When I told people I was heading to Malaysia after coming back from my travels, one of the first things people tend to ask me was: did you meet a girl over there?
The truth is… there is a girl. Or I should say, there was a girl.
But probably not what you think. Some people know the story, but even if they do, what they don’t know is that there was more to the story than what I originally told.
When I first envisioned my trip, I hoped I would find some sort of inspiration. But who was to say I would? I didn’t even know what that meant. Even further in the back of my mind was meeting someone. But that changed quickly. The first stop on my trip, in the first hostel I stayed at, I met her.
It’s funny how life works like that. I also met John (another important travel influence) on the first night of my backpacking trip in Costa Rica.
Despite her catching my attention, our first encounter was barely existent (which is funny looking back).
It wasn’t until two months later that we would cross paths again. And for the first time in my life, I experienced a moment of perfect serendipity. We plan so much in our lives that we forget what it’s like to find a moment of unexpected happiness. Even though I thought I knew what that felt like, this was something completely different. How do I describe it to someone? Perhaps one just had to be there. For me, it was a time when we just enjoyed each other’s company without much hope or agenda. I will never forget that perfect feeling of happiness like I was right where I belong. The feeling of “it just feels right“.
I remember the way she called me a “soul searcher” that night. I remember when she curiously laughed at my “self discovery” that I might go into programming. Nonetheless, she also shared her own reasons for her trip. She was like someone who I had known for a long time, even though we had just met.
The girls who I have usually liked have often been for different reasons. The problem with this girl was that she was a combination of a number of them. And that was a dangerous thing.
By the time I learned this, I had a decision to make: to go for it or not. I’ve seen this road a lot of times. Times where I would sometimes hmm and haa about how much I like the girl and decide if I think it’s worth it. I mean, how do you know? When I told my friend the story, he told me to enjoy it while it lasted.
This is the common view of travel romances: that they are short, fun and often intense flings. But in the end, they don’t work out. We return to the “real world”.
And I always thought I was more of a realist before this happened. Much like my friend, I never thought I would go for a travel romance. But this was different. She was different. Before I left on my trip, my goal was to have a trip without reservations. This wasn’t part of the plan. But sometimes plans change.
At this point in time, I had already came up with the idea of Malaysia and my potential new goals regarding coding, business and life abroad. The truth was… it was what I wanted. And the truth was, I knew how amazing it would be if I could make it work. And I wanted to try even though I knew it would be very difficult.
And that is usually when we think to ourselves: what if it doesn’t work? I mean, what are the chances? It’s hard and not many can make it work; just like a travel romance.
If there was something I came on this trip looking for, I found it. And I found it in how I felt towards her.
It can be tough to follow your heart: to put yourself in a vulnerable position with little chance of succeeding. And both during and after, there will always be consequences. I knew that the chances were slim. I knew that it would be difficult, especially if this became a long distance relationship. But I didn’t care.
Maybe for the first time in my life, I had no reservations. I didn’t care about the consequences. I had one opportunity with her and I would never have another. Things are often much more black and white than we think. It all comes down to what you want and how bad you want it. The rest is just noise: distractions, excuses, fear. Life is too short for these things. I knew I wanted a shot and I would figure out the rest.
This new feeling was a liberating emotion. It was a feeling that changed my life. And it was that same feeling that guided my decision to leave Vancouver.
As long as I could figure out the logistics of making it work in the beginning, I could figure out the rest as it came along. I would spend the rest of my trip confirming that feeling and making sure I didn’t talk myself out of it.
My travel romance quickly became “complicated” but I was honestly hopeful to the very end. Despite the emotional roller coaster that this created both during the events and in the aftermath, I am very happy to say that I tried. I had no regrets. Some may say that I was foolish to be hopeful. But I know that it is good to be hopeful. Without hope, we have nothing.
You may wonder what if we had ended up dating? Would that have affected my Malaysia decision? In short, yes. But to me it was another “we’ll burn that bridge when we get there” sorta thing. Nonetheless, I learned a new way to benchmark how I feel towards someone and let’s just say I’m aware of what it costs to fly to Washington, DC.
I know some of my friends disliked her based on how she acted but now you know why my tolerance level was higher than unusual during those times. She may have stomped on my heart, but she gave me everything that I ever wanted from the trip. I would say, we are even.
Following your heart certainly has a price, but meeting her clearly taught me that I would rather pay the price than look back wondering “what if?”. The next time you ask yourself: is it worth it? Perhaps listen a little harder. I think we often know the answer. We are just afraid to admit it.