One of the most difficult aspects of being a single female (and I imagine male too) traveler is meeting people. Wait, what? I thought that was supposed to be one of the greatest things about traveling. At least that’s what everyone tells me. But the reality is: meeting new people comes as a double edged sword. It’s wonderful at first to have a new traveling companion with whom you can share the trials and tribulations of backpacking, and have a fun chat about anything and everything, but as is usually the case, your paths will separate at some point because either you’re on the move or he/she is on the move and you will most likely never see this person again, at least by any means other than social media. It’s this element of transience that I find to be one of the hardest conditions of my current lifestyle to accept.
In previous posts, I’ve mentioned my experiences with Romeo, the man I met on the shrimp farm when I first came to Ecuador. I didn’t dive into the specifics of the relationship and I still won’t, but the point of mentioning the experience here, is to bring to light the challenge of keeping a positive outlook on life while living in a world that is based upon moving on to new destinations.
From the moment I parted ways with Romeo on a bus headed to Guayaquil until even now, I’ve had daily internal debates with myself about why I’m leaving and whether or not I handled the situation as gracefully and maturely as possible. The main focus was guilt over the fact that my way of life clashed with Romeo’s in a way that was hurtful to him. It felt absolutely terrible to disappoint a kind-hearted and honest person, but after talking myself into a corner where I was an asshole if I stayed and an asshole if I left, I took a step back and tried to look at the relationship apart from my traveling lifestyle. After another round of internal debates, I still came to the conclusion that it was the best decision for me to end the relationship with Romeo.
It really gutted me to be in one moment where life is grand and then be in the next moment where I had to make a tough decision, but this is something to be expected when you travel and meet new people. I’m still not completely at ease with this downside to traveling, but I’m learning to accept it. The experience as a whole taught me some new lessons and actually reaffirmed my passion for travel and all that I’m doing with my life at the moment.
I’m not on the road in search of happiness. I’m on the road because it is my happiness.
I guess the cliché about women traveling around the world on their own is that they’re searching for love, which I think comes from a misinterpretation of the popular “Eat, Pray, Love” because the story happens to end after she found love. So naturally, I think we tend to believe that a woman will automatically stop traveling if she falls in love. For me though, this isn’t the case. Traveling isn’t the next best thing for me or just a hobby. Traveling is a real passion and it’s something that will always be engrained in my lifestyle even if I do meet a significant other or even decide to have children. It’s simply not something I’m ever willing to give up.
All of this said, I don’t intend for this post to be a cautionary tale against developing relationships with people while traveling, but rather an inside look at how traveling over the long-term isn’t always about fun and adventure. The two major lessons I learned from my experience breaking up with Romeo are: know why you’re traveling and understand the negative as well as the positive aspects of traveling. If you’re expecting your travels to live up to a reality they can never be and if you’re lying to yourself in the first place about why you want to travel, then it can turn out to be an awful experience. But if you’re grounded in your expectations and ready to handle the good and the bad, traveling can turn out to be one of the greatest experiences of a lifetime.