Hit The Road
On the road is not best place to learn about love’s pitfalls
In the first season of the locally filmed and critically acclaimed TV series "Lost," Sayid asked Shannon how she learned to speak French, and she told him that she fell in love with a Frenchman when she went abroad at 18. Sayid replied that there is no better way to learn a language.
This exchange rings true for people who travel abroad looking for adventure and excitement, and manage to find themselves entangled in a complicated romance, because, no matter how unenthusiastic you are about drama, all international romances inevitably become complicated. While they last, they do give you insight into aspects of a culture you might otherwise never see.
A friend of mine became involved with a guy she met at a party on a frosty October night in England. As they were preparing to leave the party and go their separate ways, he brought her coat to her and suggested that she put on her boots instead of facing the cold in her stiletto heels. She remembers that moment more than any other of their two-year romance because it was the moment she knew she was in trouble.
She returned to England six months later, after her school semester was over, on a work permit and lived with him and his four charming roommates in their charming house on the west side of London. By the end of the summer, the roommates were no longer so charming. They were filthy and, she learned, used all kinds of illegal substances.
The house wasn't faring much better. Light fixtures were dangling dangerously from the crumbling ceiling, the locks had fallen off the bathroom doors, and the refrigerator door fell off on her foot one day when she opened it to get milk for her tea. She gained 10 pounds -- whether from stress or a persistent case of the munchies that resulted from a secondhand high -- she wasn't sure.
It was no surprise that when she introduced him to her parents that Christmas, they were less than thrilled. They pointed out all the things she had been willing to ignore: He was a terrible listener, self-centered and smelled awful, even after showering. Her mother lighted scented candles around the house, and my friend gathered up her own money to send him back to England early.
NOT ALL ROMANCES end badly. On her trip back to England last summer, she met a nice American who had just married an Englishwoman he met on a study-abroad program in Australia.
Even so, the road is no place for those new to romance to learn its pitfalls. Hazards are much greater to a newbie in a strange city with no creep radar, no support system and no network that might supply a cursory background briefing on a potential paramour. The kiddie advice of not going off alone with strangers is worth considering in light of the high-profile disappearance of Natalee Holloway last summer during a high school graduation trip to Aruba.
For some, a romance can also detract from everything else that is going on in a particular city.
But for many, romance on the road is part of what makes an experience memorable. If nothing else, an international romance makes a great story over time, even if your family ends up rolling their eyes about it. I think my mom keeps scented candles on hand, just in case.
Joy Uyeno travels frequently throughout the year, and her column geared toward young and beginning travelers appears the second Sunday each month in the Star-Bulletin Travel section.