locks of love near Sacre Coeur

8 Stories of International Love & Dating From My Travels

I’ve been a long time reader of the solo female travel blog Adventurous Kate who always strives to give you her real and honest opinion about a place or bring up a controversial topic that’s been floating around the travel or political spheres and confront it head-on. She’s also quite brave and passionate and when I re-read her post on international love stories about a year ago, I knew I wanted to one day write a similar type of post.

But in my case, this post has a different purpose.

You see, I’m getting married soon.

The main reason I want to get this type of post out into the world is to metaphorically close the door firmly shut on my past experiences in love and dating. I will still remember these moments for the rest of my life but the effect they’ve had on my heart has faded. And will continue to fade with time until they’re but a distant memory.

For a while love took its sweet time to walk into my life but I still clung to the hope it would finally arrive.

However, about two years ago, at age 28, I was nearly at the brink of giving up on the idea I would ever find someone with whom I could share my love and affection. All sorts of crazy thoughts ran through my mind constantly in the early part of 2017 but I still clung to the hope that one day it would happen. One day, I would meet the man God had saved just for me.

And I did, though I had no clue where this particular man fit into my life at the time. I had my nose pressed far too close to the big picture back then. (I reflect on the things I never thought I’d do in my twenties in this short piece.)

It was a seemingly endless and winding road to get to where I am today: engaged to the love of my life.

But I made it.

Before I ever dated anyone, I learned how to enjoy meals alone, take myself out and savor great wine! (Featured: a glass of Bordeaux)

It certainly hasn’t been an easy journey and I spent most of it single, not reaching the point where I went on my first official date until the age of 26 but it’s all been worth it. And each experience served a greater purpose.

Because if any one of those experiences hadn’t taken place, not only would I not be the person I am today, but I have reason to believe that I would not be with the man who I’m with today.

Now, let’s get to the good stuff (and perhaps the real reason why you clicked on this post in the first place).

If you would like to play along and go on my travel scavenger hunt, here’s how it works. This type of logic is called Adriadne’s Thread. The idea is for you to give someone a list of about 10 places within one city you’ve lived or spent a lot of time in and a story for each. The catch is that you don’t tell the traveler which place matches each story, but simply let them figure it out. Since I’ve followed suit and decided to share short love or dating stories and they all didn’t happen in the same city, I’m going to expand the scavenger hunt to all over the world…sort of. 😛

(Spoiler alert: none of these began in North America or anywhere else but all took place in quite a few different parts of Europe).

We had only known each other for a month in person but had been in contact virtually for a few years before we saw each other again.

It was by accident that I had even met you because we had no friends in common. We came from different countries and backgrounds. We weren’t even doing a semester exchange at the same university or living in the same part of the city.

It was purely coincidental that you met the traveling Italian ex-army officer turned musician who had heard and met my friends and I playing music and singing on the lawn of your university one afternoon.

But I suppose that’s destiny: you can’t truly comprehend it.

And then after exchanging long messages, handwritten letters and photos all in Spanish – which wasn’t even our native language – I visited your hometown and we met up for dinner.

You were a gentleman in every aspect of the word, even down to paying the bill at the restaurant for both of us. I found it odd that earlier in the night, you didn’t want to help me find an ATM before we went into the Indian restaurant we chose to dine in.

I never did care for your native language nor found it intriguing until I heard you speak it flawlessly in front of me in the restaurant and placed our orders. I guess that changes when you know and care about someone who has spent their whole life speaking it.

The conversation flowed naturally and we reminisced about our study abroad home, your recent visit there and my upcoming visit in the spring. We thought back to the people we were then and who was sitting before us. A lot had changed since then but our common interests and friendship hadn’t.

I had told someone in my shared hostel dorm that my dinner with you was a date but we never spoke about what it was. I don’t consider it a date, even though you graciously waved away my polite plea to pay for my half of the meal.

We both were no longer students and you had a good job at last. I was really proud and happy for you.

It was so good to see you but as we gave each other the traditional “dos besos” we knew so well, something deep within told me that I wouldn’t see you again.

We would message and stay in touch sporadically for a couple more years until our communication gently faded into silence. I didn’t foresee this happening immediately after I left your city but a lingering thought as I made my way to my next destination was the confirmation I needed.

With the last postcard I would ever send to you in hand, something deep inside of me told me that it was okay to let you go. We weren’t meant to be anything more than friends even though I had dreamed of so many different scenarios, so many different endings to our story. Distance, language barriers, cultural differences and fear of the unknown were too much for us.

The funny thing about our story is that I had to meet a Galician guy who was studying in my hometown in order to have been able to meet you.

But since the amount of evangelical Christians in our region was small, I probably would’ve met you one way or another.

Or perhaps not at all because you were and still are a med student.

