On the Merits of Short-Term Travel Romance

by Gigi Griffis Dec 26, 2013

Before I left for my first vacation in two years, my friends told me I should get myself a holiday lover. They said it’s wonderful: a love story with an expiration date, a total freedom to express yourself in the bedroom, a man fawning over you while you spend your leisure time doing whatever the hell you want.

It all sounded good, but I really had no intention of following their advice. I’ve always been a relationship type of girl, and my conservative upbringing discourages even kissing. So you can imagine that any sort of lovering is not only off the table, but down the hall, locked in a dusty room, and hidden under a bucket.

But then I arrived in the Bernese Oberland and there he was — the mountain guide I’d met online, who would shortly be leading me into the wilderness on an overnight backpacking trip — standing in the train station with his mountain bike. Sweaty, chiseled, and with a perfect, dimpled smile.

So it’s a good thing we were very quickly alone. And by “alone,” I mean “hiking for hours and hours straight up into the Alps until we reached a small pool of freezing stream water.”

On the way up, we talked about everything: his work with refugees, his recent surf trip down the West African coast, my hikes in Germany’s Black Forest. He talked a lot about how he’d spent the summer building his strength and technique as a kayaker, with the goal of kayaking one of the toughest rivers in Switzerland the following summer. He also told me that no matter how much he traveled the world, he loved coming home to the Alps.

At the pool we both stripped down to swim, keeping a slightly nervous distance — admiring each other when the other wasn’t looking, taking turns submerging ourselves in the glacial water and then jumping out onto the warm rocks, shivering and, in my case, giggling.

There was no heartbreak, no breakup, no unkind words. Just two people giving freely of themselves.

As the sun started to go down, I tossed my jeans and hiking boots back on and we continued up the mountain for another couple hours, finally setting up camp on a mossy knoll surrounded by ridges. We could see one of the popular mountaintop lookout points in the distance and a handful of sheep just a little ways down the valley. Aside from the sheep, though, we were exquisitely alone as the landscape began to shift and change with the setting of the sun.

The sky lit up with blues and oranges. A fog started rolling toward us over the mountains and up from the valley, curling in on itself and painting a thick gray over everything. In the distance, lightning shot from cloud to cloud. And thus began my first mountaintop makeout session.

When the rain started we retired to the tent, where we spent the night cheating death with a lightning storm raging around our flimsy, metal-framed tent.

I said and did exactly what I wanted, for the first time ever. I didn’t worry about tomorrow. I didn’t even worry about ten minutes from now. Blame it on the Swiss Alps, the thunderstorm, the wilderness. Blame it on vacation. Or just blame it on those rock-hard buttocks. But I had officially taken a holiday lover.

The next morning I awoke to cool, crisp mountain air with my face pressed to his warm chest. We packed up camp, made our way down the mountain, purchased some sheep’s cheese from the local farmers, and spent the evening eating soup, admiring the mountain views from his balcony, and stealing kisses. Which pretty much sums up the rest of our five days together.

Though this was a short-term romance, there was no heartbreak, no breakup, no unkind words. Just two people giving freely of themselves, laughing at each other’s jokes, waking each other with a sweet kiss on the forehead. We may meet again. We may not. Either way, for those days we both felt sexy, confident, wild. And no one can ever take that mountaintop away from us.

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