Travel is ruining my love life. Dramatic much? Well, it’s true.
A few months ago, I wrote a post about how leaving my boyfriend for a life of travel and excitement was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. That’s true! But it’s also the worst thing I’ve ever done for my love life.
I’ve been trying to get a bit more personal on the blog because, you know, I’m a human being and not a traveling robot. But sometimes it’s hard to spill your guts to a bunch of (awesome) strangers. Especially when it comes to love and romance. Also, my family reads this and that’s just awkward.
I feel like I keep seeing all of these traveling, blogging couples that explore the world together on their journey of adventurous love. Then there’s all the single solo traveling girls that scream from the rooftops about how happy they are alone. Even my old post about breaking up with my boyfriend is a little falsely positive.
The Backpacker Hookup Scene
Oh, the Southeast Asia backpacker scene. Is it just me, or is everyone so freakin’ hot???
I can’t even believe how attractive guys on the road are. Tanned, muscled, barely clothed, rugged… and they even have interesting personalities and stories! Well… some of them. It’s eye candy 24-7 and I am NOT complaining.
Even the girls are beautiful. Fresh faced, tanned, covered in bug bites and scars, with a sloppy messy bun of hair; the backpacker girls exude a natural beauty that can only come from happiness.
I usually wear a bit of makeup year-round to cover up my dark circles and make my eyes stand out a bit more. Nothing crazy, I’m a fan of natural makeup. But on the road I really didn’t feel like I even needed it. My face glowed with a natural beauty I don’t have back in China. I wore dirty clothes and my hair was always a frizzy mess, but I felt beautiful.
Falling in and out of love
A few weeks ago I found myself saying to someone:
“When you’re backpacking, three days is a long-term relationship”
I’ve met so many incredible people while traveling. Some I’ll be friends with for life, others I’ll probably never see again. For me, the guys on the road are just so incredibly interesting, intelligent, passionate and exciting. They know what they want and go get it. They understand me and my adventurous lifestyle, and think I’m sexy because of it.
Being single while backpacking is fun, and everyone should try it sometime. Traveling solo, it’s so easy to meet people. I never once wished I had a boyfriend to travel with. I was just having so much fun!
Sharing a romantic kiss on the beach while watching sparkling plankton waves lap the shore, laughing over drinks while people fail at fire limbo, exploring night markets while sampling all the local delicacies, dancing under the moon to rhythmic techno music; I could write a book on all the romantic moments I’ve had while traveling. Except I probably won’t because my parents will read it and that’s just awkward.
Getting hurt on the road is possible, especially with how easy it is to connect to people. But you know what? If you’re hurt and disappointed while traveling, you can just move onto the next city and there will be a whole new crop of sexy men for you to flirt with. Trust me, it’s so true it’s actually sad. So many manly distractions, so little time….
It sounds like travel isn’t ruining your love life Richelle…
The backpacker life is fun, and being single on the road is fun; But that’s not my life.
I’m not a nomad, I’m an expat.
Being single was really fun for about five weeks, and then I went back to China and reality crashed down all around me. Oh right, I’m back.
I’m a firm believer that every girl should try living abroad by themselves once. Go somewhere with no friends, no boyfriend back home, and stay single for a while. Learn about yourself, make new friends, explore new cultures and travel solo.
But you know what? I’ve been there, done that… FOR THREE YEARS.
Last Year Was Lonely
So… last year was lonely. I lived in the middle of nowhere Chinese countryside by myself. Not really conducive to meeting guys. The local factory men in my area also just didn’t do it for me. Let alone the fact that they barely even spoke mandarin, and spent their time staring at me while chain-smoking.
Last year was a huge dud when it came to dating. I barely even had any friends to hang out with, let alone a boyfriend. My students also had a nice little habit of rubbing it in all the freakin’ time.
“Miss Richelle, do you have a boyfriend??”
NO. I didn’t have a boyfriend last week when you all asked me and I haven’t found one in the last five days, thanks for asking.
Boys. Boys Everywhere.
Now my life is a bit different. I’m attending grad school at the University of Nottingham in China. Now there are boys everywhere. EVERYWHERE.
I haven’t hit it off with any Chinese guys. I think the main issue is that the dating culture is just too vastly different for me to be interested. It’s not like I don’t think Asian men are attractive or anything. Theres a few hotties from other Asian countries around here, but I just have yet to be interested in any Chinese guys on campus.
So who are all these guys that are around? My university is 10% international. It doesn’t sound like much, but after last year, Nottingham is a mecca of sexy men from all over the world: North America, Europe, Africa, Asia, you name it. I have yet to meet any sexy Australian men though… but that’s probably a good thing.
The Land of One Night Stands
So you’re surrounded by hot guys on exchange? How exactly is this ruining your love life, Richelle? Why are you complaining about having so many hot guys around all the time?
To answer your question: Nottingham is the land of one night stands.
With all these crazy, sexy foreigners on exchange, our weekends are rife with hookups and gossip. Who made out with who, who slept with who, who went home with who, who broke up with their partner back home and is now newly single. It’s like backpacker land, but worse because you have to see the person constantly. If someone breaks your heart, you can’t run away. If you make out with someone, everyone knows.
It’s like college but worse, because the pool is so small! While there’s a few Chinese-foreigner couples, most of the foreigners just stick with dating/hooking up with each other. Especially since girls in southern China tend to be very conservative, and won’t even kiss a guy unless they’re in a relationship. Remind me why I’m not into Chinese guys again? Maybe I should give that a shot.
Wanting Something More
I’m in such a different life place than everyone here. Most people are in China for a few months or a year before they head back home. Why would they get their heart involved when they’re just going to leave this summer? This is their fun China year before heading back to the real world. Why not go crazy?
But this isn’t my fun China year, this is my life.
I’ve been living in China for years now, and while I don’t plan on staying in China forever, I don’t plan on going back home permanently any time soon either.
Why is wanting love a sin?
I feel like girls always feel pressured into saying the don’t want a relationship. We don’t want to appear clingy and needy, so we play the “cool girl card” and pretend we’re okay with something casual, while secretly wanting more. Well you know what? MAYBE I’M NOT CASUAL.
Maybe I’m fundamentally incompatible with casual.
Why is wanting to be loved a sin? Why should I feel ashamed for wanting something more?
My Romantic Failures
My most recent romantic endeavor just blew up in my face. I would say I got “dumped”, but we were never actually together to begin with so I guess I can’t really call it that. I always somehow manage to screw up any good thing that comes my way, because I always have the same problem.
I like people too much. I want too much. I feel too much.
It had been so long since I’d had anyone that was even semi-committal, I fell for this guy hard. I knew it was trouble. He made it clear that while he really liked me, he didn’t want a girlfriend, especially since he’s leaving China in a few months. It didn’t matter. I fell for him on accident.
Now I’m not saying he’s a jerk for not wanting to be my boyfriend. It makes sense, it’s just hard to hear it over and over again.
They’re not wrong, but I’m not wrong either.
I’m a Strong Independent Woman!
One thing that really bothers me about the inherent sexism women face in this world, is that girls are so afraid of being called “clingy” or “needy”. Those are words we usually reserve for women, and girls like me are deathly afraid of being associated with them.
I don’t need a boyfriend.
I moved across the country to attend university by myself. I left my boyfriend to study abroad in China by myself. I moved back to China after graduation by myself. I came to Nottingham knowing no one. I’ve backpacked Taiwan and Southeast Asia all on my own.
I’m competent. I don’t need a man. I can do things on my own and survive on my own just fine….
But it doesn’t mean I’m not lonely.
I try so hard to put on a brave face and preach the wonders of being single and traveling solo, and in a way it’s true, but it’s also kind of a lie. For me to come out and admit publicly that I am lonely is a huge deal for me. I try so hard not to seem like a dependent, needy person, I often cover up the fact that deep down I would like to have someone.
