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