Along with frequent-flyer miles and a passport packed with colorful stamps, almost every experienced globetrotter has at least one great story about a one-night stand in a foreign land. Which isn't surprising. Traveling is so romantic in nature moonlight over unfamiliar cityscapes, trains rumbling through thousand-year-old crumbling vistas it would seem a shame not to share it with someone. And practically speaking, of course, hooking up with a winsome local means you've got an insider's guide to the best restaurants and someone to help you work off the calories with later.
Mike Edison, musician and author of I Have Fun Everywhere I Go ... (Faber and Faber), has traveled the world with various rock bands and become something of an expert on the short-lived liaison. I recently sat down with Edison and picked his brain on the ins and outs of intercontinental intercourse.
Musicians and frequent flyers are notorious one-night-standers. Are there rules of the road?
There's a code that everyone understands when you're traveling, the unspoken semantics of road sex. If you take a musician home with you after the gig, you can't expect anything except a good time. Nobody goes into a one-night stand expecting to fall in love though it happens.
I am a pretty hopeless romantic, so I always think it is going to happen to me. I do know a couple of people who met on the road and fell in love and lived happily ever after. Then again, I also know the two guys in my band who married women they met on the road and a few months later found themselves online researching "uncontested divorce."
Did you have any lingering romances with people you met on tour?
I had a long-running dalliance with a woman who lived in the south of France in this lovely, sad medieval town way up on a hill. If neither of us were otherwise engaged when I'd play near there, I'd stay at her place. The nice thing about that was [that] when you're on tour, you usually stay at some crappy hotel, and instead I got to stay with this wonderful girl who had lots of books and cable TV, and all she wanted to do was eat some really great French food and take a bubble bath with me and make everything all right.
You also hooked up with a Spanish woman who didn't understand a word of English. How did you manage that?
The language barrier can be a great benefit or it can ruin everything. The effort to communicate is a form of foreplay. It creates a nice kind of tension.
We figured it out you point, signal, gesticulate wildly. It's kind of like drunken semaphore. Necessity is the mother of invention she would stay at my place fairly often, so eventually I innovated sign language for "have a pizza delivered."
So that one-night stand turned into something more. But you're single now ...
Once I learned to prattle a little in Spanish, she figured out that we had nothing in common, so she dumped me.
Are there any one-nighter pitfalls to avoid?
The Internet and e-mail ruined everything! When I used to travel [before the days of e-mail], I'd be in Berlin or Paris or some pueblo in Spain, and I'd leave with someone's address scribbled on the back of a paperback book or on a pack of rolling papers. It was the polite thing to do, though no one was really expected to sit down and write a letter. Now you get an e-mail the next day saying, "I saw your tour schedule on your website. Put me on the guest list tonight!" Or worse, "I am coming to visit you in New York."