Here’s the latest column I wrote for the Georgetown Voice:
The best time of year for gossips and story-lovers are the days after Hoyas have returned to the Hilltop from vacation. People share fabulous tales of their adventures—beaches, gourmet buffets, gondola rides, you name it.
I especially love hearing classmates’ stories of people they met while traveling. The new friends made on the bus and that nice older lady from Germany are lovely, but once romance comes into the picture, I’m hooked.
Obviously, not all tales of intimacy can be glamorous or “aww”-inspiring.
Creepy club hook-ups fall into that category. I still don’t know how to feel about a brief encounter with a dentist, who told me I “sparked a storm” in his heart and got in contact with me by calling a classmate five times a day.
Then there are the super sappy tales, though, that draw out “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” no matter how you look at them—the kind where someone met the most suave Australian at a hostel in Lima or fell head-over-heels for Pierre in France.
The only catch is that deciding whether or how to pursue a connection once the trip is over presents a huge challenge.
For a few weeks, you might exchange the occasional email, maybe even chat on Skype. And yet, there’s something lacking. The “how are you”s and “what did you do today”s feel contrived when compared to the giddiness you felt dancing tipsy that night in Bucharest.
When we meet someone while traveling and share an intense connection, there’s a temptation to promise to pick things up when both parties are together again.
But sometimes, you have to let the moment stand on its own.
On the 3 a.m. recommendation of a friend, I watched Lost in Translation for the first time this weekend. I had put off watching the movie until now because I thought the plot surrounding lecherous Bill Murray falling for a young Scarlett Johansson lacked pizzazz—don’t ask me why. That said, I was pleasantly surprised.
Bob and Charlotte are played by Murray and Johansson respectively. Despite being displaced from their normal surroundings, and feeling lonely and vulnerable, they share intimate moments and find a true, human connection. Some viewers are bothered by the ambiguity of their relationship, but we’re not supposed to know exactly how they feel about each other or whether they have another encounter in the future.
The film captures well my conception of flings had abroad. The ephemerality of their connection is perfect.
Watching the movie, all I could think of was the week I spent in the Balkans. While there, I met an American guy, we really hit it off, and that was that.
On a train to Bulgaria, we stood with our necks hanging out the window, feeling the wind and the sun. The train wasn’t moving fast enough for it to be dangerous, but we were still scolded by the compartment attendant. We told stories of autumn at home and listened to songs on repeat, sharing headphones, humming, and laughing for hours.
Even though our hair was dirty and we didn’t know where we were going, the moment was perfect in my mind.
At the end of the week, a long hug and whispered messages sufficed. There didn’t need to be any teary-eyed promises for something more in the future—we were both able to respect and appreciate the moment for what it was. Brief romances occupy such a beautiful part of our memory—one which we only see through rose-
In our mundane reality, relationships are complicated, with fights, misunderstandings, jealousy. We resent those with whom we part. The messiness of romantic relationships is necessary for growth, but there’s a certain value in keeping some encounters simple and innocent.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard success stories. Friends of mine have met their partners while traveling, and the sagas are truly fascinating. Not all romantic encounters should have to end in a years-long relationship, though.
In some cases, we just need to respect the brevity of the romance. To borrow from the brilliant Hilary Duff, to find the love of your life in every foreign romance is “like trying to fit a square into a circle.”
Not everyone is lucky enough to have a Gordo fall in love with them in Italy.