Romance on the Road – Why It’s Easy & Why It Never Lasts

For the post published on Thought Catalog, click here.

When you think of travelling, do you think of romance? Not the heady heights of a booze-infused orgy, of course, but the kind that sweeps you off your feet with its inexplicable intensity. The kind that sends electric flutters up and down your spine. The kind of whirlwind romance that somehow lingers long after your respective tans have faded and leaves you breathless.

Well, I do.

I’m sure the vast percentage of us have had our brush with romance on the road (perhaps more than we care to admit, even to ourselves). Sometimes it is not important whether the event itself leaves us singing its praises, or goes down in the annals of history as another episode of Hangover. What takes precedence is the belief that it is better to have loved and lost than to have not loved at all.

So what is it that makes us particularly easy pickings for the romance bug whilst travelling? And yet, why does it almost never last…

Why it is easy to fall in love…

1. Unshackled and unencumbered

As the great French philosopher Rousseau once famously penned: “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”. Whilst some are screamingly visible, others are less so, and yet, they all act in one way or another to conform your behaviour to the social expectation. Being on the road changes all of that, and with it, the ordinary rules of engagement.

The pursuit of emancipation is one of the most commonly cited reasons for travelling. The benefits of emancipation are self-evident; just as a sprinter who has trained with manacles all his life is suddenly let loose on the Olympic stage. As you physically and mentally unchain yourself from life’s manacles, you too, discover the immeasurable lightness of being. You are open to new environs, cultures and its people, and in turn, you exude confidence and charisma. Subconsciously, you have already primed yourself for love. The gates to the fortress you have built up over the years are wide open – the sentries have taken their leave – and the possibility of a white knight (in whichever shade of armour) is no longer as quixotic as it once appeared.

2. Luxuriate in anonymity

The further you venture from home, chances are that you won’t be bumping into any familiar faces and that’s probably just the way you like it. Travelling incognito, you can be anyone you wanted to be, even flaunting the free-spirited sides of you that you could never truly give free rein to back home.

The veil of anonymity provides the perfect safety net and empowers you to tread above and beyond your zones of comfort. The suave guy by the bar whom you would normally never have the courage to look at, much less speak to? No sweat, you’ll shout him a drink. The sun-kissed beach babe whom you have secretly admired for days on end, but would have shrunk from if he ever suspected your intentions? Nothing too daunting either, you’ll match him stroke for stroke.

I guess what I am trying to say is that anonymity, in itself, is liberating. When the eyes of Judgment are not beating down on you, even the perennial fear of rejection loses its sting. After all, it is unlikely you will ever see or hear from them again. Living in the moment, and loving in the moment, has never been more within reach when one is on foreign soil.

3. The wings of protection

There is another phenomenon which is potentially at play when one is on vacation. Ever wondered at the seemingly impossible romances blossoming between travellers and those assigned to accompany or otherwise be of service to them? Admittedly, there are young, dashing, fun-loving coach drivers / tour guides / bartenders / waiters aplenty, but the allure of the middle-aged, balding, pot-bellied locals have hitherto baffled me. That is, until I did a little soul-searching of my own.

We all assume numerous roles in the hectic harbours of home, yet oftentimes the one role we are excused from assuming when travelling is that of the protector. Under their wings of protection, it is not difficult to see the silhouette of love enveloping you in a deep embrace. Your vulnerabilities are slowly given air time, and you experience almost a feeling of redemption in pouring out your past in the audience of a virtual stranger. The more you feel looked after, the more you are willing to let go of your fears and insecurities, in the faint hope that your protector is still there to catch you when you fall. Against such backdrop, you become defenceless to love.

That is not at all to say that to accept romance on the road is to take the road to perdition. In fact, on many levels it can be just as nourishing as the journey itself, and over time, it may even come to epitomise the journey you have taken. It just pays to be cognisant of the limitations of love developed under such circumstances and that it is unlike the love that you will ever experience at home.


…Why it never lasts

1. Distance & time – the insidious killers

As with all things of beauty, holidays inevitably end. Whether you belong to Camp “Distance makes the heart grow fonder” or Camp “Out of sight, out of mind” is of little consequence. Through the tearful goodbyes and wishful promises to stay connected, you are nonetheless staring at the uncompromising trails of distance and time.

Distance breeds distrust; and time breeds self-doubt. The combination of the two is lethal in its impact on budding romances. It drives you to distraction and makes you question whether what you have had was real, or was it all just an elaborate hoax to test the various figments of your imagination (like Now You See Me, and now you don’t).

The saddest truism about distance and time is not that some things can’t be as enduring as others. Perhaps the sad truism is that we take so much comfort and liberty in revealing our innermost sensations to those we know are merely transiting through our lives.

2. The blurred lines of real love

How can you tell whether you are genuinely in love, or merely head over heels with the notion of being in love in a foreign place? Holiday romances are almost purely the by-product of finite time spent together exploring the exhilarating unknowns. Taken out of this setting, such recipes for romance can quickly disintegrate in the ordinary confines of homeland.

There is never an easy transition from jumping out of helicopters, or diving into the depth of oceans, to adapting to the minutiae of life back home. What existed as a purpose for fulfilling an odyssey of a lifetime can pale in significance when stripped of its power to ignite adrenalin. The thought of your holiday romancer as the permanent fixture in your life has the potential to turn any vestige of romance to dust.

3. Life goes on – without you

Almost before your very eyes, life has sped on, just without you. No matter whom you have fallen for while on the road, chances are, you will likely fall for another adventurous soul when embarking upon your next journey. It would be equally naïve of you to think that they are holding out, only for you.

