One day in 2016 I had the pleasure of turning 30 years old. And on that significant day I was single – not dating anyone at all, in fact. Which is not really a surprise, because I sort of gave my heart to the world years ago. Throughout my 20’s boys have come into and gone out of my life. Travel is the one love affair that will never die.
Each new destination I visit is like exploring a new lover for the first time. I anticipate the first few moments, thinking that maybe I have some idea of what it’s going to feel like to discover this unknown place. And every time I realise within minutes that I couldn’t possibly imagine what stepping into this unchartered territory was going to feel like. I’m proved wrong, yet again… and it’s never felt so good to be wrong.
Some destinations I’ve instantly clicked with. They’ve become a part of me; I take them into my heart and give them their own special spot alongside all the other places that mean something to me. There’s no rhyme or reason to what works and what doesn’t; this intangible ‘rightness’ that defies logic and cannot be denied. Usually it’s there from the very beginning or it’s never there.
Like most people’s relationship histories, I have the “one that got away” – which is Melbourne, Australia. I departed this place tearfully on the very day my year-long visa expired and have returned to spend more time there on many occasions since. Upon hearing of my current plan to possibly visit my friends in Melbourne again next year, one of my favourite Aussies scoffed: “Nah, you just love the city.” And, to be honest, he was right.
Occasionally, a place is a tonic administered at precisely the moment it’s required (or, sometimes, when you didn’t even know you needed it). In this way, the world has provided me with gifts that humanity has rarely equalled. An indescribably perfect island in Cambodia gave me the moment I knew my broken heart had healed – in fact made me glad it was ever broken, as otherwise I would never have found such a heaven-on-earth. During the two days I spent there life finally made sense again. Likewise, another island – this time off the coast of Croatia – taught me the valuable lesson that a lover’s rejection is nothing when I have the whole world to love. A world that has never failed to thrill and excite me; a world that’s let me down far fewer times than it has blown my mind; a world that has taught me more about myself than a significant other ever could.
Islands do it for me; they always have. Something in their simplicity, their uncomplicatedness and slow, indulgent pace of life speaks to me. Spending time on an island makes the complexities and dramas of life melt away. They are soul-nurturing like nowhere else.
It’s so easy to love the world because it never judges. I’ve never felt like a truer version of myself than while alone in a foreign country. There are no expectations on my shoulders. The world doesn’t care about my past; it takes me as I am each day. So I become the most real, the most authentic ‘me’ I could ever be. Very few things in life feel better than that.
There is, I suppose, one parallel between my relationships with men and my ongoing relationship with the world – I just can’t commit. There are so many places to see and get to know, how does anybody stop at one or two? I don’t know how you married folk are doing it – but I seriously admire you. I guess sometimes, someplace incomparable comes along (hello, Melbourne); sometimes, someone incomparable can come along, too.
They’ve only got the whole world to compete with…