On Happiness: Part Two, Travel and Love

Ever since I began my career in travel, it’s been with suitcase-in-hand and no home of my own. Even my year of “living in NYC” included never signing a lease and being gone from the city more days than I was in it.

The years have worn on, full of adventures, new countries, fun experiences with people in all corners of the globe and a burning desire that could only be labeled accurately as ‘wanderlust‘. It’s been a gift I’ll never be able to fully thank everyone for — because there have been a great many people who have helped along the way — but it’s also been the hardest won victory I’ve ever fought for. I’ve gone without eating for days on end, been assaulted and robbed in foreign countries, and even watched the sun set still having no clue where I’d sleep that same night. I’ve done it mainly to prove that it can be done, that it isn’t easy but it is WORTH IT. Travel, I mean. The new experiences it brings and the growth that it forces on you willingly, or unwillingly — are all good.
Yet when good does not always equal great, how do you express that without seeming ungrateful. How do you have a dialogue about the difficulties when the benefits seem to far outweigh the personal cost. For me, often introverted and not always good at making new friends on the road, the reality has been a lonely one.

I got what I always wanted. I proved it could be done.

Yet I also discovered, at the height of my most beautiful experiences, that a little nagging consciousness buried in my soul was trying to tell me it wasn’t enough. Moreover, that it never would be for me. What I craved absolutely most of all, was all the travel and all the growth and every bit of the unpredictability — tempered with a little stability and a soft place to land between the insanity. Buried even deeper than that, a desire for companionship and love that I thought had been scared away for good in the brutality of my divorce and first failed attempt at “happily ever after.” Might I even find someone to share travel experiences with, as some of my blogging friends who travel with mates, have?!
Then, I walked through the doors of an Indian restaurant on the Lower East Side of New York City during a time that I wasn’t even supposed to have been in the United States, on a day I abhorred, to a dinner that I very nearly chose not to shown up for, to find this guy seated next to the only chair still available at the table.
Well, Valentine’s Day will never be the same again.

Danté, as I would later find out, was not only available and straight but also, by the end of the night — interested in me. Enough to ask me out before we even parted ways. Not interested in playing games or abiding by some cliched “three days” rule, he made his intentions clear and he courted me in a way that I couldn’t help but take notice of; with decreasing skepticism as my appointed, and all too short, time in NYC ran down. That first date turned into several more and by the time I flew back to Europe where I’d intended to get a visa and live permanently, I was glad to find out my application in one country had actually been denied.

We continued to talk via regular Skype calls and daily emails. We got to know each other in that way so many couples skip because infatuation deems that one get right to the good stuff without talking. We couldn’t skip to anything so far apart, so we dug in and got to the meat of what made the other person tick. And before long, he had taken the risk of buying a plane ticket to join me in Paris for what would officially be our fourth date. One five days and four nights long.

There were many things, both early on and later when I was sure and yet felt there could never be too many things to reassure me, that I really took special notice of. One of them was his profile on Instagram, which says, “You never know what life will put in your lap until you open your arms and embrace it.” Couldn’t agree more with that philosophy! He shares playlists with me and, for the first time ever, I’ve not had to tell a guy we don’t share the same taste in music. There isn’t even one song I’ve really disliked. Later, after he made the incredible commitment to join me in Paris, on the day he was leaving, he shared a photo of his plane ticket with the caption, “If anyone asks, tell them ‘I had to go see about a girl’.” That line from Good Will Hunting is not only one of my favorite movie lines, the movie itself is one of my very favorite movies.

Those are simple examples because I’m keeping the real good stuff just for us, but the point is, we’re on the same page about each other and about life. We’re sure that we each love the other, this is not a one-sided anything. I’ve never met someone I’m so attracted to who also just, fits. Sure, I still need to make some changes in my life to make a relationship with this incredible man work but they’re not sacrifices. In the end, that’s how I know.

I’m changing my life’s structure so I can balance the thing I love [travel], with a life with the person I love, and it’s all gain. There’s no loss.Just like I did when I began my life of full time travel, urging other people who wanted to do it but might have been scared like I was, so I write this to urge you now: whatever happiness looks like to you, when it comes knocking, don’t shut the door in its face. I could have. Danté could have. SO thankful he didn’t.

And now this blog won’t just be about finding the courage to travel solo and escape into a life of adventure. It will be about having the courage to try and have it all. Travel, someone to love, and someone to travel with. That starts, with once again having a home base in New York City [to commence in June]. This time, I’ll even be hanging some clothes in a closet and putting away the suitcase once in a while.

I hope you’ll still follow along. I have a hunch that the adventure of balancing love and travel will be the greatest story yet.

