I love the same way I travel: with passion, curiosity, and a desire to get completely lost until I know every landmark, every corner like it’s home. It’s probably not a coincidence that love and travel have always been inseparably linked for me. I’ve already paid my tribute to Mr. Copenhagen. But he was not the first person I ever fell in love with on a travel adventure, nor was he the last. Here is to all the other people who I’ve loved, even for a moment, while traveling.
Though she was originally from Seattle, I met her for the first time in Denver where she was going to school. That weekend we drove up to Mt. Evans, the highest paved road in North America. She didn’t expect that it would be so cold up at that altitude so she had to use a blanket to cover her bare legs. I didn’t expect the altitude sickness so I got nauseous walking after a herd of mountain goats. She made the worst dinner anyone has ever made me, to date. She stir fried macaroni until they were crunchy and served it with olives. I ate it out of politeness and because I was already in love with her.
I loved her in the most obsessive all-consuming way a person can possibly love another person. I spent every waking moment we weren’t together planning how we could see each other again. And we did. I basically had a second residency in Denver for three years. We met up in New York and in New Orleans and took a road trip across the Midwest. We celebrated New Years together in Seattle the year that Washington made gay marriage legal. We kissed at midnight under the rainbow fireworks of the Space Needle.
Once when we were visiting the Four Corners, we spoke with a Navajo man who asked us each where we were from.
“Why so far away from each other?” he asked, pointing out that we were as far as two people could be within the United States.
“Because the universe wanted it that way,” I replied.
And I truly believed that. We were never meant to be. Our love was so explosive and destructive that we couldn’t even stay friends. But while it lasted, it was a hell of a ride. It was the kind of love story that deserves its own book, and I’ll finish it eventually.
Ironically, I met Ms. Boulder on a Denver-bound flight to see Ms. Seattle. I had already noticed her long before we spoke. She was a tall and fair-skinned with short dirty blonde hair and piercing green eyes. She was talking to a family about her backpacking trip across South America and about culture and education, and I couldn’t help but listen to her stories and stare in her direction.
When we boarded, I was in the aisle seat and as luck would have it, she was in the middle seat next to me. I remember smiling broadly to myself when she sat down, and I’ve always wondered if she noticed. By the time the plane took off, we were already entrenched in conversation. She was a classically trained cellist, which is just about the sexiest thing a woman can be, and she was also quite passionate about travel.
We talked for six hours straight. Even when we made attempts to break off the conversation, like when she tried to watch the terrible movie playing on board and when I tried to work on the Genius Quiz in the in-flight magazine, we kept interrupting each other. She gave me her number on a little piece of paper with a smiley face. We texted just once about how creepy the Denver airport is and we each went on our way.
A year or two later, I saw her profile on an online dating site. But she was still in Boulder and I was still in Miami. We’re friends on Facebook now and I believe she’s currently taken by some lucky gal in the Midwest. Even though I didn’t get to know her any more intimately than that, for all six hours of that flight, I was absolutely in love with her.
Mr. Vienna is an attractive gentleman who comes from a long line of Croatian beekeepers and enjoys biking to other countries. He messaged me through a dating site on the eve of my 29th birthday, while I was alone in Prague. I messaged him back reluctantly as I do with almost everyone I talk to online, particularly since he wasn’t even in the same city. I assumed that after a few vacant exchanges, I would get bored and stop replying as I am wont to do. But I didn’t. In fact, we ended up having a lot to talk about. I fell in love with him when I told him I had just seen Paul McCartney in concert and he said he always preferred the Stones. I love someone who is honest and bold enough to disagree with me, even when they’re wrong.
I showed him my blog and he got such a kick out of my writing, he kept quoting it at me and laughing. Which isn’t a requirement for me to fall in love with someone, but it helps. About an hour after we started exchanging messages, I was already looking up trains to Vienna. He eventually asked if he could call me, and we stayed on the phone until my face hurt from smiling and it was light out. It was one of those conversations that was full of intimate details and fascinating revelations – the kind you remember forever. We agreed to meet in Brno, halfway between Prague and Vienna, the following weekend.
I would never pass up this opportunity; I’m a sucker for unbridled spontaneity. But I would be remiss if I didn’t warn him:
Do not fall in love with people like me.
I will take you to museums, and parks, and monuments, and kiss you in every beautiful place, so that you can never go back to them without tasting me like blood in your mouth.
I will destroy you in the most beautiful way possible. And when I leave, you will finally understand why storms are named after people.
Then again, I think he probably already knows that about me. And at least it’s only Brno. I’ve certainly done worse.