Lessons in Love: Perspective Found Through Travel

“I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help but notice your accent. Where are you from?” I was knee deep in an Eminem music video. Palms are sweaty, knees weak, and arms are heavy. I take a quick swig of my rum and juice, which I realize maybe wasn’t the best drink of choice when trying to pick up a girl at a bar. “Oh, hello. I’m from Scotland.” What are the odds. Not only is she a beautiful brunette, but she’s from the motherland. Now I can really let me expressions fly. “Get out? Me too!” I quickly realize I’ve already made a gaffe, which is apparent from the look she’s giving me. “Well, my ancestors are from Scotland. I, of course, am not technically from Scotland, but rather the southeastern U.S.; hence the accent” I nervously turn to pick up my drink and throw back a big swallow, only to turn around and see that the Scottish belle is walking off. And with that, in a little beach bar in Costa Rica, I tried and failed at my only attempt at picking up a girl in a bar.

As a kid, I quickly got acquainted with the infamous four-letter words; you know, those words that started with S, F, or D. “Ms. Hargrove, Spencer just said a four-letter word.” That was often the context. Those words were so taboo when we were kids. But now all grown up, I wonder if there’s another set of infamous four-letter words, specifically for adults, that are just as taboo. The one I’m thinking of being that of “love”. Here we have the strongest, most paramount feeling in the English dictionary, and it’s just four letters long. I think the Greeks were on to something, with their multiple different words for love, each having a different meaning, such as erotic, affectionate, unconditional, and friendship love. But somehow, I just don’t see a girl getting weak in the knees when I tell her “I erotically love you.”

“Well Mom, it’s over.” Those were my first words to my mom just over two years ago as I walked into the door of my old childhood home after a four hour drive from what used to be home. Specifically, I was talking about my marriage, but in my mind, it felt like everything was over. My life felt like a sham. I had been living for years as someone I wasn’t and when you’re living as someone you’re not, it’s hard not just to give, but receive love. I felt empty. The walls of life were caving in and if we get one shot at life and love, then I had blown it and was going to drift off into this oblivion of feeling lifeless and unlovable.

It was just months later that I was on my own “walk of shame” back to my condo in Costa Rica after a failed attempt at picking up a girl. That night revealed a lot of things. It revealed that I had set out to travel in search of many things, one of which was a skewed view of love. What is it that I was searching for that night in Coco, Costa Rica? A long-term relationship with a traveler from Scotland or a one-night stand to suppress the on-going frustrations that were the result of a failed marriage?

Breakups, divorce or not, suck. I truly believe that humans were meant to be relationship with one another, and when that communion is disrupted, it creates a ripple effect. It’s funny to me that the image of love to many people is that of Cupid with a bow and arrow. When an arrow is pulled out of its target, that arrow can’t be removed cleanly, but rather takes out with it pieces of the target that it touches, leaving with it signs of its puncture. So it is with love. There can’t be separation without it leaving an indelible mark.

When I set out for a stint of long-term travel, I was escaping; maybe if I removed myself enough from my past life, the pain of the last few years would disappear. The fact is though that travel can’t be a form of escapism. Travel didn’t heal my wounds, nor do I believe that travel acts as a healing agent. Setting out for a trip like I did isn’t like going to the doctor, where you go in for the cure of a bad cough and you come out with medicine, that if followed step-by-step will cure your cough. Travel doesn’t work that way. There’s no steps or formula for producing the outcome we desire.

A few weeks ago I came home from a weekend of exploring San Francisco and experiencing views like the one below. I was just a couple weeks from my one-year anniversary in San Francisco and a week before I was leaving for a summer of travel. I sat down on my bed and bawled uncontrollably. I went years without even shedding a tear. I didn’t even cry at my father’s funeral, yet there I was in the quietness of my apartment on a Saturday night and I couldn’t stop crying. But those weren’t the tears you cry at a funeral or the hospital or amidst a breakup. They were tears of joy, humility, and gratefulness. It was at about this time that I texted my friend V to ask him if he ever felt like he’s gamed life.

