Agony Aunt – Should I Travel, Or Should I Settle Down Like My Boyfriend Wants To?

I want to go travelling for 6 months after university, but my boyfriend wants to settle down. Should I go travelling on my own or settle down?

Being able to travel for half a year is a dream for most people, something they’re unable to do due to financial constraints and previous commitments. Being fresh out of university – you’ve just been cast out into the wide, wide world, a degree in hand to aid your decision to take whatever path it is you want in life. The ultimate freedom of choice.

It wouldn’t make much sense to sacrifice an opportunity you may never have again, at least till retirement, when you won’t be as spry as you were in youth. 

People tend to say relationships are all about compromise, but that’s not necessarily true. I’d say it’s more about collaboration, with a touch of negotiation here and there. Every life decision and big step within your relationship shouldn’t leave one party feeling stifled, it should be a team effort to maximise happiness and prosperity. 

Now, ‘Settling Down’, with capital letters, is a very serious decision. ‘Down’ means no possibility of moving up, and ‘Settling’ means no possibility to ascend, or disturb. It means your boyfriend sees a clear distinction from your lifestyle arrangements now and how it could be and wishes for a moderate amount of change going forward. And hurries to do so. 

He may be excited to spend the rest of his life with you, but urgency isn’t required to do that. And neither is a shared lease, or white picket fences. 

University life is pretty contained, structured in spaces both physical and immaterial, a bubble insulating as all from that ‘real world’ everyone keeps talking about. Is he scared he’ll lose you within six months, when you’ve seen what the entire real world has to offer? Would he move on if he didn’t have you in sight, or is he not being perspective about how very long a human lifetime can be?

He might not be the travelling type, and he might have very good reason not to be, but would a responsible life partner not accompany you in something that could be dangerous, or at least be right there with you for such a self-fulfilling journey, to experience your joy first hand? 

At the end of the day, and no offence to you or your boyfriend, you are the only one inhabiting your body. You’re the only one guaranteed to be there for you. You should be able to exercise your freedom, and your happiness, in a way that benefits you, in this crucial time in your life. You’ve got forever for ‘Settling Down’, if you ever want to do so. 

Is it a question of him being unable to travel, having to work instead? Otherwise he would be right there with you? If that’s the case, travelling could be postponed a little while until there’s enough money for the both of you. That’s completely reasonable. 

Either way, this calls for an adult conversation about what you both want out of a relationship, and each other. Ask him why exactly he wants to settle down, and how a deeper level of commitment wouldn’t be possible while on the road. Explain to him why exactly you need to travel, how it might not be sensible to dive head-first into that next stage in life, without a little experience of post-uni liberation.

If there’s still disagreement after that, I’d say you should follow your heart. Take some friends, sign up to group trips that are designed for solo travellers, join oversees skills courses at killer locations. You don’t have to go it alone! It doesn’t even have to be a full six months, but unless you tick off that from your bucket list, it’ll always loom over your head as a point of regret. It’ll breed resentment in a relationship, the fact that you chose to miss out on something like that, and then what was the point? 

Whatever your decision is though, I wish you the best of luck in your pursuits.

Penelope Helbest