As I packed for my most recent five month trip to Southeast Asia, my fourth such journey in as many years, I vowed that my next flight abroad would be to a new region of the world. I felt certain that the next time I put down my passport, it would be somewhere in Latin America.
Then I got to Gili Trawangan.
I haven’t even started blogging about this portion of my trip yet (the problem with perpetual travel is that I’m always behind in covering my adventures!), but those of you who read my Photo of the Week series or follow me on watched in real-time as I slipped into a blissful routine on this little spit of sand. I could tell you all about the fantastic underwater world I encountered while I did my Divemaster course, the peaceful bike rides I took around the island’s five-mile circumference at sunset, the little yellow room with a balcony that I rented for my stay. But that’s not really what you want to hear about, right?
You want to hear about how I met someone.
I feel obligated to point out that this is a costume.
The entire concept of dating when you live out of a backpack is so fascinating, I truly could write a book on it. Any rule you’ve ever played by, mused over or heard about goes out the window. There’s not much “should I text or will he?” agony when at best one of you has a disposable Nokia cell phone, and you tend not to worry so much about long term compatibility or other practical matters when you’ll both be in different countries by the end of the week.
It’s the same with any relationship on the road, romantic or not. One day you’re strangers, and soon after you spend every waking moment together without a thought to what the repercussions might be. Can you image going on a date with the same guy more or less every single day for six weeks straight, since the day you met him, in New York? Or moving in with a new friend after a few days of knowing each other? And then boom, one of you takes a different trajectory and that little chapter in your life is over with the purchase of a plane ticket.
So all of this is my long winded way of saying that when I started spending every waking moment with one of the dive instructors at the dive shop I was doing my course at, I didn’t really think much of it. I figured we’d have a little holiday romance, we’d part ways with a kiss and a smile, and maybe someday we’d be lucky and our paths might cross again.
But then could I really help it that this guy had an adorable Danish accent, and a ridiculously charming smile, and that he used both when he looked at me and spoke to me using my full name, all four syllables? Al-ex-an-dra. Or that he knew exactly how to comfort me when I felt anxious, and just what to say when I was having a bought of the crazies, and most importantly brought me breakfast in bed when I was hungover? And that he made me laugh every day, and that he looked really good in a wetsuit? And did I mention that Danish accent? I AM NOT MADE OF STONE, PEOPLE.
As time ticked on and my departure became nearer on the calendar than my arrival, I actually started to dread that inevitable goodbye. And it wasn’t just him. I had made amazing friends, I loved the diving, and I enjoyed the return to small-island life. I wasn’t ready for my Gili Trawangan chapter to end.
So then, one day, the manager of my dive shop mentioned she could use a little extra help around the high season. And she pointed out that a little Divemaster experience would look great on my underwater videography resume. And I consulted my calendar and found a six week window. And then I looked at plane ticket prices and I fainted.
I’ve had my hesitations. Those of you who have been reading for a while know that my last real relationship ended brutally, and it took me a long time to feel like myself again. I’ve dated since, but I’ve backed away when things started to get serious. And I’ve grown to so cherish my independence, it’s hard to imagine sharing the reins of my life with someone else again. But as a new, wise friend recently said to me — “YOLO, and not in the way that kids use to justify doing stupid shit.” Rather, as in, You Only Live Once — and so recognize when something rare and good is happening to you.
On July 1st, I fly back to Indonesia for six weeks. I have no idea what the future holds beyond my return flight. But in the meantime, this is Anders. You’ll be seeing a lot of him around here.
Anyone else want to share their romance on the road stories in the comments?