It was midnight at a “Medieval Festival” in Salamanca, Spain. A dark-haired Spaniard whispered “linda” (beautiful) along my neck, as we swayed across a nightclub dance floor.
Though we had just met, we kissed as if he were leaving for war and knew he’d never return. The premise of a long-term connection felt impossible—over the loud music, I gathered he was studying English in Newcastle, England. Meanwhile, I was studying Spanish in Madrid.
As we danced, I imagined things would never progress beyond that moment. However, when a hot Spanish stranger you’ve known for 20 minutes invites you to rendezvous with him in London—“the impossible” gets lost somewhere between him making sweet love to your earlobes and the part of your brain that says, “This is crazy.”
Days later, after we’d booked our tickets to London, it still felt crazy. Except when my girlfriends—who’d drooled over photos of his chiseled abs on Facebook—looked at me and said, “The only crazy thing about this scenario would be you not going.”
So we ended up spending a week together in London—holding hands as we ice skated in front of the Natural History Museum, cozying up to watch holiday fireworks ignite over the River Thames and exchanging declarations of love and devotion at the top of the London Eye as we overlooked the city at night.
For seven impassioned days, we were mad about each other—and everyone in Piccadilly Circus who saw us making out knew it too. After we each flew home, however, we never saw one another again. We kept in touch, but the connection fizzled with distance. There weren’t fights. There wasn’t anger, resentment, blame or a dramatic breakup scene. We were just in love in London one day, and then not in love in different countries the next.
This is what I like about travel romances. They are intense, profound and exciting, but when they end, they do so with a form of acceptance that only belongs to love on the road.
Afterward, life quickly transitions to the next adventure—and perhaps even the next love interest—and each party walks away with a degree of knowing that this is how these types of fleeting, passionate romances go.
In my world, it’s not the lack of responsibility and commitment I find most satisfying about this type of connection, though. It’s the intensity and the uniqueness of the experience—the serendipity and the perpetual honeymoon. It’s pure love without all the burdensome questions. When I am in love abroad, I’m not agonizing over what it means when a man texts me hello, or contemplating what forever with this person would look like. I am probably too busy climbing palm trees with them, or marveling at the Eiffel Tower in their arms, to even go there in my mind.
Living in the moment—the future can’t be imagined and the road is so uncertain—I become fully present in love, in the time I have to spend together with this person.
Traveling allows me to accept and flow with whatever occurs—which is probably also why it’s easier emotionally to leave someone when our paths divert. You knew already, that in one week he would be headed to Morocco, while you had a one-way ticket to Thailand. Coming apart is purely circumstantial.
Meanwhile, if someone breaks it off with me back home, I feel devastated knowing they did so by choice. It hurts more to not be chosen by someone, because they don’t want me, than it does to be left because someone is moving on to their next destination. In fact, if they’re headed to climb Everest, even though I feel sad to see them go, I’ll also feel happy—I want them to pursue their dreams.
In love while traveling, I allow myself to become so consumed by the experience that I do things that I might not otherwise do in my life back home—like let someone go with ease.
These days, the encounter with the Spaniard in London fits into my bank of memories that I access whenever someone during a party game asks that cliché question, “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?” This place in my mind also holds other travel memories underpinned by romance—sunrise skinny dipping off a secluded Puerto Rican beach, moonlit tumbles through sand dunes under star-filled skies, vows I’ll follow someone to the ends of the earth and then actually doing that by putting a round-the-world ticket on your credit card (which, I really did do).
There’s freedom and a degree of open-mindedness in travel love. Out there, you can do whatever you want and be whoever you want to be, which expands who you are and who you attract. And when two people come together in that space—the chemistry is electric.
Then, the openness in my mind opens my heart—allowing in more love than all the excuses and over thinking I create when I am back home. In the States, I can come up with 100 reasons not to love someone—and also to not let someone love me—but on the road, my mind is geared up for one simple question, “Why not?” It becomes part of the experience.
My times of love on the road have taught me important things that I cherish now, as I look for the more grounded kind of love that has roots and an address.
I have experienced what it’s like to release future expectations in order to just enjoy someone’s presence, and through that intention, I’ve witnessed my heart become even more available to someone.
I’ve learned to embrace spontaneity as something that lights up my entire existence.
I’ve gotten clear on many things I don’t want in my next relationship.
I’ve experienced the power of love to transform terrible situations into fun memories and opportunities for growth—and also how love gone array can ruin everything.
I’ve seen myself survive the sensation of yearning and realized that it won’t kill me.
I’ve come to know the power and importance of shared experience, instead of doing everything on my own.
I’ve experienced what it really means to go the distance for someone else. Literally.
There are different degrees of heart connections we can share with people out in the world. Love hurts, as it also heals. Love challenges us—it inspires us. It takes us places we never imagined we’d go, and all we have to do is be crazy enough to say, “Yes.”
Perhaps I’ll fly to Austin, Texas to explore love with someone I only knew for a few days, or perhaps my travels will lead me somewhere else. No matter where love and life carry me, I’ll always abide by that ancient suggestion—follow your heart.
Author: Megan Snedden
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Photo: Flickr/Robin Green