Photo: Ravenwood

Notes on Trying to Date at Home but Live Nomadically

by Jessie Festa Oct 7, 2013

“Is this always how it’s going to be?”

I was going on another one of my “little trips,” and Joe wasn’t happy. The inevitable was near. Typically it happens about three or four months into a relationship. Everything is going well, I finally think I’ve found someone who understands my passion for travel, and then it’s over. Just as I realize how much I like them, they realize how much I love travel.

I huff. “Joe, you know I’m a travel writer. It’s not like I’m leaving you to go on vacation with my friends all the time. It’s a job and a lifestyle.”

Joe rolls his eyes. I can see his mind spinning like a pinwheel. He’s picturing me lying on sugar-sand beaches, ordering caviar and oysters from St. Regis room service, getting a massage in a private cabana…and possibly jotting a sentence or two down on my blog between glasses of champagne. And while there are often opulent perks to what I do, there’s also much time spent interviewing, taking notes, working hard to get the perfect photograph, and waking up before dawn to get pitches sent, tweets scheduled, and articles drafted before the day’s exploring.

I’m not complaining by any means, I’m just saying travel writing isn’t the cakewalk everyone makes it out to be, and that being successful takes hard work. Not to mention the fact this isn’t a job I applied for. It’s a position I wanted so badly I created it and made myself a valuable asset.

Joe didn’t see this, though. Most guys I dated didn’t. They didn’t seem proud of my accomplishments or impressed that I had started my own travel business, but instead seemed resentful. Then Joe said something that made it clear he didn’t get me at all.

Adults work real jobs. They go to offices. They have health insurance. They don’t gallivant around the world from city to city writing about it in some online journal.

“Jessie, you’re not living in real life. Adults work real jobs. They go to offices. They have health insurance. They don’t gallivant around the world from city to city writing about it in some online journal.”

Joe didn’t need to say it was over. With a statement like that, I couldn’t believe we’d ever begun.

This wasn’t the first time this had happened to me, and I knew it wouldn’t be the last. The men I met always seemed excited at first. I seemed independent, interesting, worldly, and always had something to talk about. They saw themselves getting to go on trips with me and living vicariously through my adventures. Then reality set in, and the questions began: “You’re leaving again?,” “Where are you going this time?,” “Are you going to do this forever?” And once they realized it wasn’t just a phase but an actual lifestyle and career choice, that was it.

Before Joe, I dated a guy named Mark who also had a love of travel and the outdoors. For a while it seemed he understood that my blog was a real job, one that allowed me to live in an apartment in Brooklyn, own a car, pay off my student loans, and have a smartphone. While he had a corporate accounting job, working 60 to 70 hours a week in an office, on weekends we would take trips to the Catskills and Poconos, hiking, kayaking, and finding quirky shops and cozy bed and breakfasts so we could get our travel fix while spending time together.

One day while we were hiking, Mark seemed preoccupied. After what seemed like an eternity of silence, he finally looked at me and asked, “Do you think I should quit my job?”

I was confused. Despite the fact he worked long hours, Mark seemed to love his job. He made a lot of money, his boss treated him to nice dinners, and he got along well with his coworkers. Where was this coming from?

“I look at you and see you’re out exploring the world and having these experiences you’ll remember for the rest of your life. My dream is to trek the Appalachian Trail, but I don’t think my boss would give me enough time off to do it. So I’m thinking maybe I should just quit.”

This was something I hadn’t yet experienced in my nomadic dating life. While it was typical for guys to get sick of me leaving or look at me like a restless child, it was something new to actually inspire someone else to pursue their dreams beyond what society deemed they were supposed to do. I had to stop myself from getting too excited, though, as I realized he had to make this decision on his own.

“Mark, that’s ultimately up you. I think the world needs two kinds of people. The kind who uphold structure and keep the gears of society turning, and the kind who march to a different beat and keep the world guessing. Maybe you’re a little bit of both. But you have to decide for yourself.”

While I don’t know how my love story will end, I do know that travel has made me a strong and independent person.

The discussion continued for another month, with Mark going back and forth. One minute he hated corporate life, talking about how it held him back and kept him from doing the things he really enjoyed. An hour later he would be talking about how hard he worked to get where he was and how fulfilled his job made him feel because he was good at it. During these times, he would look at me like it was my fault he was going through this turmoil, as if I was pressuring him to make a decision. In reality, I would have been completely content spending weekends together and continuing to travel on my own.

That week I flew to Trinidad and Tobago to do some articles on outdoor recreation and cultural offerings. Mark was scheduled to pick me up at the airport for a weekend together at my house, cooking, drinking wine, watching movies, and just relaxing. However, when I arrived at JFK, nobody was there to get me, and all I had was a single text that read, “Sorry. I think I have strep throat.”

I later found out that Mark had indeed become stricken with strep throat — as well as an epiphany that our lifestyles were just too different.

While certain family members and close friends believe I need to stop traveling and settle down, I don’t agree. Why should I stop doing what fulfills me for someone who may or may not come around anytime soon? Despite my hardships in trying to find a work/life balance — or a life/travel balance — I don’t believe giving up on seeing the world and living my life to the fullest is the answer.

While I don’t know how my love story will end, I do know that travel has made me a strong and independent person and has supplied me with enough memories and experiences to keep me smiling with nostalgia into old age. I hope that one day I find someone who shares the same lust for life and realizes the importance of appreciating the moments we’re given.

* This post was originally published at Jessie Journey and is reprinted here with permission.

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