I curl into the side of my Irish Lad as the Slovenian countryside blurs past me, a gorgeous swirl of emerald-green countryside dotted with villas, against a bright blue sky. He wraps his arm around me, thumb absently rubbing my shoulder and I slink closer to him in our hard bus seats. Irish Lad’s other arm is draped across me, holding my hand which rests on my knee.
I don’t think, I just lean in. I let my eyes scan the scene before me, complemented by Irish Lad, who I have only known a few days and will likely not really know once we get off this bus in town.
The golden hour has hit the Karst region as we barrel towards our expiration and the continuation of our lives.
Oh, my little short-term travel relationship.
What is a short-term travel relationship?
Like most travel relationships (come on, we’ve all had ’em, right?), it is a temporary moment. It is a relationship without the drama. Spanning only a few days, until that wistful departure comes when one goes east or north or south or west, and the other goes in a different direction (although in my case, we both went west, just to different countries).
It’s the easy, breezy thing that makes travel relationships perfect: passion, smiles, romantic moments with a definite expiration date. Then, it is on to the next hostel, the next romance, the next town.
Admittedly, I’m not one of those travelers with a boyfriend in every town, but I’d be lying if I said that Irish Lad was my first short-term travel relationship. I’ve had a few experiences in my travels where I got super swept up in the electricity, the passion that meeting someone on the road and having that momentary intersection elicits.
It’s those random nights wandering a deserted capital city, ending in that sweet kiss and promises of exploring worlds together.
It’s those drunken nights which give way to grocery shopping and cooking meals together until it is time to check-out.
It’s Irish Lad and a missing wallet that turned into the most recent short-term relationship set against the magnificent backdrop of Ljubljana.
There’s always one thing short-term travel relationships have in common: an instant connection. An energy that zaps. And these relationships tap at the heart, reminding even a forlorn traveler struggling to find peace, that life is beautiful and fleeting, at the same time. Relationships like this, as short-term as they are, make me light-headed and gently remind me to believe in love and dating and all of those romantic notions.
My temporary relationship through Slovenia
The sun is setting over the skylight in the Hostel Celica dorm room when I get back to Ljubljana, fresh from touring the Škojance Caves. The room, which had been empty when I left in the morning, now has one occupant: a sleeping and shirtless male. Knowing the rules of hostel life, I quietly tip toe in, with one easy mission: to secure my wallet.
Only, it isn’t in my bag.
I try not to let panic sink in, but shit. It’s my wallet. With my bank card. And my passport. (Rookie, yes, I know.) Throwing myself over the bed, I stretch my arm between the wooden bunk and the wall, desperate to find it, cursing in hushed tones as my fingers dig into the air under the bed, coming up empty-handed.
Defeated, I sit up on the bed and sigh, trying to figure out where I could have left the wallet and how I could have done such a dumb thing. In a last-ditch effort, I look through my Kelty bag again.
Then, the sleeping shirtless male is no longer sleeping. But still definitely shirtless.
“What’s up?” he asks in a heavy Irish accent, opening his eyelids but not moving his head from the pillow.
“Sorry,” I say, standing up quickly, aware that perhaps I hadn’t been as quiet as I imagined, breaking one my own hostel etiquette rules, even though it was still early in the evening. “I, uh, lost my wallet.”
“Shit,” he says, propping himself up in bed, “you want help?”
“Nah, I’m going to go check downstairs, but thanks,” I say, excusing myself from the dorm and heading to the front desk, where I sheepishly realize I’ve placed my wallet in my messenger bag locked in their office.
Heart still pounding from my near-loss of my most important travel possessions (minus camera, laptop and journal), I reward the discovery with a glass of Slovenian wine and some work time while the hostel gears up for live music.
I am tuned out of the world when he approaches me. I don’t even recognize him under the cover of twinkling lights and dark skies. And fully clothed.
“You find your wallet?,” he asks, standing next to my little table.
