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The latest in the Blast From the Past series revisits a road romance that never happened.

Photo by hyperscholar

MANY YEARS AGO I sat at a desk with a blank airmail letter and poured my heart out to a girl in Portugal I had briefly met, had a long conversation with, and then fell for. It was silly, irrational, and embarrassing.

I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Romance on the road can be tough. Travellers come together, share moments, and then separate. Do you tell her how you felt? Or leave it as a powerful memory of what could have been?

Back in 2009, Eric Warren wrote a piece at the Notebook titled On the other side of the world, someone awaits you in which he tells of a missed opportunity to connect with a beautiful girl on a bus in Chile.

The story brings back for me memories of that girl in Portugal, the letter, and the magic of that crossroads moment. In the article, many commenters wanted to know: Did Eric ever contact the girl? He remained conspicuously silent.

Two years later, I caught up with him and asked what everyone wants to know.

I have to admit, I didn’t follow up on the letter, even though she put her email address in it. I can’t say for sure why. Maybe it was because I was embarrassed of my poor Spanish skills, or something a little deeper. I have, however, google-searched her name occasionally over the years to see if something would pop. Nothing ever came up that was definitive enough to say it was her.

My guess is that a big part of why I let it lapse into history is my general lack of adventurousness. Sure, I backpacked around Chile alone without knowing the language, but I’ve always felt like a real adventurer would have thrown caution to the wind and gotten off that bus to see where the experience would take him. I’ve always wanted to be that person, and coming to grips with the fact that I’m not is kind of why I wrote the story in the first place.

I also asked Eric how he was feeling when he originally wrote the piece, and how he felt about the story and the way he told it, looking back.

When I wrote it I was wrestling with the fact that I’m not as much of an adventurer as I’ve always wanted to be. I’m still battling it, actually. As I wrote it, I spent the whole time juxtaposing the adventures I had actually done (backpacking alone, climbing the volcano, etc.) with the adventure I was afraid to take. As a method of story-telling, it works by leading the reader to believe I was going to take the plunge, then the reader has to come to terms with the fact that I didn’t.

In fact, that’s how it was in real-life, too. Sometimes I am disappointed that I didn’t take the chance, if not for the actual adventure, then for the fact that I would have overcome my fears. Alas, I did not — which let to a much more interesting story, I think. And that has made all the difference… uh, so to speak.

[Feature photo: Empezar de Cero]

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For more stories of love and romance, check out Life’s great series Love in the Time of Matador.



About The Author

Richard Stupart

Richard lives and works in South Africa, exploring as often as possible the strange and unknown places that his continent is so rich in. What stories of far flung places and mischief he is able to trap and bring home are mounted on his blog. Where the Road Goes.

  • darmabum

    Fearlessness, I believe, can take many forms, and it has for me. There is physical fearlessness – climbing mountains alone; taking a sip of water from a plastic pipe in Nepal, the source of that water being very unknown, but thirst demanded it; swimming in the Ganges River (many, many times) . . . and then there is emotional fearlessness. Having one does not necessarily mean having them both.

    Whether Eric’s lack of emotional fearless did, indeed, lead to a “better story” cannot be fully known; it did lead to the story it did, while the other one remains a mystery.

  • NomadicNeill

    Hmmm… I could have come up with a much better ending to this story.

    I hope this isn’t a pattern in Eric’s life. Living some kind of ‘hopeless romantic’ life-style.

    You’d be surprised how many people take their ‘life scripts’ from TV and movies. A good reason not to watch.

  • Carlo Alcos

    In other words, it is what it is, don’t judge. Right? :)

    I love this, thanks for rehashing this one Rich, and thanks Eric for your candidness.

  • darmabum

    Two stories here: one that we know, and the other that we never will know . . . and I think we can only speculate on which would one would have been “the better” story? . . . ;)

  • Coleen

    Up until a week ago, this had never happened to me. I am in Chile to English, and at a hostel in Santiago I met an amazing person with whom I connected on so many levels. We spent nearly two days talking and spending time together, and the time came to say goodbye since he was leaving…and we couldn’t bring ourselves to break our hug goodbye. A true friend and a true missing puzzle piece of the soul.

    The pain of meeting and losing a kindred spirit is searing.

    • Richard

      I know exactly what you mean. And yet, perversely, it’s a sort of emotional pain that is affirming in its own way. A reminder of sorts of what your heart is capable of, and that beautiful adventures still lie out there in the world waiting.

  • hf

    hi… i’m from portugal and am in portugal right now – this is a long shot, but maybe i know this girl (who knows?). if you have any kind of info on her there is, however unlikely, a chance that i might reconnect you…

    let me know if you want me to give you some help on this

    • Richard Stupart

      Hi HF

      It’s the funniest thing – putting this article together actually gave me the kick in the pants I needed to pick up the connection again. I’ll be seeing her for coffee when I am next in London and we can catch up on stories.

      It’s funny that all I ever needed to do to say hi again was look, and it took Eric’s story to get me to finally do it.

  • Anne

    I was a big fan of Eric Warren’s story and the way it looked at how adventurousness and fear can co-exist in a person. Thank you for this follow-up, it was great to hear the writer’s reflections on the piece!

  • Frontier

    As the comments have said Fearlessness and be adventurous are two different things and although a person might be trekking in the jungle in Colombia, that doesn’t mean that they are fearless…

    A nice, interesting short article.

  • Carissa Kasper

    I think that a big part of travel is pushing oneself beyond their comfort levels. Everyone has a different comfort level so for one person staying in a hostel will open their view and for another heading on an exploratory trip deep into the jungle will test their limits. Pushing ourselves far enough to learn something is what I think we should strive for, not to push ourselves to learn everything before we are ready.

    When love is involved it becomes just that much harder. We’re risking something entirely different.

    Loved the article. Thanks!

  • Ruby

    reading this and reading Eric’s story made me revisit a memory from a while back.

    i had something similar happen to me about 3 years ago at the Chatuchak Weekend Markets in Bangkok, Thailand. struck up a conversation with a German guy at a bootleg indie CD store, when we were both clamoring for the last copy of the same CD (‘Spirit If… by Kevin Drew, if anyone’s interested). i don’t remember much else about him, aside from him travelling en-route to Malaysia for an internship (as an accountant, maybe?), and him having quite the dazzling smile.

    we had a short conversation which consisted of obligatory pleasantries and shy darts to corners of possibilities (‘Are you doing anything tonight?’ ‘Not really, are you?’ ‘Not really.’) but not making anything concrete. for the first time ever, i chose to wait for the guy to make the first move (i could take the initiative if i really wanted to)… but we were quiet, each waiting for the other to say or do something.

    eventually, we bid each other farewell – not before he casually mentioned that he may be back at the markets the next day, and will i be around too?

    i did return to the same shop the next afternoon (miraculously too, since Chats is quite the retail labyrinth) but he did not appear. i took a chance and with my heart on my sleeve, i left a note for him with the shop owner, along with my phone number.

    he never did call. (and thankfully, neither did the owner!)

    do i ever wonder what would have come from this if the things were done differently? naturally. my friends with me at the time were gushing over how he’d seemed to like me too, and it was such a pity that nothing happened. it did make me feel a little sad then too.

    but over the years, as the memory became fainter and his image faded further from my mind, i’ve come to accept it for what it was: a pleasant encounter, a hopeful conversation, a story to tell,

    and a moment that will stay with me for a long time to come.

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