TRAVEL IS THE MOST INTENSE learning experience in many areas of life, especially in love. Here are the 7 most valuable lessons I’ve learned over eight years of travel.
1. There’s no such thing as a “type.”
If you get bogged down by the “type” of person you’ve decided you like, you’ll miss out on the real thing. I used to travel to cities like London and San Francisco having seen flashy photos in magazines, neglecting destinations like Uluwatu, Valletta and Kassandra which turned out to be the most gorgeous places I’ve seen.
Stop searching for that idealized image of a place or a person. Travel taught me to approach each destination and every stranger with an open mind and really look beyond the surface. I ended up being crazy in love with a skinny ginger guy with brown eyes — a direct contradiction to my “type” — and that was the best relationship I ever had. Keep an open mind.
2. You have more than one soulmate.
I’ve seen people cry over breakups way too many times, because they were certain they’d lost their soulmate. Hell, I’ve done the same myself. Truth is that there isn’t only one compatible person out there for us. The same way you can feel perfectly happy and at home in both NYC and Chiang Mai, you can find your perfect match in more than one person.
Travel has exposed me to many different cultures, personalities and religions. I’ve been in love with Jewish, Muslim, Catholic and atheist people from different continents. Stop stressing over finding that one perfect person and go explore. You’ll be surprised by what you find.
3. Yes, long distance works.
Having traveled for 8 years now, I’ve done many a long distance relationships. Though I prefer to have my partner close by (so I can steal their clothes), having a relationship with someone who’s on another continent does work. In fact, it could be lots of fun. In college, I kept a long distance romance for a year and ended up traveling with my partner around Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey.
Travel doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go nuts and hook up with everyone who comes your way just for the “experience.” Travel doesn’t have to make you promiscuous if you aren’t that type of person at home. If you have genuine feelings for one person and want to only be with them, distance won’t matter. I dated someone who lived two hours away from me and though we had the ability to see each other every weekend, he still wanted to go out with others as well. Don’t fixate on distance.
4. When you find someone you love, keep traveling.
Going along with my previous point — if you find someone you genuinely care about, you shouldn’t settle just to be geographically close to them. If you try to thwart your passion for travel in favor of a relationship, you will end up resenting your partner. If you’ve found a compatible partner, on the other hand, they will understand that you want to see the world and will encourage you. The time apart will really help you determine whether you want to continue the relationship or call it quits.
5. You don’t have to know someone for years to connect on a deeper level.
Travel exposes us to hundreds of different personalities in a very short time. Every now and then, there’s this one person that stands out from the rest. You start to get to know each other and you can feel a deep connection that feels like it’s existed for a decade. Travel has taught me that a stranger I met a minute ago has the same odds of being a good fit for me as a childhood friend.
“Chemistry” is a thing for a reason and you shouldn’t feel scared to go along with it just because you’ve known someone for a week. I met a girl from California who had started seeing a guy from Denmark in Barcelona and wasn’t sure whether she should go along with it because she was afraid it may be just a summer fling. I advised her to follow through and now, six months later, they are in the States together setting out for a trip as an official couple.
6. Couples who travel together, stay together.
Travel has the magical power to put some of us in our element, while others, outside of the comfort zone. I’ve always used travel to test my relationships. I broke up with a guy after a trip because I saw him in a light that hadn’t been apparent from the beginning. He was complaining, rushing me and didn’t care that I was too tired to continue trekking through a huge city after an 8-hour bus ride.
I also recognized who my best friend was, when he blindly set out from Boston to Indonesia with me and took like a champ everything I put him through, from riding a scooter, to getting up at 6 am to jog in the Balinese forest, to fighting with a monkey over my bag of fruit. Great travel partners make great life partners.
7. Letting go of relationships.
Although you may be ok with a long distance relationship, you’ll inevitably find someone you like who isn’t. They will get upset easily, text you often and doubt your fidelity after you leave their location. That’s normal. If they can’t handle your travels, no matter how much you like them, you have to let go. Like an intricate Buddhist mandala, everything comes to an end eventually and we have to let go. You just have to make the best of your time at every location and leave when the time comes.
8. Travel isn’t a cure for heartbreak.
Who here has read Eat, Pray, Love or seen the movie? Yeah, me too. Travel is a fantastic learning experience. It opens your mind to the new, challenges you and shows you incredible beauty your eyes often can’t believe. But there is one thing it is not — a heartbreak cure. If you set out on a trip just to forget that girl who dumped you, you’ll end up curled up in a hostel bed somewhere in Peru crying your eyes out. Not only it won’t help you deal with the pain, it will also ruin your trip because you’ll be blind to everything else but thoughts of that person. By all means go travel, but if you’ve got unresolved emotional drama, take steps towards solving it at home and then head to the airport. Don’t end up with a broken heart and a ruined trip.