Rotterdam: Love and Heartbreak

Erasmusbrug and the Rotterdam

I’m writing this as I am traveling to London on a bus from Rotterdam. I probably should have waited to write this, but it is so fresh I wanted to get all my thoughts down before they were gone. I haven’t shared this much of my personal thoughts on a blog post before so, please bear with me. My year of personal growth and development has come to full circle in Rotterdam. Not by choice, but some would say this was inevitable. Having a relationship and falling in love while traveling can be difficult in the best of times, but it is harder when you are a long distance from each other. Rotterdam in the Netherlands has become the place where I have experienced love and heartbreak.

Where it Began

It all began last year when I fully embraced making the most of my limited vacation time at my job. I had signed up to go to TBEX Ostrava in the Czech Republic. As a vacation destination, this country doesn’t get much attention outside Prague, and the Czech tourism board wanted to remedy, and I was ready to help promote it. I signed up to go on a couple of day trips before the conference began. This was a great way to see more of the country, experience the activities they had to offer, and meet fellow travel bloggers. It was on one of these trips that I met him. We sat next to each other at lunch and ended up sharing a couple of desserts. Afterward, we bonded over photography and the crazy rides at Hei Park. I remember telling a good friend that there was something special about this guy and I was crushing on him hugely. I also remember not knowing if it was returned. Since I haven’t been in the dating arena in a long while I was really uncertain and decided to let things happen naturally.Heather at TBEX Ostrava

It was the last evening of the conference, and things changed. He started to flirt with me. I kept thinking OMG; it wasn’t one-sided. We started talking daily after that night as we went on our separate press trips in different areas of the country to return in a week and meet up in Prague. In Prague, we spent time walking around with my friend Sara and then ended up at the movies. Something we both had in common, the joy of watching movies. The next morning over breakfast, we talked about everything. It was a short morning as we both were heading in different directions, him on another press trip, me back to the States. We said our goodbyes at the elevator before he left and I returned to the room where Sara was waiting. She was smiling at me because I couldn’t get the smile off my face. That smile stayed there even with the long distance as we continued to communicate daily. It was probably two weeks later that he asked me, “When are you coming back to Europe?” I started making a plan to return to Europe over Labor Day Weekend. I was determined to figure out what was going on between us and the connection that I felt.

September Day in Rotterdam

I flew to Amsterdam, where he met me. After an initial awkward hello, we fell back into our easy camaraderie quickly. We spent a great day on a walking tour and exploring the city. He took me to one of his favorite restaurants to try Surinamese food. As he is a self-proclaimed foodie and I’m not, it was great to branch out and try something new. That night he had set up a canal ride for me which is the only thing I wanted to do there. It was terrific as I knew it would be. But, even though we had a great day, it was too crowded for us. We decided to head to Rotterdam the next day.Rotterdam

This was my first time to travel between cities in Europe spontaneously on trains and buses. I am grateful he was there to show me the ropes as I am more confident in my navigational skills in getting around cities now. Arriving in Rotterdam and seeing how peaceful it was compared to where we just were was perfect. I fell in love with the city almost instantly. The tree-lined streets, the spectacular street art (as he kept reminding me to wipe off my lens on my phone before I took the photo), the outdoor restaurants, the fantastic Dutch food that he introduced me to (Kapsalon and BitterBallen), and on top of all of that there was a festival going on that day. There were music and bands everywhere around the city. We enjoyed listening to one sitting by the canal while eating our frites with Andalucia sauce. Afterward, we walked to Euromast through streets with fantastic street art and parks with people enjoying being outdoors in nature. All-day walking around Rotterdam we talked telling each other all of our stories. I kept thinking that this was a town that I could see myself moving to someday and living here. I was disappointed that I only had one day to spend in Rotterdam as I was returning home the next day. But, I was super glad to see that the connection I felt in Prague was still there. And that this was one of the best days I had that whole year.Rotterdam Cube Houses

Deciding to Travel Full TimeHeather and Skye on top of Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh

I visited once more the following month in Edinburgh, Scotland, in which he was determined to spoil me while I was there. He did a really great job with that. Seeing the Czech Republic, Netherlands, and Scotland was fueling my wanderlust. And I still had my big trip to Tanzania over Thanksgiving approaching. It was there working with Professional Photographer, Carli Davidson, who gave me the encouragement that I could do this. She told me that my animal photos were even better than hers. A huge compliment and with a “you could this” gave me the courage to do what I was leaning in doing all year. I turned 46 in September, and this was the age my dad passed away. With all the traveling I was doing and the knowledge that life was too short I had to make the most significant decision of my life, to quit my job and make a go at becoming a professional photographer and full-time travel blogger.

