“I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help but notice your accent. Where are you from?” I was knee deep in an Eminem music video. Palms are sweaty, knees weak, and arms are heavy. I take a quick swig of my rum and juice, which I realize maybe wasn’t the best drink of choice when trying to pick up a girl at a bar. “Oh, hello. I’m from Scotland.” What are the odds. Not only is she a beautiful brunette, but she’s from the motherland. Now I can really let me expressions fly. “Get out? Me too!” I quickly realize I’ve already made a gaffe, which is apparent from the look she’s giving me. “Well, my ancestors are from Scotland. I, of course, am not technically from Scotland, but rather the southeastern U.S.; hence the accent” I nervously turn to pick up my drink and throw back a big swallow, only to turn around and see that the Scottish belle is walking off. And with that, in a little beach bar in Costa Rica, I tried and failed at my only attempt at picking up a girl in a bar.
As a kid, I quickly got acquainted with the infamous four-letter words; you know, those words that started with S, F, or D. “Ms. Hargrove, Spencer just said a four-letter word.” That was often the context. Those words were so taboo when we were kids. But now all grown up, I wonder if there’s another set of infamous four-letter words, specifically for adults, that are just as taboo. The one I’m thinking of being that of “love”. Here we have the strongest, most paramount feeling in the English dictionary, and it’s just four letters long. I think the Greeks were on to something, with their multiple different words for love, each having a different meaning, such as erotic, affectionate, unconditional, and friendship love. But somehow, I just don’t see a girl getting weak in the knees when I tell her “I erotically love you.”
“Well Mom, it’s over.” Those were my first words to my mom just over two years ago as I walked into the door of my old childhood home after a four hour drive from what used to be home. Specifically, I was talking about my marriage, but in my mind, it felt like everything was over. My life felt like a sham. I had been living for years as someone I wasn’t and when you’re living as someone you’re not, it’s hard not just to give, but receive love. I felt empty. The walls of life were caving in and if we get one shot at life and love, then I had blown it and was going to drift off into this oblivion of feeling lifeless and unlovable.
It was just months later that I was on my own “walk of shame” back to my condo in Costa Rica after a failed attempt at picking up a girl. That night revealed a lot of things. It revealed that I had set out to travel in search of many things, one of which was a skewed view of love. What is it that I was searching for that night in Coco, Costa Rica? A long-term relationship with a traveler from Scotland or a one-night stand to suppress the on-going frustrations that were the result of a failed marriage?
Breakups, divorce or not, suck. I truly believe that humans were meant to be relationship with one another, and when that communion is disrupted, it creates a ripple effect. It’s funny to me that the image of love to many people is that of Cupid with a bow and arrow. When an arrow is pulled out of its target, that arrow can’t be removed cleanly, but rather takes out with it pieces of the target that it touches, leaving with it signs of its puncture. So it is with love. There can’t be separation without it leaving an indelible mark.
When I set out for a stint of long-term travel, I was escaping; maybe if I removed myself enough from my past life, the pain of the last few years would disappear. The fact is though that travel can’t be a form of escapism. Travel didn’t heal my wounds, nor do I believe that travel acts as a healing agent. Setting out for a trip like I did isn’t like going to the doctor, where you go in for the cure of a bad cough and you come out with medicine, that if followed step-by-step will cure your cough. Travel doesn’t work that way. There’s no steps or formula for producing the outcome we desire.
A few weeks ago I came home from a weekend of exploring San Francisco and experiencing views like the one below. I was just a couple weeks from my one-year anniversary in San Francisco and a week before I was leaving for a summer of travel. I sat down on my bed and bawled uncontrollably. I went years without even shedding a tear. I didn’t even cry at my father’s funeral, yet there I was in the quietness of my apartment on a Saturday night and I couldn’t stop crying. But those weren’t the tears you cry at a funeral or the hospital or amidst a breakup. They were tears of joy, humility, and gratefulness. It was at about this time that I texted my friend V to ask him if he ever felt like he’s gamed life.
Some way and somehow I got a second chance at life and love and ever since, I’ve held onto it tightly, not ever wanting to let it go. Who is the special someone? Nobody. You see for years I tried living this life of what I thought people expected and what I thought I should be doing, rather than acting out of my own inclinations and following my heart. What I realized on that walk back to my condo in Costa Rica a year and a half ago is that it wasn’t that I needed someone to love me, but that I needed to love myself. It was the result of that night that I really started to live and begin to better understand this idea of love. I haven’t dated much and haven’t even been in a relationship since my divorce. And you know what, that’s alright. Amidst my baggage, when the time does come for me to be in a relationship again, I’ll be ready as I’m going to be, not because time heals all things, but because to love someone else, I had to fall back in love with who I am and who the world is. A year of traveling and a year of living in San Francisco, 2,500 miles away from where I grew up did just that.
Every trip, every traveler is unique. This is my story. As I, and other travel blogger friends, with the help of Expedia, share how we found ours as part of Expedia’s new campaign, I hope you’ll share your travel stories. I found perspective through travel, what have you found?