Can You Find Love on the Road?

Today’s guest post is from Matt Kepnes, blogger at NomadicMatt.com
Matt agreed to write this post after I asked him about a rumor I had heard in the travel circles that if you enter long term travel single, you’ll stay that way. As a married traveler, I was curious on the singleton’s perspective and I’d also like to hear your stories! So if you have a “found love” story (or love lost), please post it in the comments.

If you’d like write to guest post: contact Almostfearless with your story idea and a bit about yourself.

love on the road, lonliness, nomadic matt, relationships, travel ideas

As a single guy, I often get asked about relationships on the road- do I have girlfriends? Can you maintain relationships on the road? Or do people just have casual affairs? For me, I’ve had a few girlfriends while traveling but it’s been a long time since I’ve had something that lasted beyond a few months. Long term travelers are always on the move and thus it’s a bit hard to maintain a long term relationship because, pretty soon, someone will be gone again. Relationships on the road end right as they get going.

love on the road, lonliness, nomadic matt, relationships, travel ideasThere’s a bittersweet nature to love on the road. There’s a short shelf life to them. Relationships tend to last as long as the people are traveling together. But they tend end better than relationships back in “the real world”. I dated a Swedish girl I met in Cambodia for many months but when her time in Asia ended so did our relationship. But since relationships on the road don’t end because of a big fight but because circumstance, one of the upsides is that you remain friends with them.

In the backpacking movie “A Map for Saturday”, the backpackers talk about how compressed relationships can be on the road. Things happen fast when you travel. There’s no real dating period where you get to know the other person. You meet, you see a few attractions together, go out with everyone from the hostel, kiss, and then suddenly, you’re in a relationship. Everything is much more compressed while traveling on the road. Relationships may begin quickly but they can also end quickly. In the matter of days, you can start a relationship and end one. Either they move on or you just have had enough. A relationships can begin, blossom, and end all in one city.

So is it possible to have love on the road? Yes. Occasionally you meet that special someone who also happens to be going your way. You end up traveling on the road for awhile, spending months together, and having a great time doing it. However, the end result is usually the same. One of you ends up leaving before the other, there are heartfelt goodbyes, and you continue on…single again.

love on the road, lonliness, nomadic matt, relationships, travel ideas

Rarely, does one have the flexibility, as much as someone might want, to just go home with that person. I’ve stayed in touch with many girlfriends I’ve had on the road. We’ve met up in other cities and had a great time. However, that is where it usually ends as neither of us is will to pack up our lives and move.

love2There’s a romanticism about relationships on the road that is well founded. For that time and place, you had a special someone to share it with. You bring no baggage to the table, your life at home is left at home, and there is simply you, the other person, and the excitement of discovering a place together.

I’ve never tried to bring a travel relationship into the real world so I don’t know if it works with the rush of life going by but I do know that relationships on the road are bittersweet. For that time, they are wonderful. They happen quickly and passionately. There is constant excitement and joy. But you both know that one day too soon it will probably end and when it does, you’ll be alone again, only to repeat the cycle.

About the Author:

Matthew Kepnes has been traveling around the world on a budget for over three years, but still hasn’t found love on the road. You can find out more at his website, Nomadic Matt.  If you want more travel tips, photos, and stories from his upcoming 3 month trip to Europe, you can also subscribe to his RSS feed.

Pics: tercerojista, sonya, philippe leroyer, envisionpublicidad

 

23 Comments

  1. I’m with Matt on this one. Relationships when travelling are more intense, but not really long lasting romantically if you are a perpetual traveller. There are plenty of people who have met while travelling and stay together for life when their travels finish, or couples that met in “the real world” and travel together for years, but I rarely hear of stories of someone in Matt’s or my situation having a stable long term relationship. That will have to await us when our itchy travel feet have been fully scratched!!
    I’m also very cynical about long-distance relationships, having seen many many exchange students and even short-term travellers promise that they are “different” and will stick with their highschool sweetheart, after about 2 months they usually meet some charming local or other traveller… there are exceptions, of course! But my Disney view of romance has certainly been skewed since I started travelling.
    I am always totally honest with a girl before starting a relationship about my realistic views of how long it may last. I’m not actually always travelling (I have 3-month stays in places), so my romances are usually with locals. This has its advantages (On a side-note, it’s a great way to learn the local language 😛 ), but unlike Matt’s fellow-traveller girlfriends it means that it’s harder to relate to the person.
    I’m always open to the possibility of meeting the “right” girl and either travelling with her or even stopping longer to see if the relationship has a future, but after 7 years on the road that hasn’t happened yet… I better meet her soon before I get too cynical!! 😀
    Like Matt I always keep in touch with these girls and have long-lasting friendships. It’s not romance, but it’s something really special and that keeps my heart warm when I need it 😉
    .-= Benny the Irish polyglot´s last blog ..Couchsurfing: How to practise with a native without even needing to leave your home =-.

