“Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.” — Peter Hoeg
“DID YOUR WIFE DIE?”
I tend to focus on what I’ve been seeing and doing, rather than day-to-day interactions. But of course, interactions and relationships with others (especially with the locals) are key to travel for me. One of the interesting phenomena, especially for an outgoing sociologist like myself, is to observe the reactions of women to a man traveling by himself. I’ve recapped some of the incidents and friendships developed as my travels have progressed. There are trips when I’ve worn a wedding ring when not married, others when I’ve not worn one when I was…on this trip I decided to sport my gold band despite the warnings against wearing jewelry. I know that the young guys have a field day in South America, but me? You’d think that an old guy, wearing a wedding ring, who was never that good-looking, answers questions honestly, and has been monogamous for 34 years (yes, I’m counting — you old friends who said it would never happen), might avoid predicaments. Despite all this, some interesting questions have surfaced.
Several women have asked if I might be interested in their friend or daughter. I sometimes joke that I’m sure I would, but polygamy is against the law in my country. Or joke that I would give my wife a call and ask if that would be ok, if they just hold on a minute. Today in the market, I pretended to call my wife and ask if I could bring home the three women we were chatting with in the food stall who wanted to travel to the U.S….they listened closely to my “conversation” in Spanish and cracked up when I let them know my wife would be very happy to have them.
A Chilean woman asked, over a period of a couple of days, before retreating:
Did your wife die?
Are you divorced?
Are you happily married?
Do you still live with your wife in the same house?
But the question that takes the gold medal so far was a young European woman I got to know on a multi-day tour, and become friends with…she must have been about my daughter’s age. We talked about our lives, travel and futures, as well as her relishing the loose party atmosphere among travelers of all types and nationalities. At one point she looked at me very determinedly and said “I know you’re married and all, but are you monogamous?!” Well, it took me a while to recover, but I kept my record going by stuttering the following: “Why, yes I am”…and I didn’t even add the phrase “…up until this very moment.”
“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta