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