Living internationally has it perks- new experiences, fantastic fringe benefits, and daily opportunities to interact with people from all over the world. The expat life teaches you to appreciate the smallness and interconnectedness of our planet, while at the same time providing you with the means to enjoy this orb of rock and sea we inhabit. Nevertheless, there is one area I have found quite difficult during my time abroad, rougher than attempting Thanksgiving recipes from home with strange ingredients or struggling to ask for the restroom in a foreign language. No, the most complex issue I have faced as an expat is one which many home-country dwelling folk deal with daily- dating.
When my engagement ended in June 2017, I was convinced that love would be right around the corner to rescue me from the sadness that had waterlogged my soul in the trauma of separation. While romance flared up again with other fellows over the proceeding months, the love I longed for was actually a gift only I could give myself. I healed, I grew stronger, I began taking care of myself, and, for the first time in my entire life, I was experiencing joy on a regular basis. I pulled the train car of my life out of the ditch, righted it on the tracks, and reignited the cold coal of my heart with the fire of friendship and prayer. Yet, now that I am finally ready to give a relationship another chance, the men I meet seem to only offer hollow superficiality and nonchalant emotional unavailability.
I often tell folks that expats are all running from something, whether that be their families, their student loans, or their fear of commitment. For many of the men, both gay and straight, who I’ve met in my time overseas, this has held true. There is something so different about them from their counterparts back home. They are aware of the opportunities available to them, and even more so, they are aware of the commonness of love. Many have found love in multiple countries, some in multiple continents. They have discovered that when the going gets tough in love, there will always be someone new just a plane ride away.
For those of us who crave more than fleeting romance and titillating one-night stands, the constant flux of faces each begging to be more than friends but striving to avoid commitment like a vegan avoids mystery-meat street food can become overwhelming, even a tad disappointing. The hunt becomes tiring, draining even, as we search for Mr. Right in a transient community of relationship-phobic wanderers. Yet, like the traveling vegan who stumbles upon a grilled seitan stand, we love-hungry, hopefully romantic expats may yet discover our person out there in the world we are blessed to call home. Love happens; sometimes we just have to wait for it to walk our way.