I did it.
I made the biggest mistake any traveler can make.
I fell in love while living abroad.
I guess it’s not all that crazy. I met an American guy in Italy (even better, a Midwestern guy!). A guy who treated me with kindness and respect. As many of you know, a guy like that isn’t always easy to find. We would Skype at night or during his lunch breaks and the hours would pass without either of us realizing. There was no denying our connection. Nonetheless, I just wanted us to be friends. It was great to have someone here who spoke English, understood my jokes, and made me feel special.
Our first “date” was watching the Super Bowl with a few of his friends. He had access to American television and I did not, so it was the perfect excuse to finally get together. Plus, you can never go wrong with a football date.
Before the game, he came to my host family’s house and had dinner with us. He was so polite, it was easy to see that he was exactly the guy that I should want to be with. The rest of the night was perfect as well, it was as if we’d known each other for years. Still, l was cautious. Don’t date someone here. It’s only temporary.
A couple days after the Super Bowl, I flew back to America and it was only about a week after that, that he asked me to be his girlfriend. Don’t say yes, I told myself. This is too good to be true. But I couldn’t help myself. I said yes. And so it began.
That first month was difficult. I was in the States and he was back in Italy. I couldn’t wait to see him again. I couldn’t wait for my plane to land and for him to hold me in his arms. How could I miss someone so much after spending so little time with them? Actually, I was kind of nervous. What if he’s not as great as you remember? But, of course, he was. He opened doors for me, carried my luggage, walked on the outside of the sidewalk as if he could protect me from all sorts of danger.
We spent the rest of that day in Verona, one of the most romantic cities in the world. We had gelato and I took him to some of my favorite spots. He kissed me on the Castelvecchio Bridge. It was perfect. I felt happy and safe.
Things just got better after that. He never complained about the long drives to pick me up, which was good, because I was always looking forward to our weekends together. I could just walk around the cobblestone streets for hours, holding onto his arm, never believing that this could really be my life. We went on a lot of weekend adventures to different towns, but we tried to spend time with my host family in Small Town, Italy as well. Even they had fallen under his spell, and they welcomed him to the family just as they had welcomed me. Eventually, all of our plans included each other. We spent his birthday with his friends and Easter with his family.
Sometime at the end of April, I told him I loved him (on accident) and he told me he felt the same way (on purpose). Everything was good. For the first time in my life, I didn’t care about what would happen in the future. That is, as long as he was in it.
We had our challenges, of course. The month of May was especially hard. He had to leave for a month and time went by so slowly. Though he was always quick to reassure me, I worried that he would forget about me or that he wouldn’t love me when he got back. Eventually, though, I was in his arms again, feeling happy and safe. Then, it was my turn to leave for a couple of weeks. I traveled around Europe, the whole time wishing he was with me. Everything I experienced didn’t feel real because he wasn’t experiencing it with me. I was almost happier to fly “home” to him than I was to visit all those new places. I’d never felt so drawn to someone before. Sometimes I actually hated myself for caring so deeply about a person I’d gone my whole life without. But this guy… this guy was special. He made me feel worthy and beautiful and loved. He made up for every shitty guy who’s ever hurt me.
And that’s what makes writing this so hard. Because I was right, it was too good to be true.
I honestly wish I could say that he cheated on me. Or that he hit me. Or that he stole from me. Anything. But none of that would be true. Let me reiterate: he always treated me with kindness and respect.
So, what happened? I wish I had a good, concrete answer for you, but I don’t. All I can do is walk you through what I will always remember as the best, and worst, week of my life.
In mid-June, we decided to take a weekend trip to Croatia. Our first vacation together. It started with a romantic night in Venice, drinking wine and eating pasta, walking along the canals. Later on, we got in a little fight. After all, we weren’t perfect. But in the end, I went to bed happy. He never wanted me to go to sleep upset and we were good at talking things out. We spent the next four days in Croatia and I truly can’t express how amazing it was. We would spend our days at the beach, just laughing and talking, never running out of topics. He made me feel confident wearing my swimsuit because he knew I hated being seen in one. At night, we would get dressed up and go out for dinner in Old Town. He would tell me, again, that I looked beautiful in whatever dress I was wearing. I would tease him for whatever hideous Hawaiian shirt he decided to wear (though I secretly loved it). Everything felt right. This is how it should be.
Anyone who saw our photos from those evenings would be able to see on my face how content I was, just being there with him.
