This was written for the legends at AWOL.
For the record, I’m no cynic. I love ‘love’ as much as the next person who binge watches ’90s Hugh Grant movies and still believes Brad and Jen are meant to be together. But when it comes to Valentine’s Day, there’s just something about the Hallmark holiday that makes me want to leave the country. And so that’s exactly what I’ve done for the past six years – I’ve made travel my Valentine.
It’s not for a lack of romance in my life, either. Sometimes I travel with a partner, sometimes I don’t. In essence, I just find it extremely liberating to be exploring while the rest of western society pays premium for day-old roses and endures what will inevitably be a disappointing night of “romance” (okay, maybe I am a cynic).
Sure, travelling on one of the most romantic days of the year is a far cry from bubble baths and candlelight. In 2012, I spent eight hours sitting between a goat and a pregnant lady on a bus ride through the Myanmar highlands. 2009 saw me make the nude dash from bathroom to dorm room to lay my head not on a pillow resplendent in rose petals, but a mattress of itchy, funky smelling duck feathers. And then there was the time my boyfriend and I got Delhi belly. At the same time. God, that was a hot date.
But bed bugs and food poisoning aside, travel is still by far the best Valentine’s present you could buy yourself. Why?
#1 Because it’ll make your heart race
Sweaty palms, weak knees, did my heart just skip a beat? Is this love? No, it’s called watching the sunrise over a new and unfamiliar city. It’s called making friends with locals who teach you how to say ‘cheers’ and get you so buzzed that you forget you’re single (or taken). Travel is a show stopping, heart racing, roller coaster of an adventure. Just like love.
#2 Because it’ll never leave you disappointed
Remember that time your ex-girlfriend thought it would be fun to double date with her parents? Or when you discovered that guy you thought was ‘the one’ actually sent roses to three other girls in your hometown? Swap insincere professions of adoration for the divine glory of this incredible earth. Because glaciers, deserts, pyramids, centuries of culture and history, and human life will leave you always awed – never disappointed.
#3 Because, flights
Stick with me here. Flight attendants, for the most part, are some of the loveliest people in the world. They’re put in the skies to make you feel good and safe and to bring you free booze. Booze which you can then share with the human sitting next to you. Make a connection with a stranger this Valentine’s Day: talk to Seat 37A. You never know, they might be your person. Wilder things have happened on board a Boeing.
#4 Because sleeping in a different bed is great
Whether you have a travel partner with you or not. From a bedouin tent in the Sahara to a hammock over the Mekong or a four-poster in a Scottish castle, waking up beneath a different doona will give you a fresh perspective on life. It’ll make you ask the big questions, like, ‘why don’t I use a top sheet at home’?
#5 Because Rumi said so
Thirteenth century Persian poet and Sufi mystic Rumi was a pretty wise guy. He also happened to have said a lot of things that relate to travel. Personal favourites include: “respond to every call that excites your spirit” and “life is a balance of letting go and holding on”. Much wisdom, right? He also said that “travel brings power and love back into your life”. So if you want to find your vibe this Valentine’s Day, don’t go to the movies, go around the world.
#6 Because Bill Murray said so
This is one for all the couples out there. You want an unforgettable Valentine’s Day? Spend it together. My spirit granddad Bill Murray once offered this advice: “If you have someone that you think is The One, don’t just sort of think in your ordinary mind, ‘Okay, let’s make a date. Let’s plan this and make a party and get married.’ Take that person and travel around the world. Buy a plane ticket for the two of you to travel all around the world, and go to places that are hard to go to and hard to get out of. And if when you come back to JFK, when you land in JFK, and you’re still in love with that person, get married at the airport.” Life mantra, you guys.
#7 Because, in the end, travel is your soulmate
Travel will make you a better person. Nothing will make you feel so alive as being out there, living and breathing and learning and growing. So drop the teddy bear, let the flowers wilt and, by god, don’t you dare start swiping right on February 14. Instead, make travel your Valentine. Because if you give a little love to the world, you’ll receive a mountain of love in return.