Just Another Love Story

by Brenna Holeman

Love in Guatemala
Love in Antigua, Guatemala

I have hinted about my love life before on this blog; those who have been following long enough know that I have been in two semi-serious travel relationships since I started writing here over two years ago. In the past six years, I’ve been in four relationships that all started during my travels, and there have been many more flings and flirtations along the way. That’s the thing about travelling and being perpetually on the road; you continually meet like-minded and interesting people from faraway lands. You share funny stories of trains in India, you compare travel tattoos. You have your first date in the middle of a Thai jungle, or eating the still-beating hearts of snakes in Vietnam, or watching the sun rise over the fjords of Norway. You laugh, and you get to know the person so well in such little time, and yet you know absolutely nothing of who they really are. We can be anyone when we are on the road, and we can fall in love with anyone when we are on the road.

In a way, travel relationships, whether they last for days or for years, start off just like any other relationship. Your eyes meet across a bar full of young and sun-tanned backpackers, you smile at each other over the noise of a street festival, you complain together about the heat or the slow Internet or how long you’ve been waiting for the bus. He’s from South Africa or Sweden, Turkey or Australia, but it doesn’t matter; he’s not from where you’re from. You talk through the night. Perhaps this night or the next, you share a kiss, it’s under the stars or in the rain or the waves of the ocean are lapping up at your feet, it’s amazing and foreign but so real and so romantic. You are inseparable. You share cheap beers and tell other travellers the story of how you met. You bargain at guesthouses; he helps you with your backpack, even though you don’t need the help. Your cheeks hurt from smiling. You feel like you could do this forever, just you and him, just you and him and the world and you’d be so happy.

But there are plane tickets home, and budgets that run out. There are things he didn’t tell you, or things you didn’t care to hear. It’s time to say goodbye and you don’t want to, of course you don’t, but there is no other option. And then it’s his hands on your waist and your hands on his neck; it’s terrible and awkward and it doesn’t sink in that you will probably never see each other again. You think he’s gone, he should be gone, but you look and he’s there again, he just walks up to you and looks at you and finally says, “Kiss me”, and you do and it’s so soft, and so sweet, and so sad. You feel his breath on you, and you bite his lip, and then he’s gone, truly gone, and you never even said goodbye.

Such is the pattern of love on the road; it is full of laughter but full of sorrow, full of fast-paced, adrenaline-filled romance and then gut-wrenching, horrible goodbyes. You can try to make it work, emails and visits and telephone calls to the other side of the world, but often it is better to just leave it alone, to just focus on the beautiful memories you have with each other. You remember the first smile he gave you; you remember that day you spent riding a motorbike through the clouds; you remember his hand on the small of your back in a crowded, smoky bar, music you’ve never heard before blaring in your ears; you remember him guiding you through the tiny cobble-stoned streets as you laugh about nothing in particular; you remember the last time you saw him, and the pain and the sorrow of your last kiss, and the way he held your face for that brief moment, your skirt blowing all around you; you remember when he told you, “I don’t want to go.”

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Christine May 26, 2012 - 10:42 pm

Really loved this–beautifully said and I have plenty of memories of my own that are so similar.

liveletlive May 27, 2012 - 2:23 am

wow, beautiful post.

I’ve never experience anything like that, and I’m torn between wanting it and wanting to protect my heart if something like that ever comes. it seems so bittersweet.

Em May 27, 2012 - 3:19 am

Sooo beautifully written and perfectly captures love on the road. Hope you’re having a great trip 🙂

renee May 27, 2012 - 5:05 pm

Sometimes your writing takes my breath away.
This was pure perfection.
Someday when you’re home I hope you print this out and stash it in a pretty box or a special book, so you can find it again in 20 years.

tashaswinney May 27, 2012 - 5:41 pm

This is beautiful. Your whole blog is breathtaking. I was hoping that at some point you’d write about love, and you did!

[Ali] To Be Continued... May 27, 2012 - 7:38 pm

Once again I find myself resonating with pretty much everything you’ve said. Heartbreaking as it is, love on the road (for me anyway) beats love at ‘home’ hands down… Great post darling xx

Andi of My Beautiful Adventures May 28, 2012 - 12:32 am

This was such a beautiful tribute to love on the road! I’ve been blessed that I was able to turn my long distance relationship into marriage, but it really is almost impossible. I hope you find your soul travel mate soon!!!

