An Affair to Remember: Falling in Love When Traveling

I’ve been a fan of the classic films for quite some time. I can tell you where I first saw Casablanca, who I was with when I saw Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and most certainly the feeling I got when I watched An Affair to Remember. These fuc*ing movie romances were so dope, it became damn near impossible to jump in one in real life because I wanted everything Nickie Ferrante was getting. I was in the Bahamas when I realized I could have it. For how long, though?

The love you fall into when outside of your comfort zone is a strange, amazing, and magic love. Back in the real world, let’s call that Detroit, you start with dinner at a restaurant Yelp gave $$$, and maybe a walk after around a cool neighborhood you bring all your dates to. If you do it properly, each moment is fun, but you build up to the truly amazing things. But hey, this isn’t the real world and you and this beautiful soul you met this morning in Barcelona while out getting pastries are not in the real world. You’re riding a moped down a street built long before your home country was even a thought and talking about having lunch by the sea where the “catch of the day” wasn’t caught until you ordered it.

I tend to side eye my friends who claim to have fallen in love in countries where the local passports won’t open many doors. I’ve seen these relationships play out too many times. They meet some man or woman at the bar, fall in love over shots, and the next thing you know they have a houseguest in America for a few months, then a ring, then a marriage, then a disappearing act. Let’s not focus on this relationship though. Let’s assume both parties are true to this.

And let’s assume this vacation is a week long:

By mid week, the only thing you don’t know about each other is blood type, and that’s only because you don’t know your own. You’ve talked extensively about family and even FaceTimed with a few favorite cousins and best friends to brag to them about this beautiful person you found. You’ve talked about why you gave up on love but now find a reason to believe in it again, and maybe even had several extremely vulnerable moments, only to find yourself being held or doing the holding. It’s truly a beautiful thing.

You came to this place with a well thought out itinerary, or at least expectations, but they’re all out the window now, and you wake up early to get as much time in with your new partner in crime. First, second, third, and fourth dates consist of cobblestone roads, structures built before Jesus was a twinkle in his mother’s eye, and sunsets from a mountain you just happened upon while getting lost looking for snacks.

You’re two days away from checking in to your flight and you’ve had the conversation about trying to extend your stay. Y’all called your bossed to see if the meeting on Monday is mandatory, called the airline to see if there’s a later flight you can take, and y’all have exchanged gifts to make sure neither of you are forgotten. It’s cute, but the meeting is mandatory, and the later flights are full. Every inch of the city has been covered, and now you’re finding more intimate spaces to just sit around and plan out the future. All the calls you’re gonna make, the photos you’re going to exchange, and the countries you’re gonna meet in every couple of months.

You keep each other from seeing the sad look on both your faces.

The real world, Detroit, crosses your mind and you’re depressed already. What never crosses your mind, though, is that this naked moment is probably not love, but an amazing escape from a routine life. You’re eating grapes from the belly button of something new. The honesty and vulnerability you admire may be nothing more than a product of the quicksand you two walked into the second you made eye contact. A drowning man will confess everything. Would you love this person back home?

When you go home:

The guard you lowered to open yourself up to the world is back up. Traveling does this: widens our margins, opens us up to receive more and to give more and experience things we’d never do (at least admit to) back home.

You’ve gone from feeding each other sauteed strange things, running and laughing in the rain from the hostel to the train, and sitting in the back of a funky, smokey piano bar to texting when you can sneak away to the bathroom at work, and having nothing interesting to talk about since you find nothing great about the real world, Detroit.

By the end of the second week, probably still while battling post-travel depression, texts fall off a bit, and insecurities about something you were so sure about begin to surface. “This isn’t gonna work,” you say, finally realizing the truth. It hurts a bit, but almost as quickly as it happened, it’ll be out of your system. Not to say it’s never worked. I do know of successful relationships that were born outside of the comfort zone, but they are rare, and they required that one or both parties find a zone to share.

And in the end:

If you’re asking me, I think we’re better for loving this way from time to time if we are able. Don’t travel to fall in love just because you know it won’t work. Try to make it work, but don’t die when it doesn’t. Keep yourself open to the world and experience everything the world is giving.

Darnell Lamont Walker, a self-professed traveling foodie, has been found sitting at tables eating baby goat sweetbreads, drinking tequila, and laughing loudly with strangers. The writer, filmmaker, artist, and sometimes photographer puts happiness above all.