You are wherever you are in the world - checking into your hostel in Siem Reap, strolling along beside the gentle waves of Hoan Kiem, by the shore of Koh Tao when you see them ; in solitude as you are.
Your gazes collide, you exchange mutual smiles, they come over and introduce themselves. Then a friendly expectant pause, waiting for you to fill the silence and bridge the gap.
You only get this one chance before they drift out of your sight - very likely forever.
So what do you do?
You cut the coy act, drop the games, lean in a little closer, let your touch linger a little longer, words speak a little truer.
You take chances you wouldn't have back home, you don't hmm and haww when they ask you if you want to visit the temples of Angkor, explore the waterfalls of Sumatera, or if you'd like to experience the night scene of Hanoi.
You don't say " Let me check my schedule ", " I'll have to get back to you ", " Maybe I'll see you around " or whatever other bullshit people say to 'keep their options open' or 'play it cool' when in fact you're actually dying to jump pillion onto a rusty scooter, marvel in awe at the thundering magnificence of a mighty waterfall, or down one too many shots en route a bar crawl to tipsy delirium.
You spend a day (maybe two) together wandering cobbled ruins, scrambling over massive boulders exploring the tropical inland, drinking too many fruit shakes, watching sunset from the rooftops.
You know your time together has an expiry date, but you do not sigh and agonize over it - you simply relish and revel in the presence of this person and the beauty of this very moment for what it is.
You part ways in the end, but there is no crying, no cursing. No tearful name-calling nor hateful blame-shaming. It is done lovingly and gracefully. There are no faults and no flaws. Both of you simply accept that you are heading to different destinations and have different paths to follow.
Maybe someday you'll find your way back together, maybe you'll never see each other again. Regardless, that does not make your time together any less precious nor cheapen it for anything less than it was.
Loving and leaving on the road is so effortlessly beautiful.
I ask myself why we fail so miserably when it comes to the same back home.
When break ups occur, it is always
" I said this you said that "
" She doesn't act like my mom / he treats me better / insert whatever reason people use to cheat these days "
" You never put down the toilet seat / do the dishes / feed the cat / insert whatever reason people use to breakup these days "
This is not limited purely to romantic relationships. Friendships are not spared either.
We 'make plans' weeks in advance only to cancel at the last minute citing the pathetic excuse of a 'deadline' or 'something came up' (translation: I just didn't feel like it). We say 'let's hang out' or 'catch up soon!' when we know we're blatantly lying through our teeth.
Is it because we know they'll always be there anyway, floating about in the ever familiar social circles? Because we know we can always 'get back to them' because after all, they'll always be available?
Whatever it is, I wish we all dared more and did more - just as everyone does when it comes to love on the road.
Seize chances. Treasure the moments. Live with unapologetic defiance. Leave with love. Regret nothing.
This is what solo travel has taught me about loving, living, and leaving.