When all is said and done, sometimes it is enough just to hold onto the knowledge that you have loved someone and that they have loved you back, however brief. Sometimes it is a plain fact of life, that capturing a lifetime of defining moments can be infinitely more satisfying than capturing just a lifetime…

25 Comments Add yours

  1. I love every word of this post! I’m not a traveler, but you’ve ignited my imagination–and I can really identify with your position. How intriguing…I think I will day dream about being an ultra successful author, on a writing sabbatical/vacation…all free spirited and surprised to find a soul connection in the British country side…nothing original there, but the thought appeals…thanks for the inspiration (BTW, you write/communicate so very, very well).

    1. Jolene says:

      Thanks so much Truly. The British countryside would be an amazing place to find romance… We can always dream!

  2. updownflight says:

    I really enjoy following your thoughts and explorations!

    I have had affairs during my past travels as a single woman. Some were just lustful trysts, but I do recall one major infatuation with a most wonderful German lad I met in Bangkok, Thailand. I will never forget him, and oddly he’s one of the very few men I was with during lone travel that I talk about to this day. I remember his full name. LOL! I’ve forgotten those of the others.

    Love is something I don’t develop easily. It takes some time for me to go from crush or infatuation to love. Given this, I never actually loved any of the men I was with abroad. I’ve only ever loved two men in my life. My college sweetheart, that I was with for four years, and my husband, whom I’ve been with for about 20. I guess I could also say that I have a sort of love for my psychiatrist, whom I’ve known for 12 years. When I saw him it was sort of a love at first sight, but really more of a transference love.

    1. Jolene says:

      Wow, thanks for your frankness! Some people make huge impressions on your life and you are never the same. It doesn’t matter if they don’t end up being “The One”, it’s the unknown and the what ifs that keep the memories interesting. I remember all of my “crushes” 😜, but same here, I don’t think love (or reciprocation of meaningful feelings) comes quite as easily. I’m glad to hear that your husband has been such a pillar of support for you – he’s a keeper then!

  3. Ajay Vyas says:

    Thank you for taking the time to step on over to Love Relaished Ink. It’s wonderful to have your whimsical soul as a new companion on my long and winding road.
    From what I have seen of your blog so far, I’ve no doubt you are already finding writing a totally engaging and personally fulfilling experience. I hope the pleasurable company of words will always flow and follow you as you flow following the flow of your flowing path flowing into the wide blue yonder, and flow onwards towards the adventures that follow the flow beyond that…
    Best wishes. Take care always in all ways for always.

    1. Jolene says:

      Thanks for your lovely words. Yes, it is a journey of catharsis. Wish you all the best too! 🙂

  4. This is really a fantastic post. I am not sure I sensed the “sadness’ that others are talking about… (could I be insensitive?).

    I am not really interesting in romantic connections when I travel… but your ideas explain nicely the ease I have making “platonic” relationships while travelling. I seem to meet and make many friends when I travel many more than when I am home… and I think you have helped me possibly see why. (or maybe on the road people aren’t worried about me being a “permanent fixture/friend” in their life… )

    1. Jolene says:

      Thank you for your kind feedback. You are not insensitive, it’s just as you say, you are not really interested in romance when you travel (or romance may not be interested in you, which is a good thing given your circumstances😊). It’s great you are able to relate to making more platonic relationships in general, I think my personal findings are that when you are feel unshackled in a foreign place and there are no “consequences”, we feel freer to be whichever version of ourselves that appeals most to others.

  5. Recognizable and if I’m honest enough I have to admit I had my share of holiday romance. You’re right about anonymity and the freedom to be who you are and do what you want without the fear of being saddle with emotional baggage afterwards. Great post.

    1. Jolene says:

      Thank you for reading. Love your honesty too 😛

  6. Marie says:

    To say I love your writing style would an understatement. Even though this post was a little sad it was such an easy read. While I do agree that some of things that make these relationships fun can also be their undoing, some find a way to make it last. I think that’s what gives it its appeal. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Jolene says:

      Thanks for your generous words! I’m an absolute minimalist in life and that comes through in my writing sometimes. Glad you enjoyed reading. I felt sad writing this piece, but it was just something I needed to get off my chest at that point in time😊 What will be will be!

      1. Marie says:

        Well I’m glad you were willing to share. ☺️

  7. Rachel McKee says:

    Your writing is just so sharp and incredibly precise. I’m in aw every time I read your posts. The only road love I’ve experienced was at camp….I was 12. I’m really not an adventurer. 😂

    1. Jolene says:

      That’s a huge compliment, thanks heaps! I write with no frills and often run out of things to “say”. -_- Thanks for sharing your experience, oh so cute! I have no experience with the topic whatsoever, but I do have a very active imagination…

  8. dogslegs says:

    This is very insightful and beautifully written. I have fallen victim myself…

    1. Jolene says:

      Thanks very much, and thanks for sharing that info! Whereabouts are you based in Aus?

      1. dogslegs says:

        I am in Margaret River, South West WA. And you?

      2. Jolene says:

        From sunny Sydney! 🙂 I’m yet to visit anywhere in WA apart from Perth. Looking forward to seeing that side of the world (I mean Aus…)

      3. dogslegs says:

        West side is the best side 🙂

  9. Natalie says:

    “How can you tell whether you are genuinely in love, or merely head over heels with the notion of being in love in a foreign place?”

    What a fabulous line. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Jolene says:

      Thanks Natalie, glad you liked the line🤗

  10. KT Marie says:

    So sad but so true

    1. Jolene says:

      I think the more I wrote the sadder I got… 😳 But all experiences are enriching!

      1. KT Marie says:

        Have to live them to learn from them!

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