Travel Romance: Can love on the road last?
Travel narratives

Travel Romance: Can love on the road last?

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Having spent many years on the road I’m no stranger to travel romance. From fleeting travel flings, tearful goodbyes, hostel creeps, to full-on long-distance relationships.

I’ve probably experienced the full scale of love on the road during my extensive travels.

Travel love stories can become a big part of our adventures and potentially linger for years to come in our memories.

There’s nothing more indulgent than daydreaming on a rainy day about that coffee shop date you had in Rome 6 years ago.

Travel Romance: Can love on the road last?

Travel romance: Can love on the road last?

I still remember several of guys who I met my travels and the fleeting romances forged in destinations across the world. Most of them are fond memories, others I block out with Bacardi.

Brief flings, intense relationships and heartbreaking goodbyes all have a way of impacting our adventures and even our lives. A little romance can often be one of the best outcomes of travel.

Ironically, I met my now-husband whilst I was home in between travels and he became the one I stuck around for.

We now travel a lot together and are happily creating our own travel memories.

Do holiday romances work out?

When we are in the zen of travel our emotions can be heightened. Sunsets seem dreamier, cities are more colourful, possibilities seem endless.

With your feelings dialled way up, it can become easy to convince yourself that a bearded hipster called Roscoe, with a mere $12 to his name, is somehow “the one”.

High on $1 cocktails and moonlit walks on the beach, it’s a sure-fire way to get swept up in the moment and make starry-eyed plans to “meet in Paris.”

With your feelings dialled way up, it can become easy to convince yourself that a bearded hipster called Roscoe, with a mere $12 to his name, is somehow “the one”.

Dating while travelling

The problem with holiday romances is when you actually meet up away from the excitement of travel, there’s a danger it can all seem a bit beige?

When we are short on vacation days the smallest of things take on new meaning. Everything is more intense, connections become deeper and all sense of reason goes out the window.

Every kiss is magical, every snatched moment in a grubby hostel is drenched in romance and longing. Each goodbye is also more soul-destroying than the last.

Never underestimate the intensity of a full-blown travel romance, it’s one of the most intoxicating experiences you can have on the road.

What would have typically been a two-date-then-ghost scenario back home, suddenly takes on an absurd level of profoundness?

Meeting travel flings back home

This is mostly because travel offers us the opportunity to reinvent ourselves.

Back home there are bills to pay, errands to run and people to please. On the road, we can construct any self-identity we want, our slate wiped, a chance to start afresh.

Want to go vegan, get dreads and learn the ukulele? No Problem. Get those elephant pants on and start learning Jack Johnson chords.

You can be whoever you want to be in Ko Pha Ngan. Dial that travel wanker level up to 11 and call yourself a reiki healer.

Perhaps this is why when we meet travel flings back home, they can seem so different from what we remember?

In Goa, Milo is a super chill surfer dude that will recite Robert Frost poems to you at 3 am.

Back home in Huddersfield, he’s a grumpy, struggling barista 3 months behind on rent. Holiday Milo and home Milo are not the same people. I think we can forget that when we are dreamily planning out our future with “the one”.

Can a travel romance last? 

Many of us have tried to keep a travel fling going once we have returned home, or moved on to a new destination, myself included.

I’ve had my fair share of travel romances over the years with varying degrees of intensity and duration.

Some of the more memorable ones include a cosy date at a Korean BBQ in Melbourne. A 48-hour fling in Boston, a drunken snog in a Thai jungle rave and a long-distance relationship with a sullen Dutch guy.

I think the one that most encapsulates the theory that ‘holiday flings are never the same at home’, is Aleksi*.

Can a travel romance last?

And then came Aleksi

I met Aleksi whilst backpacking around the states, towards the end of a 9 month trip around the world trip.

I clocked him on a sweltering evening in May, whilst on a budget ghost tour of New Orleans. He was a funny, self-deprecating, 6’5 Finnish guy that clearly had no idea how delicious he was.

We got roaring drunk during the tour and kept bursting into fits of laughter during our poor guide’s attempt to deliver rather horrifying stories about the haunted LaLaurie Mansion.

Time seemed to slow down and we ended up in a beer garden listening to a jazz band until the sun started to rise around 5 am.

It was one of those blissful, halcyon days of travel that makes you realise why you rejected convention and that admin job in Swindon.

