I knew from a young age that I was going to be a traveler. I loved the world too much and that love only grew fonder when I’d earned myself enough money to book my first few flights abroad, and had the opportunity to experience life in other parts of the world. By the time I was 25 I had already been to over 20 countries and instead of each country satisfying my wanderlust, it only made it stronger, feeding it with more desire to see other places, farther places, and more exotic places.
Before I planned to take an extended journey abroad all of my travels were holidays really, just 2 – 6 weeks of whirlwind travel and then a flight back home to the same routine and the same people I loved. I’d been in relationships while traveling and, while it was hard at times, 2 weeks apart wasn’t the worst thing. If anything it affirmed the idea that absence makes the heart grow fonder. This time was different though. I wanted to spend 12 months traveling and the dynamics changed significantly.
Only trouble was that the rest of my life wasn’t exactly in line with your typical 9 – 5 working week, Saturday’s shopping at the farmers market and working in the garden, and Sunday’s out on the verandah sipping a glass of wine and discussing our dreams and aspirations. The rest of my life involved one year of solid travel through Asia, an extended time volunteering in Africa and potentially another year exploring the wonders of South America. Then maybe, just maybe, plan to settle back in my hometown.
My partner loved the idea too. We talked about the places we would go and all the wonderful things we would do. What route to take, how we could live off minimal budget and experience places where tourists seldom go. It all sounded so perfect and promising to me, me the traveller, me the one who imagines her life abroad, me the one who had been dreaming of this for so long.
For him, it seemed like a nice idea, it seemed fun and adventurous, but that was not the life he planned. He never spent hours on Google searching the next perfect destination; he never stayed up at night dreaming of faraway places and the things he could see and do. He had a life at home. It was a comfortable life and he enjoyed it.
At first we made the plans together. He loved seeing something that made me so happy and sharing that excitement every time a plan was made. For a little while we were on exactly the same page, that perfect page whereby two people are going in the exact same direction. For a small while we had that.
He got offered a job at home, the stresses of money arose, he started thinking a lot about what consequences would occur if he left his whole life behind to be reckless and travel the world. He wasn’t following the path he planned, he was following my path, my reckless path, the path of a dreamer, a traveller. “Just come with me” I would say, “Everything will work out” I would say with a deep down feeling of selfishness and fear that I was stealing him from the path he belonged, just to have him on my path so our world could be perfect, and we could be happy and in love forever and ever. Although it wasn’t like stealing someone from a path and veering it slightly, it was like stealing someone from a path and then taking them in the complete opposite direction to an unknown destination that they may or may not be ready for.
The idea of drifting off a path so unfamiliar was too much for him. I had to let my selfishness go, and for a moment the tables were turned. He was now steering me on his perfect path, secure at home, earning enough money for us to live, spending days with our friends, in familiar places, and going on short adventures whenever we had time in our busy lives.
I then realised that if I followed his path I would end up in an unknown destination, an unfamiliar place, a place I may or may not be ready for. What was once two people going in the same direction was now two people going in completely different directions. Someone had to make a sacrifice. It was as if we were both sitting on opposite ends of the chessboard, drifting further and further apart waiting for the other to make the move.
The sacrifice became the love we had both created, and nurtured until this day. Somewhere along the way the love became lost and we were both left to walk down our separate paths alone, picking up the pieces of our broken hearts and trying to put them back together.
I still had my love for the world, and perhaps he still had his love for the things he chose, but was that enough? I had given up my love for a man, for my love of travel, and I still can’t say whether it was worth it.
There are days that loneliness swarms over me like a big dark storm cloud. I think of what it would be like to have him by my side, enjoying the life I chose. I also think of what it would be like to be with him, in his world, Saturday mornings at the farmers market, Sunday afternoons drinking wine and talking about our dreams and aspirations.
Giving up that love was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. Sometimes life takes you in different directions and you can only hope that one day there will come a time where your path will align with another’s and you can love each other while walking together in the same direction, all the way to the end.