When I boarded the plane to New Zealand all those years ago, I was leaving behind the bitterness and humiliation of a failed three and a half year relationship. A relationship that had yo-yoed back and forth for a further two years. The relationship had taken all my energy and self-worth and left me broken. Being young and naive at the time I believed I wouldn’t fall in love like that again.
However, I didn’t let that stand in the way of my dreams. I was off to travel New Zealand, Australia and Singapore with two of my closest friends before embarking on a teaching placement in Thailand, alone. Whilst I was hungry for adventure and to see what the world had to offer me, I was in part escaping my former life in the hope to heal my heartbreak and live for so much more than trying to please everybody and make someone love you. The months of meeting new people, slumming it in hostels, discovering new places, sharing stories and partying hard were a whole lot of fun. But, I didn’t do single very well, even prior to going travelling. I never felt any real connections with anyone and anyone who I was attracted to I thought would never look twice at me and traveling was the same story. At the mere age of 21 I had convinced myself I was destined to be single forever, simply because I am dramatic like that! Not that I was complaining, a relationship whilst travelling didn’t seem practical.
Arriving in Singburi, a small town 2 hours north of Bangkok were where my feelings would begin to change. I was completely thrown out of my comfort zone with no familiar faces around for support. At any one time for the whole year I was in Singburi there were no more than 6/7 native English speakers. I found myself doing things and dealing with things I never thought I was capable of. Singing into a microphone in front of a whole kindergarten full of children, ordering food from the local market in another language entirely by myself, taking public transport to all corners of the country and arriving at the local hospital with two of my fingers cut open and receiving stitches on the far from white hospital bed sheets whilst being asked a hundred questions in Thai without totally freaking out. I navigated the roads of Thailand on my moped whilst being chased by stray dogs, I was left in a big, old, empty Thai house for almost a month by myself and dealt with stressful visa issues all made even more difficult by the language barrier. I found myself surrounded by a class of upto 35 beaming faces every morning, ‘good morning Teacher Kara’ they would say as they rushed towards me pushing one another out the way so they could wrap their arms around my legs and waist. I made genuine friendships with my colleagues who tried so hard every single day to learn English and teach me Thai and they always went above and beyond to make me feel welcome. I woke up every morning excited for what the day could bring and felt a sense of warmth teaching such happy children who appeared to want to be taught and most of all I was having fun! Everyday I learned or experienced something new, whether it was a new word or a new food. I was not only beginning to love my life but to love myself, I started to realise I was a strong, independent woman and I sure as hell didn’t need a man to make me happy. Life was pretty damn peachy on my own!
That appeared to be the turning point. Later in the year I saw that a guy from my hometown was off travelling. I had met him a couple of times and thought it might be nice to see a familiar face and meet up if he was passing through Thailand, so I sent him a message on facebook. A few weeks later we ended up in Cambodia at the same time and he messaged me to tell me what bar he would be in that night. That night was the start of a three week whirlwind of spontaneity and adventure and we got to see each other in a new light from how we would have seen each other at home. Once he moved on to his next destination we spoke every day for 4 months but it was only when I saw him again at the end of my teaching placement (and felt all giddy with excitement) that I realised I might have fallen in love.
Our whole relationship was built whilst travelling, we’ve done things and been in circumstances that most couples will never get to experience, we’ve been tried and tested, been vulnerable and been on top of the world together and I truly believe if you can travel with your partner and still be so in love then you can last a lifetime. As soon as I stopped looking for love, learned to love myself and realise that I was ok on my own, no matter where in the world I was, love found me. So, while I would love to tell you that the moral of the story here is to buy a one way ticket outta town and you’ll find love, I think the old cliché is true, when you learn to love yourself (and your life) love will find you. How you find a way to do that, is entirely up to you.