By Franz Wisner
Why stop at piddly promotions or insufficient inventory when you can blame your publisher for every setback in life? A cavity? The scoundrels diverted me from quality floss time. Bounced check? Sorry, Mr. Banker. I used publisher math.
With my latest book, How the World Makes Love, I had a change of heart. My publisher gave me an assist in a way I’d never imagined possible.
You see, several years ago, I was dumped at the altar. Instead of heading to a therapist’s couch or neighborhood bar, I decided to carry on with the weekend wedding festivities — the golf tournament on Friday, the rehearsal dinner Saturday, the cabernet sauvignon throughout. I’d paid for it, after all.
I continued the surreal chain of events by going on my two-week honeymoon to Costa Rica, substituting my recently divorced brother Kurt for my runaway bride. We had such a rewarding time re-bonding as brothers and exploring the country that we decided to extend the honeymoon for two years and 53 countries.
The result was a bestselling book (called, you guessed it, Honeymoon with My Brother), a soul session on Oprah’s couch (without tears, nonetheless), and a world of transformation. That’s when the problems began.
“We would love another book from you,” said my editor.
“Oh, no, I’m done spooning Kurt,” I said. “And I’ll be damned if I’m going to get left at the altar again.”
“Write about what you want,” she replied.
So I sold them a book proposal about the subject that interested me most while traveling. Love. Relationships. Marriage. Sex. How did Arab men gauge beauty behind the veils? Did arranged marriage brides and grooms in India want to kill each other on their honeymoon nights? Why are Brazilians so much sexier than the rest of us, damn it?
Plus, I was single! What a great pick-up line. Here my publisher gave me a ticket and an excuse to travel the world and glean everything I wanted to know about love abroad but was afraid to ask. Life was grand.
Just as the adventure began, I met a woman on a blind date in Los Angeles. Mutual friends fixed us up. Besides the bad timing, so too was the fit. Tracy was an actress whose tastes included liberal politics, Antiques Roadshow, and anything with the word “home” — homemade, home birth, homebody.
She also had a, gulp, child. I’d never dated anyone with a child. This showed as we kicked off our evening with a spat over vaccinations. By the time the entrees arrived, I’d dismissed our chances of a second date I drove her home in silence and my mind continued on to the roads ahead.
For How the World Makes Love, I selected seven countries to visit — Brazil and Botswana, Egypt and India, Nicaragua, New Zealand, and the Czech Republic. The goal was simple: talk to people about love and tell their stories.
Yet I’ve long believed the best memento of travel is personal change. Attitudes, priorities, tastes — a good trip should shake everything up. I’m someone who needs that push, especially when it comes to the most important subjects in life. It’s not that I come back from my trips armed with answers, but at least I’m asking myself the questions.
With these trips, the internal debates began immediately. Large, close-knit families in South America made me question the wisdom of excluding my family from most aspects of my love life in the past. Arabs stressed the importance of anchoring relationships to faith, solid ground when all else washes away. African men and women talked about finding a partner who would be “a good parent,” a “hard worker,” a “loyal spouse.”
India showed me the importance of learning to love. By seeing our wedding days as apexes, we Americans set ourselves up for a fall, explained a woman in Delhi. Try to view love as something that comes only with time, commitment, work. See your wedding day not as a finished mansion, she counseled, but as a vacant lot. That way, you’ll pick up a shovel and get to work.
Family, faith, community — the developing world seemed to place a higher significance on appreciating assets rather than on criteria that usually gets worse with age. Not once did I hear the words “six pack abs.”
Meanwhile, Tracy and I began to email each other. She suggested a question of the day, sometimes simple, more often deep. Her inquiries made me do something I rarely did in relationships: think before answering. The emails felt like an old-fashioned exchange of letters; and despite the distance, the relationship seemed more intimate than any I’d known. Was this project saving me from ruining yet another romance?
Those emails, coupled with the world’s advice, forced me to view Tracy in a new light; and I spent more and more time with her between trips. The planet reshaped my relationship priorities. Tracy put those changes in action.
Franz Wisner has no idea what to label his profession. Writer? Travel addict? Profession dumpee? He is the New York Times bestselling author of Honeymoon with My Brother (www.honeymoonwithmybrother.com) and How the World Makes Love (www.howtheworldmakeslove.com).
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