An Open Letter To The Man I Met Abroad

barbadoswestcoast

It hits at the most unexpected times. It’s not written in stone and it can sneak up on you when you’re least expecting it. We all know the feeling: the undeniable tightening of the chest, the butterflies soaring in your stomach and the endless need to hear his voice, see his face. Love has a funny way of working and travel has a funny way of making itself a larger priority. Maybe it’s not really love if it doesn’t come first but it has gotten pretty close.

The first time I saw him he was singing in a café that my friends and I went to every Wednesday: a guitar slung from his shoulder and a harmonica dangling from his neck. Opportunity struck and before I knew it, he was picking me up the following evening. I sat in the balmy Caribbean heat, sipping on rum while he sang a song for me and afterwards, he spent the evening taking me out to his favorite spots before dropping me off at home.

We didn’t take it slow. The realization that I had only a short time left created a sense of urgency and we spent nearly every waking moment together. Our time was filled with evenings listening to him sing, dinners and drinks and nights at his place. We explored an abandoned house, kissed in the sea, and drove around the entire island. We talked about our futures, our families and our dreams. We laughed, fought, cried and ultimately kept each other close until it was time for me to go. There were promises of visits in the near future, of him visiting Canada and me returning to the island. There was assurances that we would talk on the phone, FaceTime every week; we were sure that we would stay in touch.

But as these things go, the phone calls faded and the FaceTime never even began.

I caught myself doing the most embarrassing things that we affectionately label as “crazy girl” behavior. But I wasn’t crazy, was I? I just missed him. I missed the idea of what could have developed and I was terrible at putting that idea to rest. Was it real love? I don’t know. Would it have continued if I hadn’t taken my flight home? I don’t know that either. But I do know that it wasn’t for nothing.

It was real, for me.

It might not have lasted and who knows if I will ever see or hear from him again. But during those months and in those moments, it was real. I let myself be open, raw and vulnerable. I loved being near him, holding his hand, and kissing his face. I loved waking up next to him, listening to the stresses of his day and debating our thoughts about the world. I loved when he pulled me tighter in his sleep and when we made up after a fight. I loved having that sense of being wanted and appreciated, even for that fleeting moment.

It will always coincide with my time abroad.

Whenever I look back on my time abroad and the incredible people I met, I will remember him. He’ll sneak into my thoughts whenever I think about the experiences that I had and the things that I loved. I’ll remember the moment that he said he wanted me to meet his parents and when I, terrified at the seriousness of that request, declined. I’ll remember the moment that he ran down the street towards me when he thought I was leaving without saying goodbye. He will always be there when I think about my time abroad, even when he wasn’t.

It made me believe that love can still exist.

Our time together wasn’t perfect. There were things about me that annoyed him and things about him that drove me crazy. There were times when our souls were intricately meshed and times when our personalities pushed against each other. But, all of the similarities and differences made me realize that I haven’t given up on love. It made me realize that I don’t want to settle for our hook up culture of Netflix and booty calls. I want debates, I want arguments, I want make up sex and morning sex and 3 o’clock in the afternoon sex.

I want movies in bed, homemade meals that involve dancing around the kitchen in our bare feet and, more importantly, I want that with someone whose soul wants my soul, whose soul inspires my soul. If that takes another five years to find, then I will wait because I deserve that type of all-consuming, honest, raw love. We all deserve that kind of love and we shouldn’t be afraid to wait for it.

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When Your Love of the World is Stronger than Your Desire to Love a Person

“I don’t know where I am going,
but I am on my way.”
-Carl Sagan

Every time I check my news feed I am bombarded with couples madly in love with each other. There are engagement announcements, girls showing off the new diamonds on their ring finger, wedding dates, pregnancy announcements and baby photos. I realize that the age I am now is a perfectly acceptable age to get married and have kids… but that is the farthest thing from my mind. Hell, I can’t even commit to a relationship without my brain piping in and asking “what’s the point?” Having my brain dictate this part of my life is unusual for me. I’m an overly emotional person, I react and make choices based on my feelings about things and what my heart tells me, not my brain. In a way I am following my heart in this area of my life as well, it’s just that my heart always takes me away from possible relationships and further into the parts of the world I have yet to experience.

My poor parents are desperate for me to fall in love, settle down, and find someone to share my life with. Sure, that sounds nice but it also sounds terrifying to be trapped in a life with one single person, to have to consider that they might miss you if you want to get up and go to another country for months at a time, that your love for the world might trump your love for them. People constantly ask “why are you still single?” “haven’t you met someone yet?” “aren’t you lonely?” or suggest that my standards are too high. It’s not that I haven’t had the chance for love to happen, it’s not that I haven’t had the opportunity to get into a relationship with someone, it’s that there is always a reason not to and that reason, almost every time, is travel. And no, I’m not lonely thank-you-very-much.  As an introverted person to begin with, I rarely get lonely. I can spend days by myself and enjoy every second of it and I’m thankful for that. It makes these decisions a lot easier than it might be for someone else.

