The Challenges of Love on the Road

A couple posing together romanticallyThis is a guest post by Ayngelina of Bacon is Magic.

One of the biggest sacrifices I made in order to travel was leaving a relationship. Naturally, one of the very first questions people ask me is what it’s like to be single on the road.

I’ve had an incredible year in Latin America as a solo female traveler, and I’ve learned on the way that having a relationship on the road can be a tricky balance of exhausting and exhilarating.

People imagine a series of MTV Spring Break hook-ups or meaningful Eat, Pray, Love soul-mate stories. But it’s neither. In fact, I’ve encountered a lot of unexpected challenges.

Most people assume the biggest hurdle for a woman in her thirties would be to find love at all. Sure, at first it can be frustrating to see men your age chasing after gap-year backpackers who likely couldn’t buy a beer in the United States. But then you learn it’s fair game.

Age doesn’t seem to be as monumental or divisive on the road, and no one seems to care about being 10 years younger or 20 years older than you. The only painful ego blow is when you make a cultural reference that your new “friend” doesn’t understand because when it was popular, he was still in elementary school.

We do see cultural differences when we first meet people, but we’re drawn together by those differences and lured into thinking that they’re cute and lovable.

But reality will slap you into sensibility. I learned quickly that Latin men are passionate, feel things deeply, and are attracted to the fierce independence of Western women. Seems like a match made in heaven—until you ultimately struggle over issues of jealousy with friends of the opposite sex.

Couples on the road sometimes face challenges, like this couple on the train

Travel seems to condense the average span of a relationship, and it’s common to have a one-week love that passes through all of the phases of a traditional coupling: getting to know each other, lovers’ honeymoon, settling down, growing apart, and awkward break-up.

You can meet someone on a Monday, think the sun shines just for him or her all week, and by Sunday be happy they have to catch a flight out of the country. It’s best to accept that every season has an end, be casual friends on Facebook for a few weeks, and then never speak to each other again.

Hostels are fantastic for meeting people, but are also the ultimate breeding ground for jealousy. One day you meet a great guy and seem to hit it off, spending every moment of the day together. But then a new group of girls arrives, and one of them realizes how great your guy is and makes a move.

It never ends well. You either resort to high-school tactics, hoping your “old” hostel friends you’ve only known a few days will shun her, ultimately making her move on to a new city and away from your man, or, better yet, there’s a drunken night out where you confront her or him. Either way, you look like a fool for becoming psychotically attached to some boy you’ve only known for three days.

Then you move on because you’re so embarrassed and cannot bear to face any of these people ever again.

Black and pink pig kissing snouts

The thrill of sun-drenched locales and unfamiliar faces can mask the reality that you have nothing in common with your new-found love.

Sure, you can have a magical full-moon moment on the beach, staying up until sunrise talking about your dreams, but eventually you realize that, in any other location, you would struggle to hold a conversation with the very same person. You know this guy will never open a hostel or the ultimate banana pancakes street stand. It’s a nice dream, but instead of trying to make it work, move on and let it become a nice memory.

But none of this is to discourage anyone from trying to find love on the road. The bumps along the way are what make great stories amongst friends that you’ll laugh and cry about later. [Editor’s Note: Here are my own experiences on finding love while traveling.]

Some are lucky and do find love on the road—and that’s what keeps us all hopeful. In fact, a friend of mine met his wife in the airport, happy that the girl he’d been staring at walked over to his gate and was on his plane. Today, they have three children.

I’m not ruling out finding love in any place. And I’ll never rule out that the sun-kissed cabana boy just could be “the one.”

Ayngelina left a great job, boyfriend, friends, and apartment to find inspiration in Latin America. You can read about her adventures at Bacon is Magic (which it is!).

  1. I’d hope that after some time travelling, and growing, one would become more self-actualised and realise that the attentions from one ‘boy’ are fleeting.

    Unfortunately, while travelling most people aren’t looking for any type of long term relationship – its more for a summer fling. There is nothing wrong with that, but if you aren’t on the same page its no wonder that the boy you’re attracted to is having his head spin 360 degrees anytime a new piece of tail enters the guest house.

    The upside is that you realise that its okay. Its okay for people to be like a kid in a candy shop – enjoy it, if thats your thing.

    The other important thing is maintaining your personal boundaries and space – do you really want to be that girl who chases every cute boy with a tattoo? Or would you rather enjoy being your own, independent, resourceful chick who doesn’t need to fall at the feet of some young lad, only to have your heart broken a week down the track?

    I figure that its not worth spending time creating intimate relationships while travelling.While that sounds jaded, its important (especially in your 30s) to work out whats important to you, and not compromise on that.

  2. My take on this? When traveling, romance can be exciting. However, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. You highlight the aspects of romance on the road that I don’t miss at all!

  3. Great topic!!

    I went through a break up while traveling which was really challenging. When I started dating while traveling it turned out to be a lot of fun, yet not great for a more serious relationships. Some guys I dated became really good friends & we still keep in touch. I would say dating while traveling taught me to let go, which I am very thankful for =)))

    Good luck finding the love you are looking for!!

  4. Natalia

    My favorite part about dating outside of my country was to learn the new culture’s ways of flirting and building those first steps of the relationship. There were many misunderstandings, some horrible dates, and plenty of embarrassing moments. However, the most important thing is that traveling made me grow as a person. Therefore, I was able to make a more mature choice regarding who to get involved with. I was incredibly lucky to fall in love while traveling. More than 5 years together now!
    Great topic!! :-)

  5. I am not a short-term romance kind of person, so I started my yearlong travel sabbatical swearing off any intimate relationships with men. Let’s just say that didn’t last very long. Now I am not looking for anything more than a friendship, but I have learned not to say “never.”

  6. Thank you for this very honest post! I am actually looking for articles like this one since i am planning to write a short film about meeting a potential partner while on the road.

  7. I can completely attest to the cultural or pop references divide after having to explain who Jon Benet Ramsey was. I think I ended it with…”actually, I think she would have been your age now…”

  8. It’s unbelievable how you can pass through all the phases of the relationship with someone new just during 3 days and then even after years remember those 3 days like something special …

  9. it’s hard and complicated.

    i *accidentally* fell in love with my travelling partner but then quick to realised that i shouldn’t be sad when we’re not together. because i know we will be together again.

    i guess if we’re meant together forever, we’re gonna be together again in future =)

  10. Matt

    relationships are always more complex than they first seem. Although mine was a break up that resulted in meeting someone who led to travel so all in a different order but whatever ultimately makes people happy is what we should strive for.

  11. I can’t resist sharing my love-on-the-road story after having read your brilliant take on it! You must no doubt have had some great experiences judging by the anecdotes in this post. I met my husband at the Taj Mahal when we were both backpackers in India. He was 25, I was 21 and this is now two children and fifteen years ago. When we share our stories with Indians, they simply think we’re inventing it ‘no, no, that only happens in Bollywood’ is always their response. For some reason I always feel a bit awkward when people ask how we met. It’s almost as if it’s too fairytaly to be true, but I’m sharing it here to prove that true love is out there!

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