Shannon Hope May 28, 2012 - 2:17 am

what a wonderful post! this really resonates with me and my boyfriend.. we met traveling in Africa two years ago this June (he’s Irish, I’m Canadian), we did the whole heart-breaking, gut-wretching goodbye and he continued travelling for 2 months after I got home.. the day I got home he skyped me and told me he wanted to move to Canada to be with me! We’ve been together ever since, and we are now living together and things couldn’t be better 🙂 finding your love on the road is possible!!!


Angelica May 28, 2012 - 2:29 am

This is so beautiful. I recently ended my travel relationship with this wonderful guy. We tried the long distance thing, but we just couldn’t make it work. But one thing that’s different about it is that the beautiful memories seem to be too strong that there is no room for bitterness. At the end of it all, you are just thankful that it happened and how wonderful it was. 🙂

it may just be another love story, but it was still a beautiful love story. 🙂

Sarah Dobson May 28, 2012 - 2:31 am

What a post to read as I prepare to move to South Korea for a year, leaving behind my boyfriend of 5 years, the only boyfriend I’ve ever had.

Love on the road sounds exhilarating. I tell myself that I must avoid it. But can we help it?

This Battered Suitcase May 28, 2012 - 10:25 pm

Thank you so much for all of your wonderful comments and kind words! I’m so glad that this post seemed to resonate with many of you and that some of you have found a love that has survived the trials and tribulations of travel romances.

I’ll share some more love stories soon, this one seemed to be popular…

Audrey | That Backpacker May 29, 2012 - 12:24 am

So beautiful yet so gut-wrenching! Knowing your time together is running out is always the hardest.

This Battered Suitcase May 29, 2012 - 3:15 am

Audrey – You always think you have so long together, and then all of sudden you’re saying goodbye…

Jay May 29, 2012 - 6:20 am

Beautifully written Brenna. I felt like I could feel the highs and lows of it all.

This Battered Suitcase May 31, 2012 - 5:52 am

Thank you so much! I’ve definitely had some highs and some lows…

Oneika the Traveller May 31, 2012 - 11:00 pm

Gorgeous, gorgeous post. I’ve experienced this a few times, but have been able to make it work with my current guy, as you know.. 🙂

This Battered Suitcase June 1, 2012 - 3:38 am

Thank you, Oneika! I’m so happy that you are so happy in love…

Edna June 3, 2012 - 8:42 am

This is beautiful. I had one experience like this that was so heartbreaking, I swore off relationships and simply traveled and focused on myself for two years. But then I met another (he’s English, I’m American, we met in Singapore and I live in Paris) and it’s been so wonderful, we just got engaged last week. Love really does come when you’re least expecting it, and finding true love on the road is possible!

Ekua June 3, 2012 - 9:17 pm

Beautiful post… at times I felt like I was reading about my own life 😉 I just tend to relate more to the people I meet on the road because being drawn to it is one of the biggest aspects of my life. At home it seems like so many guys are all about the post college backpacking trip to Europe but not much else. It’s weird to have a guy freak out when you tell them how you and your travel buddy battled flying cockroaches at your guesthouse room Cambodia… I’d rather have someone laugh and share a similar experience!

This Battered Suitcase June 4, 2012 - 3:39 am

Edna – That’s an amazing story! I wish you all the best in your relationship…what a wonderful beginning!

Ekua – I need to relate with someone like that, too! I love sharing hilarious travel stories with someone; it makes you bond that much more.

Sheridan Nightingale June 26, 2012 - 4:24 pm

Brenna this is gorgeous! Brought a tear to my eye thinking about when Reid and I said goodbye after meeting in Thailand and travelling around Malaysia and Australia together… Our wedding is planned for Cuba January 2013 though, so if you are in the area, join us for a celebratory drink 🙂

This Battered Suitcase June 27, 2012 - 1:20 am

Thank you so much, Sheridan! It is so wonderful that you and Reid found each other and were able to maintain such a great relationship despite the distance. Thank you for the update about Cuba – I never know where I’ll be, so it might just work out! xo

Tia June 28, 2012 - 8:59 pm

Hmmm, I dont quite remember how I stumbled up your blog today, but reading this post revived bittersweet memories…loved it, well-written!

