The sun! The sand! The romance!
The longest relationship I’ve had on American soil lasted for five months.
The irony is that Nicholas Sparks could write more than a few novels about the love — or lust — I’ve found abroad. Picture this: Moonlit walks on the beach in Rhodes, Greece, the waves lazily lapping the shore, vision a little fuzzy from the ouzo consumed with dinner, and fingers intertwined with a handsome island boy, born and raised on the island. Or imagine getting cozy next to a British lad enraptured by talk of life across the pond, sipping mulled wine and listening to the city passing by in a London pub at Christmastime.
Falling in lust is one thing. Your heart palpitates each time you accidentally-on-purpose brush against his hand. Any thought beyond him seems completely irrelevant when he smiles with that slightly gap-toothed grin.
But falling in lust with a foreigner while traveling abroad is even steamier.
Your abroad “unreal-ationship,” so to speak, leaves you with butterflies in your tummy and a partner-in-crime to help you explore the locale, without the inevitable pitfalls of a more long-term commitment stateside that comes with fights over chores, annoyance at his inability to accept your friends, or exasperation over his belief that one pair of socks will suffice.
I am a pro at cultivating these unreal-ationships while traveling around the world. I’ve even created some rules for making it happen.
Rule #1: It is not just about the hookup
When you’ve got someone you’d rather eat room service in bed with than kick out, you know you’re on to something!
The first rule in attaining that fairy-tale romance when traveling is realizing that you want more than a physical connection with another person, which inevitably ends in that awkward situation the next morning when you bump into each other buying coffee: “Oh, hi. … Great to see you last night, but, you know, I have to go….” An unreal-ationship is different. It means commitment, even for the short-term, and being disgustingly adorable and intimate with someone who tickles your fancy for longer than just one night.
Rule #2: Be forward
Be bold and strike a conversation with that cutie at the café!
Time is a different concept when you’re traveling. None of the same rules apply. That means there is no traditional timespan that you must wait after flirting or even receiving the number of the cutie at the café before sending the initial text. Did you share a smile with the handsome fella eating a scone on the steps of Sacré-Cœur in the City of Love? Be bold — ask if you can join in and then tell him the best scone joke in the world. (Hint: In my spare time, I poison cakes and leave them on the bird table. That way, I sometimes kill two birds with one scone.)
Rule #3: Immerse yourself in his or her world
Having a fling with a native can introduce you to a whole world of local culture, beyond what you’d find in any guidebook.
Yes, it is fun to traverse Rome and Instagram a photo of yourself “candidly” making a wish at the Trevi Fountain.
But what if you could hang on for dear life to the musky leather jacket of your own personal Italian Fabio as he whisks you down cobblestone alleys on his motorbike to try the homemade cannoli at his grandmother’s hole-in-the-wall café?
The difference between being a tourist and a traveler? The ability to see through the eyes of a native. And (if steps 1 and 2 were followed correctly) your newfound foreign lover will help you experience his or her home through more than just the pages of a guidebook or tourist office.
“I did feel that I was connecting to British culture more by dating a British boy. All my American friends spent their time at clubs, interacting with other Americans. I had a more authentic experience,” explained Kate Jones, who had spent a semester with her own personal tour guide in London.
The strangest, yet oddly romantic, part of their relationship? “All the post-sex tea we drank! So British!”
Rule #4: Keep in contact even when you (tragically) depart
Keep in touch with your abroad amore via Skype and email or even go old school with letters.
While it did not work out as well for Romeo and Juliet, that is not to say that your “star-crossed lover,” who lives four time zones away, will not stay in your life. Seriously, if Romeo had Instagram and WhatsApp, life would have been a whole lot easier (and a lot less tragic!).
I have made it a point to stay in contact with all the friends (and lovers) I have met while traveling. If anything, your Facebook feed will become 10 times more interesting, with the occasional photo of your badass Guatemalan lover jumping off cliffs, as you sigh and remember the week you two shared frijoles from a local fast-food chain while watching the sun fall from the sky in Antigua.
In the end, traveling is as much about the people you meet and the relationships you form as it is about stunning vistas and historic landmarks. Opening yourself up to falling in love while abroad is worth all those happy/sad tears you may shed at the airport.
And, who knows? You may bump into your unreal-ationship partner again one day, and it could turn into the real thing.
After all, the world is a pretty small place,
The Carrie Bradshaw of Travel
Vintage New South Wales Travel Poster
Article originally in Yahoo Travel, written by Tawkify Matchmaker Olivia Balsinger