Being the foreign chick is not as much fun as one would hope. For every 10 guys who love your accent, there are 2 that were listening to what you were saying, and only 1 of them understood. Suitors are far more interested in a foreign conquest than getting to know you. Which can be tiring when you’re The Foreign Chick that everyone wants a piece of. Piece. As in fresh meat.
For the guys that do get to know you, as a person and not a curiosity, if you have different first languages, communication can be difficult if you’re not both bilingual. Unless one of you doesn’t mind not being properly understood.
If you find you really quite like someone and you are both bilingual (and overthinkers) it’s only a few dates in when the question of ‘where do you want to settle down?’ comes up. Now, part of being a free spirit is that settling down does not form part of a life plan. The plan is to enjoy life for as long as you’re breathing.
But when he’s happy in his home country and you’re the foreign chick, and you’re in like and not able to go with the flow, this is a problem. When you’re a single childless woman not fixed to a location, you are unusual. When you seem to be enjoying your life as a single childless woman far from home, you’re officially an enigma. You will be speculated about behind your back and your choices will be directly questioned by bolder/shameless types.
I’ve recently fallen in love with a new travel site called Travel Noire and today’s themed post was ‘The Love Life Of a Nomad’. Having already committed to their brand of intelligent well-written thoughtful articles and a closet romantic (yeah I’m coming out on Valentine’s Day) I clicked immediately.
I have never met the author but we could be friends in real life. She gets me. The truth is, when you’re a regular person with an irregular taste for adventure, at some point that comes out. And your love life will take a hit if you’re single when it does.
I followed the life path deemed appropriate for/expected of me, and my peers, and most likely you and yours; I went to school, then uni, and then after the post-uni foot-finding scrabble, got an office job. It was a ‘different’ office job, organising physical challenges all over the world from a comfy Camden office allowed me to engage my interests and brain up to a point, but it was experiencing life vicariously.
It was nonetheless a push in the right direction. 10 days off seems like a long time at home when you spend all day organising adventures abroad. It was in this job with annual leave to use or lose that I first went someplace new alone. And made it back alive. I was in my early 20s, but I had lived abroad twice and was from South London. I could handle a bustling Marrakesh with 1 sentence of Arabic and lots of French to communicate with, I told myself.
And I could. I did. Despite getting sick and having a very ‘dodgy’ moment with the riad manager at 4am – ie sensing danger at my most vulnerable. And thus the solo travel journey began. I stopped consulting my friends when I wanted to see someplace new, and starting consulting my world map and bank account.
It’s a cumulation of solo travel experiences dodgy or otherwise, or rather surviving them, that makes you stronger. What doesn’t kill you and all that. Suitors also smell them on you. You are a survivor and an adventurer. A so-called free spirit. For a hetero solo traveller woman, and black at that, when you’re single, you provoke a reaction just because you’re you and patriarchy and racism are real.
There are some men who feel instantly emasculated by you, and others whose desire to dominate emerges only slightly less quickly. Then there are those who are drawn to your difference. They’re the ones to watch out for because those same dudes later on will lament your ability to be ‘normal’. These are the ones who make being foreign as fun as a migraine. No, not the migraine skank, an actual super-headache.
The Love Life Of a Nomad held a truth about life on the road; love is another adventure. A fabulous one. But when there are great memories to reminisce on, more experiences to look forward to, and location shifts are a part of your life, romantic relationships can be chaotic. And most frequently, non-existent.
I have been on some dates which have blown my mind. Last year’s picnic by the beach after a mini-hike to a waterfall comes to mind. Midnight swimming in clear-at-night Caribbean waters is another. I have had some holiday romances which doubled as transformative experiences. These I cherish. I have also met some seriously interesting people in my time. These I remember and smile.
I found myself in a dilemma once. I went on a trip and found my travel buddy to be perfect. This perturbed me no end. I’d gotten accustomed, I realised, to enjoying my own company on the road, and that of the people I encountered along the way. I’d gotten used to going with my own uninterrupted flow; going where I wanted, when I wanted and changing my mind and plans as often as I liked. This was freedom. This was the joy of travel. Suddenly, I was having a great time with another person. Constantly. Morning til night all day every day. Most ironically of all, my amazing buddy never got offended by, nor in the way of my need for and taking of alone time. They craved it too. Shock horror: travelling with a great travel buddy was more fun than travelling alone, I hated to admit.
It was a bizarre experience which left me wondering if the same theory could be applied to my (love) life.
Perhaps it wasn’t that I loved being single too much and thus avoided relationships. Perhaps it was that I preferred the freedom of the single life to the stress and strain of ‘a relationship’ because I’d not tried to journey through life with the right person? A genuinely curious revelation for me. But I have been known to be a bit slow at times.
It’s not all doom and gloom being a woman who travels. Despite the conflicting messages the internet seems to be sending men about us ‘Don’t date a girl who travels‘, ‘Date a girl who travels’, being a woman who travels if you want to be a woman who travels is also known as living the life you want. This is a good thing regardless of if/who you date.
An upside to being single in a foreign place is when you meet someone interesting. Suddenly it’s all even-brighter technicolour and seduction and the adventure multiplies. Suddenly you’re really glad you were single when they came along.