Who are you when you travel? Are you the same person you are at home? Probably not. Do those who travel well together also make the best partners in life? Maybe, maybe not.
This is a story about two people who are trying to figure out life at home and why it was different from life on the road.
The bus meandered down the Riff mountains through the Moroccan countryside. We were on our way from the bohemian mountain town of Chefchaouen to the noisy Fassi medina of Fes. As we passed another nameless town in the North African terrain, he turned to me and said, “Will you be my girlfriend?” The question, which I had yearned to hear for so long suddenly seemed so unnecessary in the midst of the adventure we were on. We had spent the last few days lost in the cool blue facades of the town built by Jewish refugees fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. The tranquility of Chaouen was the perfect antidote for my racing heart full of questions of our future together. On a whim, three months after we started dating, I had booked a last minute flight to Morocco to spend Christmas with him and his best friends. I had quelled the flickers of doubt in my heart as to whether I was being too impulsive by admitting to myself that I was at a point of no return. I was too deep in to pass up the desire to experience the world with him.
Now, on the rattling bus surrounded by the musical lilts of Arabic, when he asked me that question, that moment seemed to be a metaphor for our relationship. We were co-travelers on the passage between adventures, leaving one behind only to find the next one. This would be our life together. It was like a dream.
When we finally got to Fes, our legs stiff from the bus ride and our hearts filled with hope, we were swallowed by the city’s cacophony. While Chaouen had been like a soothing balm, Fes was like a jolt of adrenaline. We walked the cobblestoned streets of the medina hand in hand, intoxicated by the fragrances of the spices mingling with the odor of the leather tanneries just outside of it. Somewhere amongst the ornate zellige walls and the intricately woven Berber carpets, the hypnotic prayer calls of the muezzin and the spectacular sunset views from the rooftop, I was deeper in love, with Morocco and with him. All our senses were alive and our hearts opened wider because of it. I was enamored by the dream of a life together, hand in hand, finding ourselves closer within the chaos.
Months later when things started unraveling just as spectacularly as they had begun, I found myself clinging to these memories and the promise of the life of adventure together. Every time I was smacked by the reality of how much we struggled with the smallest things that two people have to do together to get through life, I flashed back to the moment in the old bus, charting our unknown path, with little more than hope to string us along. I held on to the magic, the adventure. I held on to the dream so feverishly as if I could will it to manifest itself to wipe away the pain of reality.
I had always wanted a life partner who I could travel the world with. With him, I had found a travel partner but that union didn’t translate into other aspects of our lives. Where we had initially been so ready to see the world through each other’s eyes, we couldn’t see eye to eye on how to live every day of our lives. Somewhere between the mundane routines and tribulations of everyday life, our Moroccan reverie dissipated into thin air. Our plans for a future together, curated by a hopeful heart were eroded by the angry words said and unsaid.
We found ourselves in the May of 2015 at the brink of the dissolution of our relationship, desperate for something to save us. This time we chose Nicaragua as the destination for the rekindling of the flames of passion. We were our best selves when we traveled so it only made sense that a new place would save us. But the resplendent beaches of Little Pigeon Island didn’t do the deed. The salt in my tears mingled with the sea’s and wiped away any traces of our imagined future.
As it turned out, our greatest adventure was our real life and we weren’t ready for that.
(ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON MEDIUM AT @tripsntripups)