to ask! I love Latin America and intend to make it my home.

Hey Angelina,

Thanks so much for your advice, I feel a bit more reassured now espcially about my first trip as I was worried about SA being safe for women.

Yeh I think my cautious side will come back home save a larger chunk of money and then go again – thanks for the travelling tips and advice on hostel work.

I hope everything works out for you where you are right now – take care

Leah xx

Andrew Shaw

Loved your article, it’s everything that is going through my head right now. Recently turned 30 with a divorce behind me, good job and big house but a nagging feeling that this isn’t what life is meant to be. Result? I’ve put my house on the market and will be selling the entire contents to fund my trips I’ve planned to mainland Europe and then onto Australia. My friends think I’m making a massive mistake by giving up everything but I honestly think not doing it will be the biggest mistake I would ever make in my life, I just wish some of them would see the light and join me but I think I’m on my own for this one…

Bring it on!

It’s all in how you look at it. I don’t think it’s giving up anything at all but instead making room for a new life and all the happiness that comes with it.

Once you get on the road you will meet so many who also feel the way you do, the hard part is when you are at home with people who don’t.

Wow, Ayngelia, the first half of your post is exactly my life. I did all the right things, suppressed the urge to travel and really do what I want so I could go to college and work on an MBA and be in corporate finance, but I was miserable. Then I quit that and everyone thought I was crazy and work in academia, its a much better work atmosphere (with much MORE vacation, and much LESS money), and I’m happier for sure, but I just don’t love the idea of spending the rest of my life doing this. So thanks for the dose of inspiration, it’s always good to know there is a group of us who love to get out there and not live totally conventional lives!

One of the most important lessons I have learned is that one single decision doesn’t decide the rest of your life, so if you screw up and you can go back and fix it.

If academia isn’t what you want to do forever it’s time to think about what would make you happier than where you are right now.

Great post! I definitely have those moments where I wonder if I’m ever going to do anything more exciting, like a RTW trip. I really admire you for stopping the daydreams and making it actually happen. My husband is in law school and will have loan debt for years, so I too would have to go solo if I wanted to do something like this anytime soon. I’m hoping that one day a few years from now, we can do something like that together for a few months. I also thought kids meant game over for travel, but couples like Christine and Drew at AlmostFearless.com give me hope that it’s possible!

I had a massive student loan as well, but what it taught me was to live really frugally and once I paid it off I threw all the money into savings.

The irony about it all was that once I started traveling I saw so many families. It seems that a lot of Europeans travel as families but is much less common in North America. Almost Fearless is a great site for inspiration, as well as Y Travel Blog as they also travel as a family.

One final fabulous site: have you read http://www.traveling-savage.com/ it’s an interesting model for couples, he leaves for one month at a time and she visits when she can.

There’s no one right way to do it. But the worst thing would be to let time pass and realize you have too many reasons not to do it.

I think I’ve had that ‘couch moment’ once a week since I was about 7. I can never seem to figure out what it is that I want/am supposed to do. :)

Petra

Amazing! Well done! I feel like I was reading my life for a while. I´m gonna do my journey in next few months. I´ve got there finally :) … Good luck with everything Ayngelina!!

amazing post. I also love that you have enjoyed your trip here in Perú(I´m from Perú :). I felt 100% related to your story. I have the exact feeling of emptyness when you dont feel unhappy, but neither happy with your life. I also admire you courage to leave the sense of security. I have this problem of having depressing days when I have lunch by myself( I know sounds stupid).

Through this year (2013) I have learned that my time by myself is worth it too, I am starting to love it. Reading your story have helped me to give the strength to make real this dream of traveling to all over Asia for july of 2015.

This year I will apply for an scholarship… if i made it, I´ll go study and then leave to Asia, if I don´t, i will to Asia anyways.

Also I want meet this nomadic families, that everyone talks about, I think that´s the way i would like to raise my family: traveling and letting them know there´s so much more out there. Of course i didn´t grow up like that, my family is like this beautiful nest with emotional chains related with responsability and stereotypes of “living”, i am ready to break them! thank you!

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