I have met men that make me stop and re-evaluate things. I think that maybe I should give it a chance, maybe they would make the perfect partner, maybe something great could come out of this. But then I remember I’m leaving again in a few months time and that I’ll be leaving again and again until one day I’m gone for years at a time on my quest to see the world. The pull to travel is what fuels me in every aspect of my life and I don’t think that they fully grasp what that means. I am constantly coming and going and that is simply not fair to any man that loves me. Until I feel so strongly that I need to be with someone, I will always put travel first. Some may call that selfish but that’s just the way it is and how it will continue to be until one day, I’ve felt that I’ve seen and done all that I wanted to see and do.

There will come a time for settling, for committing to a relationship that’s longer than a couple of months, for nesting and children, a nostalgia-inducing spot in your city that is “your place”. But for now, I like being independent and free to go wherever I please, whenever I please. I enjoy being able to watch my friend’s kids and then -hallelujah- give them back! I like the possibility of living in another city six months down the road. I like waking up to the different sounds that make up a beach town, or a village, an elephant sanctuary or a bustling city. I like falling in love over and over again with sunsets in different parts of the world. I like the connections, freedom, and spontaneous moments that traveling brings. That is the life for me right now and that is the life that I love. That is where my heart truly lies. I am certain that there are more young women who feel the same way and that is okay. We shouldn’t have to apologize for it or explain it to those who don’t understand. I for one refuse to apologize for where my heart is taking me when it feels so right.

Travel Inspiration: Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents by Elisabeth Eaves

Wanderlust

Elisabeth Eaves takes her readers on a ride through her personal accounts of travel, love and growth. What begins as a trip overseas with her high school classmates transforms into an insatiable urge to see the world, get lost in new places and make connections with new people. As she makes her way  from one city to the next, we learn about her highs and lows, her thoughts and ambitions, and feel connected as she takes us through the string of men who capture her heart. She struggles to realize who she truly is as she can feel herself changing ever so slightly with every new person she meets and every new city that she visits. Below are two beautiful quotes that I pulled from the book:


“There are lives—so many—that I hadn’t experimented with. What if I was meant to be
an aid worker, a dive instructor, a spy? What if I was meant to be a writer in New York?
And forget even what I was meant to be. What would it feel like to just wander the world,
free of all responsibility, knowing I could stand on my own two feet?

***

“We carried bottled water and day packs and cameras, except for Fred,
who said he didn’t believe in taking photographs; he planned to store
his memories in his head, an idea I found incomprehensibly radical.
My impulse to record was almost on par with my impulse to travel”

I’ve read this book at least four times already and each time it makes me yearn for farther places and makes me wonder what I really want to be doing with my life. If you haven’t, I suggest picking it up! It makes for a great summer read or a great book to read while on your own adventure around the world.

Casa di Giulietta

“My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,

The more I have, for both are infinite.”
— William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

I recently shared a photo that I took four summers ago in Verona, Italy. Seeing that photo reminded me of what a charming place Verona was and, although it was four summers ago now, I remember it like it was just yesterday. Everyone knows the famous Shakespeare story of Romeo and Juliet. It has been told and re-told, played and re-played time and again and is considered to be one of the most famous love stories of all time.

Traveling with two girlfriends from the North to South of Italy, our main decision for stopping in Verona was to see Juliet’s balcony and have an entire day dedicated to Romeo and Juliet. As we walked through the arched entrance of Juliet’s balcony, our eyes were met with thousands of colorful notes and letters stuck to the wall that is known as Juliet’s wall. After taking a few moments to scan them over, it is clear that the majority of the notes on the wall come from young girls and women from all over the world. And, not surprisingly, the majority of them are love notes.

Juliet's wall of love letters

I thought this one was cute.

Despite the house being quite old, the balcony has no connection to Juliet and was actually added on to the house and declared Juliet’s balcony in the late 1930’s. Juliet’s balcony has become a popular tourist attraction after being deemed the balcony of Juliet. Nevertheless, myself and many others swarm to the balcony to take photos, leave notes on the walls, take a touristy photo of grabbing one of the boobs of Juliet’s statue for luck, and even write a letter to Juliet and send it in the post! Apparently, volunteers actually respond to some of these letters but I’ve been waiting four years and have still had no letter back.

statue of juliet -- touch her boob for luck in love!

Juliet's balcony

You can even pay a small fee to go explore inside the house and stand out on the balcony for yet another touristy photo. Budget traveler bonus? Coming to Juliet’s balcony is free unless you want to go in the house!

Despite the lack of true connection to the real Juliet, taking a trip to see “her” balcony and explore “her” house would make a nice activity for you Romeo and Juliet fans or those of you that are just die-hard romantics. As much fun as we ended up having that afternoon, if you’re not a Romeo and Juliet fan or you simply don’t feel like you have the time, skipping Juliet’s balcony isn’t a huge loss. I found it to be a bit over-rated and basically just another tourist trap. But, if you are a fan of that sort of thing, it gives you butterflies and warm fuzzies for the rest of the day!

Sunday Snapshot: Lovers in Verona

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This shot was taken in a park in Verona, Italy. After having spent the day getting lost and then finally discovering Juliet’s Balcony, we had ended up winding down the afternoon in this little park. We saw the couple featured in this photo and it had totally encompassed our romance-themed day.

Do you have a photo you would like to share for Sunday Snapshot?
Submit it to whirlwindtravel@hotmail.com to see it here the next week!