It quickly became apparent we had the same dark humour and penchant for boozy, brandy cocktails.

My tipsy mind started constructing all kinds of happily ever afters during that drawn-out, humid night. He had to be the one, oh dear Thor let him be the one.

Travel dating

We hung out for our remaining few days in New Orleans, eating Po’Boys, going to Jazz shows and discussing obscure sci-fi movies, as the sexual tension simmered away.

But bizarrely, despite our sizzling chemistry, no move was made by Aleksi. No hand-holding, drunken make-out sessions, or any other action for that matter.

Obviously, this only intensified my fixation, which was already in danger of tipping over into full-blown oneitis, [our Lake Garda wedding would be described as ‘breathtaking’].

Of course, I made internal excuses, ‘he’s shy’, ‘he isn’t like the other guys’, ‘what we have is deeper than just banging in a hostel dorm’. We ladies never learn, especially when there’s a hunky European involved.

Slow burn chemistry

I didn’t get it? Was I misreading our slow-burn chemistry? We shared so many obscure things in common and loved all the same hipster music.

We both agreed that Paul’s Boutique was one of the most seminal albums of our generation. What in the name of hip-hop was going on?

With the benefit of hindsight, I should have remembered one of the most insightful lines in 500 days of Summer. “Just because she likes the same bizzaro crap you do, doesn’t mean she’s your soulmate.”

However, back in New Orleans, it was soon time to move on to new destinations and a despite the slight weird sexual dynamic, we swapped numbers. Thus began the rampant texting phase of our peculiar relationship.

Visiting someone you met on vacation

After New Orleans, I made my way up to Chicago to catch up with my travel buddy Christine.

On the days she was working, I would aimlessly wander the streets of Chicago. Instead of looking up at the incredible architecture, I was glued to my phone in a texting intensity.

Now we were apart, things had weirdly kicked up a notch and Aleksi messaged me continuously. Flirty banter, quotes from songs, funny selfies. He made it very clear, in not so many words, that he was interested in me.

I was in one of those distressed wood, identikit hipster coffee shops in Chicago when the message came through. “I’m coming to visit you in Wales when you get back, i’ve already booked flights.”

Holy shitballs, my fairytale was about to begin. I knew one day my Finnish prince will come.

Why Holiday flings don’t work out

I had been home for just 48 hours when Aleksi came to visit me. I barely had enough time to unpack and sort my life out before a man the size of an oak tree arrived.

After our weeks of flirty messaging, my anticipation of his arrival was at total fever pitch levels.

I barely ate anything whilst smugly announcing to friends that yes, a beautiful Finnish man was crossing an OCEAN to come and see me. My life was a literal rom-com and I was the star.

Because I had been away for so long, my social calendar was packed with pub nights, dinner dates, house parties and even my friend Mike’s wedding.

I brought Aleksi to all of these events, including the wedding and he utterly charmed all my friends. The trays of vodka he kept purchasing for us all probably helped too.

My friend James was so taken with him that he gave him his Welsh dragon pendant. This might sound bit odd to more normal people but us Welsh folk are a wildly overfamiliar bunch. It’s part of what makes us so special.

He was even there when my best friend Charlotte got engaged at my ‘welcome home’ party that week. He hugged and danced with everyone and got the rounds in, like he was one of the gang.

I had an oven-ready boyfriend that had integrated seamlessly with my friends and life. It was all too good to be true.

Letting go of a travel fling

I should probably mention at this point that our relationship was still as unphysical as it was back in New Orleans.

With each passing day, he seemed less and less interested in me, instead, he was acting like we were the best of friends.

It was so far removed from all our coy, teasing messages that had been sent whilst we were apart. What in the name of Dolly Parton was happening?

Despite spending every day together, meeting all my friends and going on a dreamy, 2-day surf break to the Gower, there was zero funny business during his visit. It had gone from exciting, to utterly confusing.

I know in this day and age women can also make a move but that’s just not my jam. I’m just not a first move kinda girl, I’m a ‘get on your knees and worship me like a Khaleesi’ sort. Well, when I wasn’t in the grip of insanity regarding an uninterested Finn that is.

It all came to a head when during a night out he decided to go cruising for girls at a dive bar with my ex-boyfriend.

I then got to hear all about what a great “wingman” he was the next day, from my ex, over coffee. Yes, my ex-boyfriend is one of my best friends, yes my life is this ridiculous.

