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Romance on the Road

Why do we care about romance on the road?

Excerpt from Romance on the RoadRomance on the Road: Traveling Women Who Love Foreign Men, by Jeannette Belliveau. From chapter 1, "Wanderings of a Sex Pilgrim:"

This may be your, the reader's, first question.

Travel intimacy is important for a number of reasons:

  • From 1980 through 2005, perhaps a cumulative 600,000 Western women have dared to pursue carnal closeness with foreign men, yet public awareness of the phenomenon is spotty even after the release of popular books and movies on the topic.
  • Physical intimacy with a poor or non-white foreigner undermines fundamental assumptions about what a woman looks for a man. And the thousands of resulting marriages sledgehammer a full century of academic theories about mate selection.
  • Casual travel sex is a leading indicator of the state of feminism and real increases in female power. Impromptu liaisons with foreign men began to flourish during feminism's first wave in the 1840s and re-emerged in the 1960s, tracking wider social change with exactitude. And as roughly 10,000 Western women a year marry foreign men -- as they bring holiday lovers home to their own countries -- they exercise a power reserved through history for male military conquerors.

Why write this book?

On sporadic occasions for more than a dozen years, intimate adventures while traveling provided some of the most vivid experiences of my life. Eventually, I began to suspect that out of the public eye, many other women must be secretly been having their own emotionally powerful, unforgettable affairs -- ones that a lot of them kept carefully concealed.

Romance on the Road seeks to normalize the experience of travel liaisons, which for American women especially may create anxiety and feelings of confusion, unnecessary shame and secrecy.

Any female traveler entering a sexual relationship can now learn that she is:

  • Not the first to ever do so (by 150 years).
  • Far from alone (an estimated 24,000 women a year also indulge).
  • And not crazy (at least seven compelling reasons make unanticipated sex likely for many traveling women).
Romance on the Road should permit Western women who get close to foreign men to look at themselves as fulfilling normal human desires for a closeness often blocked by obstacles in their home society.

Women are entitled to know the long history of their experimentation with travel sex and the geographic near-universality of the phenomenon.

Female hedonism on holiday may seem to be a niche topic. but the scattered but valuable components of this story -- the women's memoirs, academic reports, movies and novels -- deserve comprehensive reporting and build a picture of an important change in female pursuit of intimacy, mating and companionship.

The microcosm of road romance tracks important changes in the macrocosm of overall female sexual behavior, including a exponential increase in women's sexual freedom to a level likely unprecedented in civilization for at least three millennia and possibly throughout all human experience.

Hunting down the story

During radio interviews for my first title, An Amateur's Guide to the Planet, phone-in listeners often often asked, "Why did you write your book?"

My reply was, "You always write books because no one else articulates your vision."

The same motivation drove this writing of this book, also. Where was the big book measuring and explaining sex travel (by women), describing experiences similar to my own? At first, the sum total of information seemed to be the description of a "zipless fuck" on an Italian train in the 1973 novel Fear of Flying, at its core a mere six paragraphs of fantasy that launched a useful phrase into public consciousness. in 1996, the novel How Stella Got Her Groove Back further publicized holiday carousing -- but captured only a slice of what was going on around the world with hundreds of thousands of women.

In 1999, five years after a Brazil trip provided what would be my last instance of casual sex, I began to dig further.

I interviewed female travelers and expatriates, from as close by as my soccer teammates in Maryland to as far away as Germany. I commissioned a statistician to help determine from immigration data for the first time where U.S. women go to bring home foreign husbands.

And I found a cache of writings going far beyond the "zipless fuck" and the restoration of Stella's groove.

Each trip I made to the U.S. Library of Congress, Baltimore area libraries and other mother lodes was like passing through a gate to a magic garden. I took my magnifying glass and dug up more than 800 pieces of the puzzle, often in obscure sources.

On their own, the puzzle pieces sat quietly, barely touched, on library shelves, in immigration datatapes, at specialty video stores, in handwritten, never-published diaries recording love at first sight between Indian nobles and pretty Englishwomen. Entire memoirs devoted to recounting sex travel (most published in Europe, and many not in English) came to light, as did anthropologists' confessional remembrances, social science reports, histories of the Raj in India, Victorian travel writing, literary criticism, articles in medical journals, and more.

Dusted off, held to the light and seen in their totality, the puzzle pieces came together and revealed patterns. A rich story unfolded about Western women and foreign men, both willing to address a worldwide affection deficit disorder with exotic and surprising mates. a quiet revolution had begun, likely in a bedroom in rome in 1840s, and this female rebellion had grown over a century and a half to encompass experiences ranging from quick sex on sandy Barbados beaches to marriages that changed history.

Travel sex by women is revolutionary yet also understandable, a vivid life event yet one barred from polite conversation, and a phenomenon now even reaching obscure fishing towns in central america and hamlets in the himalayas, yet misunderstood and incompletely chronicled.

Romance on the Road: Traveling Women Who Love Foreign Men, is published by Beau Monde Press, Baltimore, Md.

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