I smile, embarrassed by my little incident earlier. We strike up a basic conversation before he returns to his table on the opposite side of the garden. We are both sitting alone and I catch myself throughout the evening glimpsing over at him but never inviting him over, and he never comes back over. Finally, I look over, and he’s gone.
Well done, D.
Later, I head upstairs and get ready for bed. A few minutes later, Irish Lad comes in.
Instantly, we strike up that obligatory Travel Talk everyone has. It’s comfortable with him though. It is fun. I actually enjoy the conversation versus just going through the motions I am so used to doing when traipsing through the exchange. We chat as if we are old friends, easily and happily catching up on life before it is time to pass out.
“Well, I’m going down to Pula tomorrow,” he informs me and I actually feel bummed he won’t be in town. It’s that connection thing, and I feel it. Or at least I think there’s a connection. Perhaps I have been in Thailand too long and have grown to accustomed to the Thai dating scene there (or lack thereof generally) to actually tell for sure if there really is, or I am just being one of those women who has had too much time in between men.
And then he says quietly, looking at me from across the room, “Unless I don’t wake up, in which case I will still be in Ljubljana.”
Sleep in, I will him.
We say goodnight and the next morning, when I roll over after I hear his alarm turn on, and then immediately off, I smile to myself.
He’s still here.
“You want to go on an adventure today?” I ask him once we are awake.
He’s game so we head out into the city for a wander. Over coffee next to the Ljubljanica River, we try to figure out what to do for the day.
“I think we should do something entirely random,” I suggest, making the world our oyster. “Let’s leave town. Let’s hop on a bus or a train and go to the Adriatic. Or, let’s go to the mountains.”
Because what single travel gal doesn’t want to go on an adventure in a foreign country with a handsome man all to herself?
“Done,” he says as he downs the last of his coffee and we hike it over to both the train station and bus station. There, we learn all of the train and buses anywhere we want to go have since departed for the day. So, instead we had to the Contemporary Arts Museum in the artsy squatter Metelkova.
We wander through the seemingly minimal museum scratching our heads at the exhibits. “Perhaps we are missing something?,” we question each other as we look up to see a hair dryer hanging from the rafters at the entrance, turned on full blast and swinging around above our heads.
It’s a perfect date day, and the setting of Ljubljana makes it even more romantic.
In the evening, Hostel Celica throws a mustache party and we spend the night at each other’s sides, having far more in-depth conversations with him than I have had with anyone in a long time. Those personal conversations you reserve for intimate moments where you are sharing stories of life which have shaped you.
“Can I kiss you before I leave?” Irish Lad asks me as he heads out to a pub and I head upstairs to get ready for a tour the next day. But, I don’t need to respond.
We make plans for the following night after I return from Bled, and then for the day after that to wander Piran together.
The non-breakup breakup
The two of us walk back to the hostel together after our day in Piran. We don’t say much. It’s been the perfect day. A cozy bus ride to the sea …
… a magnificent lunch against the Adriatic …
… and a refreshing wander through one of Slovenia’s beautiful seaside towns. And then, the return ride, where we know our time is up, and we sit, tucked into each other, minds floating off before our bodies do.
The telltale street art lining the wall to Hostel Celica greets us and we stop at the driveway. Long, smiling look in each other’s eyes. kisses farewell.
“You know, if you ever come to London, let me know,” he says, giving me a kiss.
“Yeah,” I offer, knowing my desire to visit London anytime in the future is about zero.
We promise to keep in touch. We kiss again. Then, we separate. I return to my world of a single female traveler, and he returns to his.
This post is part of the D Travels Europe (and Israel) series. Stay up-to-date on all of my adventures by following along on Twitter (#dtravelseurope), Instagram,Trover, G+ and Facebook. And, for a look at the health and wellness side of European travel, be sure to follow along at The Comfort Zone Project and on TCZP’s Facebook.