NO FOREIGN LANDS

For the February issue of Designaré HOMME, my editor told me to write a narrative travel piece - and it's probably one of the very handful of assignments I've had a lot of fun writing, and rewriting [I usually get bored of a piece after I'm done writing it - rewrites for me take a lot of motivation] - waxing lyrical about almost nothing, and everything. Here's the unedited piece I sent my editor. For the outcome, you just have to pick up the latest copy.

Faz Abdul Gaffa waxes lyrical about the good, and the bad about traveling with someone you love; and why no matter the place, it’s always nice to sleep next to familiarity.

There is sand in my pyjama pants. And on my scalp, on my pillow, in every crevice of my bed. It is not comfortable. Next to me, my partner, J, bathed in the morning sunlight, in his worn-to-death Philly tee, is sound asleep. I maneuver myself in the comfortable nook between his torso and his arm and the world is right again; no amount of sand can bother me. I fall back into slumber with the sound of the high tide crashing onto the stilts of the wooden shack we’re calling home for a week.

Until sixteen months ago, I’ve always been a solo traveler. All it’s taken was a little bit of delirium from a good night out, a memory that selectively retains information [like credit card info] and a really good deal on an airline website that I constantly window shop on and I’d have found myself wandering through the cobblestoned streets of Brugges, trying to sneak my way backstage at a music gig in New York, or flirting my way into not forking out cover charge in some club in Barcelona. Traveling solo’s one of those things people have on their bucket list, but until they bring themselves to do it, they’d realize it’s not really a big deal.

Aside from the fact that the chances of you getting bumped up when flying is much higher when you travel alone, one of the things I love most about it is the people you end up meeting: a Korean-German classical pianist who took me up to her apartment and played for me, just because she wanted to, a documentary film maker who was the first black woman to ever be on German television and had Nazi groups writing hate songs about her, a cross-dressing hippie couple who wanted to tour the US in a $2,000 van. These were characters right out of a Woody Allen movie – and I’ve actually managed to make them friends in my travels. Of course, then, I thought traveling alone was the best of situations one could ever find themselves in, until I found myself a partner I love, and I love travelling with.

Travelling with someone you love could easily be Vespas and gelatos and frolicking in fountains like Audrey Hepburn’s Roman Holiday, or on the side of the spectrum, it could turn to an episode of the Kardashians. It was a little daunting when J suggested us traveling together after dating for only four months – it was over a weekend, but it would either make, or break us. And thankfully, it did the former. Suddenly, traveling with a partner supersedes all the things I thought was best about traveling alone. Yes, I could stop and smell the roses whenever I wanted to when I flew solo, but smelling the roses with someone you love somehow made everything more fragrant. So did jumping hand-in-hand off a cliff into the sea, or kicking back and watching the stars after a day of swimming with turtles in the ocean. Traveling with my partner didn’t stop us from meeting people – we’d still meet the most random of travelers on our long walks, and this time, when I ran out of things to say to yet another new-age hippie, J would take over.

Long walks through old cities become a breath of fresh air when he notices things you never do, and he navigates maps so you never have to stress your pretty head trying to, and the things that usually annoy you just glaze over as your thoughts are shrouded when you’re caught between love, the moon, and New York City.

There’s going to be disagreements, and there are going annoyances: my tendency to be overly-bossy, and his moving at a glacial pace in the morning. But it’s not so bad. Traveling with your partner, especially one whom you don’t already live with opens more of their world to you. What responsibility they take on before the trip, how they react when something unexpected happens, or in cases where your girlfriend [like yours truly] is a royal klutz and breaks her toe on the second day of a week-long holiday; how you kiss her and hold her hand while the both of your make your way to the village clinic on the back of a rickety horse carriage assures you that he’s the best person for you.

It all comes together when you travel.

If you live in Singapore, there’s always spots like Bintan, or Bali to test the waters: romantic enough for a couple, yet close enough for your to come back running with your arms flailing if your partner proves to be too high maintenance.

If you’re setting your sights further than just our friendly neighbours, look up Hotel La Residencia in Mallorca, where you can bask in the Spanish sun, drink your weight worth of vino and even have the hotel organise a mountain picnic with your lover [with the help of a donkey - no, I'm not kidding, and no, I'm not calling your partner an ass].

It’s the perfect amalgamation of the romance of a foreign land and language, copious amounts of indulgences in the form of food, drinks and even a luxurious spa, and the perfect company. You couldn’t ask for a better vacation. Alternatively, seek the help of Mr & Mrs Smith for luxurious boutique hotels coupled with insider tips that you can’t go wrong with. Even if things do go wrong, it’s just part of travel – grin and bear it. At least this time, you have someone’s hand to hold.

After all, in a foreign land, no matter how luxurious the hotel or how picturesque the sights, it’s comforting to know you can curl up in bed and find yourself at home.