How Travel is Ruining My Love Life

A few days ago I emailed Arianna Huffington with a pitch about how travel is ruining my love life. Two hours later she accepted and one day later I became a published Huffington Post contributor!

For those of you who missed it on social media, I thought I would share this wonderful story with you, which is actually based on a similar post I wrote a year ago.

If you want to see my piece featured on Huffington Post, you can check it out here

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Living the life in Hong Kong

How Travel is Ruining My Love Life

Five years ago, I left my serious boyfriend to study abroad in China and I’ve been hooked on travel ever since.

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.

I’ll admit that it’s been an empowering experience. Traveling solo as a woman can teach you so many things, and I’ll be honest: It was fun being single!

Sharing a romantic kiss on the beach while watching sparkling plankton waves lap the shore. Exploring night markets while sampling all the local delicacies. Dancing under the moon to rhythmic techno music. I could probably write a book on all of the romantic moments I’ve had while traveling.

Playing in waterfalls in the Philippines

Playing in waterfalls in the Philippines

But after years of exploring the world, all of these romantic experiences become less and less meaningful. What happens when you want a relationship that lasts longer than three days? What happens when you want to let your guard down?

I’ve traveled to over 30 countries, and l’m living the dream in Beijing… but I haven’t had a serious boyfriend in almost five years.

I’m in such a different life place than everyone I meet in abroad. I’ve been living in China for three years now, and while I don’t plan on staying in Beijing forever, I also don’t want to go back to the U.S. any time soon either.

Most people are in China for a year or so before they head back home. Why get your heart involved when you’re just going to leave in a few months? 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. 

travel is ruining my love life

Hanging prayer flags in Tibet

 

Living abroad, I constantly feel pressured into saying I don’t want a relationship. I’m so desperately afraid of appearing clingy and needy. I play the cool girl card and pretend I’m fine with something casual, even when I’m not.

Well you know what? MAYBE I’M NOT CASUAL.

Maybe I’m fundamentally incompatible with casual.

I start out as the “cool girl” but eventually I always want something more. I would say these guys all end up dumping me, but can you really call it that if you were never in a relationship to begin with?

I like people too much. I want too much. I feel too much. 

My last romantic endeavor blew up in my face a few months ago. It had been so long since I’d had anyone even semi-committal, I fell for this guy hard. He made it clear that while he really liked me, he didn’t want a girlfriend. It didn’t matter. I fell for him anyway.

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 the same thing over and over again.

They’re not wrong, but I’m not wrong either.

this Beijing Life

Looking out over Stanley Market in Hong Kong

I left my boyfriend to study abroad in Beijing by myself. I moved back to China after graduation on my own. I consistently travel Asia solo. I’m competent. I don’t need a man. I can do things on my own and survive just fine….

I don’t need a boyfriend, 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. In a way it’s true, but it’s also kind of a lie. For me to come out and admit 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.

I don’t want a boyfriend, because I’m not willing to settle. 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.

How Travel is Ruining My Love Life

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The guys I’m into are adventurous, passionate and open-minded. They love to travel and explore new cultures. They’re interesting, worldly and exciting. But this is precisely the type of man who can’t settle down, or won’t for a long time.

Living abroad has been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I’ve become a stronger, more independent woman and I would make the same decision again in a heartbeat.

But there’s another side to the story no one seems to talk about. We hear so many tales of young women “finding themselves” on the road, but what happens then? What do you do when you know who you are and what you want, and you just need someone to share it all with?

Traveling and living abroad has its sacrifices. I get to see the world, but for now I have to do it alone. While it can be hard at times, for me these sacrifices have been worth it. I’m not ready to toss aside my adventures for a man quite yet.

I just hope that someday I’ll find someone incredible who wants to come with me.

Do any of you relate to this? Tell me I’m not the only one! 

Comments

comments

About Richelle

Expat, traveler, and spicy food lover, I've spent the last few years living in China and traveling around Asia. In my spare time I enjoy salsa dancing, exploring night markets and stuffing my face with street food.

25 comments on “How Travel is Ruining My Love Life

  1. Giiiiiirl do I feel ya ? I always hear/read these stories of people who go off to travel and then find someone to be in a committed relationship with. I’m just like..what?? How?? I would agree that the type of person who us travelers are attracted to isn’t always the one who wants commitment. However, I had these same types of problems even when I was living in one spot in the US! So who knows? Maybe I just really attract people who have no interest in real relationships. I’m the same way where I’ll swear up and down that I’m perfectly happy traveling solo, and I really am, but sometimes I would like to be able to share my travels with a romantic partner. I feel almost like it’s not allowed to say that, though? Thanks for writing this post! And congrats on Huffington! :D

    • Thanks so much Eva! I think whether you’re traveling or not, there’s a lot of pressure on women, especially ones who are “successful” or independent, to say they don’t want to be in a relationship. I also feel like I’m not allowed to say I’m lonely or I wish I had a boyfriend, and guys certainly don’t appreciate it when you’re upfront about looking for something serious. But judging from how people have reacted to the post, we’re not the only ones that feel that way!

