Cover photo for article

A Love Story

Love Found & Love Lost

I was witness to such a marvellous story tonight.

The story of a couple recently broken up, the series of events which led to love and the eventual ever present themes of life that tore them apart.

Serendipity willing, we will always get the chance to meet many interesting people and with good fortune find the presence of exceptional partner as well.

This is simply a beautiful story I wanted to share which speaks to the quiet journeyman within all of us. The internal discomfort of external comforts.

The reality that no matter how good you might seemingly got it, the expectations of the unknown will never let you rest.


Ronin & Sofia

By the time Ronin met Sofia he had already marked his calendar with a year away from home.

He is no stranger to Vagabonding, having spent his time up until this point learning Spanish in Mexico and Peru. Ronin had flown to Holland to chase a lead proposed to him by a person he met in Mexico.

Ronin had been offered, in no uncertain terms, a job working the farmed fishing industry up in northern Norway. In fashion typical to Ronin, he took the man for his word and flew without much thought except for the price of an airfare over to Holland. Money wasn’t necessarily tight, however he is quite frugal and it was for this reason he chose Holland as his point of entry to Europe rather than Oslo. Ronin knew he could lean on his Dutch mates for assistance when it came to accommodation, and therefore if nothing eventuated with this Norway gig, he would have the peace of mind that he at least did not have obligatory rent expenses.

Three to four weeks passed and after being wholly ghosted concerning the Norwegian fish, he turned his attention to local opportunities and interviewed with a few companies in Amsterdam. Given the living situation Ronin reached out to a local friend who yielded his apartment to him for a week or two in the sleepy, random city of Tilburg.

Sofia, from Stockholm – who is quite the vagabonder herself, having lived in London and Berlin was just coming out of a pretty depressing two year relationship.

Her move to Tilburg was an escape from both her previous boyfriend and the depressing habits formed as consequence. She was living in a share house with three other girls, each outdoing the next for eccentricity.

As they would come to learn together, the house would deliver in spades the big personalities as promised.

How They Met

Ronin was swiping through Tinder as he settled into his mates apartment in Tilburg. He was admittedly, looking for a cheap hook up and this was made evident by the lady he ended up meeting with.

Under the pretences of hanging out and smoking a joint Ronin took on the forty five minute walk from his living arrangement to hers. With a nervous double take through the ground floor window a group of girls was revealed. Assuming this was the place, Ronin confidently knocked the door and before long was greeted by the lovely and qwerky, Ida.

After some candid, brief pleasantries in the doorway, something caught Ronin’s eye. He peered over Ida’s right shoulder and allowed himself a moment to appreciate the slender legs that were poking out of a closet in the hallway.

Quite transfixed, Ronin held quite steadfast his gaze and with time the legs seemed to attach themselves to a firm waist, which grew into a tight torso, conveniently supporting some hanging unmentionables and ultimately leading to a long thin neck hoisted upon which was a look of honesty and cunning. All this framed with disappointingly short hair and the biggest, bluest eyes you’ll ever see.

Ronin was then introduced to Sofia.

The pleasure was cut immediately short as the intended ‘date’ Martja, came thundering down the staircase with an eagerness and immaturity he felt quick to render unattractive.

The two of them spoke and smoked a joint and the whole experience was completely forgettable. Ronin, eager to find out more about the legs from the closet took a chance to speak with Sofia before he left the house.

Sofia was offering a showcase of sorts to her new roommates, displaying the morbid, unsettling and skilfully painted artworks she had done throughout her years. He knew and knows nothing of art, however to his surprise, amongst the casual chit chat they seemed to be hitting it off.

They set a date for a date the following Saturday.

Second Impressions

“If Ronin had not specifically asked the waiter for a pint rather than the pitifully Dutch 25cl serving then none of this would have unfolded.”

Ronin, in typical fashion arrived 15 minutes early and Sofia in equally typical fashion arrived, with haste, 20 minutes after the set time.

The setting was a Mexican restaurant, it was Ronin’s choice and set a spicy precedent for many future meals. He had chosen a seat in the garden which turned out to be a nice coincidence for Sofia who, within syllables of sitting down, quickly withdrew a death stick from her pack of cigarettes.

Ronin was without 4G connection for the duration of his stay in Holland, relying solely on wifi, therefore unwitt to Sofia’s tardiness, of which she had been frantically messaging him. After 15 minutes Ronin was under the impression that Sofia had either flaked or forgotten the date. He decidedly sipped on his beer with the intent of leaving had Sofia not arrived before the glass was empty – with postmortem and hindsight, grateful he had ordered the more voluptuous pint.

