Falling in love when you travel can be one of the best things ever. You get to share some of the greatest experiences you will ever have with someone you care deeply about. You get to exist in a world separate from ‘the real world’, where early mornings, stresses and jobs don’t exist. With people you may never see again, in cultures completely foreign to you.
The bond of friendship and love forms differently to when you’re ‘back home’. There’s something about spending time with someone 24 hours a day while you’re both outside of your comfort zone. Your bond forms an insulation between you and the outside world. A comfort zone that you can fall back on when things get awkward or stressful.
Things that would normally take months to transpire at home take mere weeks. Lack of sleep and make-up combined with sweat and sex in odd places destroys all normal barriers of dignity.
The constant high of exploring new locations, tasting new dishes and meeting new people creates an ecstasy that carries itself over to the relationship. Embedding feelings that are hard to reproduce, and set a high standard for the future.
You have to ask yourself where your love for the person ends and the love for the time spent together begins. Are separate, are they the same? I’d speculate they’re different, but I’ll leave you to decide.
So once you’ve built this castle of ecstasy, where do you go from there?
Love whilst travelling is not the same as back home. For all the reasons outlined above… and more. When the dust begins to settle practicalities set in. These thoughts have crept into your mind during the relationship, but back then you could live in the moment and just say ‘fuck it’ to any concerns. Now you’re having to think about geographical locations, work visas and cultural fit.
How can we make this work? You ask yourself. You start to rattle your brain to think of solutions to these problems.
Maybe you can, maybe you can’t. A lot depends on what stage of life you’re at and how much opportunity you have. I say opportunity, I really mean money or capability for earning money.
Are you in your early twenties and carefree? Are you in your late twenties or thirties and starting to plan for a family? It matters hugely.
And that’s just you, what about your partner? There clearly needs to be some level symmetry in your wants, needs and desires.
In the end, love can conquer most things. And by love, I mean desire to ‘make shit work’. But not without headaches and compromises. But lets be honest here, if you’re reading this, you probably didn’t make it work.
If you choose to separate you have to face the comedown that comes with it. Losing someone you care for intensively is never easy. Losing someone you cared for intensively, whilst travelling, may just be harder.
Oxycotin, Vasopressin, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, testosterone and oestrogen hormone levels all take a hit.
You’re quite literally having to overcome a drug addiction, it’s just that it’s a natural addiction created by your own body, without help from pharmaceuticals.
It’ll pass. But going cold turkey is painful and brutal.
Ideally you’re still travelling. What better way to get over one high than by jumping on to the next one and blasting off?
If you’re not travelling you’ll have to try really hard to keep yourself busy with exciting things. Love has a capability for dulling the rest of the world when you can’t get what you want.
It’s no surprise people put on weight after break-ups. Caffeine, sugar, chocolate and other drugs are great for distracting yourself from the ‘pain’.
You try to look at the experience in a mature manner. It couldn’t have worked for this, this and this reason. You had to think about your job, your family, your cultures. You have it all worked out on paper. But somehow it never seems to make a difference. Your mind keeps coming back to that person and the feelings you had for them. Crazy thoughts creep into your mind. Maybe it’s not over, maybe there’s still a chance… maybe… just maybe. You try to brush them off, but that little glimmer of hope never dies.
Do you stay in contact with this person or cut them off? Do you try and meet up with them again, or appreciate what you had as a beautiful moment in time that you shared together, and may never happen again?
Hopefully while it was taking place you had the wisdom to cherish it. Take a snapshot in your mind and appreciate just how beautiful the moment was. If not, then next time you will.
Life is made of moments that we can never recreate. Sometimes when you’re in a moment, you’re conscious enough to realise it, and you almost want to pinch yourself to check it’s real. You delight in it, and realise this ecstasy is something special.
There’s a certain truth to the saying:
The truth is a story of two halves. Firstly, all the aforementioned hormones released whilst ‘in love’ can blind logic and common sense. Only as you wean yourself off the drug of love can you take a step back and assess what you had. Maybe it really was that good… maybe it wasn’t.
Secondly (and this view may not be shared by you), love should never be about possession, as weird and hard as that sounds. Jealousy and protectiveness are both real and active for everyone. But you need to be able to share, the gift that is your partner, with the world. You can’t shield them and think that if you ward everyone off they’ll be yours. No, that’s no way to live. Instead you need to let go and let them come back. As one saying goes – if they don’t come back, it was never meant to be.
And that’s why it’s so important to be able to let go, if need. I’m speaking to you, the traveller, right now. You’ve probably seen more of the world than 95% of people. You of all people understand the need to explore this world. If you need to explore, then others do too. And this is why relationships come down, so much, to timing. There comes a point for (almost) everyone, where something in your body says, ‘it’s time’. That may be after visiting 2 countries and sleeping with 2 people. It may be after 50 of each. Whatever your number, it comes. When it does come, you don’t want to look back and think ‘what if’. You want to feel like you went out guns blazing. You explored the world and all it had to offer. You chose your partner wisely, and caught the best fish you could catch. No regrets.
Now think about this. What about your partner? Do you want to settle down with someone who still had some angles of the world to explore? In certain ways, just as a caveman who has never seen light doesn’t miss it, a person who has never experienced these things doesn’t miss them. But in other ways that’s not true. They live in the same world you do, and if they’re not exposed to these things physically, they’ll encounter them in other ways, and wonder. Whether it’s a romance in Italy they felt they missed out on, or something else bizarre, it could be there. They may not know it for years, but some day, down the line, they’ll ask ‘what if’.
You can’t avoid that completely. But you’d like to think you both capitalised on what the world had to offer before you shared a deep link with a lifelong partner.
So maybe your rationale is similar to the above. Maybe it’s markedly different. No matter, neither work completely. You see, love exists on more than just a rational level, it goes far deeper than that.
What it really takes is time to heal. Just like any relationship that falls to pieces, unfortunately.
You have some questions to ask of yourself. Are you going to stay in contact with them in the hope that it could work at a later date? Are you going to call it a day? The choice is yours, and either could work, only you can judge that.
Either way, there’s something you can never lose, and that’s those memories (lets pretend Alzheimer’s doesn’t exist, shall we?). But don’t dwell on them, they’re in the past, and they don’t exist in the same way the future doesn’t exist. The present is a fleeting moment, passing by quickly. Seize it and enjoy it.
That’s the idealistic approach. But maybe you need something temporary to plug the gap. Then lets come full circle and talk of those temporary measures again.
If what you’re really dealing with is more than just spiritual, which we know it is, can you tackle it physically? How does a heroin addict wean themselves off? They use methadone to avoid the pain of going cold turkey.
What’s the methadone to your addiction?
New experiences, new places, new possessions and people. You need your body to produce new chemicals in response to new stimuli. It’s not practical 24/7, but it’s a start. Alternatively there is always sugar, chocolate, ice cream, caffeine and other narcotics. They’ll plug the gap temporarily.
But there’s more to this than just distraction. I borrow this from Elliott Hulse’s video on ‘how to deal with a bad breakup’. You need to go inward and ask yourself what your can learn from the situation. How you can grow as a person because of this? You cannot become a better version of yourself without some friction and hardship.
Use it to become a stronger you.