Some way and somehow I got a second chance at life and love and ever since, I’ve held onto it tightly, not ever wanting to let it go. Who is the special someone? Nobody. You see for years I tried living this life of what I thought people expected and what I thought I should be doing, rather than acting out of my own inclinations and following my heart. What I realized on that walk back to my condo in Costa Rica a year and a half ago is that it wasn’t that I needed someone to love me, but that I needed to love myself. It was the result of that night that I really started to live and begin to better understand this idea of love. I haven’t dated much and haven’t even been in a relationship since my divorce. And you know what, that’s alright. Amidst my baggage, when the time does come for me to be in a relationship again, I’ll be ready as I’m going to be, not because time heals all things, but because to love someone else, I had to fall back in love with who I am and who the world is. A year of traveling and a year of living in San Francisco, 2,500 miles away from where I grew up did just that.

Every trip, every traveler is unique. This is my story. As I, and other travel blogger friends, with the help of Expedia, share how we found ours as part of Expedia’s new campaign, I hope you’ll share your travel stories. I found perspective through travel, what have you found?


46 Comments on “Lessons in Love: Perspective Found Through Travel

  1. Awesome, awesome post Spencer! Your insight is spot-on – traveling isn’t going to mend wounds or prevent new ones from forming but it can offer needed perspective. Glad your travels have done that for you!

    • Thank you Lindsey. Travel or not, flight is often the default response when pain hits. I’d be lying to myself if deciding to travel like I did wasn’t a result of some of the pain I was experiencing and hoping that it would offer healing. At the end of the day, travel rarely produces what we expected, but often what it does produce, is even better.

  2. Beautiful. The most powerful and resonating lesson I ever learned was that I needed to be whole and complete with myself before I could truly love someone else. Travel has had the same effect on me too. It’s given me an opportunity to see life more clearly… and opened my eyes to what I really want in life. Bravo Spencer. Very happy for you!

    • Thank you Kiersten. “…I needed to be whole and complete with myself before I could truly love someone else.” Spot on. While I grew up traveling, it was really those months of removing myself from my comforts and planting myself in foreign cultures that gave me such clear perspective. There were too many moments to count, that I’m still experiencing, where I’m like “Oh, so this is what life is REALLY like.” Enjoy your story as well and one day we’ll have to swap stories over drinks!

  3. What can I say that you haven’t already said so beautifully. Much love for you my darling friend. Happy adventures! xoxox

    • You are the best Carol. Always appreciate your words of encouragement and love your own story!

    • Thank you Krista! It’s been a post that I’ve mulled for a long time and now felt like the time to finally express it.

  4. Well spoken Spencer and well done. I agree with your perspective but never was able to really formulate it in words. Great seeing you this weekend!

    • Thank you Kelley and likewise. Hope our paths cross again in the near future!

    • I’ve been mulling over it for a long time. Thank you Amber!

  5. So raw & so pure! Thank you for sharing this and being so open. I know there are a lot of us who feel the same way, but maybe can’t put it quite so eloquently =)

    • Well I appreciate it Angie. It’s been a post I’ve tried to write for months and finally felt enabled to do so.

  6. Dude! Nice piece…..fyi, it’s so true when us Brits can get a bit eye rolly when Americans claim to be one of us, but I, as one, forgive you!

    • Simon, appreciate the words man and glad that I’ve got your forgiveness!

  7. Thank you for sharing this personal post Spencer. You are an awesome human being and have become a great friend. I am sure that when the time is right, you’ll find that perfect belle and I will be the first to tell her how lucky she is!

    • Such kind words Lorenzo. Look forward to our paths crossing in the near future! Thanks man.

