My first travel hookup occurred at 19, when I was a recent non-virgin traveling with my parents in Australia. I met a lanky, pouty-lipped Melburnian and let myself be seduced by his accent, swoon-worthy utterances, and amazing kissing technique. This is how I found myself naked in a hostel bunk bed in the middle of nowhere, sans condom (or dignity). After kicking his dorm mates out, all vestiges of romance left the building. “Let’s get this over with,” he said, and immediately proceeded to jackhammer me into oblivion. Then — despite his promise to walk me back to my hotel, which was two miles away down an unlit, treacherous coastal road — he rolled over and fell asleep. I wound up doing the walk of shame in pitch darkness, and had to break into a run at one point because a lecherous freak making vaguely threatening sexual comments began following me in his car. I swore off sex for the next year (true story).
My best travel fling happened under the worst possible circumstances. It was September 11, 2001, and my next-to-last night in Portugal. I had just enough money left for a taxi to the Lisbon airport (my connecting flight back to the U.S. was via London). A shopkeeper with limited English attempted to explain the tragedy that was unfolding in New York, and at his urging, I called my parents from a pay phone. Dazed, I returned to my hostel, where I spent the next three hours slumped in front of the communal TV in a state of shock. Finally, a Dutch guy (who, I couldn’t help noticing, was extremely attractive), asked me, “Are you American?” When I said yes, he came and sat beside me, took my hand, and said, “Is there anything I can do to help you? Do you have enough money?”
I’m not a spiritual person, but this guy, P, was my savior for the next 36 hours (while I waited for flights to resume). He did more than loan me money — he and his friends were determined to distract me. They took me to dinner that night, and despite my protests (it felt wrong to even attempt to have fun with so much pain and suffering at home), they dragged me to a club, got me blind drunk, and we danced the night away. Inevitably, however, I broke down, and P took me to a quiet corner and wrapped his arms around me until I stopped sobbing. It was exactly what I needed at that moment.