All relationships have their challenges however if you’ve met someone from another country; either online or in person there are typically even more challenges that will come your way. You’ve no doubt heard from “concerned” family and friends the dangers you might face.
Here, I’m sharing the real life stories of people who have navigated the world of meeting someone overseas.
A Couchsurfing Meetup at a Gay Club Led to an Engagement
Sasha from the Alternative Travel Guide
Traveling changes us and our lives. In my case, traveling also helped me meet my future husband. It happened in a very unexpected place. I met my husband at a Couchsurfing meeting in a gay club during my trip to Warsaw, Poland! Could I have thought that going to a party at a gay club would lead to a wedding? No way! (By the way, Couchsurfing is one of my favourite ways to meet people while traveling, and it helped me to build dozens of friendships in different countries.)
After a week together in Warsaw, we said goodbye and went to different countries. For six months, we wrote to each other and called each other on Skype. Then we decided to meet in Turkey and travel together.
Traveling together is a perfect way to understand if two people are a good fit for a couple because on the road we not only have fun but also face difficult situations. Not everything was perfect, but we continued to stick together. We kept meeting in different countries and spending some time together.
Then I moved to Hungary to do my Master’s Degree. He would visi me in Budapest, or we would meet in neighboring Vienna and Bratislava. Our long-distance relationship lasted two years until we finally got tired of it and decided to get married.
Two years ago, we also became the parents of a wonderful daughter.
Long-distance relationships, an international marriage, living in a foreign country, and giving birth there were definitely big challenges for me. All this is not easy, but I like adventures.
The Tinder, Millennial Fairy Tale?
Shelley of Travel Mexico Solo
While some couples devise a cover story about how they met anywhere but on Tinder, some lean in. I “lean in.” In fact, our How We Met story goes like this: We both swiped right.
Fast forward a bit, and Jorge and I have been together 1.5 years now. I always joke that we are the millennial fairy tale because we met on Tinder.
Our first date was January 12, 2019. At the time, I was visiting Merida, Mexico in the Yucatan Peninsula, where we now live together.
For context: Prior to this trip, I was seeing a guy who turned out to be quite the male dating cliche — someone who “wasn’t sure he was ready for a relationship.” So I packed up my dignity and my things, and went to Merida by myself for a week… where I decided to do some revenge Tindering.
If it’s not obvious by that preface, I was not looking for a relationship when I met Jorge. However, our “first date” ended up lasting the entire week I was in Merida. At the end of my Merida trip, he Ubered with me to the airport, and we said our good-byes.
We did keep in touch; but I was living in Mexico City and him in Merida.
Then, after 3.5 months in Mexico City, I developed tree pollen allergies so horrible that I dreaded going outdoors. I decided I had to leave the city, and figured why not give Merida another shot… as at least I knew one person there, a guy named Jorge.
When Realities and Expectations Collide
Ellie of Soul Travel Blog
It was the last day of a three month India trip that I finally agreed to meet a man that I’d been Instagram-messaging with for some time in Mumbai. He was a local and had been giving me plenty of travel tips for the weeks before we met. We’d even spoken on the phone, but I was still nervous about meeting him face to face in case he turned out to be something else.
It turns out that I needn’t have worried – what started as a first date just before I flew home the UK has transformed into a partnership which has seen us travelling around India that were as foreign to him as they were to me, living in Canada together, and now the UK. Much as the idea of meeting someone across the world sounds dreamily romantic, the reality of being in a relationship with someone from a culture as different as could be from my own has often brought us crashing down to earth.
There have been some close calls. After the initial romance, we realised there were wide rivers to be crossed when it came to expectations about how our relationship would work. It usually started with the question “what’s for lunch” – and finding that “make yourself a sandwich” was not an agreeable answer.
Food takes on a pivotal cultural role in India, enough that there are usually 3 hot meals a day, all home cooked, and all cooked by one of the women of the family. Whereas in the UK – where let’s face it, we’re not exactly known for our culinary heights, food is often an afterthought. We have both had to take a good hard look at our egos and become flexible – I’ve learned to make many Indian dishes that I never would have dreamed of, and Ravi, my partner, has had to learn to cook for the first time at age 35 and do 50% of it.
Food hasn’t been the only thing. Cohabiting with a foreigner is a taboo subject, at best, in India, and it has taken some time for my partner’s parents to warm up to me. After initially scolding my partner for not finding a “local girl”, the ice has thawed. But it took time. Fortunately, his family are down to earth, educated and relatively open minded. For many Indian families, this would not be an acceptable scenario.
What started as something dreamy while travelling has turned out to be far more complicated to navigate. It’s been an exercise in diplomacy at times, but it has also been a great journey of personal growth for us, too. Much as it may seem that things are the same everywhere on the surface, fortunately, cultural diversity is still alive and well and needs negotiating.
