Love doesn’t sleep just because you’re traveling. This episode, in honor of Valentine’s Day, we’re dedicating an episode to our listeners’ stories, from tales of a windswept singles resort, to a fling in a Toronto hotel, to a surprising encounter in China. Whether you love or hate this holiday, or love to hate it, we promise this episode will be a fun one.
Lale Arikoglu: Hi, I'm Lale Arikoglu. And this is an episode of Women Who Travel. And we're marking Valentine's Day with a return of our listener dispatches. It's fun, it's candid, it's certainly not hallmark, and I think you'll enjoy it.
Danny Alpert: I was hoping that when he found out that I was traveling, that it would hurt him.
Speaker 3: So we're drinking champagne on the streets with strangers, and then running to more parties and more fireworks.
Speaker 4: Fortunately, in my tornado of packing, I had one sexy bra and lingerie set.
Melissa Gould: We'd joke that his love language is quiet. Which is not an actual love language.
Speaker 6: I went so far as to put on a Dayglow bikini. I went to the beach trying to get some attention.
Ellen Kushner: I thought that she had never traveled because she lived with this woman who hated travel.
Speaker 8: How am I gonna get out of this? How am I gonna send him home and have my best friend come on the rest of the trip with me instead?
Lisa Niver: I was talking to my coworker about this incredibly hot Adonis. And she said to me, "Does stuff like this happened to you all the time?"
Speaker 10: It was a Pilates retreat that I went to because my ex would not agree to go to a Pilates retreat.
Speaker 11: I wanted to know the difference between being in the Alfama District versus Bairro Alto. My boyfriend couldn't care less.
LA: Before we ask those listeners to dive deeper into their stories, I want to play a clip from Jessica Nabongo. Based in Detroit and of Ugandan parentage, she's a regular here, the first black woman to visit every country in the world and document her experiences. She's next week's guest. And at the end of the conversation for that episode, I had to find out if she'd had an adventure she could share today.
Jessica Nabongo: Okay, here's a crazy story. I won't give too many details but, um, so [laughing] so okay, when I went to China, uh, when you go to China on a US passport, you get like a five-day visa for that region. You can't fly outside of the region, but like say if you go to Beijing, you can stay for five days. Or if you go to Shanghai or whatever, right? So I flew in to China, and then I went to North Korea. And then I came back to China. So when I came back, I met this guy. But when I came back, like, China low-key they were being discriminatory. They only gave me two days, 'cause that's when my flight was leaving. So technically, I was supposed to get five, but they only gave me two days. And I was like, whatever.
So I meet this guy, we hang out and I ended up extending my trip by a day just to hang out with him or whatever. And so when I go to the airport, apparently it was a big deal because I overstayed this visa. And it ended up being such a wild situation because now I'm pretty sure I'm not... I don't know if I'm allowed back into China. I couldn't read the paper that they forced me to sign against my will. Um, but it was all because of this gentleman that I met in China.
LA: Wait, you've got to give me like a couple more details about this guy, given that he was worthy of overstaying your visa and getting maybe to sign dubious paperwork.
LA: Who was he?
JN: Oh, my God. The crazy thing is, um, he was actually Ugandan. So who would have thought that I would meet a Ugandan guy in China, in Beijing and then ended up, uh, overstaying a Chinese visa to hang out with him.
LA: Where did you meet him? Was it of, like, of all the bars of all the places, I found my Ugandan guy in this one in China?
JN: Well, it's so funny. So I had met this Ugandan girl who was living there. And she was like, "You know, I wanna take you out with some friends of mine." And so then he was one of her friends and that's how we got connected. And then we just kinda hung out.
LA: I love it. Love it. Here's a story about a last minute trip on New Year's Eve.
