You might say that I am in love with love; specifically, I am enthralled with the idea of a whirlwind overseas romance that will inevitably lead to a happy every after. We’ve all read the stories; Elizabeth Gilbert who embarks on a journey of self-discovery where she not only finds herself but also true love in the form of a Brazilian businessman or Torre DeRoche who meets a handsome Argentinean man who asks her to give up her sophisticated city life to come with him on year-long voyage across the Pacific. These stories not only warm our hearts but evoke thoughts of wishful thinking for those of us who are single adventurers filled with wanderlust.
But what happens when this perfect partner or this ideal romantic story never materializes?
As I glance behind me at the mess that is my former dating past, I begin to realize numerous flaws that are present in the overseas dating ritual where one finds love in another country and then relocates on a whim to be closer to that new and exotic lover.
If it doesn’t work, than I can just move back was the reassuring statement I used when I decided to move back to Santiago de Chile to spend time with my Latino boyfriend. In reality, I had no plan and I barely had the funds to cover myself on my trip. But I had love on my side, so what could go wrong?
After a month in Santiago, my relationship went sour and I found myself trapped in a life that I didn’t want. We lived together in a small apartment in a poor neighborhood and within the first month I had blown through much of my savings. The apartment itself was bare bones; a gas stove, no central heating and lukewarm showers were part of my daily life. I was quite miserable and my unhappiness spilled over to my professional life, eventually getting me fired. After four months of these subpar conditions I finally planned my escape and went on a vacation to Buenos Aires where my relationship was temporary repaired. Our vacation seemed to erase all our problems and when I booked my flight back to Canada, I had every intention of coming right back. I even left ninety percent of my clothes in the apartment.
Unfortunately, the relationship completely crumbled after I returned to Canada and it left me lost and directionless. All that I had planned for the future had disappeared in a split second. Plans of launching a website and side business had dissipated along with the bond that I thought was unbreakable when I had left Buenos Aires.
I had put all my eggs in one basket and now all I was left with was a basket full of broken eggs.
After I left a friend consoled me, telling me that my situation wasn’t as dire as I had thought. She shared with me a story about a friend who also moved to Chile for the man of her dreams. He was perfect and they had a baby. Then he became angry and jealous leading them to separate and ultimately divorce. Unfortunately, Chile has a law where women cannot take their children outside the country without the written consent of their father. Her ex-lover refused to sign anything and even though she had no job prospects and was living near poverty she could not leave the country without ultimately leaving her child behind.
These stories are more prevalent than those of Elizabeth Gilbert or Torre DeRoche. Moving to another country for someone can be exhilarating, but after the honeymoon period is over, the real world can give your quite the jostle. My jostle was a wake-up call; I realized that I didn’t need a man as an excuse to do something wonderful and exciting.
Since my epic break up I embarked on my own path; I started my own website dedicated to Latin American travel, I am learning videography and photography and have decided to move to another country (sadly not in Latin America) to advance my professional career. And I did it all, sans hombre. Yes, at times I am a little lonely and incredibly scared but as I walk down my own path it feels liberating and cathartic.
This doesn’t mean that I have sworn off love forever and I am even open to the idea of finding love overseas. The difference is in the approach; goodbye the days of split-second decisions and hello strategic planning. It doesn’t seem as romantic but I’m willing to try something new. After multiple failed relationships both on home grown soil and abroad, I’ve learned to approach a relationship with my eyes wide open. Firstly, I assess the qualities and personality of the possible love interest. My time in Chile has taught me to avoid machista men as they often can spell out trouble. Then I assess my possibilities of growing professionally; I ask questions like: will I be able to obtain a work visa or find a job? These questions are my safety net. The numerous expat stories of women trapped in countries working menial jobs to make ends meet terrifies me. The feeling of being unable to escape your circumstances is gut-wrenching and I never want to feel like that again. I want to be in charge of my own destiny.
In the end, I hope that the perfect man or romantic story does materialize, but if it doesn’t than I am content with the idea of fulfilling my wanderlust and walking the path alone.