Andre Sólo, Personal Development, Travel

The End of a Beautiful Relationship

It feels weird to post this. I used to make fun of blogs because of this. Who the heck shares their whole personal life online? Do they think anyone cares?

It turns out sometimes people do care. About a year before I quit my job and started traveling, it was clear that a blog was both the best way to chronicle the journey and a good start to a life as a professional writer. Rogue Priest has been both, and for some reason it’s caught on. Every day hundreds of people read what I’ve written here, and some of you have become regulars, acquaintances, even friends.

Still, there are topics that feel weird to put out in public. Like relationships. I don’t care too much about my own privacy: if something in my life makes an interesting story, I’m happy to share it. But with a relationship, my comfort alone isn’t enough. The other party has to sign off too.

My girlfriend of the past year—let’s call her Anita—did sign off originally. After we met in New Orleans she asked if she could come along on the last 80 miles of my Mississippi bike ride, all the way to the end of the road and, it seemed when we got down there, the edge of the world itself.

The road to the end of the Mississippi. Photo by André.

The road to the end of the Mississippi. Photo by André.

Those three days not only cemented my respect for Anita, they sparked the beginning of a passionate relationship. The trip meant a lot to us both, and Anita was happy for me to blog about it. She even wrote her own account that I published here on Rogue Priest. I asked how to credit her, and she said to use her full name. We added a link to her professional website.

It was the first of many times that Anita appeared on this blog. With her permission, I wrote about our travels together and occasionally shared her guest posts. This had an unexpected effect: readers loved her. If this blog is the story of my journey, then its main character suddenly had a love interest, and people liked that. (So much so that when I continued on to Texas, Anita already had a standing invitation to visit from my kayak mentor—before I’d even met him.)

And that’s why I feel I should probably make this public: I’m single now. Anita and I broke up several weeks ago, peacefully but sadly. This isn’t something I would normally announce to the world, but since she’s unlikely to appear in any more posts I figured some explanation is in order.

I think it’s fair to say that the last year with Anita was, to date, the great love of my life. Of course, I’m a terrible judge. Like most people I think every love is the great love of my life. But usually I can see through that afterwards, whereas even now, looking back, I still view this relationship as different. It was the happiest I’ve ever been.

That’s not to say it was the easiest relationship. Not by far. My previous girlfriend in Minnesota was loving, encouraging, easy to get along with, and an unrelenting supporter of my work and journey. We didn’t argue much and when we did I felt heard. With Anita, on the other hand, we butted heads constantly: two stubborn, dominant, independent people who are used to getting our way. But I was happy. Perhaps, just like I quit a stable career to travel the world, I just do better with a relationship that challenges me.

I don’t really know what’s next for the Rogue Priest as far as love is concerned. I recently read Niall Doherty’s wonderful Cargo Ship Diaries, in which he writes that he refuses to start a long term relationship until he’s done traveling. I can see the allure: the first leg of my journey, up until I met Anita, was a free-wheeling period of short flings. It was fun. I guess I could go back to that—after all, I wouldn’t be the first adventurer to sleep my way across a couple continents.

But the truth is I believe in love. I believe in enduring, meaningful love.

In a different book, The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho writes that true love is a love that will wait, that will withstand even the long journey to follow one’s dreams. For a time I chased Coelho’s vision of abiding love. But truthfully, I’m not sure I want a love that will “wait.” I’m not sure that’s even healthy. I really dream of the woman who will be at my side while I adventure, the two of us adventuring together. Sometimes it’s her journey, sometimes it’s mine, sometimes we might even go apart: but what we both want is to wander, and to have a wandering companion.

I have faith—a wounded, messy drop of faith—that somewhere out there I can find a love like that. A love that spans the world.

Until then, my only project is to make myself into the man she deserves.

So, there you have it. An oddly personal post about events that most people wouldn’t even discuss on their Facebook page. But I think it’s right to record these things. I write about all sorts of people I meet on my quest, often very candidly, and it’s only fair to turn the camera on myself once in a while.

Thanks for reading. And “Anita,” if you’re still subscribed to these posts: this song’s for you. I’ll never forget you, baby.

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Travel

Lessons from my Ex Girlfriend

I used to have a tendency of making not-so-great dating choices.

In high school I was a reject. I had a lesser junta of close friends, each from their own counter-culture niche. There were very few dating opportunities. It’s funny how that stuff stays with you.

Photo by camera guru + close friend Beth Varro.

A Bad Pattern

If you feel like no one likes you, you will make bad dating decisions. At the end of high school I got into a long distance relationship with someone I had never met in person. After that ended badly, I had a series of relationships which may have been fine as casual dating situations. Instead, I latched onto each one, expecting them to be the love of my life.

I don’t know which was a bigger influence on me: unrealistic ideas from movies (the only source of dating knowledge I had), or my own past loneliness. I wasn’t actually lonely anymore: by college I had a pretty good social life. But in my head I was still the outsider.

Even my marriage was built on that foundation.

It wasn’t until my divorce that I really began to value myself. (I’ve had a huge ego about plenty of things—just never relationship potential.) In my marriage I lived for our house, our mortgage, and the hope of keeping peace between us. My own dreams were subsumed.

When we split up I started to live for myself.

Happy Endings?

By the time I left Minneapolis I was a much healthier person. Two years of eating better, exercising more and planning toward your dreams will give you a lot more confidence.

That was when I started dating Beth.

It was my first relationship to be threatened by the looming departure for the Great Adventure. Previously in my life, I put off my plans to travel for the sake of my partner. But Beth knew I would be leaving, and we both agreed it would end when I did.

We continued dating while I was in Milwaukee, because it’s not a terrible drive from the Twin Cities. We had a short, happy relationship. After we broke up, we became friends—actual, close friends who chat routinely and encourage each other’s projects.

Beth is probably reading this right now. Hi Beth!

This relationship was profoundly different than my previous relationships. Going in, I felt like an equal partner, not the one who had to do all the work. And we had an ordained time limit. There was no “forever” begging me to chase it down.

If circumstances were different, I would probably have been with Beth for years. But I learned a great deal from our short relationship:

  • Something can be sweet even if it’s not forever.
  • Confidence makes you sexier. It’s something you hear a lot, but it turns out it’s true.
  • It’s okay to prioritize your dreams above a relationship—if you’re honest about it.
  • The best person to date is someone who believes passionately in your dreams. (Do the same for them, please.)
  • A great girlfriend will also make a great friend, if you end at a high point.

And that’s on top of teaching me how to take pictures.

Beth was my first love “on the road.” In many ways, my few months with her laid the foundation for all of the relationships I’ll have while traveling.

Is there an ex who left you with something special? Are you able to be friends with your exes? What makes it possible?

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