No story is complete without a little love in it. A backpacking trip may be stuffed with all the adventure, culture and life lessons in the world, but let’s face it– at the end of the day, life without romance is boring. Long trips abroad often result in loneliness and even worse, unintentional celibacy. I’ve heard many of my girlfriends complain upon returning home from their travels. “Ugh, there were like, NO men in Italy.” Really? No men in the entire country of Italy? In my three months of backpacking Australia and Thailand, I have impressed myself with the amount of romance I’ve found and the creative places I’ve found it. It isn’t about luck. It’s about a change of attitude.
Whether you are female, male, gay, straight or experimental, finding love while traveling is possible for you. Open your eyes. If you’re not finding love on the road, you’re probably not looking very hard. It shouldn’t take full days of searching, but it does require awareness. Look around you. There are potential lovers everywhere and you don’t need Lonely Planet to find them; they are in hostels, cafes, laundromats, sitting beside you on a bus or train. I met a Thai man when I got into a motorbike accident outside his reggae bar in Koh Panghan (note: I do not recommend motorbike accidents). Your next travel-lover could be another backpacker or a local. Don’t be picky! This probably isn’t going to be your life partner and the chances of never seeing them again are high. So open your mind, turn up the flirt and give people a chance.
The biggest challenge of travel-love could also be considered its greatest benefit. Unless you happen to meet someone from your hometown on the other side of the world (which has in fact happened to me), falling in love while traveling involves an inevitable deadline.You have a few options in dealing with this; you can be lazy and say ‘what’s the point of getting involved?’ you can be cowardly and say ‘I’m afraid of getting close just to lose someone!’ or you can be bold and adventurous like you are in all other respects of traveling and say ‘Hell yes, I’m going to have a 24-hour love affair with someone I hardly know!’ This attitude not only helps you meet someone but enhances the time you’ll spend with them. When we know we only have a short time with someone we really like, we let go of attachment, open up quickly, and live presently, savoring each moment with them. This approach to romance can also help us later on in “real” relationships.
Aside from the big stuff, there are many little perks of “roadmance”. If you’re smart enough to get involved with a local you can learn the culture hands-on (pun intended), pick up the language and visit romantic spots that only locals know of. If you happen to fall for another traveler, they may become your new travel-mate to your next location, carry your oversize backpack for you, or maybe even buy your next free meal.
Travel-love is passionate and adventurous. As we bond intensely and depart without attachment, we maintain mystery of identity and discover someone foreign and exotic to us.Travel and romance go hand-in-hand; they teach us, challenge us and help us grow. When combined, we undergo something deep that is best understood through experience.