A 20-something’s debut memoir about a whirlwind romance with an eccentric professor who took her on a three-week luggageless trip in Europe.
Austin, Texas–based writer Bensen was just recovering from an emotional breakdown when she met Jeff, a divorced environmental science professor with a “larger than life” personality, on OkCupid.com. Just four weeks into their free-spirited, “definition-free dating,” Jeff asked Bensen to join him—without baggage—on a European adventure. To her own surprise, the normally shy and retiring Bensen immediately consented. They started their experiment in unencumbered travel—which involved mostly unplanned wandering by day and then couch surfing at night in the homes of people they connected with online—in Turkey. As they drifted from Istanbul to Izmir and then into Greece, Bensen began thinking more deeply than she had bargained for about the nature of their relationship, which both had initially agreed would remain open. Jeff “was a pendulum undulating back and forth between freedom and desire,” while she was still trying to find herself on the spectrum his “swings” defined. When Jeff began a harmless flirtation with a girl on a bus to Sarajevo, Bensen realized that her connection to the free-wheeling professor had grown far stronger than an uncommitted relationship would be able to accommodate. Only after confronting him with “evidence" of his infidelity did she discover that her “Kerouacian” lover was open to the idea that “a partnership could enhance freedom instead of weighing it down.” Bensen’s story of an unexpected—and unexpectedly meaningful and at times magical—romance that developed from a chance online encounter is charming. Yet it is also insightful for the author’s observations about the conflicting desires for freedom and commitment that are the hallmarks of modern romance.
An engaging memoir of travel, love, and finding oneself.