  2. What a great post, and how true this is, most of the time. It’s tough to maintain love while travelling, whether it happens while you’re both on the road, or just one of you; whether you met on the road, at home or somewhere else along the way. Some of it depends on your age & emotional maturity, but it is absolutely possible to maintain a long-distance relationship. Sometimes, it keeps things exciting.

    Ten years ago, i had to ditch a handsome French guy at the end of my 6 months living there. Why? Though there were some opportunities to stay on in the country – legally as an au pair, for example – I wanted to finish my uni degree before coming back to Europe. And I didn’t know if I wanted to move back to France.

    A few years later, I had a fantastic time with a short-term friend in Cuba. He was one of the most stunning men I’d ever met, and though we got on well in two languages, I didn’t want to push my luck with numerous illegal trips to the country.

    But the one worth keeping was the most unexpected of all. Several months after I moved to Busan, a seaside city in South Korea, I had become disillusioned with the town and the intense Confucian culture. I was getting ready to save up and move to Siem Reap, Cambodia – one of my favorite towns in SE Asia at the time. One afternoon I was sitting in a local cafe, and I heard an unforgettably deep English voice talking to someone about how he was getting ready to move to Hainan, “China’s Hawaii” to teach at a local university. I looked up, was struck by the guy’s dark hair & strong features, and thought “There’s another one who’s moving too fast, too bad we never had time to meet.”

    But a few days later we did, a few weeks afterwards we decided to stay in Busan (though neither of us were thrilled with the place) to see how things would work out between us. 2 years later we were married, then spent our first year-plus apart to work on projects in different countries: he learned mandarin in Taiwan & I started a project in Cambodia to teach photography to street kids. Eventually we lived together in Hong Kong, and have since relocated to Sydney. But I’m back in Asia for 6 months working on a book, illustrations, research on SE Asian culture and am currently learning mandarin in SW China.

    Most people can’t – or won’t – be up for the kind of relationship we have. It requires incredible amounts of trust in both partners; dedication to one’s own goals; and respect for the other person’s career & life aspirations. Being highly cerebral and easily seduced by the other person’s words helps 😉 You’ve got to devise creative ways to touch the other person from far away, but it’s easier than before with Skype, etc. We look one another in the eye for many hours each week, and make a real effort to stay connected.

    Another common element for us was that while we’re happy to be US/UK citizens, we don’t have a particular loyalty to – or desire to stay in – our home country, so home is wherever we are. Even if we’re not in the same place.

    • Thrilled for you, Liz. Hope it lasts forever and a day. Looking for that myself…all or nothing. She´ll be there when I look up, one day.

  3. Jeff Bartlett

    I must disagree with Matt and side with Elizabeth on this subject. A little over two years ago I was on a 9 month trip through Argentina, hiking my way north from Ushuaia to Mendoza when I decided I needed a break from the walking/hiking/camping solitary life. I checked into a hostel, booked a month of Spanish lessons and went to bed knowing the next month would be different from my normal travel plans.

    The next morning, after my first two classes, I participated in an intercambio. Locals came to practice their English for one hour before helping the foreigners with their Spanish for another hour. Many short term romances have likely begun in this weekly program, however, mine would end a little differently.

    Two years later, multiple trips to Argentina, many visits to Canada and a few backpacking trips around Patagonia and Chile and we are still as excited to be together as the first day we met. We got engaged in Jasper, Alberta, Canada last Christmas and will spend out wedding day in Argentina this coming March.

    The key to us staying together is sacrificing some long-term plans to accommodate each other, much like any relationship requires. We also have had an unbreakable trust since our first date together. This is absolutely crucial when spending weeks/months apart.

    Love on the road is wonderful. Since we’ve met, traveling is different, but we both have enjoyed countless months of life on the road with and without each other since we met. After marriage, life will continue on a road many people never travel – one without a definitive end.
    .-= Jeff Bartlett´s last blog ..Boca Juniors – A Walk Through Argentina’s Legendary Stadium =-.

  4. I agree on most points about relationships on the road. I started out as a single traveler and had some extremely intense relationships that rocked my world. But then the end came when we moved on to the next place he in one direction and me in another.

    Until, I got to Guatemala. Here I camped next to a Guatemalan in Tikal and we started up a mile relationship. However, since I didn’t have anywhere to be or go, I made myself available to continuing it. If I didn’t stay longer in Guatemala and in a sense rearrange my life, I would never have ended up marrying this guy who I have been with now for 8 years.

    I also think a lot depends on how much one person is willing to do to continue a long distance relationship and the most important part to see if this relationship will stand the challenge!