Ellen Kushner: I am Ellen Kushner. And I have to say Amsterdam has always been an important part of my romantic life. So when Delia and I got together, it was really funny, because I thought that she had never traveled because she lived with this woman who hated travel and, uh, was in general kind of a cranky person. I love to travel, had been traveling all my life because, uh, my dad loved to travel. And we'd, uh, he'd worked in Europe when I was a kid. So I thought it was very normal to go running all over Europe and I had been doing that ever since. Delia, we'd been really good friends for a while, but we fell into each other's arms one summer, and then there was the usual kinda drama. We were kinda going slow. She was living on the road, I was living on my own. And then I start getting these letters from friends of mine in Amsterdam, saying, "Oh, Ellen, if you're gonna be in Amsterdam on New Year's Eve, I'm having a party. In fact, the whole city has parties on New Year's Eve, and you basically go from house to house dropping in on all your friends. And there's tons of fireworks going on the whole time."
Well, this made me crazy, because I love fireworks. Deli and I were kind of in the early stages, we'd never really gone anywhere together. But on a hope for the Christmas Hanukkah holiday, I gave her this little tiny box. It was like a chocolate box or something. And when she opened it, she unfolded a piece of paper, which word by word said, "Will you go with me to Amsterdam on New Year's Eve to see the fireworks?" Well, that worked and, uh, we got tickets, uh, really quickly. And a friend of mine said he had a spare bedroom. So we got to stay there. And so we fly to Amsterdam. And that night, we're running through the city 'cause it turns out everybody has a party. Fireworks going off all over the place. And people are also lighting these huge strings of Chinese firecrackers, it's red paper, noise going off everywhere. Everyone laughing running down the street.
And these people are out there with glasses of champagne, glass glasses, you know, flutes of champagne, and they offer us champagne. It was like, it was like being in the middle of the happiest war you've ever been in because the sound was appalling. And there was smoke everywhere from the fireworks and everyone was happy and laughing. Really was just extraordinary. Next day, all the paper was gone, back to normal, but we'd had that really magical night. So as you can imagine, we kinda like Amsterdam. And the next summer we went back, we sublet a friend's apartment for a few weeks. And, uh, Amsterdam of course, its golden age was the 17th century. And we both love the 17th century, we're both, um, historical novelists. She writes more standard history. And I write historical fantasy, which is where I take a lot of history and add some magic to it.
And so we found a restaurant that was in a 17th century house that said it gave authentic 17th century dinners. So we got very excited about this, like oh boy 17th century dinner, wow, we're gonna really have this experience. We go in and we sit down, it's really beautiful, our table is candlelit. And then the food comes out, and it is really the most godawful food, I don't know if they really ate like that in the 17th century. And she proposed to me, of course, I did not take her proposal entirely seriously. But she wore me down in time. And we had a what I call an illegal wedding a couple of years later. And then we were legally married, where we lived at the time in Massachusetts when it became legal.
LA: Next up, we often hear about revenge travel, you know, the kind of trips you take to get back at something or someone.
Danny Alpert: It didn't matter where I was going, it didn't matter where he was going. The fact was he was going without me. And I refuse to be left behind. So I took whatever travel opportunity I was given, and I went. Have you ever heard of revenge travel? I coined it, you know, Circa 2015. Hi, I'm Danny Alpert, and several years ago, after seven years, my boyfriend broke up with me. I soon found out that he had been cheating. To add insult to injury, I found out that he was traveling with this person to places that he and I had been to. And I couldn't let that go on punished. I set out to match him mile for mile, place to place because he was able to just pack up and go as if our relationship didn't mean anything. And I wanted to do the same. I was not gonna be left behind. So I started revenge traveling, which just means that I was hoping that when he found out, if he found out that I was traveling, that it would hurt him.
Now, after the breakup, I was still in contact with his daughter, and she became my unintentional informant. So I would know when he was traveling, and where he was traveling. She had no idea about this. It was just a little game I was playing with myself. I didn't think about if I was interested in the place. I didn't do any research. There was no, um, I didn't have the bandwidth to do any research. I, it was all impulsive because I was grieving. And I wanted to take some kind of power back. So my first trip was to Sayulita, Mexico, it was a yoga retreat that my friend was hosting. Now, I'm not even that thrilled with yoga. I'm more of a Pilates person. But the trip sounded all planned and I didn't really care where I was going. And, boy, if my friend said namaste one more time, I, I was going to tackle her on her sticky mat.
