Before I moved to Sydney, everyone said the same thing: “You’re going to fall in love.”
A year removed from the end of a three-year, live-in relationship, I shook my head violently at the prediction. I knew many of them said such things because I was heading into my late 20s single, a state most had abandoned long before in favor of coupledom and even marriage. Even if I ever indulged my friends’ fantasies, the picture they presented involved a 22-year-old Australian surfer -- not really my type. Besides, this was “my” time. I didn’t want some dude barging in with his opinions, needs and desires. For the 365 days of my work and holiday visa, I would play center stage.
One of the first people I met in Sydney was the good friend of one of my friend’s coworkers -- confusing, I know -- back in Philadelphia. I had been emailing with the guy, Brendan, to ask questions about Sydney. He was helpful and nice. I knew little about him, save that he had lived in Philadelphia like me prior to his move abroad for work in late 2008.
Two weeks after I came to town we decided to meet for drinks. I rocked up at the bar, where he sat with one of his friends, and instantly knew who he was despite only ever glimpsing him in a somewhat far-away Facebook photo. He gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek, and a weird feeling came over me; it seemed as if I already knew him, and not just from our few short emails. He had a nice smile and kind blue eyes. Our conversation came effortlessly and quickly became banter.
What we both thought would be a one-time, obligatory meet-up turned into a whole night of talking, meeting his friends, drinking and playing card games. We even sang karaoke, something I hadn’t done in years. We hung out with his friends again, and he later asked me out to dinner. I played it down like it wasn’t a date and told him I was just looking to stay single.
That excuse worked for about two more weeks. After another false start, we began dating, and in short time, were “an item.” My friends’ vision of some tan, blonde, messy-haired Aussie became a fair-skinned, mid-thirties American expat. You can imagine how the story sounded. People were incredulous that we could have met in our backyards, but had instead found each other across the world. It sounded especially surprising given all the people we both knew from abroad who had shacked up with Aussie men and women.
Besides all the things we like about each other and the commonality of being from the same area of the U.S., the attraction grew from a different source: we’d both left everything we knew for a country we’d never even visited. Like me, Brendan possessed wanderlust and a desire for a life different than the norm. So it made sense to me that we’d pick each other as partners, even though we had these novel Australians all around us.
Several realities make being an American couple abroad easier. First, the physical obligations to family and friends don’t exist. There’s no meddling; we can do as we wish here. We’re also still so enamored of Australia that our life here seems like an exploration, which keeps the relationship fresh.
Concerns exist, though. We wonder what it’ll be like if and when we move back to the States, how adapting to seeing family and long-term friends more often will affect us. Where we will go next is a question itself. Currently, I’m a partner on his work visa, so we’re here until late 2012. We could try to stay here, or go to Asia or really anywhere else in the world we can both get work.
It’s not quite as settled a feeling as if we were dating back home. And that’s definitely exciting.
Inspired? Browse gap year programs.