• Claudia Elena

How I Travelled 3,000 miles to Find Love in my Backyard

Updated: Mar 11, 2020

If you are contemplating going to your high school reunion and you are on the fence about it, my advice is to GO!  I am old enough now that I have been to two reunions (my 10th and I cringe to say my 20th). I hemmed and hawed about it both times.  I wasn’t popular in high school. I didn’t like a lot of the people I graduated with, and didn’t really associate with most of them. BUT, for my 10th reunion, my best friend had planned most of it so I went out of obligation, and for my 20th, I had a friend visiting from out of town who planned to go, so that basically obligated me to go to that one as well. 


For my 10th reunion, I had a great time!  I talked to a lot of people and it was really fun to catch up.  A small group of us even went out afterwards and had a good time.  I was pleasantly surprised.  For my 20th, I had already had the experience of my 10th under my belt so I knew it might not be too bad.  Not only was my really good friend in town, but the reunion was walking distance from her parents’ house. We could pre-game there and then walk home afterwards.  It was just too convenient and easy NOT to go, so she, my other good townie friend and I, walked into the St. John’s Club with our heads held high, and conquered that shit!  We had a great time. I talked to people I barely knew, some people I was excited to see, and some people who were too cool for me in high school but were now like my besties.  

When the night came to a close, I was all ready to stroll on back to my friend Jackie’s house, just down the street, but my friend Emily was trying to convince me to go out.  A group of people were headed downtown (about a 10 minute cab ride away), and she wanted us to go. I hemmed and hawed again. I’m a “quit while you're ahead” kind of person and I felt satisfied with the evening.  I was ready to just head back. Also, I was married at the time, so I wasn’t looking for anything. But she managed to twist my arm. “I’ll pay for the cab,” she said. Sold! Apparently, twisting my arm is not too difficult.   And off we went, piling in with a couple others from high school. Rira’s, here we come. 

Now, I’m an introvert and suffered from social phobia for half of my life.  Going to these events is not easy for me but I push myself. A little social lubricant (aka alcoholic beverages), can go a long way in these situations!  When we arrived, I had enough buzz going on to make me nice and outgoing, willing to talk to whomever about whatever, but not sloppily so.  When we arrive, I see a guy we went to high school with that hadn’t been at the reunion.  I didn’t know him at all, but we had the camaraderie you can only have with someone you graduated with.  Added to that, having seen him around a couple of times in town through the years, coupled with my jovial state of mind, he may as well have been my best friend.  “Hey, what are you doing here? Where were you?!” So the conversation begins. He had a veiled answer. I later found out that he had gone into the reunion, felt so socially anxious that he walked out, but then later decided he still wanted to see people so he met us at the bar.  Go figure.  

We got to talking.  I found out he wasn’t really doing the punk band thing so much anymore but he did work for an airline.  I ended up telling him about my travel plans to go to Colombia the following month. I explained that my travel partner, Keetie from the Netherlands, was supposed to meet me there but that she was having some health issues and might not be able to go (true story), so I might be flying solo.  I was absolutely NOT expecting anything out of this; just making conversation. Then out he comes with it. He asked the dates I was going and said “I fly for free to Colombia. I could go with you.” WHAT?! I was completely taken aback. It turned out that he had a week vacation that just happened to line up with the 2nd half of my 14 day trip.  He explained that he’s trying to go on more adventures and he would just follow my lead. Although he’s done some traveling, this would be really different than anything he’s done before. I was surprised that my knee-jerk was not to run for the hills away from someone who is trying to interject themselves on my trip. My gut was telling me this was okay and I might actually like him to come (I’m picky about who I travel with).  

