6 Tips to Avoid Making Irrational Romantic Decisions on Vacation (From a Guy Who Learned the Hard Way)

My misguided romance spanned too many miles and too much time — don't do what I did.

After some drunken splatter of broken English and basic Spanish mixed with some hand gestures and a few Google translations here and there, I was sure that I had met my soulmate, the woman of my dreams, my perfect companion. We me at Senor Frogs in Honolulu. (Romantico!) She was visiting from Buenos Aires and I was certain she was the one. So what if we couldn’t understand each other? What is language anyway? Flash forward much too long, after way too much effort, and it was all over. Here's what I learned from the whirlwind love affair and its subsequent fizzle.

1.  Life is not over when someone you can barely communicate with leaves a bar on a tropical vacation…

The idea of falling in love on vacation is sexy — but it might ruin your life if you’re not careful. All I could think of at the time was, what a story this will be to tell our grandkids...

I was sure meeting Agustina was a sign from the universe. I had to find her. What a dream come true when I saw her the next day, lying on the beach next to the guy she had been with the night before. I wasn’t sure if it was her boyfriend or brother or friend, but it didn’t matter to me. I knew we were destined to be together… I mean, why else would I see her the next day on a small beach that bordered both of our hotels? It must be love. But (gulp), I was too overcome by nerves to say anything, and I walked right by her. I cursed myself till I got back to my beach chair. How could I let such a grandiose miracle pass me by? How could I be such a coward? I’ve since learned a couple things about that scenario. For one thing, don't be a coward. And for another...

2.  The most enduring romances are about attitude — not circumstances.

As far as having a story to tell your grandkids about how you met your spouse at a random bookstore in Valencia when you were just about to give up, a romantic story is only as special as you think it is — and your judgement is likely clouded in the heat of passion. Ever meet someone on Tinder that you really like but wish The Story of How You Met was more exciting? Make it exciting. Maybe reframe it something like this: "I was swiping one day, then I saw this person… had to swipe right. Then we met up AND HE WAS WEARING MY FAVORITE COLOR! I found out later that his was an ENFP and that’s exactly the personality type that matches my astrological chart! Then we went zip lining and made love on a tarp while gazing at the sequoia trees...!" You get the point. Your story is yours to make it, so don't get overcome by the romance of travel if it's not mean to be.

Back to Agustina, my true love that I let pass me by…

Would you believe that only an hour later, I looked up from my cocktail and saw her on the beach pay phone 20 feet away from me?! I knew then, without a shadow of a doubt, that this was real, that this, this was the woman of my dreams. At the time, I was 24 and she was about the same. There was NO WAY I would let this moment float away again — not this time.

The very beach where it all went down...

This time I got up out of my beach chair, like a champ, and walked over to her only to realize she was amidst a very pent-up and emotionally driven conversation with, well, I don’t know… but it was awkward. So I gave her a subtle (but not so subtle) hand motion for her to meet me at the hotel bar when she was done with her call. Flustered, she frantically nodded her head and then went back to that chaotic call. But I wasn’t entirely sure she understood what I was talking about because I waited at the hotel bar for hours then looked over at the payphone and realized she was long gone. How could this be happening? Looking back on it, I now know that whatever was in my head at the time were simply thoughts and daydreams of what I hoped she might be like. The chances of her being the girl I wanted her to be were about as slim as going to the supermarket and asking the girl in the organic produce section to marry me, and us living to a ripe old age together, happy and in love till death do us part. Won’t happen.

So I went back up to my room and decided to stare at the ocean and drown my sorrows in the salty and breezy Hawaiian air when all of a sudden... there she was again! She was walking along the beach in perfect view of my balcony. How could this be happening, I thought?  The real question is, why would this not be happening!

There’s something about vacation that makes me about as irrational as I could ever humanly be.  And after all the traveling I’ve done now at 32 (hey, I hold the Guinness world record for the world's longest road trip!), I’ve now come to realize that when I’m in a place that I’ve never been to before, where nobody knows my past, the options of how I want to present myself are so versatile, it makes everything a bit more surreal and romantic. I can be whoever I want to be. So next lesson:

3.  Try to see your home life from your unique travel perspective.

I now know to take that self image that I love so much while on my travels and adopt it when returning home. I can be that way anywhere I am. 

Of course it took many mistakes for me to learn that, so at the time, I was ready to run down to the beach and profess my love to a complete stranger. But before I got to her… There she was, in my lobby! Was she looking for me? I couldn’t believe all this was happening. (Um, all what was happening?) She said something in Spanish when she saw me. We were talking! How exciting! I was ready to marry this girl and all I needed was for her to talk to me in a language I couldn’t understand to validate my potential feelings for her?! Jeez… I was a mess. But I’m not alone. This kind of thing happens to travelers all the time.

“Here to you me meednight.” 

“Meet you here at midnight?”

Is that what she was saying?  Oh man, this was way better than I ever imagined. So, I waited for her at midnight and there she was. We hung out and danced all night and said things to each other that maybe made sense — and maybe not. I learned that she was touring the United States and New York was her next destination. I happened to live in New York at the time, another "sign" and so I gave her my phone number to call when she arrived. She asked for my email instead, so I wrote that down too. I never saw her in Hawaii ever again after that night and thought I might’ve lost my soulmate forever. It never occurred to me that maybe I shouldn’t make some random chick my soulmate after one night together. So that's another tip I learned:

4.  Don't mistake the excitement of travel for depth or familiarity.

You don’t know the first thing about each other after a night, or a month (in some instances) for that matter. You may end up despising each other’s life philosophies, political views, and overall personality. So, maybe try to get to know each other first before you plan a trip to Argentina…

Oh wait. That was me. 

An email came in a couple weeks later when I was back in New York that read, "It me." I replied immediately, of course. And then I ran to her hotel by Central Park West and it was all laughter and bliss. She would say "Payp-see" and I would say to myself, "This is it — I'm in love. BTW, it’s not ‘payp-see’, it’s PEPSI!" Which brings me to this:

5.  A sexy accent is meaningless once you get used to it.

I was so lost.

It all culminated a year later when I drunkenly stumbled to an airline’s website one night and booked a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires. We had been Skyping together for a little more than a year at that point. I was already beginning to question whether or not I was doing the right thing. I had put together some Spanish education by then and after a couple weeks in Argentina, found myself having full-on conversations with all her friends. Three weeks into the trip, she and I were talking without a problem.

It was then that I realized we had absolutely nothing in common. 

As soon as we understood each other, I realized that she argued and debated everything I said, and I did the same. She was driving me crazy, and vice versa. So, I left the country and came back to New York knowing for certain, finally, that it would never work. So my final tip is this:

6.  Don't let the allure of the how-we-met story blind you.

The allure of telling someone the story of how you met a strange man or woman in a foreign country or far off state is not needed to spark true romance. In fact, in some cases the circumstances alone can be the kiss of death.

Agustina and I remain friends to this day, but we never stood a chance. That particular irrationally constructed romance led me astray for more than a year of my twenties. So, I encourage you to remember my story when you plan to move across the world to be with the partner of your dreams that you met in Finland during a one-week hostel-getaway: It’s probably just invigoration mixed with curiosity fueled with a bit of lust. Leave it at that, get their social media handles, and mosey onto the rest of your travels. 

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