  • April 04, 2013

    What a fab read, Kirsten. And for the record, I “knew” something was up 😉

    • April 04, 2013

      It was hard to keep it a secret!! Not surprised you figured something was up 😉 And I’m glad you enjoyed reading the post. Thank you luv!!

  • April 04, 2013
    Ali

    So awesome Kirsten! I’m so happy for you! It’s such a wonderful feeling to be with someone you know just fits. And as you know, I totally understand how well you get to know someone when there’s a physical distance and you’re forced to have only conversation, no silent dates sitting in a movie theater, just getting down to the bare bones real stuff of each other. Congrats and good luck with the next step!

    • April 04, 2013

      Awww. Thank you, Ali! Seems so long ago we were in that cafe in Charlotte talking about your new love and I have loved following your journey of getting married and being expats together. I’m so happy for you!! And I appreciate so much your well wishes for us. See you somewhere in the world, sooner than later I hope.

  • April 04, 2013

    I am so over-the-moon excited for you, my darling! And I knew this was going to happen sooner or later – remember our chats in the Edinburgh nights? I can’t wait to hear about your newest adventure with this wonderful man who’s clearly making you so very happy 🙂 wishing you all the luck in the world for a shift to NYC!

    • April 07, 2013

      Boy do I remember our chats during those Edinburgh nights!! Seems both so long ago and also just like yesterday. Thank you for being excited for me and you will definitely read more about this adventure and the move to NYC…

  • April 04, 2013
    Steph

    That’s awesome! I felt a lot of those same feelings when I met Mike. It wasn’t what I had planned for, but I’m so grateful I let it happen. Good luck on your next chapter!

    • April 07, 2013

      I’m not surprised you can relate, Steph. And I know you will also agree that sometimes the very best things in life are those we don’t plan for 🙂 Thank you for the good luck. I might need it, but at least I know I am making the right decisions this time around.

  • April 04, 2013

    How romantic!! Love will find a way.

    • April 07, 2013

      Thank you Monique!! I do think that’s true, that love will find a way 🙂

  • April 04, 2013

    I’m standing at the kitchen counter, reading this and crying my eyes out! Blessings and forever happiness to you, my friend. <3

    • April 07, 2013

      Awwwwwww. Thank you, Amber. For being so happy for me and for the kind blessing!! Much love right back to you <3

  • April 04, 2013

    How lovely! I love it, best of luck with Dante!

  • April 04, 2013
    camorose

    Love love love this! I’m so thrilled for you (and for Dante–he’s a lucky man!) and selfishly excited that you’ll be gracing NYC with your presence a bit more than expected. Crazy how life works in the most mysterious ways xxx

    • April 07, 2013

      Thank you, Christine!! Danté might be a lucky man, but so am I a lucky woman. Life does work out in mysterious ways indeed. Every time I think I can no longer be surprised, WHAM 😉 Definitely looking forward to seeing you more in NYC!! xx

  • April 04, 2013

    So. Awesome. No one deserves it more than you, my friend. Miss you!

    • April 07, 2013

      Oh Ryan, our forever TBEXG, thank you my friend!! Miss you too. And I hope that the next time you pass through NYC you will get to meet Danté. If not, we’re doing a west coast road trip together so maybe you can meet him then. Thank you for being happy for me 🙂

  • April 04, 2013

    Ahhhh! I love this. And I’m so happy for you. Life is so much more colorful with an adventuring partner!

    • April 07, 2013

      Thank you, Shannon!!!! It’s true indeed, as you’ve found out, life is indeed more colorful with an adventuring partner. How far we’ve come from our snarky single days, eh 😉

  • April 04, 2013

    How cool! I have to say, though I am intrigued by solo travel, I thoroughly enjoy traveling WITH my wife. We’re both interested and fascinated by the same things and having someone there with you to share in an experience is priceless. Best of luck on your newest chapter.

    Dan

    • April 07, 2013

      You make a good point Dan, one I know all too well, solo travel is enjoyable. But for my life, I will enjoy now having the option of both instead of being forced to only travel alone. Danté was a terrific travel partner in Paris and we already have Italy now planned. I couldn’t be happier. Thank you for wishing us luck. And cheers to you and your wife as well 🙂

  • April 04, 2013
    Crystal Nowak

    Oh how you’ve grown Kirsten! I’m so glad to have known you before, and see where and how someone can go & grow. Congrats on everything and best wishes.

    • April 07, 2013

      Hi Crystal!! Yes, I have come a long way indeed, so far from the Ohio days. Thank you so much for the kind wishes and I hope all is going well for you.

  • April 04, 2013

    Good on you, bella!

    I’m so glad you’ve found your happiness and someone who can truly respect, cherish and love you! 🙂 You definitely deserve it after the uncertainty of the past few years.