  8. This post made me cry. I got divorced seven years ago, and for such a long time, I’ve tried to find something to fill that “void” — I sowed my wild oats, tried a billion different relationships and other things to try and fix that ache inside of me. Lately, yoga is showing me how to love and care for myself, truly and deeply. I think that divorce does something to you that’s hard for other people to understand. And you’re right—you have to learn to love yourself before someone else can be let in to your heart and world. There’s no escaping that journey.

    • Relationships are tough and breakups are hard. It makes you wonder why anyone would ever want to be in a relationship, but then I see the relationships and marriages of some of my friends and it really gives hope. You bring up some good points because when I look at the healthy relationships of friends, both people in the relationship have such strong self-confidence. It’s tough to have that in our society when there is so much pressure to be something or someone that deep inside, we’re not. Thank you for your honesty Amy!

  9. I read this story and nodded my head. This story is far more familiar in my own life than you will ever know. Maybe we can talk about this a little more down the road. However, I can relate. I don’t even know that I am ready to share my story yet. However, lessons in love and travel go together.

    • Well I appreciate your words. A good story over a drink or hike! One of these days.

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  11. Great post as always, Spencer! I appreciate how personal your many of your posts are. While I can’t relate to being divorced, I’ve certainly had my fair share of tough break-ups and my own period of not loving myself enough. I can relate to this quite well. I’m so happy for you to have reached a happier place in your life.

    • Thank you Ali and so happy for you. Life often seems to be this line of trial and error, but when we get it right, boy does it feel good!

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  13. Beautiful post, Spencer. It takes a lot of courage to realize that the most important person to love you is yourself. Very inspiring. :)

    • It’s often right there in front of us, but easier said, then done. Thank you Christy!

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  15. This is the very same reason I left for Mexico two years ago, it wasn’t to find love but to find myself.

    • I never ceased to be amazed at how travel can shape and form us. It often takes such a leap to get out of our comfort zone to really find out what we’re made of.

  16. Wonderful article Spencer. I think you really hit the nail on the head when you said you have to love yourself before you can love someone else. The fact that you have undertaken this amazing journey of self re-discovery is proof that you are ready to take on the new chapter in your life that is unfolding right before you. Some people may say that “Finding Yourself” is so cliche but it is not until you have been in the position of being lost that you can truly understand that. I believe that the very act of putting yourself out there, loving yourself and being honest about who you are will not only help you find love but filter through the noise that has become so prevalent in our society today.
    You are such an inspiration and I am so glad that we go to meet that weekend in Seattle.
    Keep being who you are and love will undoubtably come a knockin’.

    • Such inspiring words Dave. Thank you so much and so glad we connected in Seattle. It has been an absolute pleasure getting to know you guys and your story. I love what you said about filtering through the noise, because coming to a place of loving and discovering myself has really enabled me to shut out that noise of society.

  17. LOVE this, spencer. The reality is we all carry baggage on our ‘travels’ and always likely will {unless ScottVest takes over the world}, and sometimes it’s great to meet someone, a few people or a group along the way to help carry that baggage when we are just tired of schlepping it from one destination to the next… figuratively and metaphorically speaking :)

  18. Really beautiful post, Spencer; very honest and yet restrained. It was separation that sent me traveling too, but in my case the separation from my mother, who died suddenly. Traveling eased the grief and gave me new reasons to live — my Expedia slogan would be Find your second chance — but I still miss my Mom as much as ever. Thanks for writing this. I’m glad I met you.

    • Thank you Mariellen and happy I finally got to meet you as well! It’s been amazing to see how travel continues to form me and make me better and for that reason, I continue to travel!

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  23. Don’t ever give up. I had two failed marriages and then I found Stefan. Now I am nearly 40 and I am glad for all of it. The pain, the frustration all of it worth it. Those were not failures, as painful as they were – they were lessons. I cannot appreciate what I have found without having lived first-hand the alternative(s). There is peace and gratefulness in being true but you can’t love another until you fully love who you are – warts and all. Like you said – you can’t pretend to be someone you are not when it comes to love.

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