Vacationing Without the Narcissist

Oh, vacations. Vacations were when it was the two of us and we would feel more connected, more bonded. Right? Yet that’s never how it would actually happen.

The Narcissist and I went to Hawaii’s Big Island in the fall of 2016. It’s on my mind lately as I watch the devastation caused by the volcano we once toured.

We did not have fun or enjoy being together.

I wasn’t enjoying a romantic vacation. I was realizing how incredibly miserable I was in our relationship.

We were celebrating my 40th birthday but it didn’t feel like anything was being done to celebrate me. I took care of everything. I investigated and booked flights, accommodations, activities, every restaurant for every meal.

I submitted my work for his approval. I made certain to format the submissions in his preferred manner. I went back to the drawing board over and over again.

It was a job, like every day with him was a job.

It was my duty to make sure the Narcissist didn’t get bored. It was my duty to make sure everything was being done according to his exacting needs and desires. When I failed, which I invariably did, it was my duty to listen to his complaints and admonitions.

This was true even on my 40th birthday.

From the time I was 30, I had dreamed of a grand 40th birthday adventure.

My fantasy was to be in Paris. I would spend a large portion of the day relaxing at a cafe. I would sit at a bistro table out on the street, people watching and reading a book. I would slowly savor glass after glass of red wine and nibble light dishes until it was dark. I would then weave my way back to the adorable boutique hotel I was staying in.

At some point in the months leading up to my birthday, I realized that an attempt to go to Europe with the Narcissist would result in more aggravation and misery than it was worth.

I convinced him I wanted Hawaii more than Europe for my 40th.

On some level, I had started to recognize I wasn’t with the right person. I think I already knew our relationship wasn’t going to last. I knew Europe would happen for me someday, and I knew I didn’t want it to be with him.

I realized I didn’t want my first trip to Europe to be with him.

We had fought on every vacation we had ever been on. While on vacation, our usual distractions were not in place. There was nothing for either of us to hide behind. I saw the real him at those times, although I didn’t realize it at the time. All I knew was that our most bitter fights happened during our travels.

He told me the problem was me, that I was a ‘bad traveler.’ I believed him.

He always made a show of trying to figure out what was so triggering to me during our trips. He wanted to figure out what he could do so that our vacations would be easier on me.

The travel is what stressed me out, according to him. Any insistence I made that his behavior towards me was the issue was summarily dismissed.

I always dreamed the next vacation would be the one that would allow us to come together and repair the rifts in our dynamic.

In retrospect, I see how very silly it was to continuously hope he would become a different person when we traveled.

As had been the case with every prior vacation, our trip to Hawaii was a horror show.

I can’t say I was disappointed, because I hadn’t really expected much.

By the time we got back, I was fairly sure our relationship was irreparable. I wanted to believe this to not be true. I wanted things to work out.

Within a week and a half, I had my “aha!” moment about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and I broke up with him. I wrote about my “last straw” here: My Story

In the future, when contemplating a relationship, I will note when someone is impossible to travel with. I will remember how important to me traveling is.

In the present, however, I am going to travel.

I booked a flight to London the other night.

After twenty years of promising myself each year was the one when I would go, I am finally going to actually go to Europe.

I am not waiting for the timing to be perfect. I will not wait for the man of my dreams to also want to go. I will not wait for my weight or size to be within certain constraints. I will not wait for my finances to be the envy of every advisor who might review them.

I am going.

I am going because I want to go and because I can. I am going because life is now.

I am going because I am not afraid. I am not a ‘bad traveler.’ I am not paralyzed by anxiety.

I am going because I once was fun. I was adventurous. I was eager to see and do and drink and eat.

I have felt no longer alive and a shell of myself for longer than I can remember. Today, having booked this trip, I feel myself coming back into my own skin. I am no longer a shell. I am here and, right this moment, anyway, I am happy.

arche de triumph
Photo by Ashley Elena on


  1. I am so sorry you had to go through all of this. BUT, I am super excited you are going to London. I love London but I haven’t been there since I did my semester in England and that was in 1999. When my daughter is older, I will take her over.

    My 40th is this summer and my friends and I are going to Austin, TX. I am going to dance with a Cowboy and eat some Tex-Mex and TX BBQ. So excited.

    1. YES! I’m so excited for you! That celebration sounds so awesome and I can’t wait to hear all about it!

      And thanks for your condolences and congratulations. I can’t wait to be there!

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