I always joke that those who have a lust for globetrotting are a different species. We’re a little quirky, somewhat unpredictable and always adventurous. But shortly before I began filling my passport, I fell in love with a prolific world traveler and learned the hard way that dating this unique species of being isn’t as romantic as it sounds. I was one of the lucky ones, I quickly became a convert, but not everyone gets bitten by the travel bug, and co-existing in a relationship with a world traveler can bring about more heartbreak than anything else. Here are a few lessons I learned along the way…
1) Don’t Wait by the Computer…Live Your Life
When my boyfriend told me he was taking off around the world for a year, I was gutted. I had fallen hopelessly in love and the announcement felt like I was being sentenced to purgatory. We had decided to stay committed to one another, but I hadn’t a clue what that looked like. I remember his first month away. I sat by the computer every night, teetering on the edge of my chair, waiting into the wee hours of morning, desperate for contact. I was pining my days and nights away. But I eventually realized that just because my partner was off having amazing adventures, didn’t mean that I couldn’t. I took it as an opportunity to take up salsa dancing. I went to the gym often, spent time rebuilding relationships with friends and family, and took time to work on myself. It was a long road, but looking back, I was really grateful for the time.
2) Keep a Daily Diary
While he was capturing his daily adventures in a journal, I started jotting down details from my own day. I wrote down funny conversations I had, descriptions of people I met, streams of consciousness, and things I wanted to say to him when we next saw one another. My life could have seemed mundane in light of his, but recording my daily activities actually made me enjoy life more. I found the smallest errands more enriching, important even.
3) Keep in Contact with Their Friends & Family
One of the best ways to cope with longing for your world traveler is to be close to the ones who’ll remind you of them. Though his absence was felt, I found it comforting to spend holidays with our mutual friends. I was able to establish a friendship not merely as his partner, but as myself, the individual. I also took the time to bond with his family, which formed a strong foundation for a lifelong friendship long after the relationship ended years later.
4) Be Supportive
Just because your world traveler is off on their adventure of a lifetime doesn’t mean they don’t get homesick. It’s easy to let those feelings of resentment bubble up, and the next thing you know, they’re 10,000 miles away and you’re having a blow out of Skype (yep, been there). If you truly want the relationship to survive, you can’t sabotage it with your own insecurities. This was a tough lesson to swallow, but it was a worthy one. You don’t have to like their decision (who honestly likes being left behind for a year!), but you agreed to this decision, you do have to support it, just as they have to respect how difficult it is for you to be missing them.
5) If You Can’t Beat ’em…Join ’em
Not every relationship is going to survive long absences from one partner. Mine barely did. Four months into his absence, I made the drastic decision to quit my job, sell my apartment, toss my belongings into storage and bought a one way ticket to to be with him. Romantic right? It was. And it turned out to be one of the most exhilarating adventures of my life. But not everyone has the means or desire to compromise the life they’ve tirelessly worked to build back home. While I can tell you that traveling the world has been my greatest education, it’s up to the both of you to discuss whether the adventure is better with you as one, or apart.
As a world traveler, I can tell you it’s not something you “grow out of.” I may not be flitting off for a year on a whim, but I will always seize an opportunity to see the world, and if this isn’t a desire you share with the one you love, you have to either be prepared to stand back and watch them fly (and return) or find someone who sticks close to home.