It all began with a weekend trip to Madrid.
The day started off with a walking tour across the historical sites of the Spanish capital. Astounded by the excellent service provided by the tour guides of Madride Travel, I decided to take up their offer to join the night crawl too. Turning up at 8pm sharp at the bear statue of Puerta de Sol, a horde of 20 other international tourists joined in on the fun. Strolling through the cobblestoned streets an hour into the crawl, I overheard my travel partner striking up a conversation with this man with distinguished blonde hair and red beard.
"So, what do you do for a living?"
"I am an engineer - well, chemical engineer to be exact."
"Oh really?? Have you met my chemical engineer friend? Here she is, this is Amalina."
He then turned over to me and spoke in a mild English accent infused with a tinge of Canadian,
"Hi Amalina, I'm Arran. So I heard you're a chemical engineer too?"
And from that moment to the dawn of the morning light, we talked endlessly about our life, passions, travels and adventures, all whilst salsa-dancing to the beats of latin music. Through the hours of conversation we had, one that really stuck to me was when we both commiserated on the pains of the international life.
Him, born and bred in England from a Scottish dad and South-African mom, and me, born and bred in Malaysia from an English dad and a Malaysian mom, we understood the struggles of feeling like we don't belong anywhere. Having lived in different countries across the world, him in Brazil and Canada, and me in Australia and Spain, we discussed how the traditional lines of home has been blurred. Strangely enough, this man I met barely an hour ago seems to understand my life-long struggle more than anyone I know.
As the speck of morning light ensued, we bid our goodbyes as I took my leave, knowing I'm probably never going to see him again. I will be leaving to go back to Barcelona the next day, and him, to Scotland a week after. Nevertheless, we exchanged numbers and agreed to meet up another time before we both parted ways. Such is the life of a traveler, you always plan to meet up one last time even when the likelihood is minute, as the thought of saying goodbye forever deems too tragic.
Unfortunately, we never did meet up that one last time nor did we share a goodbye embrace. All we had were memories of the one night we shared and each other's phone number to remind us of the connection we had. Embarking the train back to Barcelona, I felt a haunting guilt take over me.
Not the kind of person to give up on a true human connection, I dropped him a casual message as I arrived in Barcelona. Little did I know, one message turned into an add on Facebook, turned into a casual stalk of each other's online persona, turned into phone calls I would anxiously await at night and eventually turned into planning a trip to Portugal together. It took all of two months since that night in Madrid, but that spark was still there, bright and alive.
We reunited in Fransisco Sa Carneiro Airport, Porto and began our week-long exploration of the North of Portugal. We did everything under the sun, from discovering medieval festivals amidst castle ruins, to kayaking through the rivers of Arcoz de Valdavez, to enjoying three-hour long Portuguese traditional lunches, to cycling through the vineyards of Ponte de Lima.
At the end of the trip, we both agreed that the connection we have is real and it is worth pursuing. Yes, we did realize that starting up a relationship afresh completely long distance is crazy. At the same time we also realized that if anyone, we could make this work - simply because both of our personalities are driven by the thrill of challenges.
Ever since then, we have continued to explore different parts of the world together, one country at a time. Our traveling styles are relatively similar making the trips rewarding for both parties. Traveling with someone with the same preferences is thoroughly enjoyable, mostly because you don't spend too much time trying to convince the other person why they should go with your idea. They just "get" you.
We both love the outdoors - so hiking/cycling/kayaking is a must in every trip. We both appreciate authentic cultural experiences - so we include Airbnb or homestays as a way to learn about local cultures. We both love meeting new people - so we'll spend some time engaging with fellow travelers or locals. Above all, we are both intrigued by the international life and have friends scattered all over the world, so we'll meet up with a friend in any part of the world we're in.
It has been exactly one year since that fateful night in Madrid. A true believer of the concept of serendipity, I feel like this is yet another way of the universe unfolding its plans for me. Have you ever heard of the saying,
Be yourself, do what you love, and the right person will find you.
Well, call me cliche, but if I didn't do that, we wouldn't be where we are right now. Despite the 10,000kms that stands in between us, I would do this a million times over.
Because I have finally found my other half - my very own Exploring Engineer :)