    Keep being amazing and I hope to see you (and your man!) in the land of Oz soon!
    xox.

    • April 07, 2013

      Thank you, Nicole!! I have definitely found all of that, and more. No more uncertainty that’s for sure. And I hope our future will include bringing Danté to Oz. You know how much I loved it and I want to share all the places I love with him. See you soon! xx

  • April 04, 2013

    “Don’t shut the door in happiness’ face” — so true! I wasn’t into relationships at all when I met my British fiance abroad but I’m SO glad I gave it a chance. Travel + love, is there anything better? All the best in your move to NYC!

    • April 07, 2013

      I’m glad you liked my line about not shutting the door in the face of happiness, Edna. Thank you for the comment. And I am SO happy to hear you have a lot too and it is working out well for you. No, I don’t think there is anything better than travel and love 🙂

  • April 04, 2013

    What a wonderful post! It makes me think of when I met my husband – at the time, I was living on my own and happy doing my own thing. Then I met him and somehow he was everything I never knew I was looking for. It’s funny now, because the first time he called me, I didn’t answer the phone, I just stared at it, knowing picking it up would change my life. Thankfully he called again (I knew he would). What followed was long distance for two years – but it was never a sacrifice to make it work.

    I wish you a ton of happiness!

    • April 07, 2013

      Thank you so much for the comment!! I’m glad to hear your story about long distance love working out when you weren’t even looking for love. I can absolutely relate now. It’s always good to hear stories of these kinds of things working out. Wishing you two continued happiness and thank you for the kind wishes.

  • April 05, 2013

    Awwww yay, I’m so happy for you! Both of you!

    • April 07, 2013

      Thank you, Kristin!! Definitely inspiring to watch how you and Scott have found a way to make love, travel and having a home life all work out together. Hoping for the same for us and really appreciate your kind wishes 🙂

  • April 06, 2013
    Nichole Brown (a big fan)

    Good for you, Kirsten! I’m happy for you both. I recently reconnected with an old friend from 20 years ago, and we “clicked” right away. So I especially understand it when you write “we’re on the same page about each other and about life. We’re sure that we each love the other, this is not a one-sided anything. I’ve never met someone I’m so attracted to who also just, fits. ” That’s exactly how we feel. We live in several states apart, and the hours on the phone talking/skyping have brought us much closer together. I look forward to following your latest adventure. And hopefully I’ll see you in the streets of NYC one day soon.

    • April 07, 2013

      Oh Nichole, I’m SO happy for you too!!! I didn’t know about this latest development and it sounds terrific. I’m happy for you too. I’ll be living in NYC again starting in June, so yes, I hope we do run into one another. Thank you for such a kind comment. And YAY for love!!!

  • April 07, 2013
    Abby Tegnelia

    You guys are adorable!! So glad you’ll be in NYC more — I will see you soon!

    • April 08, 2013

      Awwww!! Thanks, Abby 🙂 It’s crazy that I met him on the same trip in which I just saw you and now we’re here. YES — I will really look forward to seeing you more often in NYC.

  • April 08, 2013

    I’m so happy for you Kirsten! He’s a lucky guy!

    • April 08, 2013

      Thank you, Lorenzo!! We’re both, very very, lucky 🙂

  • April 10, 2013

    So it probably wasn’t smart of me to read this as I walked the streets of Brooklyn for the first time as I almost ran into several moving objects, but I coudn’t look away. I’ve been waiting for this post. Of course you won’t lose your followers; we follow you because of you and because of the happiness that comes from your travels, however near or far they may take you. Thank you for sharing this happiness and Dante with us. Can’t wait to meet him! And can’t wait to see you so so soon! Cheers to you my friend.

  • April 10, 2013

    I went through very similar experiences, and so, I am very happy for you (and can totally relate – apart from traveling full-time for a couple of years).

  • April 10, 2013

    What happy news! I LOVE seeing you so gleeful!

  • April 10, 2013

    So sweet. Nobody could read this without smiling.

    You know, I met my husband in a similar way–totally unexpected, at a lunch with a large group. It ruffled life plans for both of us, but we are still together after almost 14 years, and I am still deeply in love with him. 🙂

  • April 12, 2013
    Jade

    Love looks so good on you! 🙂 This post and you being so happy makes me so happy. The whole idea of loving what you do and having someone to share in that is so important and I couldn’t be happier for you that you’ve found it.

  • April 12, 2013

    I’m so happy for you! You guys are so cute together!

  • April 24, 2013
    Jonas

    Beautiful. 🙂

  • April 25, 2013

    Umm… AWESOME! I can’t wait to follow along with this journey lady! I wish you happiness! <3

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