Dating Don’ts: How Not To Not Have A Travel Romance

I’m an avid backpacker/compulsive traveler. I’m an overly optimistic dreamer who has quite seriously hypothesized that (a) mermaids exist, and (b) if you run fast enough and cry hard enough, Bradley Cooper just might chase you around a street corner and scream “I love you.” I tend to believe that smiley face emoticons in emails are one step away from a marriage proposal. For the most part, my world view serves me well, except perhaps, when it comes to travel romances. From my personal experiences, I would like to share with you some helpful DONT’s and DO’s of flinging while abroad.

1. DON’T let the fear of rejection keep you from taking a leap of faith. Though rational thought is generally conducive in real life, when it comes to travel adventures, it stabs spontaneity right in the Achilles tendon.

Traveling is one of those unique opportunities to be as trigger happy and bold as ever, because you NEVER have to see these people again. Remove the bulletproof vest from your fragile little heart and take every leap of faith your gut (or loins) tells you to.

For example: Do NOT spend all night playing “cool, enigmatic, you-can’t-catch-me-‘cos-I’m-an independent-backpacking-girl” with “hot Josh” in a gorgeous Cambodian town, shyly avoiding his cute advances. Do NOT spend a full hour pacing outside his door, when he has blatantly left the light on and music playing JUST IN CASE you might have changed your mind and developed an interest in a late night travel-love rendezvous with him. Do NOT go to bed like an idiot without knocking. USE THE DOOR FOR WHAT IT WAS MADE FOR – KNOCK ON IT. Traveling is not the time for being shy or playing hard-to-get. You know what happens when you do? “Hot Josh” boards a bus to the next city the following morning as scheduled, because he assumes you’re not into him, and you miss out on a seriously epic, saucy opportunity. Don’t assume you won’t regret this rookie error, because – fun fact – you will.

2. DON’T try this at home. Be sure to switch off your dreamy/heightened reality traveler’s brain when you arrive back home. Come back down to earth before you invite your travel fling into your real life. Because if you don’t, you might end up giving the adorable, loving, sensitive, kind, DEAD SET SEXY “Magnus-that-got-away” the go-ahead to pack up his life in Norway and move to your country to be with you.

If you fail to reserve such decisions until you’ve acclimatized back to real-life thought status, you will risk waking up one morning and emailing him with the announcement that you suddenly have cold feet and you don’t think you want him to come anymore. Following that, you’ll break his heart, waste the time, money and energy he spent on flights and visas, and confuse the hell out of everyone including yourself. Rationality and slow, purposeful thought may not always be your friend whilst traveling, but it is your best, BEST friend when you return home. Home is full of real things and responsibilities; traveling is full of fun and frivolity. Locate and bookmark the differences before you go breaking hearts and creating lifelong regrets regarding your very own “Magnus-that-got-away.”

3. DON’T apply the “if at first you don’t succeed; try, try again” policy. The half-wit that invented this expression was cruel to omit the following disclaimer: DO NOT apply to travel romances, when you’ve already screwed everything up with “Magnus-that-got-away.” The spontaneous, carefree, intense, passionate love cannot be replicated once you’ve already taken it and slammed it through a glass wall without a helmet.

So, if you’ve smashed the heart of “Magnus-that-got-away” to smithereens following a blissful travel romance, I beg you, don’t book a flight to Norway a few months later with the intention of surprising him, showering him with apologies and love, and expecting a happy ending. Do NOT hop on a plane, train, bus, another train, and another bus, only to arrive in his hometown on the cold, slippery, snowy coast of freakin’ Norway. Yep, I went there. Nope, I didn’t check with him first. Yep, he had a new girlfriend. Oops! And that was the end of “Magnus-that-got-away.”

4. DON’T bang in a 10-bunk dorm, in broad daylight … hell, don’t do it in the dark either. For once, this faux pas was NOT mine. Becoming an accidental voyeur to travel sex ruined my entire day. All I saw (and smelled) for most of the trip were mental re-runs of the scene I’d been forced to witness that morning: a pair of sweaty, heaving, squealing backpackers, smooshed up against the wall. It was highly awkward, and also a harsh reminder that I’d been in South America one whole week and was yet to score. Honestly, I’m not sure which was worse.

And now … some DO’s. That’s right, I have some DO’s! May this be confirmation that I’m not entirely socially defunct.

1. DO take advantage of empty hostel rooms, accessible keys and sleeping guards. As noted above, a shared dorm room in a hostel is not conducive to travel sex. Now, I don’t actually think this is illegal in the technical sense, and in any case, borrowing is nothing like stealing. I’ve successfully pulled off this maneuver twice – once with “cute Tom” and another with (sigh) “Magnus-that-got-away.”

Particularly in the off-season, there are always spare rooms in cheap hostels, and the keys are generally more accessible than they ought to be. Really though, it’s not like you’re sleeping in the room, just borrowing it for a sneaky cuddle sesh.

2. DO have a Skype account prepared for the moment you and your travel love part ways and you need someone to cry to. You might think you’d never be emotionally loose enough to bawl hysterically over parting ways with someone you’ve known for two months (uh, or two weeks). Wrong. You are not exempt from travel romance heartbreak. So, when your “Magnus-that-got-away” departs Buenos Aires airport to return to Norway, you’d better hope your Skype account is fully loaded. You’ll need the most immediate access possible to your best virtual shoulder to cry on – whoever it is you normally subject to your woes. I once destroyed a keyboard with blubbering tears and snot to my mom.

3. DO ignore me as you wish. Jump right into the freezing part of the deep end, head first and heart open.At the end of the day, you only live once. There is no more appropriate time to live and love more fully and completely than when you’re on the other side of the world, in a place you may never visit again, with people you may never see again.

Really, the biggest DON’T is this: only pay attention to these rules, or any others, if you feel like it. Follow your freakin’ heart, because you’ll make mistakes – and they’ll probably be worse than mine. Then you can tell me about it, and I’ll feel less bad about myself.

Bon voyage, lovers!

[Photo of travelers from Shutterstock]