Life Lessons Learned from Travel
Travel opens our hearts and minds to possibilities. We become our best and brightest selves on the road. We’re more willing to take calculated risks. Seize moments. Say hello. Be ourselves. Share ourselves.
It’s little wonder, then, that love and romance often wind their way into our travel adventures as possibilities. We asked you to tell us about the times you’ve met that someone special while travelling. What you told us made us sigh. Made us smile. Nod knowingly. Shake our heads wistfully.
Read on for a smattering of travel love stories sure to take you on a journey of the heart and soul. And couldn’t we all use a little of that right now?
Sometimes, love finds us when we’re not looking for it
Travel writer Kylie T. embarked on a solo fam trip to the Solomon Islands, feeling completely lost following a nasty breakup and custody battle. There, she met her partner, J – who is from Vanuatu but was working in the Solomon Islands.
Fresh off a recent heartbreak and legal battle, J came into Kylie’s life on a trip to the Solomon Islands and he has been an anchor in a stormy sea. / Photo provided by Kylie T.
“My first impression was he had nice eyes and seemed sweet, but as I was in a space where I was completely done with relationships, I didn’t think anything beyond that,” she recalls. “However, he proved himself to be strong, funny, interesting and compassionate on the trip so my ice heart melted a little. Staying up late talking about our lives, I realized how much I had let my nasty custody battle dictate my life and how lost I had become. He encouraged and inspired me to do those things for myself I had been putting off and take control of my own life again. At the end of the trip, he asked for my number – and despite me thinking nothing would ever happen, I gave it to him.”
While there wasn’t much romance on that trip, the pair had spent a lot of time together. The connection was obvious to everyone – except a resistant Kylie. After she returned home, she took time to heal and invest in herself, taking the dance classes she’d always wanted to and joining a gym. She found the confidence to face her ex and the custody battle with grace. And won full custody of her daughters.
All the while, J kept in constant contact. She made several trips back to the Solomon Islands and the pair spent more time getting to know one another. They travelled together. Fell in love. And began thinking about blending families.
“When you travel you need to be able to communicate well to ensure things go smoothly. Being used to things changing constantly, the need to communicate, living in unusual environments and different cultures ensured we both understood each other better than others might.”
From evacuating from the bushfires in Jervis Bay, to travelling to Vanuatu after close relatives passed away, to getting hit by Cyclone Harold in the Solomon Islands, and then locked down there as the pandemic intensified globally, the couple have weathered many storms this year alone. Their secret? Strong communication, knowing one another’s strengths and weaknesses (and planning around each), and a traveller’s mindset.
“I think having both been travellers, we were used to changing plans, going with the flow, and disasters happening. When you travel you need to be able to communicate well to ensure things go smoothly. Being used to things changing constantly, the need to communicate, living in unusual environments and different cultures ensured we both understood each other better than others might. We also understood the need to communicate, be open and support one another having been through a divorce each,” she says. “As a traveller, you need to be aware of your surroundings at all times too. I think this can make people more aware of changes, more understanding of people and notice things others might not. You learn to read situations quickly and adapt easier because of those travel experiences which flows through well to the needs in a relationship.”
When interludes with flight staff briefly give a traveller wings
In 1986, Lois R was travelling alone when she encountered a Danish air steward in the first week of a six-week trip in Thailand. They met at the bar of the guesthouse she was staying at.
“He was with a co-worker and they were both really friendly and funny. He was very courteous and interest in my life and why I was travelling alone,” she recalls. “We all went out for a meal and then to a club. It was a really pleasant evening.”
Lois didn’t seem him again until several months later when he had a layover in Seattle. But as is sometimes the way with a travel romance redux, it wasn’t quite the same. The pair took a drive to the mountains, shared a nice dinner and then an awkward evening.
“Seattle felt different. I think we were in different places and frames of mind than in Thailand. I could see he was happy to have a romantic interlude but not build on that. Maybe he had a ‘girl in every airport.’”
“Seattle felt different, but again we spent time with his co-workers and they were all a jovial group. I think we were in different places and frames of mind than in Thailand. I was flattered – maybe too easily flattered – and developed an expectation or desire for something more,” she says. “After Seattle, I could see he was happy to have a romantic interlude but not build on that. Maybe he had a ‘girl in every airport.’”
They communicated by letter for another year after that, and then it slowly drifted away. But the lesson about expectations remained.
Where the promise of travel romance fizzles, lifelong friendships spring
In 2012, Sandy B. ventured out on her first solo trip to Europe. After being on her own for almost 20 years raising three daughters, Sandy knew she needed a change or she’d end up wallowing in loneliness. Her love for gardening led her to watch a TV series called Around the World in 80 Gardens, and an acquaintance returned from Europe about the same time, with photos of all the places she’d visited.
“It was like a buried part of me suddenly came to life. I hadn’t thought about going to Europe before, and now I had this overwhelming desire to go.”
“It was like a buried part of me suddenly came to life. I hadn’t thought about going to Europe before, and now I had this overwhelming desire to go,” she says. “I found an on-line site called TravBuddy, which sadly shut down a few years back. That site was a wealth of information and their awesome members encouraged me to travel alone and stay in hostels.”
She sold her house, put everything in storage – and at the age of 59 – headed out for five months of solo travel. Through TravBuddy, she’d met Steve from London, England, and they spent a year chatting before her trip. “He offered to guide me around London and answer any other questions I had about Europe. We emailed and talked on the phone before I agreed to meet him in Paris,” she says.
Sandy, seen here with Steve in front of the Eiffel Tower, has made a lifelong friend and travelling companion.
“Even if he lived closer in distance, I wouldn’t have wanted a long-term committed relationship,” she says. “Steve is a wonderful man and we have lots of fun travelling together. He visited me in Canada twice, knows my family, and we are currently planning a trip to celebrate his 50th birthday.”
The biggest takeaway from her adventures was a desire to overcome her fear of flying, which she did with anxiety management. And her budget-friendly method of travelling netted her two dear friends.
“For me, riding trains and sleeping in hostels is all about the people you meet. There are definitely other advantages, but it’s the people that keep me coming back to hostels. I have met so many unique and wonderful individuals that I wouldn’t have connected with otherwise,” she says. “The stories and adventures that some people have lived and are still living is amazing. Travelling on trains, buses and staying in hostels is true reality, not a YouTube or TV show version of it.”
Holiday romance sizzles, but sometimes long-distance love fizzles to friendship
In 1985, Ann G. travelled to Zambia with an organization similar to the US Peace Corp that sends Canadians interested in development issues to do volunteer work in a variety of countries. It was a solo mission – she was being sent to Zambia to work as a journalist on a newspaper.
Towards the end of her seven-month stay in Zambia, she met fellow solo traveller Paul from Belfast, Ireland on safari. “He was really interesting. Very intelligent. I was fascinated that he came from Belfast. I’d heard all the news about ‘The Troubles’ there, but now I got to hear the perspective of someone from there,” she muses. “I loved his sense of adventure. He was well travelled and here he was, living in Zambia (he was an engineer and was working in that capacity when I met him). He was quietly witty. We were extremely compatible. He made me laugh.”
Love on safari isn’t just for travelling humans… / Photo by Jamenpercy on Adobe Stock
Ann enjoyed having a companion with whom she could discuss the amazing wildlife they saw and process their African experiences together. The pair shared conversations that went on for hours. After returning to their lives, Ann visited him in Ireland.
“Paul was a great host who taught me a lot about the history of Northern Ireland. He and I toured the entire circumference of the island, a trip I will never forget. He also visited me in Canada a couple of times, and we travelled to Europe and elsewhere together. In between meeting up, we wrote each other almost daily. Letters – there was no email!” she says.
The pair explored the idea of one moving to the other’s country, but in the end decided it was too complicated and would demand too much compromise on the part of the person moving. It would have meant sacrificing careers, and Ann was in the early stages of hers.
“I loved his sense of adventure. He was well travelled and here he was, living in Zambia. He was quietly witty. We were extremely compatible. He made me laugh.”
Still, she says, the experience taught her “the sheer exhilaration of travelling with someone you really enjoy being with – someone open to the adventures, good and bad, of travelling, especially to a less-developed country where things can be unpredictable. It certainly taught me about the qualities that are most important to me in a partner. He had so many of them!”
She still receives a Christmas card from Paul and his wife every year.
So many of our JourneyWoman have encountered love on the road, and no matter how that love showed up or what it evolved into, the one common thread to each of these tales is no regrets. You put yourselves out there. Some of you met your future partner. Others cherished friends and travel companions. Still, others learned some valuable lessons in self-love. You’re a brave bunch, and from our hearts to yours, thank you for sharing your stories.
Has love – in any of its many forms – wound its way to you on your travels?
if so, we’d love to chat with you! Email Editor Amanda (firstname.lastname@example.org) to share your story.
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