Relationship or Long Term Travel – Do We Have To Choose?

I’m beginning to think that we do.

Over the past six years, I have dragged my high heels and a backpack around the globe, living in countless cities, across six countries, and on five continents. I am very appreciative of the opportunities that I’ve had to travel so extensively and of course, I wouldn’t continue with this lifestyle if I didn’t enjoy it.

However, one thing that you begin to really miss when living a nomadic life is companionship and having someone to share things with. I’m pretty happy in my own company: I’m fiercely independent, and I find it easy to meet people when I travel. However, the depths of the relationships that you have when you are constantly packing up your life every few weeks or months are a far cry from the friendships and romantic relationships that you can form when permanently based somewhere. I mean, let’s be honest here, how well can you really get to know a person when you are only together for a handful of weeks?

Long term relationships and travel
Tel Aviv, Israel

Perhaps dating a girl who travels long term sounds interesting at first, but when it comes down to it, who really wants a girlfriend that is never around, and how is it even possible to build that initial connection and groundwork when your meetings together have to be so spaced apart?

Dating other travellers surely has a time limit – you are both in the same place for a limited amount of time, until one or both of you move onto your next destination, or back to where ever it is that you call home. Hopes to meet again are often erased by the harsh reality of the logistics required to do so, and the connections and memories that you made together fade with time as you become occupied with new meetings and rendezvous.

A partner who is stationary in one location may not understand or support your desire to travel long term, and then there is the eventual expectation that for the relationship to work, one of you has to make a compromise about your lifestyle choices so that you can both be based in the same place.

I am sure that there are many instances of people that have found love on the road, and the relationship has had longevity. In fact, I know a few such examples. I’m not saying that it’s impossible, it’s just a little difficult to find.

Long term travel and relationships
Sinaia, Romania

Though I’ve never particularly been out looking for a romantic relationship, I have found myself simply falling into situations on several occasions. I have romanticised the situation and been naive in thinking that the pieces of the puzzle would just fall into place to make the relationship work like in a cheesy movie. At the time, I was dismissive of all of the hurdles that we would have to overcome.

When I lived in California, I had a good friend, but we never considered the relationship romantic. On his trip to London a few years later, I played tour guide and we realised that we had a great connection. He visited me twice more, and I returned to California to stay with him for a while, but it was developing into something more than was possible with our situation.

This guy owned his own company and couldn’t leave California. He had it in his mind that I would eventually move there. However as much as I loved California, I wasn’t prepared to uproot everything and move to the small, quiet beach town of Santa Barbara where we had both lived before. What work would I do there? I didn’t want to have to depend on his success. In the “real world”, people would not be considering such a commitment so early on in the relationship but our situation and distance made things all the more challenging.

Long Term Travel or Relationships
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Shortly after my visit, I went travelling around East Asia. Time differences, our busy schedules, and the distance affected our communication. Text messages became shorter and less frequent, and the days between our conversations increased. It was no one’s fault, but situational. Eventually he found a new girlfriend that lived nearby in California and with whom building a relationship was not so difficult to accomplish.

We all know that the early stages of a relationship are the most important. This is a time where you are both getting to know each other. How can you put in that initial groundwork and build something with someone who is always absent? Long distance relationships are infamously difficult – even long term established couples can struggle to cope with the difficulties that they introduce, so how can something that is still blossoming hope to succeed?

I’m not ready to settle down or stop travelling just yet and I’ve accepted the fact that I may have to put dating on hold somewhat until I am… unless I meet someone crazy enough to join in my nomadic lifestyle, and spontaneous last minute travel plans with me.

What are your thoughts on long term travel and relationships?

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Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer and Blogger based in Athens, Greece. She writes for numerous high profile travel publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, Matador Network, The Times of Israel and The Huffington Post.

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