I know in my heart that I made the right decision as I was in an unhealthy, stressful job. The minute I decided to quit, I started to become healthier and losing weight. I lost 35 pounds by the end of the year (by reducing salt and doing yoga). Plus, with my traveling, I always tend to lose weight as I’m not snacking and I’m eating better, healthier meals on the road. As I worked on decluttering my life and downsizing, I still was in constant contact with him, and with his encouragement, I made it through the end of the job.

First Month as a Digital Nomad

This was the scariest and exciting thing I have ever done. I packed up my two backpacks, one with my clothes and the other held my computer and camera gear. Starting in Edinburgh since that was where I was the most comfortable. I spent a couple of days retracing our steps and going back to the places I went to back in October. Then I flew to Dublin to meet my friend Rebecca for a girls weekend. We did this a couple of times that first month. First in Dublin then later in Bratislava and Vienna. I also spent a wonderfully warm weekend in Nice, France. He was always interested in where I was, and what I was doing so, it was fun keeping him updated on my crazy 13 countries in 3 weeks at the beginning of the year.

Southeast Asia

My goal was to be in Thailand on Valentine’s Day. I made it to Chiang Mai a couple of days before that. We had arranged for me to take over his condo as he was going to go to a housesit. Was it providence or fate that had the housesit fell through, which led to him and me living together for the next few months? We had some great times adjusting to living together and finding everyday things we enjoyed. We had our share of arguments like every couple, but I think we were always able to get passed them quickly. But, most of all we had fun! I laughed so much with him that spending time together was truly enjoyable.Heather and Skye on top of Mount Phousi in Laos

We also had our share of adventures. We traveled to Myanmar for a day and Laos for a week. The latter is where we had one bug adventure after another from poisonous centipede on him, ants, and one gigantic beetle that was in my hair. We also had our share of mishaps at the places where we were staying. Our first night had the pipe burst in our bathroom, and we had Niagara Falls all night long. Nothing like a gushing waterfall to lure you sleep. I also hitchhiked for the first time after we missed the last taxi from Kuang Si Waterfalls in Luang Prabang. He found us a ride that four really nice Asians (only one spoke English) squeezed us in their SUV and dropped us right by the market and our guesthouse. Don’t worry; I won’t be doing that again. The trip to Vientiane was an adventure in itself as we were driving on what was a newly opened government road that buses don’t even go on. I sat in the first row between the driver and him with no seatbelts and no guard rails as the road just dropped off to cliffs. Talk about some crazy adventures we had.

Initially, I was supposed to leave after two months, but he asked me to stay longer. Plus, I wanted to experience Songkran with him. That is the water festival where everybody comes out and drenches you with hoses and buckets of water as you drive or walk by for four days straight. Let’s just say that I lost the water race to get the other person the wettest. I have never laughed so much as I did in my time in Southeast Asia and wasn’t looking forward to the end of my time there. I was coming back to the States for a couple of weeks before heading back to Italy for a travel conference.Songkran Festival Chiang Mai

The Beginning of the End

Little did I know how profound my trip to Italy was going to be. I already planned to be in Italy for a travel conference and for the rest of June. He surprised me by showing up at the conference. He stayed with me at my Airbnb that I booked in Povo. I was so surprised and excited, even though it was only two weeks since I last saw him. We took day trips to Verona and Riva del Garda before the conference. We learned that we do better when we are spontaneous when traveling together, and these were great days because they weren’t planned. It was at the conference that things changed between us. At the time, I didn’t know why just that something had changed. There were several times that I had to go off and be alone because I couldn’t stop the tears from falling from some insensitive thing he did. Like never showing up for lunch when it was his suggestion, walking away and leaving me in the center square watching a performance (I actually saw him just walk away and leave) the walk away thing was a common thing that kept happening at the conference. Who does these things and not think to check on the other person you are staying with and on top of that he had the one and only key. Whether he did them unconsciously or not, it doesn’t matter. I felt the distance growing between us and wasn’t sure why it was happening. Nor did he tell me why.

Back in Rotterdam AgainDucks in front of the Kinderdijk windmills - Rotterdam

Here I am full circle but in different circumstances. I continued my trip exploring Italy while he was in Rotterdam, working at a hostel. We continued during this time still talking daily, but it was less enthusiastic. When I showed up for a week in Rotterdam expecting to spend some time with him as we haven’t been together for over a month, that didn’t happen. For the first four days, I saw him a total of a half-hour. He made time to see me on Sunday when I arrived to tell me that he was busy that week working and his dad was in town. Which I completely understood. It was rainy that day so, I intended to go to the movies, and as we hugged bye he mentioned going to see The Lion King on Wednesday night. I always enjoyed his hugs, and this one wasn’t as long as our usual.

