I’ve always pictured myself with a partner who wants to explore the world with me, that stereotypical romantic vision of a soulmate with whom to share all the epics: learning to surf in Hawaii, skiing in Argentina, backpacking across Nepal. Even just heading out for a last-minute backpacking trip together, or a post-work mountain bike ride.
I’ve had that here and there, with seasonal boyfriends and travel affairs. In between were stints of being single in which I traveled solo or with friends, and stop-and-start dating episodes not worth making long-term adventure plans for.
But I recently stumbled into a healthy relationship. He’s everything I’ve been looking for: intelligent, motivated, caring, hilarious. I’m so attracted to him I can barely stand it.
There’s just one problem. He won’t go on adventures with me.
I keep thinking that if I’m patient, the vestiges of the adventurer he apparently was before I met him will re-emerge and then he’ll actually be everything I’m looking for. But he’s too married to his work to make time for playing outside anymore.
I’ve started to wonder…is this a deal-breaker?
I live with the philosophy that there’s so much to see and learn and experience, and I’ve structured my life around exploring the world. I work for myself so I can operate remotely at trailheads or from the road. It’s one of the reasons I don’t want kids, so I can adventure all over the globe (and even out the back door) at a moment’s notice. I’ve always expected to fall in love with someone with a similar lifestyle.
In the mountain towns that so many of us live in, that expectation isn’t far-fetched. I’ve looked wistfully at those many relationships where each is the others’ built-in adventure buddy: my sister and her husband hitchhiking on sailboats together through the South Pacific or my two best friends planning an epic float down the full length of the Colorado River where they first fell in love. Those relationships are stronger for their shared experiences, built on the magic formula of wonder, adrenaline highs, connection to nature, and the inevitable troubleshooting and hardships (which, admittedly, can just as easily break a relationship) that defines adventure.
Beyond that, the rise of social media has offered up a whole new playing field for comparison with an unprecedented look into other people’s lives. Particularly in the outdoor sphere, it’s all too easy to watch couples having incredible adventures on blogs and Instagram (albeit on an often highly-curated level). It’s created a special brand of romantic FOMO that can often leave us feeling lonely in our own, perhaps less adventurous, relationships, or extra lonely in our singleness. I admit I often catch myself thinking: I wish I had a partner like that—my own built-in travel buddy to share the experience, help with planning, inspire further journeys—basically, meet the need for companionship in this huge priority of exploring.
But the fact that it’s a priority also means that I’ve surrounded myself with other people who love to explore, who can meet my need for companionship in adventures. I hiked the Na Pali Coast with my sister and snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef with my dad. I backpacked in Patagonia with my best friend. I’m heading to the Yukon to mountain bike with my regular riding crew of a dozen women, and joining my two best friends floating the Colorado on their leg through Desolation Canyon.
So at heart, the question is: Should my partner really need to be my adventure buddy, when he meets literally every one of my other needs? I’m actually shockingly content lounging on his couch at home and talking for hours, or in the most mundane tasks of making dinner and walking the dog—which meets my up-to-now unknown need to be still between gallivanting off to kayak and ski and generally exhaust myself in the mountains.
I’ve come to realize that real love, the lasting kind, isn’t the first day of your most exciting adventure. It’s not even the worst day, when you’re tired and lost and everything’s gone wrong. Love is a thousand ordinary weeknights, the sum of which make you happier that you ever thought possible.
We can’t control who we fall in love with. We can’t force it to conform to our preconceived notions, like my hypothetical vision of adventuring around the world with my imaginary soulmate. The real thing is right in front of me, and the deal-breaker would be my failure to see it—adventurer or not.
Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash