Here in 2011, I find myself musing on the romantic complications that have transpired over the past 15 years of travel. When I first began daydreaming about international travel as a teenager, this part of traveling didn't even occur to me. Back in my 20's, I used the phrase "Geographically Challenged" to describe these experiences. Now in my 30's, I'm growing tired of them.
A hazard of being a traveler is that one is drawn to travelers. You are both open minded. You both love the world. You both have a sense of adventure. You both enjoy being challenged by new experiences. You both love the comfort of certain familiar countries, "second homes" in a way. The possibility is high that one or both of you may at some point go on a trip and you will be separated by long gaps of time and distance. Email and Skype make it easier, but it's not quite the same as dating someone in person. Some of these experiences caused great sadness, some still make a good story.
Something about traveling has always made me gutsier than when I'm on my home turf. I flirt more, I relax more, I don't worry too much about the what ifs when I know I'm just having fun on a trip and nothing more. Yet, the problem, is that I'm always on the lookout for that something more.
There was the man I met in England. An American who lived in the same house as me. He lived in Milwaukee, and I remember well when he said that Milwaukee and Chicago were too far apart for us to start a relationship. How this makes me laugh now! A two hour train/bus trip seems like nothing compared to the other distances I've encountered.
There was the man I met online who went to the South Pole two weeks after I met him and started dating him. This was the greatest geographical distance by far! A short-lived but fun flirtation.
There was the man I traveled to Hungary to see. The man who when I finally told him how I felt, said he'd love it if we could have a "modern relationship": we would get together when we were in the same country. I left him in Hungary, not seeing him for 12 years. When I ran into him on the streets of Chicago, we eventually would start a relationship, breaking up because I didn't want to be as rooted as he wanted, wasn't as sure I wanted to give up everything to bear his children.
There was the blind date in England arranged by a Swedish friend I met in South Africa (how's that for geography!). We had one lovely date stomping around Windsor and the countryside. Ten years later we met again and danced the night away at our friend's wedding in Sweden.
There was the man in South Africa for whom I always felt a "what if." So I went to explore the "what if," reminding myself how wonderful a man he was, and how much he wasn't the man for me. No regrets. Two lovely weekends in wine country, many good conversations. Two good people. Not a good match.
Then, this past year, an Argentinian who took me quite by surprise. A whirlwind few dates before I went to England and Sweden, then one date, then he went to Argentina, then one date, then he went off to Rotterdam.
So, here I am. 36 and feeling quite grateful and yet exhausted because of another geographical challenge gone awry. Perhaps one of these days I will meet a man with travel adventures behind him and before him, a man who will be rooted somewhere I want to be, and the timing will be right, and geography will not be a challenge.
Our passports will be stamped on the same trip. We will make plans. We will take trips on our own or with friends, only to come back to the other's arms at the airport. We will want to hear each other's stories, see all the photos. The world will be our playground, the canvas upon which we enjoy our life.
One of these days.