I am a woman with a terrible case of wanderlust. Even when I try to stay put, adventure finds me and whisks me away. Great aunts and nosy neighbors tell me that I’ll never find a man until I “settle down,” and although I’ve had interludes of rootedness, love never seems to find me when I’m stationary.
My wanderlust has recently been reined in by graduate school. I haven’t spent three years in the same place since high school, but I saw it as a new adventure. Maybe this wander-hiatus would give me enough time to “settle down” and meet someone. After adjusting to my new grad student life, I restored my long-defunct OKCupid account and got to work. I won’t give you the blow-by-blow of my online dating experiences, but I will present you with this one illuminating example.
After a few messages back and forth, Adam suggested that we meet at a local German restaurant. According to his profile, he had a dog, a job, and backyard chickens (the real winner). Given these facts, and my deep affection for good beer, I accepted the invitation. We shared a giant plate of spätzle. We discussed our distaste for religion and traded dumpster diving tips. He even brought me fresh eggs from his ladies!
But when my roommate asked me how the date went, I only had this to say: “I told him a story about visiting the Christmas market in Munich, and he said—the only Germany I’ve visited was at Epcot.”
She looked at me blankly.
You have to understand a few things about me. I was born to a Cuban mother and a French-Belgian father. In her teens, my mother wrote an essay that won her a trip on a cargo ship across the Atlantic. She was encouraged to get off at any port she wanted. During that trip, she saw Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Germany, Belgium. My dad was bumming around Europe during that time too, an art school dropout with an addiction to motorcycles and boats.
They met 15 years later in New Orleans. My dad had been working on sailboats since his late teens, island-hopping in the Med and crisscrossing the Atlantic. After I was born, my parents and I lived on a sailboat in Brazil until my sister came along. I spent summers sailing the mid-Atlantic with my dad or visiting family in Europe. My first solo trans-Atlantic plane trip was before the age of ten.
As I got older, my wanderlust never wavered. But traveling didn’t dash my dreams for love. On the contrary, most of my romances have blossomed far from home. While backpacking through Spain, I was seduced by a dashing Brit who was riding his motorbike all the way to Africa. On a guided tour in the Moroccan desert, I fell for an Australian actor in the backseat of the bus. In Ecuador, there was Marcelo, the nature guide at the nature reserve where I was volunteering. David, the sculptor I met in Costa Rica, fulfilled my wish when I pointed to an island on the map and said, “Let’s go!” The bartender I dated for a summer while farming on Martha’s Vineyard spent his winters in a different corner of the globe; at 27, he’d been to every continent.
But who cares that my date had never been to Germany? He’s a perfectly fine fellow. A gentleman, even. But when he told me that he’d only left the country twice, both times on organized trips to Israel, I knew it wasn’t going to work.
“I’d love to travel,” he said. “To Germany. To anywhere.”
I nodded, staring into my beer. But the truth is, we put our energy (and our money) into whatever is most valuable to us, and for me that has always been travel. I will waffle for days about spending $30 on a new pair of shoes, but when it comes to dropping hundreds of dollars on a plane ticket, I rarely hesitate. If this guy, already in his mid-thirties, hadn’t started traveling yet, it seemed unlikely that he would start now.
With each new love interest, I am beginning to realize that travel is my litmus test for love—my make-it-or-break-it. I will never stop traveling. Scrolling through my dating profile, I realize that in each of my pictures, I’m on a different continent: hiking in Alaska, doing a handstand at a chateau in France, eating fresh-caught fish in the Caribbean. Traveling is the legacy handed down to me by my globe-trotting parents. Perhaps this is why love comes to me when I am in motion—because that is when I am my truest self.
Photo via Moyan Brenn.
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