The Australian Financial Review estimates that online sales exceeded $20 billion in 2016, leaving no doubt that online shopping has been a game changer. There are few products that can’t be bought online. Years ago I bought a clapped-out timber fishing trawler on eBay, sight unseen, with a vague thought (I won’t even try and justify my impulse by claiming to have a plan) that it could become my floating home. eBay graciously permitted me to retract my ‘winning bid’ but not before banning me from further purchases for three months.
I’ve since refined my online shopping strategy, happily finding cars, homes and holidays online and developing relationships with eBay, Wiggle and Grays Online et al. Living in north Queensland, or anywhere vaguely remote for that matter, online shopping is a no-brainer.
Shopping for love online
But I’d never dabbled with shopping for love online. That was, until I washed up in Cairns reeling from a messy breakup from a relationship developed from a chance Melbourne meeting eons ago. With legal bills causing conniptions, I had lost some weight (the upside to losing an appetite for life), re-established my career, travelled to far-flung places and found an inspiring new tribe amongst a running group. I relished singledom and the luxuriousness of a bed to myself. Not answering to anyone while having ‘me’ time to train for marathons was deliriously selfish. Life was all about me and I was in no rush to jump back into the relationship pool.
But invariably, loneliness surfaced too. There was no one to celebrate the simple joys of life with. There was Facebook of course, but friends soon tire of a social media feed filled with lust-worthy photos from around the globe. Or more freakin running and riding event posts!
Plush hotel suites and travel writer deadlines
As a travel writer I’m presented with extraordinary experiences near and far. I’ve lost count of how many ridiculously plush suites I’ve rattled around in (yes, four bathroomed suite on Laucala Island I’m looking at you). Always on my own.
Such suites ooze romance. There’s the king size bed with a gazillion thread count Egyptian linen. Walls that peel away from a bedroom revealing a twinkling ocean. Private swimming pools. A personal Butler on hand in case I need, oh let’s say, a helicopter to pick me up from the hotel’s rooftop helipad (as you do…). A choice of bathtubs, whether indoors or out. Let’s not forget the shower with twin rain shower heads. I imagine a post-coital disheveled couple sharing their holiday plans, each standing under their own aquatic cascade, chatting about the day ahead, tea cup just beyond the cavalcade of water, maybe even a slice of vegemite-smeared toast. Nearby, hang two matching bathrobes.
Then there’s the on-arrival ice-bucket with complimentary bottle of champagne beside a plate of delicate snacks and a welcome note. And two glasses.
It’s the two glasses that characterised my lonesomeness, not only of life on the road, but also once I returned home. With the lights of London or the sexy Tahitian moonlight bouncing off my keyboard, invariably I’d polish off the whole bottle of wine solo as I tapped away at my laptop into the night. Deadlines don’t care about lonely hearts.
Motivated by preserving rather than pickling my liver for another 30 years or so, I decided to find someone to share the champagne with.
Advertising for a Travel Writer’s Plus One
You’d think with the amount of travel I do I’d meet interesting men in departure lounges all over the world, ala Pretty Woman. But Richard Gere didn’t get my memo so I advertised for a Travel Writer’s Plus One.
This was very personal and I was wrought with angst. But, let’s face it, the more left-field the adventure, the more the appeal it has (yoo-hoo! 3 marathons in 3 days…). Admittedly, I drew the line at eating ox penis in China and there’s no way you’ll entice me to jump from a bridge with an elastic band strapped to my ankles. Not ever. But I am partial to stepping outside my comfort zone. Which is where this story started, if you recall. Are you keeping up?
Tossing the dice of life into the air to see how they fall, sometimes I get wild polar bears roaming outside the window at breakfast. Other times it’s waking up with frozen hair before squatting behind a rock baring my butt to Mt Everest and calculating the poop versus (limited) tissue equation, while awaiting the medivac rescue helicopter.
Note to aspiring travel writers: always have travel insurance. And carry more tissue packs than you think you’ll ever need.
But I digress.
Shopping for love is like shopping for a new phone, right?
I equated looking for a Travel Writer’s Plus One with online shopping for grown-ups. Using the same process I’d use to find a new smart phone or laptop, I narrowed my Plus One search down to a wish list of desirable qualities. Some, like a reliable operating system (wardrobe audit applied) and a sizable hard drive (along with dental hygiene), were non-negotiable.
‘Must be able to travel to exotic destinations at short notice. Aversion to the mundane a must,’ I itemised optimistically. These attributes were swiftly followed by a ‘sense of humour and adventure a distinct asset,’
Charismatic attractive single males aged mid 40’s to 60’s were encouraged to apply.
Many applicants clearly skimmed the brief. Particularly the urban women who registered their interest. While I appreciated the hands of solidarity proffered, my envisioned Plus One was a man both of adventure and means.
Dabbling in popular dating sites was a lesson in soaring optimism and crushing humiliation. Oh, there were a few short-term diversions from loneliness and one friendship that managed to survive long after the intimacy died. But I found online mate shopping mostly soul-destroying.
Refining the search for love
Until a reminder from Lovesail.com encouraged me to check in after a long absence. Having determined that my Plus One would, in addition to the above criterion, be able to converse, laugh and sail a yacht while balancing a glass of wine, (hey, don’t judge me – why not shoot for the moon!), I re-activated my Lovesail profile.
SouthpacificDave, whose profile claimed him to be ‘Living the Dream’, looked promising enough for me to invest the required $92.66 to make contact. It was money well spent.
I’m typing this from the saloon of Devita’s yacht moored in the Fijian harbor-side town of Savusavu, Fiji.
As we chatted awkwardly online while sounding each other out Devita found my callout for a Travel Writer’s Plus One while googling me. Swiftly advancing from emails to skype calls lasting up to four hours at a time, we decided to meet.
Taking a risk
Tossing the dice of life again, I flew to Fiji on assignment. The four-hour flight between Brisbane and Nadi was wracked with angst.
‘What the hell am I doing?’ was on rewind in my head while my Nigerian scam radar was on high alert.
Most first dates start with a coffee chat and an exit plan. I was flying to Fiji to spend three weeks on a yacht with a man I’d never met. And I had invited him to accompany me on work assignments. It was a risk both personally and professionally. There was no exit strategy.
Wearing a traditional sulu and a colourful Bula shirt almost as bright as his smile, Devita was waiting at the airport as I cleared Immigration. He draped an aromatic frangipani lei around my neck, made by hand and blessed with hope by his sailing tribe friends. His heart was filled with love and passion. Big dreams too.
I had found someone to share the champagne with.
That was six months ago.
I’m still struggling with sharing a bed little bigger than a yoga mat. And I miss my running adventures and the crazy buddies who kept me motivated and inspired. In their place however, are days filled with snorkeling, sailing and swimming along with the excitement of the unknown which life afloat dishes up in spades. Our days are blessed as we plan a life filled with love and laughter along with work and play adventures together. The photo below was taken one week after we met.
I’m still shopping online. But I’m no longer shopping for love.
POSTSCRIPT: Revenge Porn – when consent & trust betrayed is the follow on from this story