I’ve taken to wearing a wedding ring when I travel. It is a fake gold band on the ring finger of my left hand that most people assume marks me as married. I do this for several reasons.
Most of all because, as the editor in chief of Yahoo Travel I travel a lot, often to countries where if you, as a woman, are not married you are either a virgin or a whore – and I am way too old to be a virgin.
Countries where even the slightest gesture –a glance in someone’s direction or a smile when you say, “Thank you” can also mean: “OH MY GOD YOU ARE SO HOT PLEASE JUMP MY BONES NOW!” The ring comes in handy then.
My Quest for the Perfect Travel Partner
But I also wear it because I am sick of the question.
Any single woman will know what I’m talking about – the question that makes you want to vomit or hit something really, really hard: “Oh my god, How are you not married/dating? You’re so nice/great/amazing/hot…” And, when you hit a certain age, it’s almost always imbued with a second, unspoken question:
“What’s wrong with you?”
Here’s the deal: I could have been married twice.
And I’d be divorced twice and most likely in prison for killing one of them. Because those two men – who are lovely people by the way – weren’t my perfect travel partner.
One was outwardly better than the other – he would carry my bag, take care of everything while on the road, plan the trip… and while it was nice on some level, it was uncomfortable on another.
Because he was always a little pissed about doing these things (without being asked)… and they were done in an infantilizing way. When we finally broke up, I realized I had forgotten how to drive a car. Not kidding.
While the other, God bless him, was the opposite. Truth be told he was a little bit of a diva.
He traveled all the time for work and would take me with him – but didn’t like answering hotel room doors or phones saying, “Babe – you know I don’t like dealing with people.” He also flew first while I flew coach (I know! I know!), and was over empathetic to a point where if I got food poisoning, he also would mysteriously develop a weird illness.
Thereby putting me in the enviable position of taking care of him while I was hurling.
See: Avalanches, Death Threats, and No Lifts Welcome
What are you looking for?
When you’re younger it’s hard to know what you’re looking for or what you want. People tell you to make lists and things like “hot” “super sexy” “rich” (don’t judge – I was 20!), “so cool” and “6 foot three” top it.
Waaaay at the bottom, if it makes it on the list at all are boring things like “Dependable,” “kind,” “compassionate” and “loves to cook and do the dishes.”
Then you get a little older and you start to think, “Ah, screw it – I’d rather be alone.”
But then, life teaches you a few lessons and you run into people along the way who instruct you without doing anything – just by being.
There was Suz in Mali, who has the most fantastic long-term boyfriend ever. When asked why he wasn’t on the three and half week trip up the Niger with her, she said, “It’s not his thing and it most definitely is mine – I’ve always wanted to see Timbuktu, so here I am!
He’ll be waiting on the front porch with a glass of sangria and his guitar in hand when I get back.”
Suz taught me you can be independent in a relationship and have someone support your dreams and want you to be independent without jealousy or weirdness getting in the way.
There was Nina and Mike in Egypt. He had been successful once, and she’d stayed at home. When he retired, she started a travel agency and now she’s the main breadwinner. And he couldn’t have been more proud. “I work for her!” he’d tell everyone.
Or Deb and Dave – who run this page. They are just so lovely together. They have fun. And you get the sense that they really like each other – that they are best friends. But they also might still get it on.
The Perfect Travel Partner
I recently revisited that List from my twenties and realized it had inverted. I now compiled of things I learned while traveling… lately, while I love taking off to random parts of the world solo, I’ve started to yearn for my perfect traveling partner.
My perfect traveling partner should be kind, considerate, caring, have a generous spirit, be loving and understand that while I love him I’m also cool with meeting him in three days while we take separate routes to Hyderabad because sometimes a girl just needs a hot minute alone.
That perfect travel partner will be supportive and proud of me instead of sapping all my strength and harboring resentment that I’d dare go anywhere or do anything without him – the ultimate #FOMO. He would be someone who also understands the term reciprocity and doesn’t just hear white noise after the statement “All for one”.
So now when I hear people say things to me like:
You’re too picky.
Why don’t you try online?
Who will take care of you when you’re old?
I just laugh, roll my eyes and think “the right person.” It’s not just about finding anybody. It is about finding your perfect traveling partner.
I have faith.
Paula Froelich is also the New York Times best-selling author of the novel, “Mercury In Retrograde” and was the deputy editor of the New York Post’s gossip column, Page Six, for ten years.
In January 2012 she won a Gold Medal award from the North American Travel Journalists Association for her piece in Playboy on Iraq, “Down And Out In Baghdad.” Paula is originally from Ohio and Kentucky and loves to travel to places where the USD still means something.