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Love, Unexpected

Love can find you anywhere.

So, recently I fell in love. Well done, I hear you say, perhaps accompanied by some polite applause. I managed to achieve something that thousands of people around the world accomplish every day. But for me, it turned my life upside down.

Before meeting the love of my life, I had a happy and contented life in Australia. I worked as a botanist, a job I loved, and which provided the opportunity for travel to beautiful forests, shrubland and deserts within Western Australia. The job also gave me plenty of flexibility, and life consisted of hard work for several months, in which I would save respectable amounts of money, and then months of travels in which I would spend it and return for more work. I also managed to accrue considerable life savings, enough for a deposit on a nice house, start my own business, or invest in my early retirement plan.

That plan consisted of building a backpacker hostel in Colombia and living a life of idle luxury and casual singledom, a life plan that I gleefully announced to my now partner on our very first day of meeting. I was in Argentina and had arrived at her property to undertake a few days of volunteer work. Nothing much, just a bit of house construction, clearing paths with a machete and such. A few days of solid manual labor, just for the fun of it, then I would be off again on my merry way. But I liked the place, and I especially liked the lady who owned the property.

Older than I, and with three teenage kids, she was a U.S. expat who had divorced her husband and left her ‘soccer-mom’ lifestyle to build a natural construction house from the ground up in the mountains of Patagonia and create a career as an adventure travel writer. She was smart, funny, beautiful and with more determination, purpose and strength of character than I had ever encountered in anyone prior. We bonded over so much, from little things such as strong early morning coffees and a love of rustic knives, to our shared beliefs in the universe and our place within it, our attitude of both embracing and cynically criticizing hippie lifestyles, Western materialistic culture and everything in-between.

Most of all, we bonded over our shared love of travel, and our freedom and independence in life. She wasn’t looking for a partner, neither was I, and many were the conversations in which we mocked the concept of settling down into a traditional, monogamous relationship. How little we knew.

I came back. How could I not? But I was still fooling myself. I had just come back because one of the projects still needed to be finished. Plus she was a good cook, and who am I to turn down some delicious free food? That was the only reason, I told myself. Nothing else to it at all…and then I came back again.

This time as a guest judge in a cake bake-off. I found out later that the head volunteer, my partner and her daughter had concocted this plan to lure me back, but in truth, I needed little incentive. We were not partners at this time, never so much as kissed or held hands, but this lady demanded such fascination, respect and awe from me that I was ensnared as surely as a fly in honey. Finally, after a spontaneous random late evening at the local bar with some friends (whereas both of us are usually sleeping by 9pm), we shared a tentative kiss. I didn’t let go of her hand the whole drive back home, and we spent the night sleeping outside under the stars.

The next morning was…interesting. Neither one of us knew what the other one was thinking, what they wanted from the situation. All we knew was that we had shared a special moment, and that evening we decided that we wanted to experience it again. We gazed into each other’s eyes for the longest time, and in that moment, we knew it was love.

This situation presented itself with a number of logistical problems. I lived and worked in Australia. She lived on a mountainside in the middle of rural Patagonia, in a tiny house barely large enough for the family as it was. I was comfortable in the security and identity that my job provided. I had family and friends that, while not unsupportive, did not exactly relish the idea of me disappearing into a mountainous wilderness.

It took a long time, many hard conversations and some deep soul-searching, but I eventually made the break with my life in Australia and moved to Argentina. At the time of writing, we are living together in a warm house with a crackling fire and a pot of coffee on the stove, planning our upcoming wedding, and I have never been happier.

The change in my life has given me new purpose, new responsibilities and opened up endless, previously unsuspected opportunities for adventure and fulfillment. It has been a pivotal and transformative life experience, and has taught me more about life, change and positive manifestation in the last year that in my previous thirty-some years of existence.

The universe is alive with possibilities.

I had a life plan locked down in my head, and I was working towards that with all my energy. It was hard to abandon my job, my lifestyle, and my plans for the future. But, by coming to peace with the fact that life may turn out differently to how I’d planned, it opened up a whole new world of experience, adventure and joy that I had never even suspected existed. Since breaking out of the security and comfort in which I previously limited myself, I have hunted wild boar on horseback, learnt to forge knives, axes and other tools, and managed social media accounts for a gaucho tour guide, experiences that have resulted in profound personal and professional development.

To be too set and rigid in one life focus is to miss out on all the varied opportunities that exist in the world. Be open to change, view deviations and detours as a positive path that opens up more doors than it closes, and the universe will reward your faith and openness with experiences beyond anything you have experienced previously.

Love can find you anywhere.

I did not enter into this situation looking for love. I was single, and happily so. She was a blond American lady with three kids; not my usual type at all. And yet, without seeking it, love snuck up on me until my rational mind could no longer ignore the flood of emotions raging through me.

Although you should not upend your entire life every time a pretty face catches your eye, keep yourself open to the possibility that something special can happen, and when it does, you must be prepared to open yourself to it wholeheartedly. Quit your job, sell the house and move to a brand-new country, if that is what it takes to pursue happiness. Although it may be tough and difficult at times, no matter what you go through, it will be easier than spending a lifetime of regret and wondering what might have been.

Don’t compromise on the qualities that are important to you in a partner.

I had entered into my thirties comfortable with my singledom after a twenties spent dating with varying degrees of success. I had met a number of girls who I liked, and who liked me back. We had our differences, but thought that they were small things, easily ignored. A difference of opinion, a dislike of their music or clothing tastes, even just a little habit that initially I found fun and quirky. But these proved impossible to ignore over time and eventually, for various reasons, all these relationships came to an end. If you enter into a situation in which you settle in order to make it work, then you will never be totally happy. People who search too hard for a partner, or compromise too readily, in the hope of falling into it are invariably disappointed. By settling for what you know in your heart to be second best fosters a sense of resentment and dissatisfaction, and may in fact restrict later opportunities to attract, encounter and embrace exactly what it is that your heart was looking for.

 

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Kelby Jennings

Born and raised in Perth, Western Australia, Kelby grew up with a passion for exploration, adventure and the natural world. Finishing his schooling with a degree in Conservation Biology, he has worked in a variety of animal and plant surveys and conservation projects both within Australia and internationally. He also indulges in his love of travel through long periods on the road, exploring natural and cultural landscapes around the world. While volunteering at a homestead in the mountains of Argentine Patagonia, he fell in love with the owner, who is now his wife, and currently spends his time between Argentina, Australia and Brazil, where he leads citizen science programs in jaguar conservation and Amazonian ecology.

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