I don’t know what it is about me when I’m backpacking across continents by myself, but every single time I do, I end up having a love affair. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Whether it’s fellow travelers or locals, somehow, I’m beginning to think men find me more attractive with a 15 kilo rucksack on my back.
At home, it’s all slim pickin’s. I endure month after agonizing month without a single date, or even a handsome man to waste my time with. But as soon as I touch down at an international airport, it’s like all eligible bachelors are just lining up at the arrivals gate. “It is very difficult to live in this country, Christine. We are so happy you came here…touch it. Please touch it!”
My first transnational tryst occurred in Vienna. At all the major tourist spots in the Austrian capital, there are vendors who sell tickets to the Vienna Boys Choir, and they dress in costumes to look like Austria’s favorite music man: Mozart. They wear wigs, lederhosen; the whole nine yards. In case you haven’t already guessed it: I was seduced by a man in a Mozart wig. Trust me, my “Don Giovanni” and I had a “Marriage of Figaro” that was an “Ode To Joy!” (Oh wait, that last symphony was by Beethoven. Nevermind.) We did have an awkward moment however: we were going to town on each other, and I guess we came in too quickly for kiss because I heard a ”clink!” as we smooched. I pulled away, reached into my mouth, and pulled off my tongue a piece of his front tooth. Sorry Mozart, I guess I was a little too ravenous.
I met my second international man of mystery in Warsaw. He was a British bloke staying at the same hostel as myself, and we bonded over a game of Jenga in the common room. I didn’t think anything would happen between us, as the very next day after we met, I hopped on a train to Krakow. But guess who showed up in Krakow a few days later? And when I left Krakow for Prague, I ran into someone awfully familiar… and the same thing when I showed up in Bratislava. The man actually followed me across Eastern Europe, and we defiled many a hostel bunk bed while our dorm mates pretended not to hear anything (when you travel with me, it’s nothing but class all the way … *cough*). I thought we said our goodbyes in Slovakia, but a couple weeks later when I hit the streets of Paris, he emailed me and asked to join. He left his mates in Croatia, hopped on an all-nighter bus to Venice, then flew from Venice to Paris just to spend three days with me in Paris. Sounds like the stuff right out of a romantic movie, and if it hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t have believed it. We said our tearful goodbyes at Gare du Nord as I left to catch my train to London. And I never saw him again.
Another tryst for the record books happened when I was backpacking through Kosovo. Tourism is so new to that part of the world, as they are still recovering from the 1999 war, so information of what to see and do was hard to come by. I had a friend who was originally from Kosovo (his family fled during the war), and he told me he’d contact his cousin who lives in capital city Pristina to show me around. Little did I know that the cousin in question was a smoldering tall drink of water. When we finally met, I didn’t know whether to sleep with him, or to stuff him into a bong and smoke him. What I also didn’t know was, he was actually a Kosovar celebrity. He hosted a popular TV morning show, and hosted his own radio show. The local tabloids snapped paparazzi-style photos of us together and published stories that he bagged himself an American wife. Close, but not quite. After our brief summer fling, I flew back six months later to spend a week with him. And we still keep in contact to this day.
My Casanovan exploits continued when I traveled to India. I was officially there for a conference, but the conference was only for a week in Mumbai, and I figured, “when will I ever be in India again?” So I arrived a month before the conference started and backpacked around the country with a tour group. The group included a young British artist (what is it with me and the English?) who was six years my junior (I’m a total ‘coug!) with an awkwardly handsome appeal. Together, we had rooftop dinners in Udaipur, rode elephants in Agra, climbed mountains in Pushkar, spotted Bollywood celebs in Mumbai, made sunset pilgrimages at Mount Abu, and danced all night at the raves in Goa.
When I think of all these love affairs I’ve had abroad, I have to admit that things probably wouldn’t have worked out if we were living in the same cities, and tried to make relationships out of our trysts. Maybe international hook-ups happen because we’re surrounded by like-minded travelers. Or maybe we’re more open to meeting people when we’re backpacking. It could be that extra joie-de-vivre we exude on vacation, or maybe it’s just the immediacy and urgency of the moment: Gotta make this happen now, because our time together is limited.
I can’t put my finger on exactly the reason for my frequent travel trysts, but all I know is: The next time I’m going through a long, sexless drought on home soil, I may just fill my backpack with tight-fitting dresses, buy a plane ticket, and follow the scent of pheromones.