  2. Firstly, so many congratulations on the Huffington Post gig. Well done sister!

    Secondly, you’re absolutely not alone! As a fellow strong independent woman, I understand perfectly what you’re going through. Sadly, these issues occur regardless where you are, to each and every woman that has her own mind!

    My friends were shocked when they heard that I was getting married as according to them “I’m not the type,” whatever that means! And as for having a child, they shook their heads that it would never work!

    Happily, they’re not my my friends any more and my husband and I are extremely happy. He’s not big on exotic travel but leaves me to sort everything out, or just lets me do some solo travel, whenever I want to! And to be honest, if you’re lucky to find a husband who adores you and treats you like a princess, you would never let him go, and if he loves you, he would never clip your wings. And he doesn’t!

    p.s. I’ve been travelling with our son since he was 3 months old. ‘Wasn’t a problem. Stuff in the car, baby carrier on chest, natural breast milk, and we were always good to go lol!
    pps. He’s now 14, loves Thailand & Korea, and wants to live in Asia! Yeeeees!

    • Wow that’s an awesome story! For me I’m only 25 so I’m not too stressed about it, but it does get lonely sometimes and frankly annoying to hear the same thing from guys over and over again. I’m glad you found someone that also loves to travel, and your son does too! I think that’s the most important thing. You have to find someone that shares your passions and wants the same lifestyle as you so you don’t have to constantly compromise.

  3. I totally relate to this! It gets harder and harder for me. I moved abroad about 4 years ago, and I’m now a little over 30. Dating in this age also pretty much sucks. My friends and I often go back and forth between trying online dating and giving up on it.

  4. Yeah, I’ve been there. Not only as an expat, but even when I’m back in the US and somewhat “stable”, people don’t often want something serious or are afraid of getting into something serious with me because they think I’ll just jump on a plane at the next chance. I usually do… because there’s no one serious keeping me there. Catch-22.

    • That’s so true! I also think people are too used to being alone that they don’t want to or don’t know how to mold a life around another person. People just get comfortable being single when they travel all the time. I pretty much belong with a traveler, but as an expat, I’m a bit too stable for them right now.

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  7. Oh I am totally totally feeling this right now!
    I have travelled on and off sporadically whenever I can for the last 15 years and it has totally ruined my love life! I hated the non committal aspect of travelers- the string of one night or one week stands, the continual hangovers and then having to come home to boring men! But I also was that non-committal traveler type and I know I broke hearts along the way too so I do get it!
    But when I came home I lowered my standards thinking it was me- then met an awful man and had a beautiful child. Still wanting travel, I traveled with my son a few year after i left his father. it was amazing- not like solo travel but still fantastic. But… so lonely. Lonely more so than ever. We returned and instead of lowering my standards I have just switched off completely and not dated in years. I haven’t seen the point as the people I’m interested in aren’t what you meet in average day to day life. I throw myself into making money and starting businesses.
    Then….Last month I meet a beautiful traveler. A man who tells me from our first interaction that he is here for 8 weeks but only 5 in my city. And it develops… coffee and dinner turns into daily dates and all the bells and whistles of a new relationship and we both are continually amazed at how easy and exciting and enjoyable it is. Then a week ago he leaves to travel north with plans to return here for 3 days before he leaves the country to spend time with me. We had agreed we are exclusive while he is here but both don’t mention when he is away and of course i want him to be with other people and experience freely all that travel has to offer.
    Then he tells me today he is spending 5 days with a female companion…. well, cue massive jealousy on my behalf that I am not with him, not being his travel companion and that I am back in that non-committal phase except this time I am the one on the receiving end of it and it DAMN WELL SUCKS!
    So I cut it off. I can’t do it I decided. It is hurting me and everyone is saying just have fun with it- you knew what it was from the start but still it feels awful.
    So basically by meeting amazing energetic free traveler folk while traveling, I am forever seeking this and now I am settled in my circumstances, I cannot have it and nor am I prepared to date down and lower my standards. Cue singledom which I am also actually totally okay with as well but having this experience with and amazing traveler has been confronting and shown me exactly how hard it is!

    • Wow this is such an insightful story. While I don’t have a kid, I can definitely see how that makes things even harder. Wanting to be with travelers when you’re settled is difficult. Not to mention the fact that travelers rarely settle down. I hope you find someone that makes you really happy in the future :)

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  16. WOW, I’m reading your post and I’m totally seeing myself in this! I traveled and lived abroad for 1-2 years in multiple places and I know EXACTLY how you feel. Wish I had answers for you – but I agree. Don’t settle girl! Keep your chin up. Cheers!

    • Thanks so much Cam! I will say that it actually did work out for me, and now I’m dating another travel blogger I met at a conference. Don’t settle, even if it takes 5 years of being single like me! hahaha

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