When we single travelers embark on our travels, our minds wander about the possibility of romance. C’mon — the possibilities (and countries) are endless!
But there’s a high risk of heartbreak and tears when you fly home or move to the next destination. Travel flings are almost as frequent as bad first dates in any city. Nomadic Matt even coined the term “destination relationship” to describe a fast relationship that happens only at a particular time and place, for convenience, for human contact, for a brief but memorable adventure.
If travel dating is so hard, why do we continue to get excited about meeting someone new in a foreign land? The idea of living in the moment; the excitement of travel; the adrenaline rush — these factors seem to make it easier to fall for that “love at first sight” fairytale.
When I left New York to travel full-time, I was planning to go with my boyfriend at the time. Things didn’t work out, and it wasn’t until seven months later that I met someone I was remotely interested in Vietnam.
This past summer, I spent a few days in Hoi An to renew my visa. While there, I met up with a friend at a bar for some drinks and music.
Once we arrived, I noticed him.
He was wearing a red tank top with the Vietnamese star stamped on the front, revealing his sun-kissed arms. He was bald (I have this weird thing for bald men, don’t judge me), but not the height I would choose for myself (I’m 5’10), nonetheless, I noticed him.
As the night went on, and people were mingling and moving around the room, someone tapped my shoulder. I turned around to see him with a mischievous smile and two shots of tequila.
We talked for two hours, laughing and exchanging various tidbits from our lives in New York and London, as well as our similar upbringings within a Jamaican household. We never entered the dance floor or noticed the bar area around us was empty.
The next day, I skipped my online teaching hours, seduced by his promise of freshly squeezed orange juice and filling breakfast. We then spent hours at the beach, swimming and laughing.
The time came for me to return to my boring small town in Vietnam, and for him to carry on with his two-month holiday; hence the goodbye. But before the goodbye, was the kiss.
Full disclosure: I have no doubt this kiss is in my top three kisses of all time. It’s forever etched in my memory.
A couple of weeks went by, and he invited me to spend a week with him in Chiang Mai, Thailand. For a few days, I was debating if it was better to hold onto the memory of our 36 hours together than potentially “ruining” it.
But curiosity and temptation got the best of me — I packed a bag and headed to Chiang Mai.
We spent six full days together, during which we went to a waterpark, ate amazing hot wings, partied, learned the ins and out of American and British humor, Netflixed, shared dreams of our future, slow danced in our hotel room to Motown and shared our experiences as Black humans traveling across Southeast Asia.
On my way back to Vietnam, I received a text from him:
“Hi Blue (the nickname he gave me), I just got on the bus to Pai, will let you know when I arrive and will send some pictures…”
And that was the last time I heard from him.
No pictures or updates ever came. No responses to my read messages on WhatsApp or three phone calls. Nothing.
He was… gone.
For the next four days, it was Netflix, chips in bed, and tears. I didn’t question myself in terms of what I might have said or done wrong but more how could a person do that? And why?
Although my first travel romance was heartbreaking, it was the first time I could truly be myself with someone. And I credit that sense of freedom to travel.
When traveling long-term, you get used to saying hellos and goodbyes. But when you connect with someone romantically, you want it to last. You’d secretly think: “perhaps this is the one that will stay around.”
Sometimes on the road, you only have two days to get to know someone. Your conversations and feelings can grow much faster and deeper, knowing that your time together is limited. But when one person goes home or to the next destination, all bets are off.
You’ll settle back in your routine at home again, or you’ll meet someone new when you check in at the next hostel or Airbnb. Whatever happens next — it just doesn’t take much for one to kill off a travel romance that’s hundreds of miles away.
Travel romance sucks. Yet, we’ll keep dreaming and traveling until the day we run into our perfect travel partner, somewhere.
Since I had my heart broken, I was very reluctant to date again during my travels. But I’m happy to say I’ve been on two dates (thanks, Tinder) recently. I’m still dreaming of that feeling of one thousand butterflies fluttering around my belly, forcing me to feel things I never had before.