A Nasty Breakup And a Tropical Disease
Nora of The Professional Hobo
Whilst volunteering in New Zealand, I connected with a Swedish guy (we’ll call him my Swedish Squeeze). I was a full-time traveler and he was a lost soul, so in a sense, we were well-suited to roam the world together. After a couple of months apart, we met up in Sweden and our connection deepened. We applied for a three-month house-sitting gig on the Caribbean island of Grenada – and got the gig! We would officially be playing house together.
But I had another travel gig in between: a stunt called the Ultimate Train Challenge, in which I traveled from Lisbon to Saigon (25,000kms) – all by train, in 30 days. The plan was we’d reconvene in Grenada in time to start house-sitting together.
Somewhere in Siberia, things went sideways. Unbeknownst to me, my Swedish Squeeze was squeezin’ an old girlfriend and got her pregnant. I sensed something was amiss, so when I arrived to Grenada a few days ahead of my Squeeze, I called him to ask if everything was okay. That’s when he broke up with me. (Or rather, he broke the news to me and I broke up with him).
That very day, with a broken heart, and facing a lonely three months in paradise, I got Dengue Fever. I spent the next week fighting for my life, and healing my heart. I don’t do anything in small measures!
Believe it or not, this isn’t my only romance-gone-wrong while traveling the world. If you have a strong stomach, learn about my Sordid Attempts at Love on the Road here.
When Things Change and It’s Time to Break Up
Claudia from My Adventures Across the World
I met my Egyptian (now ex-) boyfriend as we both lived and studied in England, at the University of Essex. It literally took us moments to click, and within days of the meeting, we were a couple, one that others on campus would admire for we were always doing things together, having a good time, sharing the same group of friends and – seemingly – the same goals in life.
Little did I know that it was all just in my mind – but I was soon to learn.
About 11 months after we met, he was due back to Egypt: he had finished his masters degree, while I was still busy with my PhD; his visa had expired and he had a job waiting for him at home. We had decided to try the long distance thing, as we knew he’d be regularly traveling to England for work. And I was planning to travel to Egypt for a conference with a friend of mine a few months later.
The moment I landed in Egypt, I realized things were not the same anymore. Actually – he was not the same. After having known a man that shared my same values and vision in life, I came to see a man that seemed attached to the most traditional values – ones that I did not share, and most importantly did not understand. It was clear that I – an atheist – was not going to be acceptable to his family, and he was not ready to challenge them on that.
It took us a few more months of arguments over the phone, and a horrible trip to Frankfurt together, to finally decide we had absolutely no future and it was time to break up.
A South American Adventure Starts with a Bang and Fizzles
Sean of Living out Lau
Just like every modern romance story, my story started on the app Tinder. Except this time around, I wasn’t swiping in NYC but in a small city in Peru called Trujillo. Though not on the typical Peru itinerary, Trujillo was one of the cities I had to go through on my 2-month Peru backpacking adventure. I ended up matching with this girl named Sara (name changed for confidentiality) on Tinder.
Because Trujillo didn’t have much to see, I said why not and ended up meeting Sara for a date. We hit it off really well but we both had the understanding that I was going to be leaving in a few days.
Unfortunately, typhoid fever got the best of me and I had to stay in Trujillo for over a week. During this time, we saw each other more frequently and grew really fond of each other. When I was finally healthy and able to travel again, we said our goodbyes.
A week into my journey, I received a message from her asking if she could join my adventure through Peru. Of course, I said sure (not thinking of the consequences). Coming from a small city, traveling to all these bigger cities and major tourist attractions must’ve been costly for her, but she came along anyway.
After traveling together for nearly 6 weeks, we eventually said our goodbyes at the Lima Airport. We were infatuated with each other at this point and made plans to move to Japan (she speaks Japanese), where we would work and start a new life together. After a little less than a year, we have stopped talking to each other and she has unfollowed me on social media.
An Acroyoga Jam Session Turns Longterm
Marco from Nomadic Fire
As a heterosexual adult male, I think it is easier to find a fling than a friend. There is no app to help guys find friends. When traveling, I only looked for transient relationships. If you were not going to see the person again, it’s better to keep things carefree and fun.
Three years ago, I met a girl at an acroyoga jam in Bali. Twenty countries later, we have been traveling together ever since. Today, we are closing in on 90 days in Croatia and looking for the next country that accepts an Austrian (her) and a US (me) citizen.
Since the pandemic started, the perpetual search for open countries has been the most challenging part of our relationship. She isn’t allowed in the US. I’m not allowed in most of the EU.
Since I saved enough money to retire early at 41, I can live long-term in many countries with a “retirement visa.” As she is still in university and needs to work, she doesn’t get the same privilege. At the same time, as an EU citizen, she can stay as long as she wants anywhere in the EU, where I am still stuck with 90-days in Schengen. Finding a country we can safely stay in long-term is a pain in the @ss, but being together is worth it.
Don’t get me wrong. Solo travel is great. The freedom to do what you want, when you want is liberating. But some experiences are more memorable when shared with a partner. Sunsets are brighter, views more majestic, and food more savory when you can relive the experience, laugh at the inside jokes, and share the memories with someone.