The last time I saw you, you were driving away from me, the taillights glowing in the dawn. The sun was just barely above the horizon; there was a still and quiet in that tiny prairie town, the trees bowing slightly in the wind. I stood at the window to watch you drive away, and I blew you a kiss.
We met in the heat of summer in the heart of the country. I instantly liked your glasses, your goofy laugh, the way we were both too nervous to eat any of the food we’d ordered. I talked too much – I always do when I’m nervous, especially on first dates – and an hour in I stopped myself, apologised for waffling.
“Don’t apologise,” you leaned in close. “I’m utterly enthralled by you, if I’m honest.”
I hadn’t had a first date that good in a long, long while. We both didn’t want the night to end; you came back to my house, where we drank beer on the porch and listened to records, the twinkly lights I’d hung up in the backyard illuminating all that was good. Our first kiss happened when we were listening to Sam Cooke, my favourite singer of all time, and life – for that one tiny moment – seemed perfect and real.
If you know me and you know this blog, you know that I don’t write articles like this very often. “Things to do” lists are not in my usual repertoire on my personal blog. But once in a while, a place comes along that is so amazing, so instantly special to me, that I can’t wait to share it.
Most recently, that place was the town of Amalfi, Italy.
After fifteen years of writing online, I have definitely committed some of the biggest mistakes in travel blogging. Here’s what I did wrong, and what I’ve learned along the way.
This is how your heart breaks: slowly and deliberately, and then all at once. A story about falling in and out of love.
The first time I was ghosted, I didn’t understand what I had done wrong.
I met Chris in a little cocktail bar one rainy night in London (sidenote: my best friend has demanded that I never again date a guy called Chris… I’m cursed with guys called Chris). We had a fantastic date, one of my best ever, and it culminated with both a passionate kiss and an invitation to a second date. He texted me on the way home.
“I can’t stop smiling…,” he wrote, and oh my god, there is no better feeling than getting that text after making out with a ridiculously hot, ridiculously intelligent journalist named Chris, let me tell you.
Over the next couple of days, we texted back and forth and made plans for our upcoming dinner date. And then, the day before, I texted him to confirm what time we were meeting. No response. That seemed a bit strange, but I tried not to let it bother me until the next day. By lunchtime – I would assume we were meeting only a few hours later – I texted again. Yes, oh yes, the dreaded double-text. But I was kind of worried, and very confused.
“Hey,” I texted. “Are we still on for tonight?”
And that, dear friends, is when I encountered my first ghost.
I once met a girl named Courtney while I was travelling through Nicaragua. She was tall and rail thin, her body covered in tattoos. From Seattle originally, we met on a volcano-boarding tour just outside of Léon, a small colonial city where all the buildings were painted dark pinks and greens and blues. We’d spent the day climbing Cerro Negro Volcano and then riding on sleds down the side of it, hurtling ourselves down the soft black ash.
“I just got this one before I left for Central America… look.” She instructed me to pull down the back of her t-shirt, revealing sprawling script across her shoulders. I recognised the words; it was a quote by Saint Augustine. I had heard the quote a few times before, seen it on a mug or read it on a blog. This was before it became one of the most popular travel quotes splashed across the internet, found on thousands of Pinterest boards, the text always written over the image of a pristine beach or a young woman standing on a mountaintop, her blonde hair blowing in the wind.
The thing is… I hate this quote.