As the Stars Aligned: A Story of Love and Travel

By Eryn Culotta

Sometimes all you need in life is a change.  As a graduate student on the verge of completing my degree, I felt puzzled and bored, with a heart yearning for something new.  All I desired was an adventure and a map.  Anxiously awaiting the epic flight to my temporary residence in Australia, I wished to be a bird or a butterfly complete with my own set of wings.  I was ready to sail across the waters and away from my stagnant life in the States, to leave behind an injured relationship and focus on the quality of my own being.  I wanted to replace the cobwebs in my mind for shooting stars, reach for the moon and find more meaning in my existence.  I blew kisses to the wind as the familiar country beneath me grew more and more miniature, until I was soaring among the cotton candy clouds, dreaming of all the discoveries to made overseas.

I landed an internship in North Sydney with the help of Cultural Embrace by API.  Snuggling into my home-stay with a lovely Australian family, I initially spent much of my spare time turning inward, letting go of heaviness and residual sadness regarding my past relationship and cultivating positivity for the present moment in a fresh and cleansing environment.  I was content on just being me, alone and without a partner, with the support of family and friends and a sense of awakening that had my soul pirouetting around the relentless Australian sun, my spirit chasing Kookaburras through the sky.  I was finally liberated from a toxic relationship, and I felt a wholeness I had never experienced before.

I was soon accompanied by female friends who I could explore the shores with, often dancing to the sound of guitar strings and sharing bottles of rose wine against the backdrop of Bondi Beach.  One auspicious evening we decided to visit a local bar called the Beach Road Hotel, where 80’s music mingled with Aussie accents, and the clanging of beer bottles completed the cacophony.  Our feminine forms twisted and grooved to the beats, letting the rhythms carry us through the night.  On the crowded dance floor I caught myself shaking my hips precariously close to a tall young man holding a glass of beer, filled to the rim with amber ale.

I turned to him with a broad smile and said playfully, “Better hurry up and finish that drink so you can dance!”  As I spoke I noticed a sparkle in his ocean blue eyes when they connected with the depths of my own earthy brown orbs.  Flashing me a genuine grin, he immediately dove into proper introductions and get-to-know-you conversation.

Into the witching hour we traded stories and secrets, escaping the noisy bar for a peaceful walk under the stars, tuning our ears to the hum of cicadas on a quest to find a soothing cup of peppermint tea.  We shared a magical first kiss with our only witness the silver sliver in the sky caressing us with its soft pale light.  I swam into an ocean of pillows just before the dawn, a tired body, a mind reeling in undying energy and the screen of my mobile flashing with a surprise text from this intriguing individual who had serendipitously entered into my world.

Weeks and months passed and Edward and I swiftly formed an everlasting bond.  I had never met a boy like this, one who could always make me laugh, who could see the beauty in simplicity and revel in nature and remind me not to take life too seriously.  We played together as children and spoke honestly of our hopes and fears, philosophies and ideas.  Every girl has this one image of true love that repeats over and over in her head, that one day this man will sweep her off her feet and carry her away into a never-ending sunset.  I have come to know that there is no such thing as a perfect partner, one that can check everything on the list of expectations we’ve concocted in our minds.  Instead, Edward taught me that there is a right person for everyone, someone you can love with all your heart, one you feel comfortable with and one that accepts you for the person you are.

Time has a way of bringing an end to things, and eventually the moment arrived when I had to return home.  I was scheduled to fly back to America, but Edward and I were determined to make our love last the distance.  For the following nine months apart our relationship was kept afloat on a life raft of daily text messages, phone calls, emails and weekly Skype dates.

As the wind blew in the crisp air of autumn we were itching to reunite.  So we packed our bags and decided that the next chapter of our fairytale would have us meeting in mysterious Kathmandu, Nepal.  Amongst the colorful foothills of the Himalayas we rekindled the flame of passion while tip-toeing through ancient temples, trekking over mountains and sampling Nepalese cuisine.  Beneath the benevolent eyes of Buddha we tumbled heart-first into an abyss of adoration.

The days of our holiday passed slow and seductively and at the same time, far too quickly.  Before I could blink away the salty tears, I was reluctantly boarding a homeward bound jet, leaving behind the mystical land of Southeast Asia and my partner.  I took solace knowing that in a month’s time Edward would be stepping his soles onto US soil.  We continued our long-distance relationship through the stoic screen of the computer, with regular connections in cyberspace and the assistance of the virtual world to keep our love a reality.

Quicker than a rabbit’s hop, Edward touched down in Austin, Texas.  Due to the United States visa regulations, he was only allowed to stay in America for three months at a time.  With love in our eyes we made the most of those precious 90 days, indulging in country music, breakfast tacos, swimming in watering holes and all things Texas.  He cuddled up to his first cold weather Christmas with my family and cheered through his first NFL Super Bowl party with my closest friends.  He witnessed Austin animated with live music during the SXSW festival and experienced driving a car with a left-side steering wheel from the right-hand lane of winding hill country roads.

As the enchanting three months in the US came to a close, Edward and I prepared for our next jump through the international relationship hoops.  Answering an ethereal calling for Central America, we purchased plane rides to Guatemala City, Guatemala.  The luscious emerald country filled with friendly folks, vibrant colors and delicious food had us refining our rusty knowledge of the Spanish language, dressing up in native clothing, bathing in turquoise hot springs and creeping through moss-covered Mayan ruins.  We weren’t sure if we could ever leave such an extraordinary place, but after weeks of travel Edward was able to return to the US for another three-month stint.

Back in America, we passed the hours as carefully as possible, savoring the sweet flavor of living together in the same country.  I introduced him to all of my cherished spots in Austin.  We camped and two-stepped and cooked organic vegetarian meals.  We sang with our instruments under the lavender sky of a desert sunset.  Our love blossomed as the wildflowers lining the desolate Texas highways, but in the back of our minds we knew that a flight to Sydney would soon sweep Edward away.

It was then that we contemplated the natural progression of our partnership and came to the realization that our love affair had already been one marvelous adventure, so why not keep it going?  We both thrived on this carefree way of life and we knew our feelings for each other were greater than any distance on the map.  I had always dreamed of teaching children in a foreign country, so I enrolled in the Teach in Thailand program through Cultural Embrace by API.  As destiny would have it, I spent the next six months teaching abroad, eating more rice than I ever thought possible and falling in love with 32 Thai children who were on their way to becoming bilingual.  When the calendar displayed “March” the country exploded into a tourist’s delight, the school braked for the incessant heat of summer, and I was greeted once again by Edward, this time in the bustling capital city of Bangkok, Thailand.

We traveled the country together, cruising the tropical islands of southern Thailand, soaking up the sapphire waters of the Andaman Sea, wandering the chaotic streets of Bangkok and gradually making our way to my home in the I-san territory of northeastern Thailand.  One glorious day near the end of our two-month travel we received a charming call from fate.  The school where I was employed was in need of another foreign English teacher and they wanted to interview Edward for the position.  We felt the universe showering us in a golden fortune as the stars aligned to let our love shine.

Today we are on our fourth month of living and working together in rural Thailand, faraway from the fireworks of city folk, nestled in a patch of vegetable farms and rolling hills, where the horizon melts into open fields.  As a couple, we are learning life in a different atmosphere, with an unfamiliar culture.  We reflect on every encounter, exchange teaching stories, escape on roadtrips and have mastered cooking some of our favorite native dishes, including Thai green curry.  With an atlas spread out before us, we are currently planning our next voyage, but we always remind ourselves to stay grateful for the invaluable gift of the present moment.  We are adventurers trailblazing our way through this enormous earth, breathing the wild air, spreading love and kindness to all beings and never taking these sacred minutes for granted.


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Flashback to our Fall API student's first days in Spain. Madrid orientation with our friends from api_granada, Salamanca guided tour, and lunch tapas (+first days of classes!)

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