“Where is Your Husband?” is a question I’ve been asked so many times over the years as I’ve traveled solo that I wrote a post about questions to stop asking solo travelers. At first, I laughed it off and said “my parents would love to know that too so let me know when you find him” and then I went through a bit of anger phase asking myself the same “why haven’t I met that guy yet to travel and have a life with”? I even tried online dating (unsuccessfully) as no one matched my requirements of “owns passport, wants to explore the world and is open to adventure”. Now I’ve settled into a phase of contentment with myself and my solo-ness. When someone recently asked me “aren’t you lonely traveling solo?” I replied “not at all, I’m dating the world” and each city is my “new blind date with potential”. Snarky works to shut down people’s preconceived notions of what my life should look like.
Just like any date or relationship, there are a few places that linger as first loves, a few in the love/hate relationship, a few bad boys that still tempt me and yet a few more with the potential to be the “the one” – that long term image of walking hand in hand as we grow old together with memories (yes, too many movie moments in my head). Of course, just like dating, there have been some duds along the way (it really was you not me) but each time I’ve learned something new about myself, my beliefs and how I need to be open to the world. I’ve had peeks at what my life should look like vs. what my life could look like. I’ve laughed that the world is too big to keep returning to the same places and yet there are places (and people) that I keep in my heart that call me back on a regular basis (my home and heart are definitely in more than one place).
New Zealand – Pushing My Limits
Some places give you the taste of being “fearless”, some relationships are so raw that you can’t help but be afraid to be vulnerable but once you establish that trust, wow! What a feeling to discover your kick ass power and potential. This is the guy that believes you can do anything in the world as life is an adventure every day! The downside to the everyday adventure is wanting to just be still and enjoy the surrounding.
New Zealand is one country that wants you to experience pure adventure – it’s their marketing tagline “Pure Adventure”. Whether in the thrill of adventure or savoring the food & wine scene, New Zealand pushes you out of your comfort zone to let you experience fun, tempt your taste buds and gasp at the incredible beauty of the landscape. Fly in a helicopter to put on crampons and walk across the icy surfaces of the Franz Josef glacier. Learn to kayak for the first time even if you are scared to flip over in the massive lake. I swear the air whispers “you can do it” (ok, maybe the cute guide trying to get me to push past the fear and catch up to the group was a bit of incentive but in the movie version it was the air).
London – Friends with Benefits
London was my first international destination, the city that gave me a taste of what the world outside of Philadelphia had to offer. With the funny accents and phrases like “the weather is pants”, London told me “to look left” and continued to offer up just enough to keep me coming back anticipating something new and left me wanting so much more. We understood each other, it was (and still is) easy to be in London. We shared ups and downs. With a great history of over twenty years, I tried to make it more permanent but London said “sorry Tier 2 visa hurdle, you’d actually need to meet (and marry) an actual British guy to change our status” so alas we remain friends with benefits. We have fun, I find comfort in my visits, enjoy my favorite chocolates and for now can’t be more than that.
Venice & the Amalfi Coast – My First Travel Love(s)
Venice & the Amalfi Coast continue to be my first “love at first sight” cities. Over the years, I cherish the memories and look with sadness at the changes each has gone through as we’ve aged. They knew that they had the allure, the romance, the views – they had it all. But everyone wanted them, to preserve their beauty and not let them change and grow – and over the years, all the beauty is still there but underneath their souls have been changed and it makes me sad. It’s harder to find the unique experience of my youth, we are still friends and I can visit and act like a local, happy to stroll the streets (drive the roads) of my travel youth and relive the memories of the first time we locked eyes and shared the weekend. We are in the “remember when…..” stage of first love(s).
Paris – Torn between Two Lovers (Love & Hate)
Ah…..Paris. One city that evokes either love or hate with travelers and rarely a middle ground. For me, it was awkward at first as I wandered lost in a city of foreign language, culture and (at the time) currency. I had to find my own way back to the flat to find my friend (before mobile phones). On our second date, Paris loved me back but my friend hated it and she left me in the city abandoned at Valentine’s Day and I learned to be a solo traveler. It was my third time lucky that we fell into our love/hate relationship which has matured over the years. Yes, we still have differences but it’s those differences that make it such a strong, passionate, relationship. I’ve reignited my love of the city the past four years with visits for Thanksgiving (when Mom boycotted the holiday) on the way home from my RTW trip, summer with my niece (the foodie), on my travel sabbatical and the upcoming visit with my mom. I’ve reliving my past in the present and future with my family now. Seeing the city with fresh eyes and years of experience make it memorable again.
Bad First Impressions
Budapest, I’m looking at you twenty years ago. We started off on the wrong foot (or in my case the wrong hotel in a sketchy part of town) but found a common ground (once I moved to the five star Intercontinental Hotel) and I saw past the surface to see a great beauty of a city. I’m hopeful to return soon to see how much you’ve changed in the years as I continue to see your photos everywhere as a travel rock star.
Gozo – The Ugly Duckling Blind Date
When I arrived from the ferry and saw the limestone sameness, the unpaved roads, the unending construction in the villages and only one traffic light, I wondered where the hell I was and why I had said yes to this island in Malta. It wasn’t pretty…at first. Gozo would slowly reveal all of the hidden gems on the island, it was definitely a trust issue. We started off fumbling with “did we like each other” but after three weeks, it was a torrid love affair, one I was hesitant to leave as I was lost in a world of wonder….far away from the drama at home. My island home became a beauty once I stopped being all judgey with it. We met locals, dined on local wine and learned to tune out the church bells that rung every fifteen minutes to tell time. We fell into a comfortable routine that I hadn’t experienced with anyone else.
Houston: We Have A Problem
Houston, Texas (USA) – At first I thought it’s me, there’s more to the city than the cold highways, megachurches and shopping malls. I even agreed to a second date to give you another chance. You are Oil and I’m Water there is just no future for us.
Sydney – The Supermodel Guy Who Surfs
Sydney, Australia is the cover model who is a smart businessman by day, cultured food & wine connoisseur at night and a surfer on the weekends. He is multi-faceted and constantly surprising you. He won’t commit to just you because he doesn’t realize you are smitten with him (everyone is in love with him) but he’s too nice to notice. He’s happy with his awesome life and wants you to be happy too. He shows you the beach, pours his friend’s wine from the Hunter Valley and introduces you to his family and friends. You feel special with him because his attention is all on your happiness. There’s no long term to this relationship but your ego (and photos) definitely get a confident boost when you are with him.
Miami – It’s Definitely Me Not You
Miami – we are so different that even in the opposites attract category….we don’t. You are the perennial party-er with money, you keep saying we’re all good but I don’t feel we travel in the same circle. It’s probably my insecurities but I don’t fit in your world. I’ll still say a transient “hello” on the way to the cruise terminal and maybe meet you for a drink or two.
Solo Traveler: Independent & Brave
I’ve had many more blind dates with the cities of the world (and small towns) and I still enjoy the awkward first meeting, the getting to know you stage and then waiting to see if it will be love, lust, like or loathing. So I’m “still single” because I’m still dating the world, Mom says “I’m too picky”. For the rest of the world, I’m independent, bold and brave and yet missing “my husband”. As for me? I’m still having a good time exploring the world. What about you – what’s your travel love life look like? How would you label your dates with cities/countries? Are you dating the world too?