The type of person my roommate warned me never to get involved in.

If I ever developed feelings for someone who was a med student or even worse a doctor, I should rip them out of me and stomp on them.

Or something like that. (She was in love with and dated a med student turned doctor for nearly decade and let’s just say it didn’t work out.)

You were so kind to me and helped me get settled into my new city. I still remember when we met for the first time in my friend’s church in a smaller, overlooked town and you told me the two of you grew up together.

Of all the people I met that Sunday with my travel buddy of a friend, I can’t explain why you and I had a stronger connection than anyone else.

It was from that first meeting and over the summer that we stayed in touch by message or email and you asked me all sorts of questions about the English language and culture while you spent part of a summer immersed in what’s now known as Robin Hood’s old stomping grounds.

As much as I enjoyed meeting up with you, going to church with you the times you didn’t go home to your village and our cultural and linguistic discussions, there were obvious things that wouldn’t work out and kept us as friends.

The biggest thing was age. I was four years older and I was farther into my career and working years. You wouldn’t jump into the working world until much, much later.

I had bigger and passionate dreams to chase then. Now.

I couldn’t put my life on hold.

And I can’t simply brush off the fact that someone tells me they would never live in either North or South America. I want to fully explore the latter continent but the former is my home. It may not be somewhere I will live again but I don’t want someone to close the door permanently on that idea without having ever experienced life there.

You were handsome, funny and quirky – just like me, but I realized later that year that you needed to have your own life experiences and follow the path set before you. I couldn’t wait for you to mature, become more experienced or to change.

I still wish you the best and thank you for being a Christian friend who encouraged me in my walk. I especially needed that encouragement and those prayers when I started to lose faith and hope in my journey the following months and year later.

This isn’t going to be a very long story but it’s memorable nonetheless.

You’re now nothing but a stranger and someone I once had breakfast with in a major city. If I were to see you in a crowd or bump shoulders with you, I wouldn’t recognize you.

However, your act of kindness will stick with me for a while longer.

You were the first person I met from a popular online dating site.

You were a native of the city where I was visiting and passed through multiple times before…but this visit was different.

I had never just happened to be in a city I didn’t live in and decided to go on a date with someone.

It was just the beginning of the number I would find myself brave enough to do and ever so slowly crack my introverted shell wide open.

Our conversation flowed quite nicely and you complimented me on my choice of breakfast that morning: pan con tomate y aceite de oliva. As a passing, yet flirty comment, you said I might be more Spanish than American after a couple years of living here.

Though I had a lovely time and it added to the good experiences I had in your city that week, there were obvious things and beliefs that wouldn’t between us.

If I remember correctly, you identified as an atheist. (So that’s a deal breaker for a second date.) We had a few main things in common (travel, languages, cultural fascinations, etc) but not enough to form even a casual relationship.

But, it was the reason you gave for wanting to pay for my breakfast was what I’ll always remember. It could’ve very well have been a flirty response but I felt it was sincere.

“Eres una invitada en mi ciudad y sería un placer invitarte.”
[English: You’re a guest in my city and it would be a pleasure to treat you to breakfast.]

Thank you for your kindness. (And for being old school and suggesting we call each other to chat when I returned back to my old city, though we never spoke again.)

I’ll be honest, I couldn’t stop staring at you the entire (and only) night we met and went out for drinks and tapas.

I know he’s not young-looking anymore but you looked like the Spanish Mel Gibson.

You spoke an interesting mix of languages: French, German and Spanish (and another regional one). You had lived in Switzerland and traveled all over. You most oftentimes traveled to a location to race and cycle professionally.

I even remember you showing and explaining to me what the cross-country cycling competition in the US was like and how you wanted to enter. And happily pay $3,000 to do so.

I didn’t quite understand that but I admired your passion for your sport. I also, for the life of me, could not understand just a few moments later why I had to express what I was vehemently explaining to you with such wide hand movements.

If I had realized that our table at the first bar was so small and my glass of Albariño was so close to me, I would’ve controlled myself.

But I didn’t.

And, to my horror, my hand bumped the wine glass and it toppled over the side of the table near the wall, splashing my purse and tarnishing my “I’ve never broken dishware while on a date before” reputation.

It was that night that I learned how to laugh off embarrassment while on a date and embrace the silly moments.

You taught me an expression that went something like, “eres tan bueno que ni has roto un plato (you’re such a goody two shoes that you’ve never broken a plate) and I’ll never forget that moment.

Though age, location and similar interests (plus, you showed me photos of your new kitten!) were correctly aligned, you didn’t share my faith nor were things ever perfectly natural between us. I forced things too much.

But even still, I hope you always remember me as that one American girl who broke her wine glass while on a date.

Of all my travel love stories, this one by far was my saddest. And it was the most definitive of them all. This one pseudo relationship taught me so much in such a short period of time that it still blows my mind to this day.

