While traveling through India for the past year I’ve dated several Indian girls and even found myself in a few serious relationships.
During the first part of my trip I wasn’t expecting anything too serious, just fun. And there’s plenty of opportunities for that while traveling. But it seemed that every time I really connected with someone, they would leave the next day on their flight home to Mumbai, or Bangalore, or Delhi.
Sometimes I process this internally and ask myself, “Am I just the American guy the girls have a fling with on their last day?”
And if so, do I mind?
After a year of traveling, I’m now more interested in finding real relationships and love. I’m no longer afraid to travel long distances to pursue someone I met earlier, and I believe this to be a major point of personal-emotional growth.
Plus it’s much more important to have someone special when you haven’t seen your family or friends back home for a full year. But I also have pursued someone I was not compatible with who was too young for me, on what my friends called a “doomed mission.”
So perhaps I’m not ready for true love but rather just the experience of having a girlfriend in a foreign country. With that, I get a tour guide (with benefits) to take me around and make sure I get the best deals, food, and access to parties.
In exchange, she gets an American boyfriend for a few weeks (or months depending on how it goes) to enjoy a different cultural experience with, and to show off to her friends.
The major issue is the same: I am a traveler. Eventually my visa will expire and I will leave. I know this, and she knows this, and her friends know this. So we just keep an unspoken agreement that we won’t take things too far … and therefore no one gets their heart ripped out.
But it’s not true love if you can’t get your heart ripped out. Just listen to any Tom Petty song and he’ll tell you.
Regardless, searching for travel love has been a good experience for me. It’s a sort of romantic pragmatism shared by two people in motion who don’t want to be lonely, but who also don’t want to be tied down.
And most people I have dated understand this. I’ve never had anyone ask me to stop traveling. They will say, “Keep going. Keep doing it. I will be so sad when you leave and I will never forget you, but please don’t stop traveling.”
Online Dating No Longer Necessary, My Friend
The best development for me is that I haven’t needed to use online dating for more than a year. Meeting people organically while traveling is so much more exciting and rewarding to me.
I’ve met people while swimming in the sea, while on a nature cleanup, in a yoga school, and of course in various hostels and parties.
I’ve found that these relationships start with more flame and fewer expectations than the forced, “Let’s meet up for drinks and apps at this bar,” that you go through on Tinder, or Bumble, or Hinge, or whatever.
A good travel date proposal will go something like, “Let’s ride the motorcycle to a hidden lagoon, get really high, and float on our backs together. Just you and me [insert inappropriate emojis]”
That’s what traveling is all about: foreigners connecting in raw nature with no filter.
Swiping through an online pool of familiar people in your town is 2D dating. Going out there and meeting a local person in a foreign country is 3D dating with enough 4D twists and turns to make your head spin.
Am I on Some Extended Vacation?
Some people, specifically my little brother, have tried to dismiss my long solo trip as an “extended vacation,” but I assure you it’s not.
On vacation you don’t have time to learn anything about yourself. You unplug from work and try to forget everything about yourself.
That’s why companies only give you a few weeks vacation per year. It’s just enough time to recharge your batteries for more work, but not enough time to question your entire reality and try to shift it in a new direction.
While traveling a foreign country for a whole year you will learn crazy things about yourself, and you will barely recognize the old you when browsing through pictures.
You will have the time to explore alternative realities and lifestyles. You will be forced out of your comfort zone. You will get really, really high and journey inward.
You may even fall in love and have the luxurious, opulent, unconstrained time to process everything and write about it.
Anything is possible.