I mean, man, that was a lot of yoga. I didn't realize how sad and belligerent I was. I just imagined my boyfriend, my ex boyfriend, excuse me, with his younger and blonder new girlfriend, and it, it made me sick. But I kept going. My second trip was to the Bodhi Tree in Nosara, Costa Rica. And from the moment I landed, everything went wrong. Nothing worked out. It was pure disappointment. I set up an appointment to go on an ATV ride to a waterfall. When I got there, it was more like a slow drip, because it hadn't rained in the last several months. It reminded me of the shower head in my Cabana, which also was a slow drip. That trip ended two days earlier than planned. And I, I had to leave. It just, nothing was going right. My third trip, I went to the Turks and Caicos. I didn't even know where Turks and Caicos were. But I had gotten an email from American Express, giving me a package all-inclusive deal. All I had to do was check a box.
And when I got there, it turned out that it was one of those couples-only, sandals type of resorts. I'm sure I was the only solo traveler in her mid 40s there. I ate all my meals in my hotel room because I was so uncomfortable eating, surrounded by all these other couples making out. I went so far as to put on a Dayglow bikini. I went down to the beach. I did handstands on the sand, trying to get some attention, nothing. But my fourth trip was the turning point. I went to Iceland, and I fell in love with the place. I was finally doing activities that I actually wanted to do. I went snowmobiling, I dropped down into a volcano. I went ice climbing on a glacier. I tasted the freshest water you could ever imagine. And I made friends.
Ironically, the only place that my ex and I discussed going to, that was on our to do list was Iceland. And how funny that that's the place that turned it all around for me. I put my passport away knowing that I had to stop running, if I was going to get over this person and move forward. So I found my love for travel again, and I found myself and the sweetest revenge was forgetting all about my ex. That was the true revenge. I probably traveled 2000 miles and, and spent some money that I probably shouldn't have spent to learn that I didn't need to do any of it really. I needed to just sit still and feel the pain and walk through it to get to the other side.
LA: Coming up, a fling on a work trip, not at a windswept singles resorts, but at a conference hotel in Toronto.
Lisa Niver: This is Lisa Niver. It's Niver like diver. I'm a teacher for the kids that need school while they're filming a TV show or a movie. And I normally work in California. But my boss once called me and asked, as a favor, could I go very last minute to work in Toronto? One of my best friends lives in Toronto, and I was excited that they would literally pay for me to go visit my friend and work. But then she called me back and she said, "Actually, we don't need you." And I was super disappointed because I was tired of being in California. And in my mind, I had actually given myself an imaginary boyfriend that I met when I was staying in Toronto. Because when I used to work on the cruise ship and I, I used to work for Club Med, there were a lot of times that I had a actual crazy moment with a g- guest or something that happened. We used to call Club Med club bed for a reason. Anyway, so I was so sad. And I actually told my boss that I couldn't believe she wasn't letting me go to Toronto because I was going to have to break up with my imaginary boyfriend.
And so we had a very funny laugh about that. And surprisingly, a couple of days later, she called me again, desperate, like, "Please, I really need you to drop whatever you're doing and pack." I'm like, "Wh- you're telling me now I'm going to Toronto?" And in my head I was thinking I might actually meet my new imaginary boyfriend? So I packed, it felt like that character in the, in the cartoons, the Tasmanian devil, I was like, "I don't know what I need. I don't know what the set is like." Anyway, I put my stuff in the suitcase, and I barely slept because they were picking me up like four o'clock in the morning. It's always great when they pick me up to go the airport, but I don't know, somehow when I have a weird time to wake up, I wake up every hour. I flew on the plane, I waited in line, I finally got to my hotel. One of the reasons I've traveled all over the world is I love, love, love, love, love scuba diving.
So I'm always trying to swim as much as possible to keep in shape for my next adventure. So when I got to the hotel, they told me they did have a pool, and they even had late night swim that was adults only. Anyway, so I did my swimming. I had my blue swimming cap and my goggles. And I think that I look so geeky, but whatever. That's how I swim. So I finished up my swimming, and I got out of the pool, and I put on my robe and I was getting ready to leave. And I just had this feeling I forgot something. So I was looking back at the chair where I had my cell phone, I had my cell phone, I had my room key. I was like, "What else do I need?" And then, oh my goodness, I saw this man in the water. And I thought, oh my gosh, if I could have imagined my imaginary boyfriend, I definitely made him look like him. He was amazing.
