I wanted a soulmate who would travel with me. Then I met him.
Recently, I stumbled into a new relationship, and he's everything I've been looking for: intelligent, motivated, caring, hilarious. I'm so attracted to him I can barely stand it. There's just one problem: He won't travel with me.
For me, this has the potential to be a deal-breaker. You have to understand: I've structured my whole life around travel. I work for myself so I can operate remotely, navigating time zones and disconnection. My desire to adventure is one of the reasons I don't want kids; I need to be able to fly across the globe at a moment's notice. Travel isn't just a fun hobby for me. It's a lifestyle, and I always thought I'd fall in love with someone whose lifestyle matched my own. I wanted a soulmate with whom to experience all the globetrotting epics: learning to surf in Hawaii, skiing in Argentina and refining our Spanish, watching the Northern Lights dance across the Icelandic sky, or even just heading out for a last-minute weekend road trip together.
I suppose that may sound cliche and overly romantic. But my dream of a wanderlusting lover isn't far-fetched. I've looked wistfully at those many relationships where each partner is the other's built-in travel buddy: my sister and her husband hitchhiking on sailboats together through the South Pacific, or my two good friends driving around Europe this fall. Those relationships are made stronger by shared travel experiences. They are forged in an environment of wonder and, inevitably tested by hardship — there's nothing quite like getting hopelessly lost in the rainforest in Colombia or being ripped off by a cabbie in Vietnam to measure your compatibility as a couple.
Meanwhile, social media has created its own special brand of romantic FOMO that can leave us feeling lonely in our own relationships, or extra lonely in our singleness. It's all too easy to watch with envy as couples on your Instagram feed dip their toes into the ocean or climb ancient Aztec ruins hand-in-hand. I admit I often catch myself thinking: I wish I had a partner like that.
At heart, the question I need to ask myself is this: Do I really need my partner to be my travel buddy? The answer, I think, is no. We often expect our romantic partners to meet all of our needs — intellectually, sexually, and beyond. We want them to be our companions and our support system, to share our dreams and our living costs. But it's impossible to ask another person to fulfill your every need. And, frankly, having a partner whose passions are all the same as yours is probably quite boring. Your unique ambitions and separate experiences bring depth to a relationship, ensuring you always have something to learn from your partner, if they're willing to teach you. More than anything, your differences pave the way for a lifetime of growth as a couple.
My partner meets so many of my other needs in ways no one else ever has. And it's not like I'm giving up travel for him. I just have to scratch that itch in other ways, with other people. Luckily, I've surrounded myself with adventurers. I learned Spanish in Mexico with my sister, and snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef with my dad. I backpacked in Patagonia with my best friend. Soon I'm heading to the Yukon to mountain bike with my regular riding crew of a dozen women, and planning a trip to float Desolation Canyon on the Green River with good friends.
My new relationship has also revealed to me a need I never knew I had — a need to be grounded, to touch base, to be still between bouts of travel and adventure in which I immerse myself in foreign cultures and generally exhaust myself seeing the world. I'm shockingly content lounging on his couch at home and talking for hours, or making dinner and walking the dog.
Real love, the lasting kind, isn't the first day of your most exciting adventure. It's not even the worst day, when you're tired and lost and everything's gone wrong. Love is a thousand ordinary nights at home, the sum of which make you happier than you ever thought possible.
We can't control who we fall in love with. We can't force our partners to conform to our preconceived notions, like my imaginary globetrotting soulmate. The real thing is right in front of me, and the deal-breaker would be my failure to see it.