When holiday romances don’t work out

At this point, enough was enough, I have some dignity you know. Hurt and confused, I coldly informed Aleksi that it was “probably best he went home”.

With an enraging high five and a chirpy “Thank’s for showing me around, your friends are so cool”, he was off without a backward glance.

Probably to confuse and frustrate the next girl that he met on his travels, I thought bitterly as I sulked and finished off the merlot.

I was staying with my awesome pal Rachel at the time and we drank copious amounts of wine and poured over every detail of his perplexing visit during our evenings together.

I really need to thank her again for her wise, chardonnay-fuelled counsel and for not getting cross when I drunkenly fell asleep in the laundry basket.

Where do we go from here?

As the days rolled on with no contact I started to wonder if I had imagined our connection?

Maybe I had taken our playful communications, shared interests and prolonged eye contact and had blown them up into massive cosmic signs, in my own head. Had I accidentally gaslit myself?

I bent my own dating rules at this point, which is to never be the first to break the silence. In this particular case, I just had to have some closure, for my own sanity.

Also, because all my friends were now deeply invested in my latest dating saga. We all needed a dramatic season finale.

Getting some closure

It was probably after my 7th Vodka and diet coke that I drunk messaged him, “have you got a secret wife?”. Proving yet again that Smirnoff is no friend of mine.

What came back was a long and predictable series of messages that were basically vague, “it’s not you, it’s me” type excuses.

The usual dating tropes were deployed: complicated feelings for an ex-girlfriend, unhappy with work, unsure about the future, etc.

I was still frustrated at what I perceived to be rather lame excuses for casually toying with my feelings. Who flies hundreds of miles to see a girl they aren’t really interested in? This was some weird, next-level bullshit.

My closure finally came with one of his last and quite telling messages to me. “I always feel like there’s more than one side to me and unlike you, I sort of show different sides of myself to different people. So you seeing me in Wales, might be a different Aleksi than the one you’ve seen before.”

And there is was, ‘holiday Aleksi’ was not the same as ‘at home Aleksi’. It really was as simple as that. Indulging my romantic fantasies was simply a part of his overall travel experience and now it was part of mine.

Finally, I could close the door and chalk it up to the fact that love on the road should probably stay on the road.

Moving onwards and upwards

It’s been well over seven years since I’ve heard from Aleksi. He has long been consigned to the ‘somebody that I used to know’ pile.

Despite coming intensely into my world for a short while, there is little evidence of it and that’s probably a good thing?

We clearly weren’t really good for each other, so let’s not play the ‘let’s be friends’ game. I was relieved to rip off that particular band-aid.

With time though, comes forgiveness and an increased level of self-awareness.

I now realise that I had probably projected my own romantic vision and ideologies onto him and for reasons known only to him, he decided to humour me for a short while.

I actually hope he’s happy now and that he’s found what he is looking for? He had the air of a lost soul when I met him and I clearly was not the girl to rescue him. I think he needed to do that for himself.

Do travel romances ever really work out?

So can travel romances ever work out? In my long and varied experience, probably not. I know many travellers who are happy to regale me with heartache and unrequited love on the road.

However, sometimes love finds a way. I gathered a big collection of travel love stories from several of my travel writer friends that should restore your faith in romance and going the distance.

I’m actually glad that I managed to find my soul mate, [beloved weirdo] back at home and not in a $5 Bangkok hostel.

What we have isn’t solely reliant on just sunsets and good times. Yes, we travel together but we also experience real life together. If you can survive a trip to Ikea, you can survive anything.

I think the key to travel romance is managing your expectations. If you meet a ripped Australian on Bondi Beach who seems keen, enjoy the fun times whilst they last, instead of planning the wedding.

Don’t put any pressure on your travel relationships and they will run the exact course that they are meant to. Remember darlings, we’ll always have Paris.

*Name was changed to protect that douchebag his privacy.

Travel lessons in love

As you can probably gather from this article, travel romance is definitely one of the more emotive travel lessons that we can learn.

It’s certainly played a big part of my experiences and each encounter was a learning curve and a chance to grow. And drink big glasses of heartbreak wine of course.

We talk more about travel life lessons on my travel podcast Travel Goals, subscribe now and download all the latest episodes.

What do you think of my article on travel romance? Have you ever had a holiday fling? Let me know in the comments below!

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