The next morning, I was talking to my friend who actually had been on a couple of dates with him in the past, and knew him a little better.  I’m like, “Do you think he was serious?” I find that people talk out of their asses much of the time and don’t often mean what they say when they engage in social niceties.  She believed that he was. The buzz had worn off at this point and I was surprisingly still alright with the prospect of this virtual stranger coming with me to Colombia. It sounded like more fun than going alone.  As it turned out, my friend Keetie was able to come on the trip after all, which I was so ecstatic about.  I presented her with the idea of this loosely vetted man coming with us for the 2nd half of our trip. “The more the merrier!” she says. This is why I love her.  

In the weeks leading up to the trip, my marriage dissolved. That is a whole complicated story for another time, but a chain of events and failed efforts to make it work resulted in us finally ending it soon before the trip.  My husband had allowed me to go on this two week trip (while he watched the kids), so that he could go on a three month trip himself several months later.  

Needless to say, when I touched down in Colombia, I was no longer married.  Greg was under the belief that he was going to be traveling around with a lesbian and a married mom of two.  I can safely say after nearly three years of knowing him now, he was genuinely going on this trip for the adventure, and had no intention of anything happening with either of us.  In fact, the idea that there was no prospect or expectation of anything happening was one of the appealing draws to this arrangement. He got to tag along on our ride in a country he wouldn’t otherwise be able to visit easily, because he didn’t speak the language.  

On day one of the trip, we lay all our cards out on the table.  For some reason I felt comfortable telling him the reasons for my failed marriage and he dropped some bombs about his sorted past (the details of which I won’t get into in this post).  We accepted each other whole-heartedly and went about our travels. He did not view me as a prospect and the more I got to know him, I didn’t view him as a viable prospect either.   

Now, I’m not going to lie. As a newly single female, I was in constant assessment of his viability as a romantic partner.  I quickly realized there were some character attributes that wouldn’t make us compatible, but there were others that were pretty appealing.  He had an impenetrable vibe about him though, a certain aloofness that made it hard to imagine making a real connection with him. Any slight attempt I made at flirting was NOT reciprocated, and I’m quite certain that he was completely oblivious.   It wasn’t like I was trying to pursue him per say; I just wanted to see what would happen if he played along with a little flirtatiousness. As time went on, I ended up telling Keetie: “He’s definitely not dating material, but I wouldn’t mind hooking up with him.”  As a brutally honest Dutch lesbian, she was not afraid to voice her opinion, and she did not find him suitable for...well...a multitude of reasons, but she was supportive of my endeavors!

About halfway through the trip when we were dancing in Santa Marta, we got a little close and personal after having a few.  We came close to a kiss and he backed off and said he didn’t want to get involved with my situation.  I was a little bummed but respected that and quickly moved on.  

A couple nights later, we were out once again at Masaya in Santa Marta.  Keetie went back to the room early and Greg and I stayed out. We became a little more flirtatious and when we went back to the room...well, you can use your imagination on the rest.  

I wasn’t sure what was going to happen after that, and frankly I assumed that would be it.  I still didn’t really see us dating and I assumed it was just a hookup. We spent our last night cuddling with no funny business and I kissed him goodbye when he left Colombia.  All I knew was that when he said “to be continued in Vermont,” I was happy he said that. 

We ended up flirtatiously texting non-stop until our first date back in Vermont, where he whispered in my ear during the movie:  “I fell in love with you in Colombia.” WHAT?! A little soon, I know. But if you knew him, it fits. We snuck in dates where we could.  He lived an hour away from me and I was still living with my ex-husband for close to a year after that. It was complicated. He met my kids nine months later.  The rest is history.  

You never know where you might find someone.  I found someone right in my backyard, a high school classmate, on a trip to Colombia.  The circumstances all just fell into place to make this happen.  If we hadn’t had the experience of this adventure together, we never would have given each other the time of day.  I would have found him to be too problematic and standoffish, and he would have found me to be...well...a divorced mom of two little kids.  Yikes. But here we are and I have someone always up for a new adventure.  

“Life is crazy and it took us twenty years to go on this crazy adventure.  We can’t wait another twenty to do it again.” --One of Greg’s texts as I was enroute back home to Vermont.  

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