“Catch Flights Not Feelings”

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We’ve all seen this phrase thrown around on social media. Especially among single, frequent travelers. It’s bred from the notion that some people would rather travel and visit other cities than get exclusively attached to someone. It could be that some of us find commitment scary. It could also be that we’ve caught feelings for people in the past, leading to unresolved angst and it makes sense to avoid such affairs in the future. No matter the cause, when dating gets difficult and feelings are involved, it seems preferential for some of us to take the less serious route; and instead spend time focusing on things that are important to us or make us happy. For those of us invested in learning more about the world through immersion or fulfilling experiences, it’s easy to to say “catch flights not feelings.”

On the other hand, due to my wanderlust reputation, I’ve had friends and family ask, “How do you ever expect to settle down with someone if you’re always on the go?” This raises an interesting question. I’ve remained consistent with the idea that when people are aligned with things that leave them fulfilled and happy, then they’re probable to attract like-minded love interests. The the law of attraction at its best.

But the truth is, being on the road gets lonely after a while and it’s a natural part of the human experience to desire affection from other humans. After a decade of solo traveling, the monotony seeps in and  I do sometimes long for someone with a desire to share these journeys and experiences with me. Someone who gets it. They say, “it will happen when it’s meant to happen.” However,  a part of me believes that we all have the free will to chose who we give our time and energy and thus who we decide to settle down with. 

I’m from a small town of the coast of North Carolina where it’s popular for people to spend all their life aspiring to marry and raise a family. I grew up believing in the romances of R&B songs that posed questions like “What’s the sense of trying hard to find your dreams without someone to share them with?” Those that convinced me, “I am not meant to live alone, turn this house into a home.” While it remains an attractive idea for me to aspire to building a partnership, I’ve developed a sense of selfishness regarding those worthy of my intimate and romantic energies.

I’m certain that my former resistance to love and  catching flights instead of feelings is a coping mechanism from previous dating fumbles. Dating wasn’t easy living in a transient city like Washington D.C, where the majority are prestigious single millennials; in their primes and focused on accomplishing their dreams, by any means necessary. Despite my Carolina upbringing, most of my dating life was spent in D.C. over the course of six years. In fact, it was the first place I’d truly dated.

I’ve always been the shy, queer guy for as long as I can remember. I had “girlfriends” from elementary to middle school but I always ended up having crushes on my male peers. Throughout high school, I struggled defining my sexuality and as a teenager and I’d attached myself to online dating as a means to meet older guys (who I assumed to be more comfortable in their sexuality to show me the ropes). By the time I’d reached college, I’d met a Marine online in a chatroom, who would later become my first boyfriend. Despite my intentions, it was during that era of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” that I would learn how vastly unaccepted it was for a man, especially in the southern United States, to date another man. My first intimate relationship consisted of a lot of hiding and the overall theme was to be as low-key as possible so not to blow my boyfriend’s cover. After our split, that concept would later haunt my dating life moving forward.

When I first moved to D.C., known as the “gay mecca of the northeast United States”, I was taken aback by the blatant queerness of the culture there. I’d previously spent my final semester abroad in South Africa on a study abroad scholarship in Port Elizabeth, where my dating life had been dry for the six months I’d lived there. Unusual circumstances landed me in D.C. after my program ended. I specifically recall walking alone on 14th Street, a busy downtown street, and being catcalled by some guys in a moving car. This was a strange yet enthralling experience to me. D.C. was also where I started using dating apps for discreet, down-low and out queer men to connect. At first, I was excited to be exposed to so many attractive guys from all walks of life. Then again, I’d always been one to take dating seriously and generally a man of my word.  Over time, as dating apps grew more popular, the quality of the connections I’d make on apps like Grindr, Jack’d and Tinder began to decline. The many options provided in these technological dating spaces left me jaded by my encounters. I’d definitely befriended some amazing people but I’d also dated some chameleons, constantly changing their their colors. In fact, the majority of my dates had been seemingly disingenuous in their romantic pursuits.  There are always exceptions, but the very nature of online dating promotes instant gratification which I believe has created more of a hookup or short-term dating culture.

Just before moving back to Colombia, I’d reached a breaking point of anxiety, depression and bitterness due to catching feelings. Here I was, a grown man literally exhausted from the overall nonchalance in my dating environment. I’d been becoming attached to people who weren’t ready for that and in the end was left looking like boo boo the fool.

In most contexts, it’s less popular to be a man who shows emotion or expresses himself because it’s seen as hypersensitive. Most black men of my generation were taught not to emote while the world tells us we should be strong – and at times, hyper-masculine. But as a human, I counter these lies because I do, indeed, feel.  I’ve always expressed how I feel when I feel I should. It would be a bit troubling to not express myself based on what others might perceive because of unhealthy societal norms.

Though it’s true, life could be less stressful and more productive for some of us if we focus on ourselves, stay busy and caught flights without feelings. To each their own. I contest that since I’ve been back in Colombia, my dating life has been more interesting. I’m grateful to have crossed paths with a few Colombians who may not be the one, but are giving me what I need out of dating at this point of my life. While I’m in no rush to catch feelings, I’m not ruling it out. Especially since there have been talks of us catching flights together.