Whether you’re in an exclusive relationship, recently fell head over heels for someone at first sight, or have a long-distance lover thousands of miles away, traveling while in love is often painful, so here’s some advice on how to get through it.
1. Remember why you’re traveling.
Before leaving the person you love, it’s important to understand your reason for doing so. Ask yourself “Why am I traveling?”. It will help sustain and motivate you during tough times. At the beginning of my last 4.5-month stint in Southeast Asia, I felt incredibly lonely. I rented an $11/night bungalow on Bali and seemed to have it all: new friends, wild adventures, and a few trysts. But I still longed for the person I left behind in the US. I missed how being with her made the world feel like all was right. I missed her smell, the way she laughed, and a dozen other little quirks that were specific to her. Being able to answer the question of, “Why am I traveling?” kept me going, and forced me to live in, and enjoy, the present moment instead of focusing on what was lacking.
2. Manage expectations of yourself and them.
One thing people who travel for weeks or months at a time often forget is that whether you’re hacking your way through a tropical jungle or camping out under a starry desert sky, life goes on at home and for those we choose to spend time away from. The person you love continues to wake up, go to work, see their friends, have new experiences, and live life without you. This means that they’re not always available for a random phone call during your daytime, which is their nighttime. It means that you may not receive a text from them for a day or two because they’re bogged down with an unexpected work commitment. It means that you have to accept that regardless of how deeply you may care about one another, the world doesn’t stop spinning because you’re not with them.
3. Understand they may not be there when you get back.
Because the world of the person you love continues to spin whether you’re around or not, they are likely to meet other people. This is as true for those who are in exclusive relationships as it is for those in the gray limbo of lovers or any other romantic connection. If you’re away for an extended period of time, they will probably meet other people. No matter how unpleasant it is to think about, the people we love deserve to be cared for. We chose to follow our dreams and left to see the world, so we must accept the consequences of us not being around.
After a trip to Panama, the person I love decided that we shouldn’t speak for a while. We went three months without a word to one another until she texted me on my birthday, wishing me a happy one. We made plans to meet the following night, and I was so excited because of all of the unexpected turns my life had taken; I just quit my job of four years, bought a one-way ticket to Costa Rica, and was in the process of finishing writing a book. When we met for dinner the following night, seeing her was like being in a dream. The love we always had for one another was just as strong, and when I asked her to visit me in Costa Rica, she said she shouldn’t. I pressed a bit more and it was then she told me she had a boyfriend. After hours and hours of reflecting on it, I concluded that I was happy for her, because she found someone who could be there for her in ways I couldn’t. Such is the life of a traveler sometimes.
4. Know that real love is liberating.
Real love, no matter if you live under the same roof or five thousand miles away, liberates you. It pushes you to become your best self and follow your dreams instead of holding you back.
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