My marriage splintered after just five months when I discovered my husband deemed free trips to Miami and New Orleans a nuisance. He loathed travel, preferring to burrow into the earth in one place. I grew up believing divorce was a sin, but my need to traipse across every inch of the earth was stronger.
After my divorce, I medicated myself with travel. I wanted a man who shared my odd sense of humor, was smart but kind, didn’t want kids and had the contradictory quality of loving intense travel yet having a home base. I was sure he didn’t exist. After seven years alone, I finally decided that Maddie, a little black lab, was the real love of my life. She loved road trips.
The solitude of the open road has always rearranged my cells in a way I can’t pass up, so on a recent trip, I went to Portland. For the past year, I’d been tweeting with Lourens, a guy who was living there temporarily. When he learned I was in town, he suggested drinks. I was lured in by his curly hair and sweet smile, along with conversation about odd psychology experiments and a debate about whether The Singularity was real. He was just finishing a year of continuous travel. By my second drink, our faces mashed together, and didn’t separate until dawn. When I returned to Denver, done with love, I thought it was just a travel dalliance. Instead, six weeks later, he came to visit me. A month after that, he moved back to New York City and love was brewing.
The distance didn’t bother us. We hiked in snowy mountains, danced under the stars and ate seafood by the ocean. I racked up 40,000 frequent flyer miles. Just shy of our one-year anniversary, we flew to Europe and I worried our relationship wouldn’t survive 23 days together. On a remote island in Spain we made a campfire, slept on the beach and waited in the blazing sun with terrific hangovers for a ride back to the hotel. In Morocco, a place I longed to share with him, we walked hand in hand through Marrakech, which was full of twisting streets, tiny alleyways, and very few street signs, all of which were in Arabic. We got lost. A lot. Lourens relished the unexpected adventure. We bumbled our way through the city fending off men hocking hashish and sending us to tourist traps. We donned bright kaftans and head scarves, and rode camels.I loved him. I wanted to live with him. But after 10 years alone, I wasn’t used to living with someone.
We learned how to bicker and not let a snippy comment mean more than we were hot, tired and lost. At the airport on the final day, we miscalculated our money, and realized we only had one small bill left for breakfast. He gave it to me to get breakfast for myself. When I returned with my food, he took the remaining coins and bought himself an anemic, dry-looking muffin. I knew I’d found him, the man I thought didn’t exist. I was ready to move to New York to be with him.
Six months later we packed up the remnants of my apartment in Denver. The night before we left I slipped on ice, pulling a tendon in my foot. I spent the next morning in the hospital, while Lourens helped the movers load the truck. When we finally started our journey, our interactions were tense. We fought our way across the Badlands and into the plains states. I tried to convince him to fly home while I drove the rest of the way. He tried to convince me of the same. By the time we hit Ohio, I was sure I’d made a mistake. What if the only way we could get along was by living apart?
Once in New York, after we’d assembled the Ikea closet and recycled the last box, I assured myself that our happiness would return to previous levels, that the road trip had been just a blip.
I was wrong.
We discovered that when not traveling, we both loved spending days at home — alone. We fought over who got to work at home and who had to find another place. We got an office. It helped, a little. Finally, after two weeks of intense bickering, I told him I needed a break — a staycation in the city. I just needed to be alone. I packed a bag, found a hotel and by that evening I was watching the Emmys and eating room service.
I loved him. I wanted to live with him. But after 10 years alone, I wasn’t used to living with someone. We seemed destined to be one of those “living together, apart” couples. I calculated the costs of a move back to Denver.
When I returned home a few days later, I fumbled with the keys before finally opening the door. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel. We were careful with each other. That night, we rolled into each other while we slept, rather than away. Soon, hearty laughter returned. A few weeks later, I went to Colorado. When I came back, our relationship was again renewed. Something shifted. We talked about our needs. The real ones. He confessed he dreamed of going back to Panama alone for three months. I wanted to stay at the beach writing for a month, by myself.
We came up with a plan. One of us would travel every four to six weeks. We got rid of the office, putting the money towards airfare.
A friend chided me: You just moved in together. You already need time apart? But it was working. We were happier. The house didn’t feel so small anymore. I wasn’t fighting with him over who got to work in the office. We helped each other plan solo trips.
And now, a year later, we’re working on our latest dream: home bases in New York, Colorado and Portland. We plan to move between the three, not necessarily always together.