Wanderlust and relationships, although not mutually exclusive, are not easy partners. Combine them with good old ‘timing’ and the cocktail recipe of disaster is almost complete.
There is nothing more guaranteed in my life than the second I decide to leave a place will be when someone will realise they want to be with me. As soon as my heart is set on a new adventure or challenge, the person who has been non-committal or casual will decide they want more. I am the ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ and I have left a trail of broken hearts on my journey.
The first in my trail came when I spent part of my year out in Canada when I was 21. No sooner had I settled in Nova Scotia than my ‘almost-but-not-quite-beau’ who I had left back in Scotland was emailing long letters and ‘I miss you’ every day. Bear in mind, this particular flirtation had been on the go for 3 years of working the same weekend job while at university, daily shared train journeys and coffee chats, and many a weekend of drunken dancing and shenanigans – all culminating in nothing due to our mutual shyness and introversion. I had graduated and been accepted to my postgraduate programme in teaching, so decided to take some time out to travel before starting in the following semester. It took less than a week of my absence from the country for the ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ moment to kick in. Sadly, in the long-term, this was going to remain and ‘almost-but-not-quite’…
One of the most significant on the trail came when I moved to Prague. This culminated in a four year relationship, including my move back home to be closer to him and to try and make it work. They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder and this was pretty true in my case, although it took 3 years of my living in Prague and a great deal of heartbreak before we eventually did get together. While it didn’t work out in the long-term, partly due to deep differences in what we wanted in life, we remain friends. But our own broken hearts are left on the trail as monuments to what we went through together.
Another came with my move to East Africa and a realisation that, where I feel I have no reason to stay, I will always be looking for the next adventure. Within the month before I left for Tanzania, the person I had been seeing on and off (and had essentially given up on anything really working out between us) confessed to me that us not truly getting it together was one of his biggest regrets. While our romance had been beset with difficulties and I had truly never known for sure how he felt about me, he thought he had all the time in the world and that it would eventually all ‘come together’ for us…That deadly combination again – relationships, wanderlust and timing.
It is not always my own wanderlust that leaves the trail. There have been times where the transitional world I live in has led to ‘ships that pass in the night’ and the serendipity of happening to cross paths with someone wonderful on your travels. We meet, fall for each other, yet fully realise that we already have an expiry date. In spite of knowing that it’s over before it begins – that contracts will be up, visas will run out, and there will be new jobs and countries to move on to – you enjoy the time you have together. It’s expiration dating and sometimes it is my own broken heart that is left on the trail.
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin
Sometimes it is scary to let love go. Every ending is a leap into the unknown and the closing of a chapter that could have potentially continued. You have an ongoing dialogue between your heart and your head – your head saying “Stay. This might be your only chance.” while your heart whispers “Go. There is so much more out there.”. Our world is so big and filled with potential adventures, potential friends, and potential loves. If the place you are and the person you are with is not right in your heart, the reminder that there are 196 countries and 7.5 billion people out there can be sobering and reassuring. It’s true that there are times when I have had to make the choice – stay or go. Yet, for this gypsy soul there really is no choice. I will always want to travel. I will always want to see more of this planet and, the truth is, I want to be able to share that with my someday partner and to pass that curiosity and adventurous side on to my children (should I have them).
We all leave a trail of broken hearts on our quest to live life and love to the full. It’s fair to say that every one of us may be unaware of some of the broken hearts that are left on our path, and sometimes we are acutely aware of them.
And sometimes those broken hearts are our own.