How much I could learn about myself and seeing the true colors of someone else in just a six month time period was astounding.

But this guy, you as he will only be referred to in this post, was probably my biggest mistake and lesson of them all.

How you dropped into my life and how I was ultimately plucked from yours, I’ll never be able to explain.

But, knowing what I know now, I should’ve dropped you the first day you became unresponsive to one of my messages and chickened out on meeting me in person, going on the trip we had planned nearly a month before.

You always said all the right things but your follow through on anything besides a Skype call here and there sucked.

What sucked more was how I let myself give you chance after chance when I should’ve said enough. This guy doesn’t care about me.

I had such little experience in dating then that I let myself be used and emotionally abused by you.

But being hurt by you just made me stronger.

Though my anger has faded greatly with time, I’ll never forget the blaring warning bell that went off in my head the first moment I saw you standing by a familiar statue in a large, central square.

In the city I was set to move to for you in a couple of months.

I looked around to see if anyone else heard it but I was the only one. The weekend didn’t get off to a good start to say the least.

And what was worse was the following day, in 35°C+ (97°F basically) weather, you left me stranded in the biggest park in the city. Because I was a few minutes late.

You clearly had better things to do.

But the heartbreak and eventual blocking on WhatsApp that followed hurt. And so was the realization of how stupid I was to open myself up to the idea of love with the wrong person.

My friends consoled me upon my return to a much more refreshing part of the country. “Being in love makes us do silly things,” they said. “He didn’t deserve you. You’re better off without him.”

And I was.

More so, I was extremely glad I didn’t buy a dress for a stupid guy in order to look the way he wanted me to look.

We had met a few months before but we just happened to be visiting the same city at the same time. How often does that happen?

My friend and I met you at a traditional restaurant I suggested we all try. It was near the harbor and the main square but it was dark so we couldn’t go out to see the surrounding area.

I don’t know what we enjoyed most that night: swapping observations about the city or the burning smoked sausage tapa we tried. And what I remembered ordering my first time in that restaurant a few years prior.

It wasn’t my first time experiencing that city but it was my first time being there and understanding the language. It was unforgettable.

The only thing I would change about that night was how much time we spent with you. Part of us arriving late was my fault – but then again, when isn’t it my fault? haha

The thing you don’t know is that I was messaging the guy I was interested in at the time in my third language and I couldn’t get over how cool that was.

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have even wasted my breath or third language knowledge on that immature adolescent “man.” I should’ve spent more time chatting with you and getting to know you better.

My travel buddy -and friend today- tried to dangle you in front of me as someone I should consider being with. But then again, I don’t know what her true motive was. Maybe she was just giving a friendly suggestion.

Who knows.

If I could go back in time and passed by us in the street, I would’ve yelled at the top of my lungs, “Hey, your friend is right! Don’t waste any more time on that stupid, immature English guy you’ve been texting for months.”

I will say that my overall feeling and level of comfort with you never changed from the moment I met you. You were cool and laid back and you loved to travel.

Why couldn’t that be enough for me to want to get to know you better?

Well, I would have to let time run its course and hope our paths would cross again one day.

You were also one of the coincidental meetings in my travels that I can’t explain.

And you were almost a mistake I would’ve severely regretted but…I’m getting ahead of myself.

I can’t ever forget an important tip I learned from having met you and visiting your hometown, several hundred miles away from where I live now.

It’s funny to think how if I had changed my location on my online dating profile right after I had moved to my new city, you probably wouldn’t have ever found me and messaged me.

I suppose everyone crosses your path for a reason.

There were things about your character that I admired and respected at the time. You also showed me that not every British guy is a jerk and most are gentlemanly, provided they have matured first.

I’ll always be grateful for the high amount of respect you showed me during my visit and your hospitality. You were very kind and sweet but something was missing in our interactions.

Something I couldn’t put my finger on at the time because I had nothing to compare a kiss to back then.

Passion. That’s what was missing.

Though kissing you for the very first time next to a lighthouse and the seashore was amazing at the time (and helped me get over my shyness towards physical affection) our kisses lacked passion. Feeling.

I remember chuckling after our lips parted and you said, “See? Kissing doesn’t have to lead to anything else.”

Your eyes communicated something different but I didn’t confront it at the time.

Later on in the weekend, I did come to the realization of just how our standards for a relationship weren’t equal. You didn’t share the same values that I upheld myself to.

You were perfect on paper but you weren’t right for me.

We weren’t right for each other.

And most importantly, nothing in my life connected me to where you lived.

But I just want to thank you for indirectly showing me how important the setting of a first kiss is. That truly made a difference in my first (and last) serious relationship and how beautifully it began.

And still continues today.

Think you can guess the cities these love stories took place?

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