Photo: Sven Van Echelpoel
1. The time I spend with another person is intended to be fleeting, casual, or temporary.
When I meet someone I connect with and tell them that I’m “only here for a few weeks,” their eyes usually glaze over. They’re usually having one of two thoughts: 1. They’re excited at the idea of a fling (assuming that’s what I want). Or 2. They’re put off by how casual the fling is going to be.
What should really matter is open communication between myself and the other person — a chance to explain what we both want. And the time spent isn’t always temporary. In some cases, I’ve fallen in love and ended up staying or inviting this other person to join me on the road. Other times it’s been made clear from early on that the relationship is only going to go so far. And that’s okay too, at least we were honest.
Loving while traveling can definitely be tough when assumptions are made. There have been times in my travels when I’ve voiced how much I cared for someone, only to learn that they didn’t want more than a casual encounter from me. And, of course, there have been times when the role was reversed.
What’s been beautiful for me about this understanding, is that I’ve been forced to voice my thoughts more. There may have been dating situations prior to my travels where I’d let it drag on just to “see where it might go,” all the while knowing that it wasn’t a good personality fit. But back then, there was time to suss it out. With my lifestyle now, I’ve got to act faster. I have to be more honest with myself and any suitable partners. Sometimes I still play it cool and casual, but there have been other times when I’m far more direct about my intentions. I’ve learned not to waste time. And I must say it’s been a pretty valuable lesson.
2. I must be in an open or polyamorous relationship.
It’s understandable that the question of romance or partnership comes up in conversations between those who may choose a more nomadic lifestyle and those who, well, don’t. A question I’ve personally gotten more than once is, “So, do you have a lover in each city you visit? You hook up with them when you’re there, and then when you leave that’s pretty much it; onto the next?”
For me, the answer is a simple “no.” While I don’t know the ins and outs of open or poly couples, I do believe that it’s far less about circumstance (ie: living nomadically) and way more about personal choice. In fact, I’ve met more open and poly couples who live in one place, than I have while traveling. But for me, at this time in my life, regardless of my nomadic ways, I would prefer a monogamous partner — ideally someone who would travel alongside me.
Choosing to live nomadically doesn’t mean that we’re all looking for ongoing or open relationships or even shared partners. Some of us prefer monogamy. Some of us are intentionally single. Some of us have long-distance relationships back home. Just like with people who live in one place, relationships are defined by those in them.
3. I’m obviously running from something.
There’s a difference between taking a vacation and wanting to live a lifestyle of pure travel. It can be hard to explain but I see it as having designed my life (my work, possessions, family time, etc.) around my preference for exploration, adventure-seeking, and cultural immersion. From those I’ve met who travel on a near-full-time basis, it has nothing to do with running from a crazy home life or hurtful experiences. Many of us are simply living a life that’s defined by our travel-inspired spirits. We’re not all hurt and bruised and seeking salvation in the getaway.
From a relationship standpoint, don’t just assume I’m damaged or incapable of having a “real life.” I’m entirely capable of fully loving another person and having a healthful relationship.
4. I don’t ever want to settle down.
What’s so beneficial about me choosing a lifestyle that allows me to shape it as I go, is that I can change it at any time. “Settling” sounds rather restrictive generally speaking, but trust me, if I want to stay and be with you, I will.
5. I’ll just forget about you once I leave for my next adventure.
I’ve fallen in love with people I’ve met on my travels. Like, madly in love. And most of the time it didn’t work out, not because of me traveling, but for other incompatibility reasons — just like with any other relationship. Whether I’m falling for you or we have an established sense of briefness to our time together, trust me when I say that if we’ve chosen to spend time together (however it may manifest) you’ve become an exceedingly important part of my life in one way or another.
Between my unwavering desire to live this way, paired with the misconceptions that are often associated with it, I can get lonely at times. But just like with any relationship and any individual person, I, too, might want a travel partner in crime, a deep, over-the-top movie-style romance, or just genuine love. So the next time you bump into someone like me who says they live like a vagabond or they’re only visiting for a short while until their next journey, don’t pass them by so quickly.