It’s no secret that meeting, befriending, and sometimes fucking new people is an adventure in itself when you travel. People are more open, and since time is of the essence, no one feels the need to hold back. In travel, we are free from our conventional lives and maintaining the appearance of them. But sometimes a rendezvous on the road seems like it could be something more than just a quick shag in the hay. At least it did for me.
As new friends come easily on the road, so too do life lessons. During my recent excursions in France, I learned more about the flawed inter-workings of my love life over a weekend than I have in the last ten plus years or so of dating. I realized that despite all my attempts to be independent and free from the material world, I still clung to the idea that I need to find a man, fall in love, and get married.
I’m going to be real with you. I’m thirty years old and while I’ve had some boyfriends and a lot of casual affairs, I’ve never felt really committed to anyone. “This guy and me for the win,” – said by me approximately once and that shit didn’t work out (Which is good because that dude turned out to be evil as hell). It’s not something I’ve been proud of and I have felt like it makes me less mature than other people my age. But I thought I was OK with it. I seem to have been able to enjoy this whole being single thing, but now I realize, at least after this weekend, that I never really did accept it at all. No matter how much I knew I wasn’t ready for a committed relationship or that the other person wasn’t right for me, I never stopped trying to make this love thing work. I hope what happened this weekend helped me to learn my lesson.
This weekend I met up with someone I had a really fun time with on a previous trip. I had been thinking about him a lot and was so excited to see him again. So excited that I utterly romanticized our previous encounter and had high expectations for the outcome of our meeting in France. In my mind I was acting like he might be “the one” and sadly my actions also portrayed that in real life, which, not surprisingly freaked him the hell out! But unlike all the other times this happened, he was really direct with me about it and we actually had a discussion! A discussion, not some weird unanswered email, or strange facial expression I’d analyze three thousand times over until I finally concluded, in what seemed like eons too late, that the guy wasn’t really that into me.
In our discussion, we ironed out the difference between what I’d been acting like our relationship was and what it really was. Our situation had all the signs of what could be a utterly harmless, really fun casual arrangement. It’s not like we were staying up until 3 in the morning working out each other’s problems or finishing each other’s lines. It was clear we didn’t have that kind of the connection – the kind of connection that’s essential if you’re going to be committed to someone. Not only was it completely obvious that he and I are really different people, we live on different continents! Yet despite all these obvious signs, I tried to make the situation into something it wasn’t. And I knew what I was doing too; he didn’t need to tell me. I knew the first time I met him that we had irrecoverable differences, I just wouldn’t listen to myself.
After our discussion, we hung out for the next few days with the expectation that nothing was really going to come out of our weekend rendezvous. It was a hard concept for me to swallow. Maybe casual relationships aren’t for me, but because he was so straight with me it was hard to muddle the situation with unrealistic expectations. It was then that I realized how deeply the societal expectations to find the one had affected me. How they dictated how I interacted with men, and how they had almost lost me a good time. When I wanted this situation to be something more, I regarded our real-life interactions as disappointing. After our talk, I didn’t really think of things that way anymore. I remembered that I was in France, tasting wine in Bordeaux, and fuck was I lucky.
I also think putting these expectations to the side lines helped us to get to know and appreciate each other better. It’s funny, you think by wanting something serious with someone it means you’re more willing to love them. The opposite is true, because when you’re expecting something from someone, you’re far less likely to accept them for who they actually are. Not to mention that when you’re trying to make something serious, there’s a 100% chance you aren’t really being yourself either 😉
As I said before, in travel we are more able to escape from societal conventions. We talk to strangers and are willing to do things that we’d never do at home. But that’s just a temporary benefit. The long-term benefits are that we can, for the first time, see the world for what it really is. We can see how we were raised and the kinds of things we’ve been told we have to do. And for the first time we can see that none of those things compromise who we are. None of it is you. The desire for flowers isn’t you, nor is the perfect wedding shot, or the iconic shot in front of the Eiffel Tower (and most definitely the selfie you take in front of it isn’t either). Travel can help you see everything you do from an outside perspective and in eliminating these societal conventions, you can more easily access who you really are. But the truth is that you don’t really need to travel, because you always know the truth within yourself. Travel just has a way of bringing you closer to that truth.