The World is Her Classroom

by Gray Cargill on March 1, 2011

I’ve said it before on this blog, but it bears repeating: Solo travel isn’t just for single people. Today’s guest blogger is a perfect example of this: Tracy Antonioli is a married teacher who is taking a year off to travel solo and work on a project she is passionate about while her husband keeps the home fires burning. Here’s Tracy’s story in her words:

Tracy Antonioli

Tracy Antonioli

When I tell people I’m taking next year off to travel and write, there are two questions almost everyone asks.  First, ‘how are you going to pay for that?’ and second, ‘how does your husband feel about this?’  The latter is often asked with an audible hint of doubt.  Many people have a hard time imagining a married woman making this decision.  But I didn’t make the decision on my own–my husband and I did.

Before I was married, I traveled on my own all the time.  I spent long weekends at music festivals in neighboring states, did week-long stints at yoga centers and spirituality retreats, and took occasional trips to visit far-off friends.  I didn’t even consider ‘solo travel’ to be a special form of travel.  It was just what I did.

The walk down the aisle was almost five years ago, and I’m happy to report that very little has changed on the solo-travel front.  Of course, many of my post-matrimonial trips now include my husband.  Since we married, we’ve visited Cape Cod, Vancouver, Alaska, Las Vegas, London, Paris, and Amsterdam together.  During these travels, we often spend entire days apart for one reason or another.  During these times, we have the benefit of being able to do whatever we want, yet know that at the end of the day we can share our adventures with each other.  After all, isn’t that the point of marriage?

Tracy and her husband

Tracy and her husband

The same is true for trips I’ve taken solely on my own.  I truly believe that being married only enhances solo travel, rather than rendering it improbable or impossible.  When I am gone, I have someone waiting to hear all about my adventures.  Thus, I’d better come home with some good stories and photographs.  When I am gone, I know that if something goes wrong, there’s someone out there to help me out–or at least listen to me cry over the phone.  It is funny how being apart can really bring two people closer together.

In my five years as Mrs, I’ve traveled solo fairly frequently.  I’ve driven from my home in Pennsylvania once to Vermont and once to North Carolina to spend a few weeks at various writing conferences and workshops.  My first on-my-own flight occurred after I’d married–a scary flight in the fog on a tiny plane to Martha’s Vineyard, where I spent three weeks husband-free in a summer graduate program.  During these times, my husband stayed home with the dogs, worked, and enjoyed a brief return to bachelor-hood.

Because of these trips, it wasn’t really that much of a stretch for us to agree upon my year-off plan.  My husband is extremely supportive of it, mainly because he knows how important this plan is to me.

And so, with his blessing, I’m officially taking a leave of absence during the 2011-2012 school year.  During this time, I plan to travel the country and, if possible, parts of the world researching how each individual destination can be educational for children of all ages.  I have an almost-complete book proposal, a Plan A, B, and C, and the support of my family.  What more do I need?

To be honest, I’m both excited and terrified.

The plan is to travel as much as our budget allows, and only when the trip would serve multiple purposes.  In no way will this be an easy year.  I plan to work harder than I’ve ever worked–I just won’t be getting paid for it.

Which brings me to that first question people always ask–how are we going to pay for this?  Please know that we are not special, magical, or rich.  My husband does not make enough to support me on my travel writing quest.  We are both teachers.  But with some planning, we found that it is possible.

Marthas Vineyard

Solo and happy in Marthas Vineyard

At the beginning of this school year, we sat down with my accountant mother and worked out a budget.  After a bit of an adjustment period, it was possible for us to live–albeit frugally–on his income and half of mine.  This accomplishes two goals.  First, it forces us to re-adjust our spending for an entire year before my income disappears.  Second, it allows us to save half of my yearly salary for use next year when I’m not working.  Sometimes the best plans really are the most simple.

While my husband is not supporting me financially, he is supporting this decision in every other way.  He’s agreed to take less of an ‘us’ vacation this year, in the interest of saving money–his dream trip to Germany is going to have to wait.  He’s even agreed to learn to cook–after all, if I’m spending weeks at a time away from home, he’s eventually going to get sick of pizza.

I don’t know what this year will bring.  But I do know I’m following my heart, with the support of my husband behind me–though at times he may literally be quite far behind, both in miles and time zones.

Tracy Antonioli has taught middle school English for the last eight years, while keeping her writing and travel habit alive in her spare time.  Starting in June of 2011, she will be traveling solo full-time, documenting educational experiences available at family vacation destinations throughout the US.  Tracy has maintained Blog on the RunThe Travel Blog of a Hopeless Nerd for the past two years and has recently started an educational travel themed blog, The Suitcase Scholar, currently a work in progress. Visit www.tracyantonioli.com for more on her travels and writing.

Lisa E March 3, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Great post, Gray! And hi, Tracy. I love what you’re doing! So many couples become so ‘joined at the hip’ that they wouldn’t even consider a weekend apart. The fact that you’re actually doing something longer term says a lot about you and your relationship.

While it’s nice to travel together, being independent does allow you to share experiences you’ve had on your own, which is fun. It also allows you to remain an individual and keeps the relationship fresh. Sounds like a great combo to me!

I look forward to reading about this experience in the future!

Gray March 3, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Hi, Lisa – Thanks for the thoughtful response. Since Tracy’s at Disney World right now, I’ll respond for now. I agree with you, I think it’s a healthy relationship when couples can spend time apart and pursue different interests, but then come back together to share with one another. Sometimes, people who are in relationships lose their individuality when they don’t pursue interests on their own.

Tracyantonioli March 11, 2011 at 11:18 pm

Thanks! I just came back from a solo trip this past weekend, and it was great. I really did feel like the ‘old me’–though I also enjoy the ‘new’, married me (new being in quotes because we will celebrate our 5-year anniversary this June!)

zablon mukuba March 2, 2011 at 6:26 am

its great that you are able to travel when you have a husband. you are very lucky to have that, most couples break up due to the long distances apart

zablon mukuba March 2, 2011 at 6:26 am

its great that you are able to travel when you have a husband. you are very lucky to have that, most couples break up due to the long distances apart

Gray March 3, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Have you known a lot of couples who have broken up due to long distances, zablon? That is a sad situation. I think it probably depends on the couple and whether or not their long-term goals for their lives are in sync. Sounds like Tracy and her husband have a good situation in that regard.

Tracyantonioli March 11, 2011 at 11:21 pm

That’s terrible, though I imagine it is true. However, I truly feel that if distance can split up a couple, many other things could have as well. The beauty of traveling solo when married is that it makes you see what your life would be like without that person, and while some parts are better (who doesn’t have fun whilst traveling, right?) other parts aren’t, and you ultimately come back to the relationship renewed and ready to enjoy each other’s company again.

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