Being lonely is not the same thing as “needing a boyfriend”
I don’t want a boyfriend, because I’m not willing to settle for just anyone. I’m just tired of meeting really amazing people, and having it not work out because of the pervasive anti-committal mentality most people have abroad.
The guys I’m into are adventurous, passionate and open-minded. They love to travel and explore the world. They’re interesting, worldly and exciting. But these are precisely the kind of guys who can’t settle down, or won’t for a long time.
So Why am I Telling You This?
I feel like travel bloggers paint a picture of happy lies when it comes to romance. Some people are genuinely happy. They’ve found their partner in life, or at least someone they think might be. Other people are honestly genuinely happy being single. That was definitely me for a while.
But that’s not all of us.
We travel bloggers have no problem talking about our misadventures in travel. I’ll tell you about getting robbed by motorbike, winding up in the hospital from stepping on a sea urchin, and my epically horrible night bus adventure in Cambodia. So why won’t I tell you about my shitty love life as an expat?
Travel bloggers pride ourselves on telling the truth that travel magazines and guidebooks gloss over. We’re honest. We give you the good and the bad. We entertain you, sometimes at our own expense.
I never want my life to seem way more fabulous and exotic than it actually is. Yes, I’m happy and yes, I’m glad I moved to China. But sometimes travel means neglecting other aspects of your life that are important. Maybe I’ll be one of those lucky travel bloggers that meets my hubby on the road. Maybe I’ll fall in love with another travel blogger or freelance photographer (Call me).
I think it’s only fair that I fill you in on the other side of the story. We hear so many romantic tales of love abroad, but it’s not always like that. It’s really hard to make a relationship work when you don’t know what country you’re going to live in next year!
Sometimes I come off as a little dramatic. I think everyone thought my world was falling apart when I wrote about my “quarter-life crisis” a few weeks ago. No, my life is not falling apart because my pseudo-boyfriend dumped me. No, I’m not sobbing myself to sleep in a puddle of tears every night because I don’t have a boyfriend. Don’t get all worried about me. I’m a big girl, and I’ll be fine.
I just want to be honest about the reality of what it’s like living abroad, and how hard it is to actually find a travel partner in crime. If you’ve already found yours, count yourself lucky. If you haven’t, maybe we can arrange some traveler speed dating… or something.
Anyone else failing at love abroad? Do you feel pressured to pretend like you don’t want a partner when you really do?
**Apologies in advance to all my lovely male friends I have flaunted in this article
34 comments on “How Travel is Ruining My Love Life”
i read ur total blog about love..really awsome like ur other blogs..and i think ..everyone can understand ur feelings..what i can say you more on this..just keeping my mouth shut..
Thank you so much Sandiphotboy! I’m so glad you enjoyed this post, that really means a lot :)
I love this article so much, Richelle! I’ve experienced so many of the same things…feeling pressured to play the “cool girl card” and refrain from admitting that yeah, it actually would be cool to have a boyfriend at some stage, made to feel ridiculous for falling too hard for someone when in their mind it was never going to work out despite the love he claimed to have for me, blah blah blah, etc, etc. Thanks for having the balls to admit that it’s not always glamorous and, despite outward appearances, we’re not always happy-go-lucky-love-being-single-independent-women-travelers.
Thanks so much LaMochilera! I’m so sick of those “how I found love on the road” stories. Then I read all the stories about how “the traveling girl is one that can’t be held down by a relationship”. Um….. I can be held down by a relationship? Sorry I’m not that exotic.
I had been single forever until I met my boyfriend whilst on a seasonal contract in Lapland, and that nearly didn’t happen. Twice. When I found out he liked me, I told him if he said another bad word about the Northern Lights I wouldn’t even think about getting with him & long distance is freaking tough. He”s actually home next week and my heart is so full that he’s coming back its unreal, but its only for a couple of months before he’s off again and I’m left here sulking. Which is exactly how I don’t want my life to be. I guess once we have a bit of time to work our lives out then it’ll be easier.
