It can be hard to make new friends abroad — let alone find a significant other. Thus it’s always inspiring to hear from nomads who’ve found that special someone hiding under a shamrock drinking green beer, or in other such fanciful locales. One such lucky fellow is Tony James Slater, the newest addition to the TDN team. Here is his story — can’t wait to hear yours!
There’s always a great story behind a travel romance, I find, often running the full gamut of emotions, from anguish to bliss. From experiencing a breathless holiday whirlwind romance to finding a soul mate in a distant land, nothing beats a tale of love — true and requited, tragically unrequited or trapped agonizingly somewhere in between.
And today I would very much like to hear yours!
Because our February theme is LOVE — and because it’s rapidly approaching That Day, when you should have bought something a bit special for your other half — I would like to invite EVERYONE to share their tale of passion and/or romance abroad!
Now, I can’t ask you folks to do something I wouldn’t do myself — so here’s an interesting tale of my own…
Once upon a time, in a faraway land…
I first met my wife in America. I know, right? Fascinating! But wait, I’m English — and the young lady in question, Krista, is from Australia, as evidenced by her nickname: Roo.
Roo had been working for Camp America, which supports summer work adventures in the United States. She was teaching kids how to ride horses at a summer school in Maine. And, as fate would have it, that was where she met…my sister!
My sis, whose name is Gillian, was doing Camp America at the same time, and was the only other staff member who wasn’t scared of horses!
Roo and Gill got to know each other quite well — so much so that the pair of them went traveling around the US after the job finished, which is where they met…Richie! An awesome, Kung-Fu kicking dude, muscle-bound and handsome, Roo fell for him immediately and the two became an item.
Which could have turned out rather differently for me, except this unexpected romance kept the couple in America for much longer than expected. You see, at the time some of this was happening, I was in Ecuador volunteering at an animal shelter. On my way home to the UK, I called in to the States to visit my sister, when I also met Roo and Richie. We traveled together for a couple of weeks and had a lot of fun.
Then Richie left, Roo left, and I followed my sister back to the UK, where, as explained in a previous post, I grew bored and dissatisfied with my hollow, consumer-led lifestyle.
(In other words, I was broke.)
Twists and turns worthy of Shakespearean comedy
So Gill remained close friends with Roo, inviting her over to England the following summer. She arrived just in time to be part of my farewell party — I’d finally scraped together enough cash to go to Thailand, where I planned to volunteer at an animal clinic and learn to dive. I would be gone for three months — exactly the same length of time that Roo would be in England.
Which was a pity, as she’s recently broken up with Richie and I rather liked her.
Gill and Roo explored every corner of my native country together, and Roo went back to Australia having elicited a promise from my sister that she would travel to Oz as soon as she could afford it.
I, meanwhile, had missed my flight home. It was accidentally on purpose — my subconscious clearly didn’t want me to leave Thailand just then. My regular conscious didn’t want me to leave either, being rather more aware of my income — or at least, the lack.
Volunteering for a living is notoriously unprofitable, and I couldn’t earn money from diving until I could afford to get qualified. A bit of a Catch 22!
But then — we came into some money. Both my sister and I profited from the sale of a house we’d helped renovate since getting back from America. I used the money to become a Divemaster (and for just a little bit of partying!), while Gillian, rather more sensibly, used hers to buy a ticket to Australia. She stopped off in Thailand on her way through, found me drunk in a bar and gave me such a talking to that I promised to come to Australia just to get her off my back. She was determined to save me from myself, which was probably for the best (I had very little intention of saving myself!).
I dallied for another three months while Gill met up with Roo in Oz and started to explore. They bought a beat-up old van between them and called it Rusty because, well, it was. Seriously — you could see daylight through bits of it.
To the ends of the earth — well, the Great Southern Land
That’s when I showed up. Penniless again, I arrived in Perth airport without the price of a cup of coffee to my name. I’d been living in Thailand for a year by this point, and all I owned was a bulging bag full of dive gear. It was winter in Australia and I didn’t even own a pair of shoes, or anything at all with sleeves.
Not in the least bit phased by me looking like a homeless person, Roo found me work with a local temp agency and within a few weeks I had enough money to travel.
The three of us piled into that crumbling van and set off for horizons unknown…and somewhere along the line, Roo and I fell in love.
Which thrilled my sister of course, as we were all sharing a tent. (But don’t worry — we got our own tent before long!)
Poor Gill left us, in disgust, in Sydney. She’d always hated being around couples in love — romance just wasn’t her thing. I still feel a little guilty for this…well, almost. But not quite!
Since then, Roo and I have visited more than a dozen countries together. We married last July — in England because only Roo’s immediate family is in Oz. (She’s of Dutch descent, so all her rellies from Holland came over — including some she’s never met before! Her Aussie family — all four of them — flew over to the UK for the ceremony. ) And we now live in Perth — for a while in Roo’s family home but we now have a flat of our own. People always ask where we met — out of politeness more than interest, I feel — but it usually surprises them when we both say “America!”.
And as for Gill…well, she lingered in Sydney long after Roo and I left. Then she grew bored and flew to New Zealand, to a job in the ski fields, where she met a short blonde ski technician from Hampshire, UK, called Chris. They hit it off rather well as it happens — Gill had always liked short men — and four years later, the pair of them were married, a month before us and less than fifty miles away.
Roo got to be my sister’s Maid of Honor!
And because I’d been out of the country for so long that I’d lost touch with all my male friends, Gill — poor, suffering Gill — had to be my Best Man!
* * *
So. Let me hear it! Tales of love in far-flung and exotic locations: the triumphs, the failures and the ones that got away! We want to hear them all — post them in the comments section please, so everyone can read ’em and weep! (They don’t have to be as long and waffley as mine — I’ve been told I can be verbose.)
Oh, and keep it clean — some of these expat love stories lasted long enough to have children, and even grandchildren.
TONY JAMES SLATER is a self-confessed adventureholic. For the last six years he’s been traveling nonstop around the world, working at a variety of jobs including yacht deliverer in the Mediterranean, professional diver in Thailand and snow boarder in New Zealand. Last year, Slater published his first book, That Bear Ate My Pants!, an account of his misadventures while volunteering at the animal refuge in Ecuador. (The book was featured in The Displaced Nation’s list of 2011 expat books.) He is currently working on a second book set in Thailand, while exploring his new home in Perth, Australia.
STAY TUNED for Tuesday’s post, on 7 of the world’s most seductive foods — for seducing that valentine of yours.
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Image: Tony Slater and Krista (Roo) participating in the traditional European ceremony of handfasting where the couple’s hands are tied together (in their case, with a garland of flowers), at their medieval-themed wedding last summer.