I thought to myself, that's a lot of abs. I was like, who, who has abs like that? And, uh, he started talking to someone and I felt like, like one of those funny movie scenes where the guy's talking to the girl and the girls in the diner looking behind her. I was like, oh, there's a clock. He's looking at the clock. He's not talking to me. And he said, "No, I, I am talking to you." And I was like, "Oh my God, I said it out loud." So he starts chatting with me. Anyway, it was the end of the night and the lady came in and she was like you guys have to get out of here. And she kicked us out. And essentially, like locked the door behind us. And my, my friend with the abs got in the elevator with me and was chatting me up. And I'm not usually at a loss for words. I work on cruise ships, I work on set, but this man really looked like the model for like uh, a sculpture in Greece. Anyway, he kept talking to me and unfortunately at some point, of course, he had to ask me my name.
And it was only, you know, I have to ask him his name. And then that was when it was over for me. I was like, ah, it was so good. It was, it was, I was thinking maybe, maybe tonight I would get lucky but he had a very unlucky name in my opinion because he had the same name as my ex-husband. And there was no way I was having a hot hotel room sex with a guy with the same name as my ex-husband. I just, that didn't sound appropriate to me. And honestly, it was basically like my whole brain shut off in a different way. Anyway, he didn't know that. And I didn't tell him that. But he kept talking to me in the elevator, and then he, he got out on the same floor as me. And apparently, I'm not very smart, 'cause I looked at him and I said, "You're on the same floor as me? That's a coincidence." He said, "Lisa, I'm not on the same floor as you." And then I was thinking, why would he get off the same floor as me? Like, oh, he thinks he's coming home with me.
I was like, nope, nope, nope. It's my first day at work tomorrow. I had so many excuses. And he said, I have to work tomorrow, too. And he told me that he was working on set with Arnold Schwarzenegger, which honestly, I didn't believe. I was like, "Sure, he's here. And sure you're on set also." I just figured I had said I was on set, so then he said he was on set. Anyway, I, in fact, I gave him my card. And I don't know why because I was never gonna sleep with him. I waved goodbye. And I went to my room. And you know, I had to wash my hair because I had been swimming and I had to work the next day. And I, the whole time, I just thought just make a huge mistake. I mean, when the universe gives you a gift, you're not really supposed to give it back. And I thought since I had my imaginary boyfriend before I even left, it is like the universe saying, here you go, and served him up to me on this platter. And I just basically kicked him to the curb. So I thought about that all night. And then, of course, again, I was sleep-deprived for work, and I got there, and I had made fast friends.
And I was telling this woman, my whole story. I'm like, "I know I never met you before but this crazy thing happened to me last night." And I told her the whole story, especially about his name. She said, "First of all, who cares what you call him," and she invented a name for him because he had such good abs. She called him Abs McGee. Anyway, so all day long, I was thinking about that Abs McGee, and he did actually text me from his set, and asked if he could see me later. And I was thinking about it. And I did find out I asked someone... I just asked who else was in town filming and the first person they mentioned was Arnold Schwarzenegger. [laughing] So it was true that Arnold Schwarzenegger was in town. I decided to text a friend of mine who I've known since the seventh grade. And I texted her, I explained the story to her. And she wrote me back and she said, "Listen, I think it's really time that you have a new association with an old name." She said, "You can't keep giving your ex-husband all this power. I think you deserve to have a great time."
So later that night, I texted him and I, he a- asked me to meet him in the lobby. We met up for drinks in the lobby, which was really fun. He continued to be charming and entertaining. And he had these dots on his face, because they had been doing this ADR filming where they were using his body but they were gonna match his face. And they worked so late, that he said that the makeup team was gone. He was like, "Listen, you're a girl, don't you have some lotion or makeup remover in your room? Can't you help me out?" And I mean, I wasn't really still on the fence about taking him home. But it was really cute. And so I was like, "Yes, I guess I'll help you out." So he came up to my room. I helped him remove the dots from his face. And then he really helped me remove all my clothes.
