Holiday Romance: Are Travel Flings the Real Thing?

Holiday Romance: Are Travel Flings the Real Thing?

Love in the Atacama Desert. A crush on an Ecuadorian surf instructor. Brief encounters in Paris. Recounting a string of holiday flings, we ask: what is it about travel that makes us collect heartbreak like passport stamps?

gaze melancholically out of the train window. Raindrops streak
the reflection of my cheeks in the glass like a film heroine.
Mysterious and tragic.

That’s how I imagine I look anyway. I’m listening to Bob Dylan,
or perhaps Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn, but both choices feel too
clichéd for the acute heartache I’m feeling.

Once again I’ve said goodbye to the love of my life. It was a
brief encounter: we’d checked into the same hostel a week
previously and our eyes had met over the complimentary stale
cornflakes at breakfast. After the usual small talk (“where are you
going?” “where have you been?”), we formed a deep, meaningful
connection over our love of an obscure Argentinian band we’d both
seen perform in a dingy wine bar. I was head over heels.

From here we would WhatsApp sporadically and every so often he’d
reply to my Instagram stories with clapping hands or a heart-eyed
emoji. Six months on, even this cursory form of contact would be
broken. Years later he might add me on LinkedIn and I would barely
recognise the clean-shaven, suited city worker as the boy with the
wild mop of curls who practised slacklining in the hostel garden.
LinkedIn seems to be the favourite haunt of the ghosts of past

Almost everyone I speak to has fallen in love on a trip. The
holiday fling that makes you refer to “that summer” in a
reverential tone. The chance encounter that made you want to grab
your luggage from the hold and sprint back through the bus terminal
to declare your undying love. “I got off the long-distance night
bus, Ross!”

What is it about being away from home that makes you fall in
love faster than the final contender to enter the Love Island

Is it because we can choose someone deliciously inappropriate
without having to worry about what our friends will think? Aged 21
I fell desperately in love with my Ecuadorian
surf instructor. Ten years my senior, an outrageous flirt and only
an inch or two taller than me, he couldn’t have been further from
my usual type. It didn’t matter, at over 8,000km from home I was
spared judgement or repercussions. I fell out of love as quickly as
I’d fallen in, less than a week after leaving. Would I have been
interested in him at all if I’d had to introduce him to my

I spoke to author Pearl Howie who has done extensive research on
why we fall in love when we travel. Pearl has written 70 books,
among which are self-help books and romance novels. She agrees that
the lack of judgement from friends and family is a big factor in
travel romances.

“With holiday romances, we’ve already let go of a lot of
societal influences,” she tells me. “Although in our regular lives
we might reject someone because our friends and family wouldn’t
approve of them, on holiday we’re more focused on what makes us
truly happy.”

With holiday romances, we’ve already let go of a lot of societal influences. Although in our regular lives we might reject someone because our friends and family wouldn’t approve of them, on holiday we’re more focused on what makes us truly happy.

Pearl Howie, Author

Perhaps, when we travel, we learn to live in the present? Plans
are fluid. They don’t need to be your forever person. They’re right
wing and you’re not, they wants three kids and you don’t want any
at all. It doesn’t matter because the future is far irrelevant. In
I had the most perfect holiday romance on safari with a Punjabi
Sikh. His parents would have been furious if he’d held a girl’s
hand in public, even more so if the girl in question wasn’t Sikh
but an agnostic, white British girl. It was never destined to be,
but as we canoed down rivers rhino-spotting, our love was

Or is it that we get so caught up in the beauty and the
excitement of the places we’re seeing that we project a similarly
beautiful and exciting image onto the people that we meet? Beside a
salt pool in the Atacama
, I met a Dutch boy who could have been a Greek statue;
angular, perfectly carved. His main hobby was going to the gym and
he ordered pasta in a Chilean restaurant famous for ceviche, but I
didn’t mind because he had Calvin Klein-model abs. At home, I would
have run a mile from anyone whose favourite pastime was the gym,
Adonis or not. Was he just more beautiful against the moonscape of
the Atacama?

“When I researched fear of success, including romantic success,
one thing that became clear was that that fear is also our fear of
feeling alive,” says Pearl. “So when we’re already feeling alive,
joyful, excited, as we often are on holiday, we’ve already overcome
a lot of the fear that holds us back from connecting or falling in

Perhaps, deep down, we’re all hopeless romantics straight out of
a Jane Austen novel and it is only our fear that stops us from
falling in love whenever we go for coffee. Without fear, we could
tell the cute barista serving our flat white how ardently we admire
and love them and be betrothed within the hour.

Travel romances are imprinted on my mind like passport stamps.
New Year’s Day in El Chaltén under snow-capped mountains, a sunset
on a palm-fringed Sri
beach, a rooftop in Paris with the Eiffel Tower on the
horizon (probably much further away than it would have been were I
called Emily and the star of a Netflix series).

With a heart heavier than my overstuffed backpack, I’ll board
the bus, crying noisily. Instead of rain streaking my reflection so
as not to ruin the flawless make-up that my stylist has spent hours
meticulously applying, last night’s mascara will be running freely
down my face. I’ll listen to an overly emotional break-up playlist,
largely consisting of Birdy and Adele, that I made to get over my
first boyfriend. The person next to me will edge away,

And then I’ll arrive in the next town and fall in love all over

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