If you’re here for secrets of the heart, you’re in the wrong place.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not full of tactics on how to keep your one night stand in Aruba the only real international relationship you’re ever going to have. That’s not it at all. I’m just a little less gushy when it comes to the romantic stuff.
It means I’m putting all of this down to a science.
And how do I know it works? I’ve tested my own few theories, and that of my friends, and while I wouldn’t say it's fool proof (although I’ve had no personal complaints) I do have a habit of taking the sentimentality out of real world experiences, and it makes for easier understanding, and for me, better results.
So go on about how you love the romantic walks in the evenings and the candlelit dinners, how you always saw yourself falling in love abroad and moving in with your international hottie. But here, we’re all about basics, and that’s got nothing to do with the fairy tale.
Pick A Place, Pick A Situation.
It is statistically proven that one night stands come from clubs and long term relationships come from the bookstore. Actually, I’m kidding and totally made that up. But where you are when you meet someone is a really great indication of how your relationship is going to go.
If you’re at a club, bumping and grinding, and getting your groove thing on, along with all the other tourists within a 25 mile radius, chances are you’re going to get someone (and fast). How long that someone is going to last is a different matter entirely. The likelihood is, they’ll be gone as fast as they came.
If you’re at a bakery, or a restaurant, or an open air market (especially during the daytime), and you meet someone who wants to spend time with you then and later, it might mean that things are going to be a little more seriously. As opposed to the club, daytime dates outside of the strobe lights mean you have to focus on the other person, get to know them, hold a conversation. Most people, and this is conjecture for sure, tend to spend a little longer when effort is required. It’s just math; you want something out of what you put in.
So when it comes to looking for love on the move, pick your type, short term or long term, and then seek out those places. It’s a simple equation.
Sex and travel go hand in hand; it’s just the truth. But being safe healthwise, while super important, isn’t the other thing you have to watchful for while you’re going from place to place. There are also other risks involved.
Even though you’re on vacation, don’t get in too deep with someone you’ve just met, no matter the situation. Stick to keeping the three m’s off the table: money, marriage, and maybes.
Money is self explanatory; you can get in deep with that quick, and it’s just better not to. Marriage, ditto. From green card relationships to marriages of convenience, you don’t want anything to do with it. Even if you’ve been in a relationship for the entire extent of your freelance work project that took 6 months, in my opinion, it’s not long enough.
And for maybe, the key is to keep conjecture out of the relationship. With an uncertain future, maybes can kill you faster than an international super flu. Don’t say “maybe we can do this one day” or “maybe we’ll be together forever,” because no matter what side of the relationship you’re on (I’m talking to you, boys), the wishful thinking is unnecessary. Keep it simple, keep it realistic.
Don’t Look For Anything.
The saying is you’ll find it when you least expect it. It’s good advice, but it doesn’t solve any problems. So what do I mean by not looking for anything? I mean lowering your expectations to zilch.
Instead of saying that this is bad because you’re letting yourself down, I say it’s good for exactly the opposite reason: if you have no expectations, everything is good news. It’s not shorting yourself, it’s allowing yourself not to be boxed in.
Take a conversation for what it is: a chance to get to know someone. Take a night out at the pub as a chance to try new beers and be with friends. That hostel room full of people you don’t know? It’s a place to find a souvenir shopping buddy. Maybe all of these things lead to a special moment, or a relationship, and maybe they don’t. But the key to giving each of these situations an opportunity to be more is by allowing them to become more on their own, rather than you forcing an agenda on them.
Truth is, the girl in the bunk bed above you may not be the right one, but if you have a good time together, she might tell the hostel receptionist about it, and maybe that receptionist thinks you’re cute and you might be fun to hang out with, and then seeks you out because she’s interested. You never know where things will lead, so don’t direct them. Let them go whichever way they want.
Lost In Translation?
How do you talk to a girl? You talk. How to talk to a guy? You talk. It’s really not any more complicated than opening your mouth and letting words come out. And it definitely shouldn’t be. Where things can get hairy, is in the translation. But more on that later.
For people who have a hard enough time breaking the ice in their own language, I have news for you: international dating is exactly for you. Wait, what? But seriously, it is. In many instances, people don’t know what to say on home soil because they aren’t sure what is interesting to the person they’re meeting. But as a traveller, you have built in dialogue ready to go, and chances are, you’re going to get people interested, even if it’s not romantic interest. You’re from a far away place, with a whole different set of experiences, and that’s interesting to people because it’s new and different.
When it comes to the translation part, it’s more about decoding behavior than it is understanding a new language. Social norms in different cultures can mean wires are crossed every once in awhile. But don’t worry, even if you can’t understand what they’re saying, body language speaks volumes. If they’re making eye contact, and facing you, odds are they’re attracted to you, even on a platonic level. Keep talking, they’ll get the message.
Expiry Dates Are Real.
When you’re travelling under a study visa, or a work visa, or even under a tourist visa, you’ve got a “sell by” date that is virtually unavoidable (marriage can make it avoidable, but refer to #2 for why it’s not a safe bet). At some point, you’re going to either have to pack it up and move relocate back to the motherland, or you’re going to have to do some complicated (and sometimes expensive) maneuvering to get access to another visa.
Here’s the thing: many relationships flourish better with this sell-by date. Whether you’re one who likes to get one and hold on, or one who likes to get one and throw ‘em back in, the expiry date can be freeing in a lot of ways. First, it means you don’t have to worry about the future, but focus on the now (this is a really good idea, and comes naturally, when travelling). Second, if something is serious enough to last the test of the long distance stretch, it means you might actually have something, you’ve beaten the odds, and you should pat yourself on the back for making things work. And they do work, with a lot of work, but it’s possible.
But the main thing is this: international relationships are places to explore yourself, new cultures, new customs, new places, and to figure out who you are. It may sound weird, but an international relationship is just as much about opening yourself up to life as it is to opening yourself up to a new person.
So get your boots and get on your way, it may mean an adventure for your heart or an adventure for your soul (or both!); either way, it’s an adventure. Bon voyage!