I didn’t see him until Wednesday morning over breakfast at the hostel. He was supposed to lead the tour to Kinderdijk that day, which I signed up to go on. As I was the only one that did, it was canceled.  He told me to go to Kinderdijk anyway which I did. It was nice, but the underlying fact was I was alone again. So, now he was heading off to work instead; I expected to see and talk to him later. As the day dragged on and no word from him, I sent him a message. No response. I ended up walking around the town for hours that night along the same streets from the first time I was in Rotterdam and along the river by the freighters, and my mind wouldn’t shut off. Tons of scenarios were filling my head as to what happened. Did something happen to his dad that was leaving today? Did something happen to him? When he did respond, it was Sorry, lost track of time and now out to dinner with friends. Getting stood up was not a great feeling and let me tell you the tears were flowing that night along the water.  I have cried so much in the last two months more than I have in the previous ten years, and that is not a good feeling. I know I am stronger than this and this was when I realized that if he could hurt me this much, I was in over my head with my heart.

Fast forward to the next day where he breaks up with me right before we were supposed to go to dinner and then he tells me that she wants to be there as well. She is a new younger travel blogger that he met at the travel conference in Italy that as he put it is recently fond of. She happened to be in Rotterdam, and that was who he was spending time with as I was walking along the river, crying my eyes out. No one in their right mind would expect the recently broken up girl to meet the new girl a few hours later. I didn’t end up going to dinner that night as I couldn’t keep control of my emotions.

The next day as I was supposed to leave Rotterdam I messaged him to see if he would meet me to get some dinner before I left Rotterdam so, I could say goodbye as I was calmer and get some closure. Nope, he had left town for the weekend with her. He said that he thought I already left and didn’t want to talk to him. He didn’t even try to see if I was ok. As we communicate finally over Whatsapp, it is all about how I wanted more than he could give, and he didn’t know how to tell me he didn’t feel the same. I love the fact that he made it all seem that this was my fault. That I cared too much. He considered me a great friend and nothing more even though we were living together in Thailand for the past three months. That information would have been helpful months ago before my heart was engaged. I think I am most upset about the lack of communication and him not telling me how he felt or the lack of feeling on his part. I know that I’m not painting a nice picture of him and that isn’t exactly what I’m trying to do. This is just my truth. His is probably a completely different story where I being older didn’t fit into his future plans of having kids. Although talking about that would have helped as well.

Love and Heartbreak

My heart is broken as I am leaving Rotterdam. He has since ruined this city for me where it was one of the best days I had last year to several of my worst days in recent memory. Will I ever return to Rotterdam? I don’t know what the future holds for me. As the bus nears London and I get ready to switch from bus to train to head to North Wales, I keep thinking if there was something that I could have changed. But, even I know that is a fruitless activity. The tears have finally stopped, and now I have to start thinking of my future. When any of my relationships have ended, I break off all contact; this helps my healing process. The difficulty this time around is that he and she are fellow travel bloggers that run in the same circle of travel conferences. What will I do? I’m not sure. I probably will have a smile on my face to hide the fact that it is killing me to see them together. Because in the end, I still am a nice person.

Time heals all wounds they say, and hopefully, the next 6-weeks in Wales will help me mend my broken heart. All I do know is that this year I have grown and am proud of myself for at least putting myself out there even though it ended horribly. I tried new foods that I would have never tried on my own, gone to places I never entertained going and pushed myself way out of my comfort zone many times all because he was there encouraging me to try. I am going to miss him and his friendship tremendously, but I have to move on. I don’t know why I tend to love the wrong people. People who don’t really care about me. I deserve so much better! When the next opportunity presents itself, I’ll still be myself, the too caring, giving, kind person that I am and hopefully, the next one will appreciate that in me.

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Further Reading

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3 Comments

  • Donna Cooper 2August2019 at 3:30 PM Reply

    This made me cry. It is so much more than I thought, the times he was in Rotterdam is the time I was there with him for his Birthday. The time in Thailand, I was supposed to be there for 14th February but unfortunately, I needed to leave to work. I even made him a V_Card and he called me from his school on that day too:(( I am so sorry he hurt you so much. What kind of person is he?

  • Anthony 23July2019 at 8:59 PM Reply

    Great article Heather. Sorry about the heartbreak, but as you said time will help to heal.
    I look forward to reading more from you, especially since I have a trip to Italy next year.

    • Heather 24July2019 at 3:47 AM Reply

      Thank you, Anthony! I have a lot more information that will be coming out on Italy. Do you know where you are planning to visit in Italy?

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