I just spent a week in Malta, an island in the Mediterranean Sea. Years ago, my cousin was visiting said island on vacation when she serendipitously met and fell in love with a handsome, fiery Maltese man. After years of tearful, stressful back-and-forths between Malta and Canada, now they are married and have a beautiful daughter together. What a romantic story, right?!
“Romance” was definitely a theme of my trip. It wasn’t a passionate getaway for me – I was sharing a hotel room with my mom, after all! – but the gorgeous European locale and the people I spent time with got me thinking (even more than usual) about love, sex, relationships, passion, magic, and commitment. Here are five lessons I pondered a lot while in Malta, and still to this day…
Spend time with people who bring out your best self. It’s soooo cliché to say that travel helps you “find yourself,” but it’s an oft-repeated truism for a reason: being away from your regular environment, and the people you regularly spend time with, shakes off the gristle of your personality and shows you what’s actually core to who you are. On this trip I got to hang out with some relatives and family friends who I adore, and who bring out the best parts of me just by being encouraging, sweet, and welcoming. True, you can choose to be your “best self” any damn time you please, but certain people make it wonderfully easy to do so. Spending more time with those people is good for your soul, methinks.
Your weirdness is what makes you noteworthy. As you might expect, it was certainly an icebreaker when I mentioned to new Maltese friends that I’m a sex writer. I probably wouldn’t have brought it up if I wasn’t, y’know, drunk at a wedding reception. But contrary to what I expected of this conservative Catholic country, everyone I mentioned this to was actually super chill about it, and in many cases, fascinated. I’ll never forget when I mentioned my sex blog to the feisty brunette beauty I’d just befriended and she confessed, “My lifelong dream is to marry a man who has a nine-inch penis.” I mean, honestly – I’m sure few people at that wedding were having conversations as interesting as I was! Don’t forget to rock your weirdness; it’ll attract delightful opportunities, people, and situations into your life.
There are multiple modes of pleasure, and all are valid. My libido’s been weirdly waning lately – due to a mix, I think, of depression, travel stress, and recent heartbreak. It’s disheartening when sexual pleasure has been such a source of joy for you, for such a long time, and then it no longer is (however briefly). But this trip reminded me that there are so many other sources of pleasure in life: music, food, good company, exciting adventures, and so much more. I had a euphoric experience with some coconut-and-cinnamon gelato in a Valletta side street, and thought: if this is the closest I get to an orgasm all month, I’d be okay with that.
When you love someone, you accommodate them. I got to hang out with a couple friends of the family on this trip who I don’t often see, but who I totally cherish. I’ve always thought they were married, because they’ve been together for at least as long as I’ve been alive – but the lady of the pair told me that they’re actually not legally wed, because they never got around to having a wedding. I asked her why, and she said – with the utmost love and affection in her eyes – that her partner is so shy, the thought of getting up in front of all those people would be terrifying to him, so they opted to skip getting married altogether. They don’t seem any less happy or any less in love for it, and it seemed to me that she doesn’t resent his shyness – she loves and accepts it. I found this story extremely touching and hoped that someday I’ll be so in love with someone that their supposed flaws just seem like wonderful quirks to me, and that accommodating them feels less like a sacrifice and more like a joyous act of love.
Rediscover delight by rediscovering play. Like many folks, I find it nourishing and uplifting to spend time with kids. I got to hang out with my five-year-old cousin on this trip, posing for goofy selfies and running around, and she reminded me of the sheer joy of play for play’s sake. Unlike kids, adults don’t usually chase each other for the fun of it, make silly faces for no reason, or laugh maniacally at the drop of a hat – but we definitely need to do more of that stuff. I did some “playing” of my own when I took a day off from our travel itinerary and played ukulele in our hotel room by myself all day: after months of feeling uninspired and writing zero songs, I cranked out two new ones in a matter of hours. Those songs wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t been idly messing around on my uke, trying things out, and playing. Sex is like that too: you usually learn the most, and have the most fun, when you let go of your preconceptions and just experiment in the moment.
Have you ever had an epiphany while traveling? What did you learn?