This Battered Suitcase June 29, 2012 - 5:46 am

Thank you very much, Tia! I hope you keep reading…

amoureuse July 21, 2012 - 6:01 pm

I have read lots of travel blogs but I came across yours today and it is by far my favourite! I love your style of writing and how the majority of your posts aren’t the same pieces of advice you read on every other travel blog.

Many thanks from a fellow Canadian gal (who is about to embark her own long journey on October 3, 2012!)

This Battered Suitcase July 23, 2012 - 2:30 am

Amoureuse – Wow, thank you! That is so nice of you to say, and it put me in a great mood before today’s long bus journey. Best of luck in all of your travels!!

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When The Rain Fell - This Battered Suitcase October 24, 2013 - 9:16 am

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Lauren November 18, 2013 - 11:30 am

This is so beautiful yet so sad, you are an amazing writer! I love how you speak with such honesty and truth, but i’m very sorry that you’ve had to go through all of this heart ache! I’m about to be in a long distance relationship with my boyfriend of almost 2 years, and now we have to spend 1 year apart. It doesn’t sound like a lot of time but it’s going to be so hard to be a way from him for that long.. But i’m going to Nepal for a month soon so hopefully it will take my mind off it 🙂

Brenna Holeman November 18, 2013 - 2:59 pm

Thank you, Lauren! I’m sure that you will manage your long-distance relationship just fine. The fact that you’ve already been together for two years will certainly help, but I think that going away to Nepal will be great, too!

Przemek March 4, 2014 - 2:03 pm

Wow. I’ve just found your blog and it so impressed me! I need to find more time and check it more 🙂 and this post about love – maybe I have less experience than you, but I have to admit it is so true 🙂

Brenna Holeman March 4, 2014 - 2:45 pm

Thank you Przemek! I hope that you’ll read more of the blog. I look forward to your comments!

Alexandra November 22, 2014 - 10:12 am

My heart literally sunk (in a good way) while reading this, because I can relate to nearly every word you wrote in this post. Sure is an accurate depiction of romance on the road… sometimes it is hard to let go of the idea of trying to make it last long term (and distance), but once you do, you realize how precious those memories really are.

Brenna Holeman November 22, 2014 - 11:32 pm

Thank you so much, Alexandra… I’m glad that you could relate to these words.

just a dreamer August 15, 2016 - 11:44 pm

I just found your blog a few days ago and I must say, I am hooked! Your blog and writing are so refreshing and you offer a perspective on travelling I haven’t seen on any other travel blog. I haven’t really travelled much in my life and never for more than two weeks in a row, so this is a totally different world for me, since I’m not even sure I could do anything close to being on the road for such a long time. Reading your blog therefore seems almost like a fantasy.

But then I stumbeled on this post and it hit me hard. On a roatrip with two of my best friends in Bosnia I clicked with a guy in the hostel who was traveling with his best friend. We hung out for whole two days we were there together and you couldn’t deny the chemistry. It was almost all you listed above. Talking almost through the night, sleeping on a blanket under stars on a concrete balcony to be woken up by a laughing hostel owner the next morning, stolen kisses and laughing at stupid things. And then time to say goodbye. He wanted me to stay, to go travelling with him, but I had to go back home to my life and job. As adventurous as it sounds, that wasn’t for me. He decided he would visit me about a month after. It sounded so great when we were there, me sitting in his arms on a beach in the middle of the night, listening to the waves, before I went home. But as the day of his arrival got closer, I got more nervous. I wasn’t sure if I wanted him to come, but didn’t say anything to him. He came and it got clear pretty soon that it wasn’t what he expected. I wasn’t the same girl who he met in that hostel. But still, he wanted to make it work. To stay there with me. Even as he was leaving to catch a train and as I was entering the cab, he whispered one last time that he would stay without thinking twice if I asked him to. I didn’t.

The next day I went on a date with a guy from my city. We’re celebrating fourth wedding anniversary in one month …

(Sorry for the length of this comment, I didn’t think it would turn out that long, but it is nice to remember those couple of days and smile when I think of them.)


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