Yeah okay, let’s get sappy.
For me, travel and romantic love are two totally intertwined subjects. I can’t fully discuss one passion without mentioning the other. Is this healthy? I’m not really sure, but here we are.
If you’re a frequent reader you probably already know the story: how I planned to backpack around the world solo, how I met Michael and it changed not only my travel itinerary but my entire life. I originally set out to write an article about how travel led to me finding love, and I might still write that eventually, but I ended with a story on what love taught met about travel. Or maybe both. They are kind of the same thing to me.
I Wasn’t Looking
Ugh, that’s like the worst love cliché in the world, and I want to punch anyone who says it, but… in this case at least, it was true. I had never been looking less to meet someone in my entire life. I was writing diatribes about it.
The five years before had been highly boy-centric: making relationships, breaking relationships, dating around, mourning guys I’d lost, all of that stuff you’re supposed to do in your twenties. Then suddenly, my entire focus changed. I took a trip to Iceland, where I decided I didn’t give a crap about dudes right now. I wanted to start a blog, I wanted to write, I wanted to travel the world.
So I put all my energy into making THAT happen. For months I stopped going out, started seriously saving money, started this website. I bought a plane ticket to Japan- the most stressful and exciting moment of my life. “Isn’t there someone you can take with you?” my mom pleaded?
“No,” I said proudly.
I was going to travel around the world. Solo. I was okay with that, in fact I kind of loved that. It made me feel strong, independent, like I was master of my destiny.
I was so focused on the future I’m surprised I even noticed when this dark curly haired boy showed up at the blogger meet-up and offered to buy me a kamikaze shot. I wasn’t expecting a damn thing so it hit me with the force of a tidal wave.
Bye Bye Plans
I was leaving in almost exactly two months. Mike, the crazy friendly guy behind Art of Backpacking, was leaving even sooner to fulfill his dream of living in China for a year. It could not possibly have been a more inconvenient time to meet someone.
When he walked me to my Megabus at the end of the weekend, I just knew I would be seeing him again soon. I sat on the bus, stomach full of flutters, trying to puzzle out what just happened. Three days before I had been SO PSYCHED to go around the world by myself, now all of a sudden I was thinking about China, a place I’d never had any intention of going.
As it turned out, soon was the next weekend, when Mike came down to DC to see me. Then I went up to New Jersey to spend the weekend with him. Back and forth we went, while I filled out my Chinese visa forms. It couldn’t be helped. It was too soon, he was leaving too soon, but we were already in love. That fast.
And that my friends, is why you should never buy a round-the-world plane ticket.
If you look at the route I ended up taking, you’ll know if looks almost nothing like my original plan (link). I spent four months in China and skipped New Zealand. I skipped Europe and only recently managed to make it back there, after an 8 month unplanned detour through South America. Who even knows what’s going to happen next.
I still traveled solo (still do sometimes). I backpacked through Japan, Cambodia and Laos alone, and I spent two months in Australia with my buddy Liz. Mostly though, I now travel with Mike- it’s been a sharp learning curve, a lesson in compromise and communication, but I do love it.
What this has all taught me is the basic futility of making plans. Or rather you can make them, but life will get in the way and turn you upside down and you’ll wander off in the complete opposite direction. I can’t tell my travel story without Mike, and I can’t tell our story without travel. It’s all evolved together, this crazy mess of my life.
But I am so thankful I was open to these curveballs and embraced them instead of resisting them. Otherwise I might have missed out on China. And South America. And you know, love.
It’s been a hell of an adventure so far.