Even the drive home was fun. Listening to him loudly sing 90s songs and making plans about what we would do when we both returned to America in July (we even coordinated our visits home). I wanted that car ride to last forever so that our perfect trip would never end. I was sad when he dropped me off at home and I was forced to accept that the weekend was over. I didn’t want that goodbye kiss. Little did I know, it would be the last kiss we ever shared.
Later that night, four hours after he dropped me off, I got a phone call from him. I instantly smiled. “You miss me already?!”
I don’t remember how he responded, but I instantly knew something was wrong. I always knew when something was wrong. He told me he didn’t feel good, but I could tell it was more than that. Eventually, he said it.
“Ally, I think we need to pump the breaks on this whole thing.”
Wait, what? What did he just say?
It’s hard to remember the conversation that followed. It felt like the room was spinning. He told me he didn’t see a future with me. That he couldn’t go home and meet my parents or have me meet his family if he didn’t see this going anywhere in the long run.
I asked him what changed. I asked him how this could be happening. I asked him if he just wanted us to end things and I hoped he would say no.
But he said yes and I hung up.
I was shocked. The next two days were a blur. My host mom tried to comfort me, but I still would erupt in tears at any given moment. I couldn’t eat or drink. I couldn’t fall asleep because then I would dream that everything was okay. But it wasn’t okay. Nothing was okay. My heart had been ripped out. I didn’t know why any of this was happening.
Two nights after our perfect vacation and that nightmare of a phone call, we agreed to talk on the phone again. I wanted an honest answer. I wanted closure. And, if I’m honest, I thought maybe, just maybe, I could change his mind. I asked him if there was something I was doing that was bothering him, that made him change his mind, he said no. I asked him if there was someone else, he said no. I asked him if he’d always felt this way, he said no, of course not. I asked him if he felt this way in Croatia, and again, he said no. He said he still loved me, that he really was happy with me. Yet, something had obviously changed. He didn’t see himself marrying me.
For the first time since I met him, I was actually mad at him. What does that even mean?! How does this make sense?! How can you do this to someone?! I tried to see things from his point of view. I tried to understand what he was saying. But it was useless. He had no concrete reasoning for why he wanted to end things, he just felt it was right.
So, that’s it. We said goodbye. We will not remain friends. I’ll never again hold his hand as we walk down cobblestone streets, sharing gelato. I’ll never again see that smile I’ve come to love so much. There will be no more firsts for us, no more plans. My perfect Italian romance is over just as quickly as it began. And I have zero closure.
I know it’s time to move on. Time to delete pictures that, until now, never got to be posted. Time to get that “revenge body” Khloe Kardashian is always talking about. Time to write more. Time to travel by myself. Really though, I’m lucky. I have an amazing support system at home and amazing friends all over the world who are never more than a phone call away. They tell me that I deserve better, but I’m not so sure about that yet.
Trust me. I want to hate him. I want to make this post a big “screw you!” to the guy who, ironically, was always pushing me to write more blog posts. But I can’t. He’s a good guy and I still love him. He’s the guy I wanted to show off to the world. I can’t say for sure that I saw myself marrying him, but I knew I wanted to spend as much time with him as I could. We were good together, we had fun, and we were in love. For him, that wasn’t enough of a reason to stay together. And now I’m left feeling like I wasn’t enough. Nonetheless, he doesn’t deserve to be hated. He was what every boyfriend should strive to be.
I mean it. The point of this post is not to make you hate him or to make you feel bad for me. And if he’s reading this, I hope he understands why I felt the need to write it. My hope is that anyone reading this won’t make the same mistake that I did. I’m not telling you to not fall in love. Fall in love with your travels. Fall in love with the food and the culture. Fall in love with the scenery and the language. And meet people. Meet people who make you smile and who make you feel worthy. But don’t fall in love with them.
I know this is probably controversial. I know a lot of people have met the love of their life while traveling abroad. I just ask that you be sure of what you are getting yourself into. Because now, whenever I think of Italy or Croatia or Slovenia, I’ll think of the guy who broke my heart. The guy who wrote in my birthday card “Ally, I am so incredibly lucky to have you in my life. I love you!” and then a week later decided I wasn’t the one for him. All of my memories are tainted. Even when I wasn’t with him, I was thinking about him and where we would go next or what we would see.
Everything is different now, because I let myself fall in love in Italy.