I never believed in the concept of love while growing up. While I’m of fourth-generation Japanese lineage, I was still raised with traditional Japanese customs. This meant little to no affection at all. As a result, I grew up completely shut off to anything that transcended an ordinary friendship, and was stubborn about ever letting my walls down in fear of vulnerability.
And then I met someone a couple years ago, by a fluke. We became instant best friends and were inseparable, though entirely in secret. We never had titles, and if we joked about it to each other, we just said it was a relationship because a friendship is always a relationship anyway. Best friendship. We didn’t need each other, but at the same time, we couldn’t stop talking. We believed it was serendipitous. We were the best thing that no one (except us) knew about, and we even forged a secret code to prove that.
This was our story in video and lyrical form:
There were several defining factors that clearly showed how our futures wouldn’t align, but we took advantage of our time together and made the most of it. And we fought, usually one person more than the other, to either remain best friends or push the other away. It was hard as hell to endure, especially so many miles apart. Yet, I loved him, and a part of me always will – I don’t think you ever forget your first love.
And then a certain friend mentioned something that caught me off guard: “It sounds like you’re allowing him to define your happiness.” ME? I pride myself in being strong and steadfast in my own opinions. I don’t let anyone tell me what to do or how to live my life.
Except that I had let someone in – the only person – and I was indeed basing my happiness off of our relationship. We had the highest of highs but also the lowest of lows – and my mood always correlated with them respectively. I had to leave a bar gig early once because my vision was so blurry from anger, frustration, and sadness all rolled together. And yes, it did worsen when we kept in touch and essentially became a long-distance relationship. How do you fall in love with the world that way? You don’t. Something’s gotta give.
The more I traveled by myself, I realized that I was leaving pieces of my heart in all of these countries. In the beginning, I was under the impression that I had left my heart behind with him, as his to keep, maybe even forever. Well, I found that I gradually disconnected more and more the longer I stayed away. It was inevitable when we finally drifted apart. I just held on for as long as I could, since I was born a fighter.
We’ve gradually grown apart to the point of being strangers. But life goes on no matter what, and that’s a beautiful thing. I don’t resent him, and I don’t resent myself for allowing myself to dedicate so much of my time to him, since we learn and grow from every individual who comes into our lives. And I’m certainly glad to have experienced the feeling of love, especially if I never fall in love again. I know we both have wonderful futures ahead of us – we just no longer exist in the same book. Our chapters are separate now, divided by different countries – and it may always stay that way.
I initially didn’t want to write about something so personal, but this is something that most solo travelers will endure if they leave someone back home or if they have an expat partner. It’s something I carried with me for a long time, perhaps too long, much like Frodo carried The One Ring throughout his journey. It was worth it, but it was also mentally, emotionally, and physically draining – for both of us.
I write about the things that I care about, admire, and am inspired by. He encompassed all three of those categories. He impacted me in such a beautiful way, so different from every other person who has entered my life. Because of that, I dedicate this to him. I’ll always be thankful he was in my life for so long. But I’m not here to get sappy…
I’m here to explain that falling out of love with someone ultimately allowed me to fall in love with the world. It was the most emotional pain I’ve ever experienced to date, but I do believe that everything happens for a reason. I’ve always appreciated the simplest things, but now I have a new found love for all the things to see in the world – no strings attached. I have a world of opportunities ahead of me – literally. I don’t want to ever settle in California – my heart belongs in the world. The only reason I missed California was him, and without that missing piece, I was freed of those emotions.
My research on countries and work opportunities abroad no longer have to be done in secrecy. Every lake, flower, tree, penguin, mountain – everything has a new meaning and beauty now. You see the world differently when you’re not always thinking about how your partner views it. Rather than trying to think in two different minds, I can just move forward with my own to appreciate the things around me. And I’m now able to cultivate and expand upon my long-term international dreams, rather than feeling like I eventually have to come back to a place that isn’t even “home” anymore.
Moral: When you’re tied down to someone (regardless of titles), you cannot experience a location to its fullest. You just can’t. You may deny it and think you can (I lived in denial), but you’re missing out – and not just a little. You’re missing out on a lot. You miss out on countless opportunities that I can’t even begin to sum up in words alone. Every second I took to iMessage him photos, voice memos, videos – I was missing out on just living in the moment. And while that applies to anyone in any location, I believe it’s especially detrimental when traveling. When you’re on the road, every second is precious to you – and you’re only hurting yourself in the long run if you constantly keep in contact. For some, long-distance works. It was a great experience and new challenge for me, but I don’t wish it upon anyone – especially since it ripped me apart. I closed myself off from meeting new people in fear, but primarily because I already had a safety net – him – to always talk to, no matter what time it was.
I fell out of love with someone and, as a result, fell in love with the world to a more profound degree.
Reflecting back on everything, this was the best (and most healthy) decision for both of us, even while I still miss him and the old “us.” The whole “love is blind” adage rings true, because you usually never see how that person wasn’t right for you until after you fall apart. Despite those differences, he also was the best teacher I’ve ever had. He taught me how to love myself, have confidence, and to embrace my passions with even more energy and vivacity. He taught me the gift of patience, staying calm, and how to not get my feathers ruffled over something ridiculously small. He taught me to not give a f*** what anyone else thought or said about me, and to just do whatever made me happy.
Most importantly, he taught me about acceptance. I sadly couldn’t accept some of the factors in his life, no matter how hard I tried – especially the California part. Those factors were the faults in our stars. And I learned to accept that we simply weren’t meant to be. I learned to accept that my love for the world was eternal, whereas my love for him was not. I learned to accept that he came into my life for a reason – to show me who I truly was and what I really wanted out of life. And I have many, many more years ahead to continue figuring this out.
I’ve read that most travelers who chose long-term travel over a partner was the best decision of their life. I’ll circle back on this another year from now, but I think the best is yet to come…