Romancing on the Road

Traveling is attractive enough on its own, but some of you out there will be finding romance while you’re exploring, and I’m not talking about the Thomas Kohnstamm “I shagged a waitress while on assignment” type of relationship.

The serendipity of meeting the right person (or at least a temporarily right-seeming person) when you’re least looking for them comes to mind because on Sunday my husband I will have been married ten years.

It’s an unlikely anniversary. We met by chance while I was studying abroad in Scotland. I was there only three months, and never could have guessed that, when a tall Englishman stopped by my door one chilly February day to introduce himself as my sub-warden, I would be having kids with him a decade later. We dated for two months, I returned to America to finish my degree, and a year later I moved to Vienna, Austria, where he was then living, with $700 in my pocket and my entire collection of Jane Austen paperbacks.

My husband and I were drawn together by a love of travel. I certainly hadn’t expected to fall for an immaculately dressed physicist who likes handmade English shoes, and he definitely wasn’t looking for a barefoot hippichick who likes punk music and plays the the harp. But when we first met, we talked about the places we’d been and all the places we longed to go and realized that our curiosity about the world trumped less meaningful indications of compatibility.

The wanderlust-driven romance seems to run in both our families. My parents met while my mother was on a 10-day sponsored student trip to Leningrad in 1969. As head of his university’s Komsomol, my father took charge of the prettiest American student in the bunch. She returned the next year on a Fulbright scholarship, and they were married for 25 years.

My husband’s parents’ intersection was even more unlikely. They met on the “Silver Arrow” train to Paris. He was heading off to wander through Austria and then-Czechoslovakia, and she was traveling with her aunt and uncle for a girl’s first trip to Paris. They talked for an hour; he took her address and promised to write a letter, which she never expected would arrive. They’ve been married over 40 years and their happiest times are spent finding new places to take trains through Europe and Scotland.

In an age when we expect to road-test our partners for a few years before committing to marriage or any long-term relationship, meeting a companion while just passing through seems unlikely — even more unlikely that such a relationship might last. But, having watched the settled happiness of my in-laws’ marriage against the divorces of my contemporaries who lived together first as a precaution, I know that you’re no more likely to find out a possible partner’s quirks and annoyances in two years than you are in two hours. Why not take a chance?

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