    If you dont’ think it’s worth it, or that it’s just for fun, then it’s better to just move on and find the relationship that is worth it!

  5. I once met an American girl who was about to marry an Australian guy she’d met in a hostel in Vienna, so I suppose these things do work out on occasion. I still correspond constantly (and will soon go visit) a British boy I dated while traveling. There relationships can be temperamental but there is just something SO romantic about falling in love with someone against a great scenic backdrop. If it’s going to transform into something long-term though some serious sacrifices are going to need to be made by both parties.
    .-= Stephanie´s last blog ..Who Should You Travel With? Part 1 of 3: Why Traveling in a Big Group will Make you Crazy and Possibly Homicidal =-.

  6. @Benny: I agree. It’s totally hard to have long term relationships and it’s going to have to wait until I find a girl on the road or I settle down…but I am ok with that. And like you I keep in touch with my exs too. Its’ nice.

    @Elizabeth I’m glad it worked out for you. I only hope I could have something like that.

    @Jeff Well, I don’t think you are really disagreeing with me. I didn’t say it was impossible to find love while traveling. I just said it was harder and unlikely.

    @Marina: Flexibility is very important. I could maintain relationships a lot longer but at this point in my life, I know I’m not ready. Like Benny, my feet are too itchy. But maybe…you never know what the future brings..

    @stephanie: your right. if you want it to last longer, there’s sacrifices to be made!
    .-= Nomadic Matt´s last blog ..Is Travel Blogging Real Journalism? =-.

  7. This post and all of the comments are so great to read. I am new to the nomad life and love being able to relate with you all. Dating on the road is so challenging. In the three months that I have been traveling as a “digital nomad” I have met some pretty wonderful people. One in particular I had amazing chemistry with, but we only had two days together before he headed out to another locale. I’ve found that a lot of travelers have learned to stay somewhat emotionally unattached from people so they guard themselves against heart break. It’s hard to get close to some people because while they love meeting new people they guard their heart with bared teeth! I have yet to have any whirl wind romance, but I can tell you I’m looking forward to it! haha…thanks for all the experiences above.

  8. Cliff Hansen

    I think the people we meet on the road are very similar to us so therefore the possibility remains strong that we’ll find someone we connect with very well. However, because we’re similar, we’re both moving, just probably not in the same direction.

  9. I agree about the breakups under circumstances than fighting. When I was single and I was able to travel some of the best moments were in relationships on the road in adventurous places that seemed so surreal. I don’t ever remember a breakup because of something stupid or a fight, but because we were headed in different directions under circumstances beyond our control. Great post that brought back lots of memories.

  10. Zoe Zolbrod

    I love this post and the comments. When traveling solo, I usually had my emotional guard up, as Amber describes. It would eventually crack–allowing me some amazing, intense, but short relationships–but it never totally crumbled. Like Matt, I was more committed to my journey. But I saw couples for whom that wasn’t true, people who were genuinely falling in love with each other, connecting across cultures and continents in the deepest and most generous ways. The long-term and logistical challenges are huge, of course, but in some ways, these kinds of matches symbolize the best of travel.

  11. I think it’s worth noting that Matt isn’t so much a footloose traveller, but a travelling nomad ergo he works in order to travel, so his travel lifestyle is dictated by his work. Without one, he couldn’t sustain the other. In that situation, it’s much more difficult to attract the opposite sex — unless of course they’re also working, local or otherwise.

    A new relationship demands loads of attention, and usually we’re happy to give it but when you’re anchored by work — especially the time and market sensitive type that Matt is — there must become a clash. Summed up by Matt’s opinion,

    Rarely, does one have the flexibility, as much as someone might want, to just go home with that person.

    I left England happily single, fresh out of a long term relationship and cussing all things female (hence, I wasn’t looking for it). Three months later I met my girlfriend, a fellow solo traveller — and two years later we’re living together, while still on the road here in New Zealand.

    Though we’ve never been back in our home country of England together, we found ourselves instantly in the advanced stages of what a relationship would normally be. We lived together instantly, ate most meals together and met new friends through each other.

    It’s also worth knowing that we met in an off-the-track, rural part of China. I say it was fate; Reb says she had no other choice.
    .-= Ant´s last blog ..All Rights Reserved. As of Now. =-.

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  13. Great post…I had wondered about this. I’ve just broken up with my boyfriend of 4.5 years and decided to spread my wings and travel a little. People told me I would find the ‘love of my life’ abroad but of course, I told them that this was very highly since, as you say, people leave as they continue their own travel paths. Defintely food for thought; nice to get a singleton’s opinion – thanks!
    .-= Toni´s last blog ..Naming the new addition… =-.