If it was left to the Dutch and their embarrassingly small serving, then this all would have been over before it even got a chance to begin.

Sofia looked magnificent, tall, elegant and confident. Her dress complimented her beautiful eyes and also drew attention to her uniquely feminine attractions.

The details of the date were not unfolded to us, but suffice it to say things went well and the next morning they had a slow breakfast at a cute little café. Chit chat ranged all over the shop and Ronin felt quite overwhelmed as Sofia laid bare the fascinating cultural and political implications Rasputin had on pre soviet Russia.

A week passed as Ronin was out of the country. His predicament was known to Sofia concerning accommodation, Ronin had overstayed his welcome with the generous Jurgen in Tilburg and so, in apparently unusual fashion, Sofia generously offered Ronin to stay ‘for a few days’ while he figured out his next move.

Safe to say those few days turned into weeks and then as quick as time goes when one is in a state of bliss the weeks turned into months. Was this just a Summer fling? Sofia had jokingly referred themselves as estranged lovers, in their like minds scantily gallivanting chance weekends amid a normal life.

As Summer ran its course, Ronin acquired a job in Amsterdam. Sofia still had 2 years to complete with her studies in Tilburg. The implications and commitment were never considered by either party, but after a brief stroll through the leafy streets of Charlottenburg, Berlin, they had agreed that moving in together in Amsterdam was the obvious thing to do. Douglas feels a slight pang as he recalls Sofia commenting, through the bouncy energy of her happiness “It’s about time you asked me!” He had not considered it up until the point, and looks back at this moment as a lesson which he missed learning.

When Ronin retold the story he admitted to not considering this move at all. He naively proposed the offer to Sofia accepting whatever outcome she had in return. He had no experience of intimate adult relationships, and quite less so of commitment. The various implications of his offer went unconsidered in his inexperienced mind.

The two found a dreamy bottom floor apartment in Amsterdam with a generous garden in a stereotypically Dutch neighbourhood privy to trendy bars and convenient centrality. They bought a mischievous little cat and officially moved their relationship from a passionate fling to one of commitment and maturity.

Real Life

The next chapter had officially begun.

Ronin settled into his mind numbingly unstimulating job and Sofia continued with her studies plus some work on the side.

They had gone from morning sex and a slow breakfast too early nights and routine. Ronin felt his liberty wane at intervals. Rather than a gradual reduction in freedom, it felt like a series of moments that markedly moved the needle further and further to left. He says with hindsight, it was a combination of his job, self worth, mates and Sofia that this contribute. Although at the time, he selfishly levelled full blame on Sofia.

“They had gone from morning sex and a slow breakfast too early nights and routine”

Although arguments were very rare, safe to say extraordinarily so. Ronin does recall his plight, whenever the argumentative occasion would occur, always concerning his inability to keep an open calendar to react to social occasions.

Before Sofia he never had anyone else to rely on. Ever. He was always firmly individualistic and non group conformist, allowing a total sense of freedom concerning any social decision.

Sofia expected him commit to plans made off handedly weeks in advance. This bubbled over as a particularly memorable fight when Sofia had obliged him to stay at home and have dinner with her, like he had said he would do, rather than go and meet his Irish colleagues at a bar to watch the rugby and celebrate St Patricks day. He thinks this fight stuck in his mind because it marked a moment in his memory that said,

“If you want to avoid this type of argument, just do what she wants”

This is likely the concession of millions of men throughout the ages, but a weak and hidden position because it is unfair to all involved and unless addressed, can be root cause of many issues which will potentially manifest themselves in the most detrimental of places.

The couple ended boasting relations in 14 countries and were at their best when traveling. They shared memorable moments throughout Italy, the USA, Scandinavia, China and more. Douglas reflects that the time they spent together, just the two of them and a foreign land was the most exciting periods they shared. They were always optimistic to get home and attack the personal ambitions that seem to always manifest most feverishly when abroad. But, without failure real life always overshadowed deeper ambition.

They could lean on each other for love, fun, excitement and intrigue, but seemed to fail at supporting the willpower of commitment to ambition.

Ronin admits Sofia was far better than he was.

Avoiding A Conclusion

Eighteen months in Ronin started imagining what life might look like if he were to separate From Sofia.

This thought had first occurred to him as a serious implication just before the Christmas of 2018. The two drove to Stockholm and spent a lovely week or two with some familial Swedes. The happy consequence of this holiday lulled Ronins splitting thoughts.

They returned to life and to the ultimate detriment of the relationship, Ronin continued along the path of negative think. Never allowing Sofia an insight into his selfish inexplicable desire.