And we had this really great, crazy, sexy romp in my room. And it was so much fun. And I really was appreciative to have this whole girl tribe that came around me and helped me rethink this idea I had in my head that I could s- miss out on this super fun, I mean, I didn't know what it was, it turned out to be more than a one night fling. I saw him every night that we were both in town in the hotel together, we went out to dinner. Fortunately, in my tornado of packing, I had one sexy bra and lingerie set that I got to wear. And I ha- I hadn't anticipated that but you really did have a great time and meeting him and being willing, it really did help heal my heart. But it really made a difference for me to let go of that and, and give myself permission to be happy and try again, no matter what the guy's name was.
LA: You've probably heard of that term love languages. They're supposed to come from your attachment and communication traits. So it stands to reason that your love style must determine how you travel, or does it? Of course, compatibility isn't always a given. So what do you do?
Melissa Gould: It's Melissa Gould. My boyfriend and I had planned a three-week European vacation. And it was unusual for us because we don't see each other that often. And this was going to be the longest amount of time that we have ever spent together. So we have had like mini vacations here and there but in terms of spending 21 days together, it was exciting. And it was really kind of like, let's see how this goes. Our first stop was in Lisbon, Portugal. However, on our second day, somehow there was some miscommunication, we got in a huge argument. It started in the coffee shop, again, I don't know what it was about. But I thought this is only day two of a 21-day excursion, I am not gonna make it. Like, every thought in my head was, how am I going to get out of this? And the other factor is we don't fight.
I think this was our second argument and many years together. And I sat there thinking, how am I gonna get out of this? How am I going to send him home and have my best friend come on the rest of the trip with me instead? She and I travel really well together. And we've had extended vacations together all over the world. But again, this was my first time with my boyfriend on a kind of trip like this. And I realized that we just had very different expectations when it comes to travel. I like to plan things I like to know what we're doing, where we're going, my boyfriend couldn't care less. He just wanted a good cup of coffee and have this sort of laissez faire, like wherever we end up is where we're gonna end up. Somehow, after that huge argument and me realizing we had a long way to go on this trip together, I just had to relent because of that he is who he is. And he knew that I am who I am. And I got over it. And we ended up having the most wonderful time together.
He was more than happy to, like I said ta- sort of tag along but you know, became more and more interested and excited as the trip went on. And, you know, from Portugal, we went to some of the Canary Islands, and then to S- Southern Spain. And in Spain, I had this great bicycle trip planned on a tour in Cadiz, that was unbelievable. The fact that he was just so content relying on me to make the plans and I just released myself from like this burden of responsibility. And I just thought I'm gonna do what I wanna do. He was very excited when we ended our trip in Bilbao. And he had planned the day to the Guggenheim Museum, because that's what you do when you're in Bilbao. He knew that. He was excited to, to do that. But it was really like such an interesting experience going to these places, from Portugal to the Canary Islands to Morocco to Spain.
So what was also interesting about this trip is we had spent some time talking about our love languages. And my love language is words of affirmation. And we joke that his love language is quiet. So on this vacation together, I realized that we also have different language when it comes to travel. So by the end of our trip, I realized that we had both compromised, he kind of gave me the room to do the planning, and the organizing and sending the itineraries and I just surrendered to the idea that he was happy to do whatever it was I wanted to do. And that worked for us. He kept saying, "Baby, this is such a great trip. Baby, that was a great excursion we had in Cadiz. Baby, I loved when we went to see that mosque in Morocco. Casablanca was amazing because of that tour you booked for us." We've been together nine years, and we're already planning our next big European vacation."
LA: Thank you to those listeners for sharing their candid stories. Next week, Jessica Nabongo, who's been visiting many places, and actually has one continent still to explore. I'm Lale Arikoglu, and you can find me on Instagram @LaleHannah. Our engineers are Jake Lummus, Nick Pitman and James Yost. The show is mixed by Amar Lal. Jude Kampfner from Corporation for Independent Media is our producer. Chris Bannon is Conde Nast Head of Global Audio.
Originally Appeared on Condé Nast Traveler