“So Why Don’t You Have a Boyfriend?” — Reflections on Being a Single Traveler

“¿Por qúe no tienes novio?” 

It was always the most pressing question on the minds of the Mexican women I met.  Why don’t you have a boyfriend?

I had come to Guadalajara to visit my best friend, who in turn was there to visit her long-distance Mexican boyfriend.  Over the course of the month we spent there, we got to know the women at the bootcamp gym that we went to.  These ladies just couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.

“You’re pretty and you speak Spanish.  So why are you alone?  Why can’t you find a Latin boyfriend too?”

Up until this point, my status as a solo/single traveler hadn’t bothered me.  I felt safe, confident, and adventurous on my own.  I was meeting new people, taking risks, and knocking items off my bucket list like they were bowling pins.

But as I practiced squats in front of the Real Housewives of Guadalajara, I couldn’t help but stop to wonder, why was I alone?

I compiled a list of possible reasons:

Being a single traveler, great or depressing?
Being a single traveler, great or depressing?

– Long Distance is on the out:  “Is there someone back home?”  That was always the next question.  The truth is, maybe there was.  Not back home, because I didn’t really have a home, and in the year leading up to my trip, I refused to get into anything.  I’d done long-distance enough in the past.  There was no way I’d tie myself into that during a 10-month trip.  But for the first four or five months of my trip, there was always that tiny part of me that considered what would happen if I left South America and flew elsewhere.  To a certain someone.  I never did.  Because if there’s one thing that life has taught me, it’s not to plan your life around something (or someone) that is uncertain.  Things can change in an instant, and you don’t want to sacrifice your goals only to face disappointment.

– Still Hung up on Him: “Are you suffering from a broken heart?” Along the complicated path of adolescence, I made a mistake.  I let someone go.  It’s not like he didn’t fight, but I pushed away with both hands.  By the time I realized my mistake, things were not the same.  I tried to make them be, but then it was my turn to feel hurt.  “It will take you until your trip to get over him,” my friends said.  They were right.  But, get over him, I did.  Finally.

– I Have a 2-Second Interest Rate and Too-high Standards: “Haven’t you met any nice Latin boys?”  Of course I had.  The thing about backpacking is that you meet at least ten new people every day.  When you’re a salsa-dancing backpacker, you meet a single, potentially good-looking Latino every single song you dance.  Multiple these together, and you’ll really understand the saying “There’s plenty of fish in the sea.”  Yet the problem was, rarely did I meet someone who could hold my attention for more than a day or two.  Maybe my standards are too high.  Or perhaps this was a sign that I wasn’t ready for anyone.

Maybe my heart was elsewhere?   (Photo credit: unknown?)
Maybe my heart was elsewhere?
(Photo credit: unknown?)

 The Trip Must go on: “But surely you’ve met someone.” I couldn’t pretend that, among all of those hundreds of guys I had met, there wasn’t anyone who meant something.  Yes, there were a couple of people with whom I really connected.  One or two instances in which I felt something.  That purported “spark.”  Yet the timing wasn’t right, or the person wasn’t right enough.  There was nobody who could make me take root and settle.

– I’m Having one of Those Eat, Pray, Love Years: I was the girl who was always dating someone.  I could never be alone.  After a few months of solo travel, I noticed that I had changed.  I was independent.  Too independent, perhaps.  Gentlemanly gestures that I had previously called sweet and thoughtful (guiding your elbow across the street, opening car doors, helping you do things) were getting on my nerves.  My new attitude was: don’t you think I can take care of myself?.  I truly had the sense that I was a new person after my cliché journey of self-discovery.

Or maybe I was single because I let myself go out dressed like this? ;)  (I'm not that fat.  I have seven layers of clothing on, I swear).
Or maybe I was single because I let myself go out looking like this? 😉 (I have seven layers of clothing on and an SLR camera shoved under this coat, I swear).

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was a combination of all of these factors that made me single.  Still, I couldn’t see why my workout companions in Guadalajara were so determined to set me up with a nice Mexican boy.  I was fine being alone, wasn’t I?

It took me months to understand that there were some cultural associations underlying these women’s worries.  I adore Mexico, and love (almost) all of the women I’ve met there.  They’re fantastic cooks, caring mothers, and model wives.  But that’s just it.  Much as the country is progressing, Mexico still hasn’t reached its peak of feminine liberalization.  You do see  a handful of powerful Mexican businesswomen and leaders, but most Mexican women are defined first and foremost by their roles as wives and mothers.  In their eyes, a relationship is not a side thought — it’s essential.  It helps them forge a life and a family for themselves.

Having grown up in Canadian culture, I feel that my primary responsibility is to myself.  Marriage and kids will come when the time is right, when I’ve formed my own identity and started a career.  Or maybe these things won’t come at all.

People always tell you that you can’t go looking for love.  Maybe you can, maybe you can’t.  I think when you start doing what you love, love will find you.

 

— On a final note, maybe I’m single because I spend all my time writing about my personal life and embarrassing myself with horrible photos online! 😉