Do you ever really find love when you most expect to?
My own journey - and the journey of others like me - says you probably don't.
I spent last Saturday evening celebrating the birthday of a good friend's wife. We arrived at their ground floor apartment terrace to the distinctive rhythm of Latin American music, colourful garden lights twinkling from up high on the marquee, and the mouthwatering aroma of chicken and beef skewers grilling on the barbeque.
Chilled drinks were served and a mix of Spanish-English chatter ebbed and flowed around me. Half-closing my eyes and with the warm autumnal air on my face, I could have been in Europe. In Spain. In fact, anywhere by the Mediterranean.
Surrounded by a lively cocktail of Colombians, Israelis, Australians and Brits, it was a Saturday night with a uniquely international flavour - and the partygoers shared more similarities than first met the eye.
|Photo credit: Photography by BJWOK / FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
Following similar paths
Engaging with old friends and new acquaintances alike, I realised we all had something in common.
Each of us was sharing our lives with a partner from a different place. From a country far removed from our own.
My British friend, Simon, and his Colombian wife, Lynn. His brother, Mark, married to Mel, an Australian. Tom, also from Australia, and Malu from Colombia. Scotsman Grant and his Israeli wife, Ilana. Aussie Dave with Vicky, another Colombian.
And I with my wife, Sarah. My own beautiful piece of Australia.
As the aguardiente was raised, I wagered a bet that once upon a time none of us could have imagined we'd be sat on this terrace at this party in this city sharing our lives with soulmates from around the world.
My unexpected love
I grew up in the south of England with an immediate curiosity in the world at large and an early desire to explore the environment around me. Part-English, Canadian, Welsh and Irish, overseas adventure was always on the cards.
I met my wife, Sarah, in my 20's. At the gym of all places. In a BodyPump class. My step behind hers. A fascinating place to find love and romance.
Treading water in my early career, I yearned to fly the coup and explore. Sarah was a shining light of positivity and worldliness in my small southern English town of grey. She saved me from the boredom of a life lived in front of the television or at the shopping mall or down the pub. She was also quite a good-looking sort.
Within two years, we were headed to Canada on the first leg of our travel adventure together.
I didn't intend to find Sarah but, deep down, I always knew I'd been searching for her.
I wanted someone with a passion for living life, not just getting by. I wanted to see and do extraordinary things with a like-minded friend and partner, not just follow the routine 9-5. And I wanted to be with someone who loved her own home as much as mine and, more importantly, wanted to share it openly with me.
Sarah gave me all that and more.
A world of positives
This journey from there to here has been remarkable and committing to someone from a different country has been no small thing.
We've had our ups and, sure, we've had our downs. From being far from loved ones to the travel distance between familial homes and the ever-present uncertainty regarding how long we live in which place are ongoing issues that will no doubt follow us to the very end.
But the understanding we have of each other runs deeper than water. We've lived in each other's countries. We've experienced how tough it is to be away from immediate family and friends. We intuitively know each other's thoughts and instinctively protect each other when the need arises as if second nature.
We are culturally enriched from exposure to each other's homes and histories, traditions and celebrations. We appreciate each other for what we bring to the table and are forever grateful for the sum of both our parts.
At the terrace party last Saturday, I saw that deeper understanding and affection in the eyes and actions of the others. They were there for each other, for the long haul, through thick and thin. And by embracing their differences and welcoming diversity, they'd created a strong and loving community within which to settle, establish and grow.
As for my story, I guess I never really expected to find the love of my life on that early morning at that gym in that southern English town.
And that, for me, has been the most pleasantly surprising thing.
Have you found love where you least expected it? Did you find love along an overseas journey of your own or did you set out with soulmate in hand as I did?
Do share your own story below.