  14. Love on the road is different, but it’s no less rewarding. Friendships are fast, furious and intense, and relationships can be over in a heartbeat. Despite being armed with this knowledge and having given up on ever finding a real romance on my solo journey from 2003-2004, I was still lucky enough to meet John.

    I owe our relationship to three things: his persistence in not taking no for an answer, our dedication to making it work once we realized we had something special, and being adaptable with each other. After traveling together for six months, he had to return home to the States while I remained in China. We spent nine LONG months in a long-distance thing before he finally returned to Asia in 2006. We got married in December 2008 and we’re still going strong.

    We have learned that love on the road requires some creativity and finesse, but in the end, we are far better off for it. Knowing that the person I share my life with also shares my biggest passion is not only a huge comfort, but also the greatest reward. I never have to worry about convincing him to go somewhere or do something. We’ve made it work for five years and we’re in it for a lifetime.
    .-= Carrie´s last blog ..ESL ACTIVITIES =-.

  15. I did it…I found love on the road…this song from the Dearth Cab for Cutie explains very well what happened : :
    Death Cab for Cuties

    Versión original en inglés:

    Squeaky swings and tall grass
    The longest shadows ever cast
    The water’s warm and children swim
    And we frolicked about in our summer skin

    I don’t recall a single care
    Just greenery and humid air
    Then Labor day* came and went
    And we shed what was left of our summer skin

    On the night you left I came over
    And we peeled the freckles from our shoulders
    Our brand new coats so flushed and pink
    And I knew your heart I couldn’t win
    Cause the season’s change was a conduit
    And we’d left our love in our summer skin
    .-= Marco´s last blog ..Ex entrenador de Flipper intenta detener la matanza y captura de delfines =-.

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  17. Late coming into this awesome conversation.. and with another love on the road success story.

    My partner Chris set off on perpetual long term solo travel – with openness to finding romance, but not realistically believing that finding a partner was possible. I was myself already exploring location independent work/life and integrating in a lot of travel.

    We met in the course of this and found that our paths were very mergeable. After a lot of discussions, trial travel and a bit of serendipity – I sold my house anchor and we set off on the road together. Now, after 2.5 years of full time travel together – we’re very committed to each other and looking forward to the adventures ahead. In the future, I anticipate we’ll explore a variety of travel modes, including individual solo adventures – as those are important too.
    .-= Technomadia´s last blog ..Road Ahead: Fall 2009 =-.

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  20. Love on the road only works if both parties are willing to merge their lives together, compromise and devote time to one another, many good points in all these posts, and many positive stories,I have seen and met many positive outcomes including some great buddies who I travelled with who have found their love of their lives and continued their relationships back at home, I just wish mine was one of them ;-(. It is hard having to go through with a breakup when you are so attached to one another, so in some cases when I look back at my example, I always find myself asking the question, was it really worth it for all this heartache.

    As a solo British traveller, I had been travelling 12 months, before I recently returned back to the UK, met a very nice, friendly German girl out in Tonga where we were for 10 days spending each day every hour together, and entered a relationship that we continued onto New Zealand and Australia, lasted for 3 months, we spent each and every day together, and I really thought she was the one for me, like I was the one for her, even joking about the future e.g. marriage, kids together etc. On the last day while I was leaving Australia (I had to leave first), we said a heartfelt goodbye, and poured our hearts out, but although I was ready to commit a lot more to our relationship being in the EU, (we are only 1 hour flight away from each other, not more and the option for me to go and live and work in Germany is always a very possible reality), it was on her call and decision that I had to end things, she citing different things that she wanted to do in her life and if she would still have the same feelings for me later on, she did not know. She is now back in Germany, and regularly emails, and has phoned me, and I am all for keeping the link and bond with her, but things will never be the same again, and meanwhile I suffer heartache because I am lacking of her.

    I am sure many people do find love on the road, but for my personal example, I would have to agree with the author, sometimes, its more hassle then its worth, but I will still keep my eyes, ears et al opened to potentials, the thing with lifes ups and downs is, you never know, eventually you will somewhere strike a golden opportunity.

  21. I’ve been a nomad now for 8 months and intend to stay this way for another 4 to 5 years. My friends tell me it’s impossible to find love on the road but I believe that anything is possible. I believe in fate and that when the time comes I will meet my true love on the road. I want to marry on the road. I want to meet a fellow nomad that is also in it for the long run, sustaining themselves on the road. When the time comes, we will meet.

  22. It is hard on the road. I have travelled awhile, and it has been impossible to see where something goes when one of you is hitting the road again. The realities of working and living together in a foreign country to one or both of you. Takes commitment. But if she or he is worth it, you will make it happen. I´m spending more time in Mexico, travelling slower…and hopefully She will find me.

    http://highseasdrifter.blogspot.mx/2010/11/solo-travel-is-liberating.html

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