Arrogantly he assumed that Sofia would be ruined if he left her, and therefore guilt powered his thought process rather than compassion. He learnt in retrospect had he spoken up straight away, and with honesty then he would had done Sofia the service she deserved, and both would have prospered because of it.

He went through flashes of endearing love and days of claustrophobic pressure. Perhaps this is what they mean when they say, ‘relationships are hard work’. People are always commenting on the ‘work’ associated with relationships. Why must there be work? Can’t we just naturally get along, reading into every word and gesture to determine with accuracy exactly the needs and desires of each other. Act accordingly and reaffirm the commitment?

This does not work, and to call it naive is to do an injustice to naivety. You must talk. The infuriating simplicity of the matter is as such.

Had Ronin just expressed his concerns, fully aware of the underlying implications – in this case that if he brought up his desire to leave and move on – then a break up be the result. He would have allowed Sofia to express her similar intentions and concerns, of which Ronin was wholly unaware.

Although the outcome likely the same, offering transparency of thought would have cleared Ronins mind for the time he felt like he needed to keep it in. The transparency would have allowed him to recoup that marginal productivity lost. Sofia as well, would have not had this lingering feeling of ‘what is going on with him’, freeing her to pursue without compromise. You must talk.

Ronin allowed this negative think to endure for months after the Christmas of 2018 in Sweden. He admits it affected the way he could appreciate the good moments and how it detracted from everything else he tried to pin his attention too. It disallowed him from speculating over a future with her by his side. Which, it turns out, is such an obvious sign that someone’s future plans are skeptical of you.

He knows Sofia noticed, and feels pure guilt and self loathing for not having the confidence to do her justice and express himself honestly.

Separation

July of 2019.

The couple found themselves in Norway. They were part of a workaway program that brought them to an isolated part of the country for the month. They were having such a magnificent time, but Sofia couldn’t help but comment that every conversation concerning the future was deflected by Ronin.

It took Sofia completely off balance when he curled up next to her in a timid heap to reveal his melancholy and angst. Her initial reaction was a deflected disbelief, but as she came to realise the reality, the sadness set in.

There was grief. No madness, anger, pity or loathing – the two simply welled in a hammock of grief for several days. She went home 48 hours after the news broke, and the two next met back home in Amsterdam 2 weeks later.

Burn After Reading

Ronin found it difficult to comprehend how things could feel so normal after so much had changed. To him it felt as if despite the major revelation he imparted in Norway the two had experienced very little in the way of change to the day to day.

They spoke so transparently. Whether it be of sex, the future, regrets, and dislikes in one another, Ronin felt the intangible curtain raise between himself and her which allowed them to speak with total honesty.

He finds himself now in a situation where he is living with his ex girlfriend, enjoying a level of intimacy recalling those early lustful days of Tilburg. He is not sure of its sustainability, but with the assurance of Sofia, and the confidence in each others honesty he has been re affirmed the power of honest and clear communication.

He loves this woman and in terms of connection, he cannot consider there exist a soul who comes close.

Positive Externalities Of Vagabonding

What was the best part of your travel?

This unthought question is usually asked to fodder conversation when someone has just returned from somewhere exotic. It is a lazy question, but generally not so easy or obvious to answer. What stood out as being so remarkable that it sits upon the peak of your remembered experience? Seeing the Statue of Liberty?

Ronin recalled his time in Sardinia, Sicily, New York, Finland and all other destinations Sofia accompanied him. What did he remember from these destinations?

What was the best part of your travel? Asked Ronins colleague upon returning from the USA.

With difficulty, and after some stumbling, he responded,

“Walking through DC with Sofia, watching her laugh inappropriately and swell with excitement over small things”.

It had everything to do with the sites, and the culture, but only so because of the context with which they were experienced – with Sofia. I am trying to comment on the value of your company, and how this is truly the memorable experience and positive externality of Vagabonding.

I dislike the blanket rule that ‘experience is better shared’ – but it certainly has some merit. Good or bad, your company by in large determines your experience.

This story is a best case outcome. Ronin could never have predicted that his regretful Tinder date would have led him down a 30 month path with the best woman he had ever met.

How could have he? An open mind and attitude allowed it. Invite serendipity into your life.

We can never predict whether new company will outcome as good or bad, but even though the law of averages suggests both the good and bad will level out evenly at 50/50, I do not believe this to be so. Like minds attract. You might need to dabble in dreary unexcitement and boredom at times, but without those negative interactions, you will never allow yourself exposure to positive ones. And even though Sofia and Douglas are leaving each other and parking the – ‘they lived happily ever after’ – dream.

They are both confident in one another and ultimately in debt to one another for having offered two amazing years of lust, learning and love.