So what I’m trying to say is, whilst you might feel lonely, so do I. And I have a boyfriend who I have been with for 3 months and the majority of that is long distance. It’s tough. It’s tougher than being alone (for me, at least).
I totally get where you’re coming from. I had a long-distance boyfriend who was Australian. While dealing with the distance was okay, it was not knowing when we would ever be able to live in the same country again that really tore us apart, especially when I decided to study abroad in China and not Australia. While we ended up breaking up, I know we weren’t meant to be to gather in the long run. Hopefully you and your boyfriend can stick it out. It seems like he’s the traveling type so maybe you might be able to live together in the same place someday!
Beautiful blog. I found myself nodding along in agreement with every word. I moved to the Japanese countryside nearly 3 years ago and while I am very popular (read sexual harassment) from local Japanese men, finding something real is nearly impossible with Japanese or foreign men is near impossible. I just recently decided to stay a fourth year in Japan. My decision was largely based on if I was gonna be ok being single for another year. It has been hard, but it’s been worth it.
Something that I recently started doing this year has really helped. I have been using tinder to find dates. I know this sounds like the opposite of what you are looking for since its famous for being a hookup app. However, for every 10 guys that are traveling through Japan looking for a hookup there is someone like you and I who lives abroad and has trouble meeting people. It’s also a great way to find Japanese locals who actually speak English and are interested in foreign women.
The guys who are looking for hookups make their intentions clear quickly and I just block them. So far, I’ve only had 3-4 first dates. Having those dates to look forward to and the possibility of finding something longer than a few dates has been really nice. It’s something I haven’t had for a really long time. Anyways, give it a chance. If you don’t like it, delete it, and there is no harm done.
That’s actually a great idea. Who knew Tinder actually worked for dating? I’ll download it and give it a try. I think it’s blocked in China, but I have a VPN and maybe some other expats do too ;) haha
Hrm. It is definitely more difficult to find love while traveling, or even ‘slow traveling’. It helps to either A: have a very definite set of travel plans or B: have no travel plans at all. (When I met my now-wife on okcupid, I was the latter – we made our joint travel plans after deciding to stick together.)
Traveler speed-dating… Sounds like a fun thing to do at a hostel if you’re single…
That said, while I was single, I had a blast at the local English-language bookstore. They were guaranteed to speak the language (plus), interested in some subject (plus), and hey, it’s a bookstore not a bar. That there’s usually a coffee shop around led to a few fun impromptu dates.
Thankfully I have no plans yet for next year! A bookstore sounds great, and it would be nice to meet some people outside the very small bubble of my school. Maybe I’ll check it out!
Very good article Richelle! You have the Zoren Seal of Approval, see you next time I’m in Asia? ;)
See you at TBEX??? hahaha
Just ugh on the couples blogs.
Hahaha I’m glad someone feels my pain! I definitely don’t mind the married couples (Planet D, Y Travel) but sometimes I just honestly can’t handle the others. If I date another blogger I’m keeping my OWN blog…. but he can help me with coding, web design and proofreading ;)
This is a great article. I’m not single, i am married and I am moving abroad with my husband. However, I had the dream to move abroad far before him and and I was lucky enough to find someone who wanted to make me happy and shared the same dream. But!!…. I still want to have some of my own experiences. I still want explore some of the world on my own. I think it’ll really help me feel accomplished, help prove to myself and others that I can be my own person without him. My husband loves me and wants to do everything with me, real bummer I know, so it was hard for him to hear that I was planning trips for myself. But he supports it and I think even if he didn’t I would still go, because you have to live your life for yourself. I think its natural for us to all want companionship, it doesn’t make us less of a person.
