When I traveled to Bali for a month in 2014, I was running from the heartache of a brutal ending to a marriage that was replete with every possible betrayal there is in the book. And, well, there's nothing quite like international travel to ease the thoughts about the last man who stomped all over my tender heart.
But let's start at the beginning.
I was in my marriage for 12 years and before that I was a broke-ass single mom who often worked more than one job.
In the early aftermath of my divorce (short story: he wanted an open marriage; I didn't), there were flights, cruises, and other trips to be canceled that we had booked in advance.
My trip to Bali was the result of a division of assets. We'd been saving air miles for years to fund a first-class European vacation. I had enough miles to go anywhere in the world but I knew I wanted a spiritual land that was safe for a single female, warm and tropical, and unlike anything I'd previously experienced.
I waffled between Bali and India for a few weeks and ultimately chose Bali because someone I met through a friend years earlier lived there and could help me if, god forbid, I found myself in dire straights.
But before the Bali trip, not even four months post-divorce, I took an Alaskan cruise with a large group of people I didn't know.
It was a last-minute decision that cost me a fortune but I was desperate for any break in the monotonous agony of being alone in the home my ex and I had shared, wallowing in suicidal thoughts. I was told there was going to be a single man in the group, so I made a decision: I was going to get under someone new to get over someone old.
I brought condoms, a matching panty and bra sets, and new clothes to help me feel as attractive as someone in my emotional state could.
Sadly, there was zero chemistry between any single men and I on the cruise. Zilch.
When I disembarked four days later, my determination to have a torrid and distracting affair was unfulfilled. Yet in hindsight, this was clearly a blessing for all involved; I had no business inflicting myself on anyone in the state I was in.
Seven months later, when I boarded the plane for a one-month trip to Bali, I was determined to have a fling.
Halfway through the trip, I succumbed to the surprising advances of my Balinese friend, someone I'd known for years before the trip. That fun fling evolved into a long-distance relationship, and I spent the next six months traveling around North America to see him again on the various cruise ships he worked on.
We planned for me to move to Bali. We planned to start a business together and had talked about marriage, which made me a wee bit anxious. One year after the unexpected love affair began, we broke up.
Since I wasn't going to be moving to Bali, I decided to go elsewhere. I turned to a volunteer website and within a few weeks I had a placement in Spain, speaking conversational English to native Spaniards.
I tried to keep my expectations to a minimum, yet I was hopeful when I departed for Spain that I might meet someone who would, at least, fan the flames of hope that my future husband might be out there and that I wouldn't have to keep running off to fabulous international destinations to distract myself.
The only attraction I felt during that month-long trip was to a gorgeous younger man who awoke my cougar tendencies with his handsome good looks. Fifteen minutes after noticing him, his equally exotic and gorgeous female companion arrived on the scene. Awesome.
I met many fabulous men: gay, in committed relationships, or happily married with children on the way. They were all completely respectful, lovely, and sleaze-free, which was possibly the best thing for me: to be reminded that there were good men in the world who enjoy women on a purely intellectual basis.
Upon my return from Spain, I told the married friends I'd been on the Alaskan cruise with that I was ready. I felt ready to venture out into the dating world again as a much more learned woman.
Four days later, after four glorious months of silence, my ex dropped another bomb on me: a letter from his laywer advising me that I wouldn't be receiving any spousal support for the next two months, starting with the money I'd been expecting that very day.
And after the two months was over, he would need to reduce the paltry amount he was currently paying me. I got the letter on my first day back at university full-time. One simply doesn't have the energy for romantic relationships when one is engaged in survival activities.
Despite my longing for companionship, I've come to realize that until this nasty divorce is truly final, I can't give a healthy me to another man; the man I'm trying to divorce is far too present in my life through his out-right refusal to grant me a divorce, and the financial control and manipulation he wields over my life.
Every time I get some stability in my life, my ex finds another way to create havoc, and while my reactions to him have lessened significantly over the last couple of years, it is absolutely a stressor that I don't want to burden someone else with.
As much as I believe that people can find healing within a healthy relationship, the good man I desire doesn't deserve to start a relationship from the space I reside.
I would rather eat glass than entertain the thought of getting married again right now, so is there any point to even being in a relationship? And if there's no valid point to being in a relationship, is there any point to dating?
I also have to accept that I'm just not as promiscuous or generally impulsive as I was in my younger days. It isn't realistic for me anymore to find a man and bed him within a few hours. The me that existed in my twenties has grown up and has different hopes for, and expectations of, men and relationships. I want long, stimulating conversations and time spent together to be part of our foreplay.
I don't want a hookup; I want a love affair for the ages.
So, next summer, when my son and I go to Thailand, I'll focus on the culture — not the men.