Travel Love: Just a Fling or The Real Thing?

A more romantic moment on the beach.

While exploring beautiful new places and meeting interesting new people, we are bound to fall in love everyday when traveling.  We fall in love with food, beaches, bars, and most importantly, with each other.  Sure it’s less romantic hand holding on the beach and more of a sweaty 50 cent tequila induced roll in the sand.  Either way, endorphins and libidos kick in and we’re bound to fall in travel love.

“Travel love” feels like real love, in a careless, liberating, and irrational type of way. If you’ve traveled for a decent length of time, you know what I’m talking about. It’s that throw-caution-to-the-wind, make-love-passionately, and fall-in-love-unreasonably type love… for at least the night,  possibly up to a week, max (if the sex is good).

The logic is simple: I’m traveling, you’re traveling; I like you, you like me. And, just like that, you’ll find yourself in travel love until you and your quasi-lover part ways (which, realistically, will be in two or three days). It’s all fun and games when no one gets attached or hurt. We all know the rules, right? Wrong.

On my virgin backpacking trip through Europe at the ripe age of 17, I had my first encounter with travel love. His name was Garth from South Africa, where their currency is the Rand and their national language is Afrikaans. That was quite literally all I knew and will ever know about him. We met in the romantic basement lounge of London Backpackers Hostel. He and his friend were playing an absolutely yawn-worthy game of pool while my friend and I enjoyed a beer on the crusty, worn-down leather couch. I won’t bore you with the rest of the details, but that night went roughly in this order: brief introductions, King’s Cup, Beer Pong, random pub, dorm sex, and then instant travel love. Mind you, this all happened in the span of 4-5 hours (which is equivalent to around two weeks of dating in real world time).

Where all the intimate magic happens.

Being the naive first-time traveler and believer of young love that I was, I was completely enamored. There was something so sexy about being from a distant country, having a bizarre British accent, and using a strange currency. Yes, I do set my standards quite high. Ahh, Garth from South Africa. He was obviously my soul mate.

The next morning, I woke up to find out that he and his friend left early for Oxford. Nevermind the fact that he left me on his bed alone in an all-male dorm, I was devastated that I didn’t even get his contact information. I obsessively asked around the hostel for his last name or any other information I could get and I even resorted to looking up ‘Garth’ on MySpace and sorting by location, ‘South Africa’. I spent about three days sulking (equivalent to about two months in real world time) wondering “what if” and brooding over my lost love.  It was then followed by a period of time where I was convinced that fate would run its course and we would be serendipitously reunited.

I never saw Garth again.

With that first experience under my belt, amongst other travel love incidences, I feel it’s my duty to help identify the different types of travel love you’ll encounter on the road.  Although it’s a far cry from real love, we sometimes get confused.  Traditional signs of travel love include drinking games before dance clubs, swimming naked, and bunking (having sex in a dorm bunk bed).  And copious amounts of alcohol, obviously. Once you recognize travel love for what it is- fleeting, passionate, and intense infatuation- you can move on more easily and not waste any time sulking.

Type  A: The Ever-Lasting Travel Love

Boy meets girl and they spend the day hanging out with a group of friends. They all eat dinner together and have a few drinks at the bar. At the end of the night, the couple find themselves alone in the hostel living room talking until dawn and this same scenario plays out for another three nights. On the fourth morning, they both check out of their respective dorms and into a private room. Then they travel together for few months and eventually one moves to the other’s home country. They live happily ever after.

Type B: The Mutual Travel Love

Boy meets girl through a group of hostel friends on the way to the bar. Upon arriving at the bar, they cuddle in a corner where they talk each other’s ears off all night. Boy makes witty remarks and girl laughs although she doesn’t quite understand what he’s saying. They go home together that night and a few more. Girl returns home and they keep in infrequent contact. Perhaps girl realized that she was back in the real world and fell out of travel love, or maybe boy just fell in travel love with someone else. In any case, there are no hard feelings just fond memories.

Type  C: The Unrequited Travel Love

Was it real? Or just travel love?

Boy meets girl at a club and they dance together all night long. They end the night by mischievously swimming nude in the ocean and having sex on the beach. They don’t talk to each other in the mornings, but somehow find themselves in each other’s arms by the end of the night. Girl leaves after a couple of days but promises to keep in touch with boy because they were both on the same travel path. They exchange emails and try to set up a rendezvous. Unfortunately, girl returns home before boy can make it in time to meet her again. Boy misses girl and thinks about what could have been.  Girl found travel love more three times before she flew home.

Type D: The Short-Lived Travel Love

Boy meets girl at a hostel lounge while playing pool. They spend a few hours “getting to know” each other, playing games and drinking. At the end of the night, feeling their liquor-induced chemistry, they spend a gloriously wonderful night together. The next day, girl wakes up alone in an all-male doorm to find that the boy was nowhere in sight. She obsessively scours the hostel for further information about him to no avail. She sulks and stays hopeful for a few days until realizing she’ll never see him again. A few years later, still sulking, she writes an article about travel love.

About Ara-Danielle Uniza

Ara-Danielle Uniza is just an ordinary girl going through a quarter life crisis. After leaving her life in Boston, she has since spent her time traveling and finding ways to avoid going back to the real world. Her current goal in life is to travel around the world, with hopes to pick up a few things about love, writing and life on the way.