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

“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! 😉

And so ends 315 days of travel…

And so ends 315 days of travel…

In a few hours, I will head to El Dorado airport to travel the final 6651 km of my trip.

Tomorrow’s destination: Edmonton, Canada.

Home.

Over the last 315 days, I’ve found myself in 84 cities/towns in 17 different countries.  (Including flight layovers).  To get to these places, I’ve used 29 planes, 15 boats, five motorcycles, three bicycles, one helicopter… and more metros, trains, and buses than I can possibly count off the top of my head.

I’ve met hundreds of people, many of which have opened their homes to me or shared with me their food and stories.  Some of these people have become close friends, and I know for sure I will see them again in the future.  To everyone I’ve met, I am forever grateful for the way you have shaped my trip.  And of course, to my brother and friends from Canada/Holland who came and met up with me, thank you for your visits!  I’m glad I have people I love to share some of these memories with once I am home. 

Above all, thank you to everyone who has supported my writing by keeping up with La-Viajera.com.  For those of you who may have been wondering, my return to Canada will not mean the end of this website.  I’ve already renewed the domain for another year, and hope to extend it beyond that.  I have ten months of stories built up, and have hardly scratched the surface of that with what I’ve posted so far.  I have received lots of messages asking for South America travel advice, so in addition I want to build this site as a practical resource.  Above all, I hope to use this as a stepping stone for a career in (travel?) writing.

Some upcoming stories include…

-My Near-Death Experience on a Bolivian Bus

-How to budget a multi-month trip

-“Yellow Underwear” and Other Colombian New Year’s Superstitions

-Notes on Being a “Strawberry” in Mexico

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

– One Malbec, Two Malbec, Three Malbec…Floor: Biking the Argentine Wine District

-How to Survive a Dutch Night Out

 

I hope that you continue to read and enjoy what I have to share.  My next adventure is just around the corner!

Thank you all once again for reading and participating in my trip.  For those of you in Canada, I can’t wait to see you all!

All my love,

La Viajera