Wow thanks so much for sharing Alexandria. You’re so lucky you found someone that shares your passion for travel, but I completely understand your reservations and need to take some time for yourself. Like I said, I think every woman should try traveling solo or living abroad by themselves once. I think it’s so great that you’ve recognized this and found the strength to let your husband know how you feel. Traveling solo and traveling with a partner are both special in their own ways, and you’ll get to experience both!
I am so the same. I am not a casual person I am ‘if I’m going to fall I fall hard person’ which, I know, is super weird for someone who embraces the nomadic lifestyle every couple of years. So if you find a freelancer guy who’s up for more than a one night stand..and he has friends. CALL ME. haha <3
Hahaha we are the same! Now if you find some sexy freelancer with friends you have to let me know too. Deal? Deal.
You sort of give it away in your wording – you just don’t find Chinese guys hot. That you are able to travel to various areas and countries, and the first thing you notice is how attractive your fellow travellers are – enough said. Everything else is just being polite. And I imagine it’s the reason why AMWF is nowhere near as common as the other way round
I’ll agree and disagree with what you’ve posted here. It’s not that I’m not attracted to Asian men. There are a few Chinese and Chinese American guys I find very attractive (as well as other Asian nationalities), but for me at least with Chinese guys from China, I have an issue forming a connection with them. Whether it’s a language barrier, or a difference in courtship styles, I’m just not into it. However, there are guys from Korea and Cambodia that I’ve met in China that I’ve been very attracted to. The main point is that for a lot of expats, it’s easy to date someone in the local culture, however, I have yet to make a connection with any local guys.
What a powerful article and I know how hard it must be to share such a personal part of your life. I hope you find what you are looking for — whether that’s being single, being married, or something inbetween. I am a big believer in soul mates, so all I can tell you is that once you find him, you’ll know it was worth the wait.
Thanks so much Becky! I’m hoping to meet someone long-term on my travels, but it’s hard to play the waiting game for so many years. Hopefully someday I’ll find my perfect travel and life soul mate :)
First of all, I’m sorry to hear you got “dumped” even though it wasn’t really an official relationship. It still hurts. But you know what? It’s okay to not want one-day hookups and casual relationships. Don’t let the culture push you into doing something you don’t want to do. Don’t do anything you’ll be ashamed of in years to come, or that you would be ashamed to tell your children about. Sooner or later you will meet a guy that you’ll want to stay with and who will want to stay with you. Relationships are a lot of give and take. Hot guys get old and might look completely different 20 years from now. Keep an eye out for guys who are genuinely kind, funny, and smart. And once you meet one, show him how kind, funny, and smart you are. Good luck.
Thanks Jolanta. I completely agree! Eventually all the cool interesting travelers I love to love so much will mature and want to settle down… maybe. I shouldn’t let anyone make me feel bad for wanting something more than just a 3-day fling.
Of course I am a 60s guy going through a reinvention as I am too old for midlife crisis. Travel makes you more aware but also can isolate you when you get home. I rarely find anyone who understands what it is to be a traveler not a tourist. I find a lot of the backpacker types a bit different. Could be the age thing. However I don’t want to meet other people when I travel except the locals which is why I travel. It is however easy to look back and say where did all the time go.
I like to learn language phrases and talk to the locals.
I definitely get where you’re coming from. Even I can’t relate to the backpacker types sometimes, which is why I don’t like to always stay in the “backpacker area”. Meeting the locals while traveling is definitely an important part of the experience, which is one thing I love about being an expat. It’s so much easier to have local friends and really learn about a culture when you live here.
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I havent related to a blog post this much in a long while! I’m only on China year 2… but… jeez woman I head you! I was having the same discussion with other single expat friends the other day: “This life is so good for me, my mindset and my life… but oh so horrible for my love life.” … I’ve just signed up to your newsletter and am already looking forward to the countless hours I’ll spend reading through your posts.
Wow thanks so much Charlie! It’s definitely nice to know that so many other female expats and travelers feel exactly the same way as me. Thanks again so much for signing up for my newsletter. I’ve ben re-vamping it lately, so I’ll have some nice new stuff coming out soon!