Is it any coincidence that part of the word wanderlust is, well . . . lust? Any travel will involve ogling the gorgeous surroundings, but a trip can become something more if you’re also ogling a special someone. Whether you’re finding a brand new object of your affection or taking an existing relationship to the next level, sharing a memorable experience is scientifically proven to get oxytocin — the love hormone — flowing, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that exciting destinations abroad often result in vacation romances. And who’s better at falling in love than characters in YA novels? From flirting in a new language to a first kiss after an adrenaline rush of an adventure, they’re experts in international relations. *wink wink*
Since it’s summer, and love — and travel — are in the air, now is the perfect time for canoodling abroad. Whether you’re looking for a far-flung destination to visit and write a love story of your own, or to do some armchair traveling of the most romantic kind, here are a few of the best destinations around the world for sparks to fly—and the books that let you imagine yourself there. But be careful — you might never want to come back to the real world!
Maggie Hall is the author of The Conspiracy of Us series. Maggie indulges her obsession with distant lands and far-flung adventures as often as she can. She has played with baby tigers in Thailand, learned to make homemade pasta in Italy, and taken thousands of miles of trains through the vibrant countryside of India. The Ends of the World is out now.
The city of lights, the city of love. Paris is so romantic it’s become a cliché — but clichés exist for a reason. Who doesn’t want to feel like they’re the lead in their very own cinematic love story? From nighttime strolls along the banks of the Seine to a picnic at the base of the Eiffel Tower to wandering the corridors of the Louvre, there’s romance around every corner in Paris. Is it any surprise characters in YA novels seem to fall in love there left and right?
Like Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, and one of its companion novels, Isla and the Happily Ever After, where American students find the loves of their lives at a Parisian boarding school. Or Gayle Forman’s Just One Day, whose main character learns to take risks in life and in love when she meets a free-spirited boy. For a Paris romance a little more out-of-this-world, in Amy Plum’s Die for Me, the heroine’s star-crossed love may be supernatural, but their Paris love story is fated.
Ah, London. Home of fish and chips, red double-decker buses, and Princess Kate’s hair — not to mention accents that make Americans swoon (come on, you know it’s true) and the kind of energy only a bustling metropolis can provide. What’s more romantic than finding the one person who’s perfect for you amongst the throngs?
If you’re an adrenaline junkie, you might find love in a gang of thieves pulling off the heist of a lifetime from a London art museum, like in Heist Society by Ally Carter, and on a reluctant ghost hunt like in the Shades of London series by Maureen Johnson. Or maybe a fling on a school trip is more your speed, like the heroine of Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill. Or you’re bored with your family and just want a little excitement, in the aptly named Falling in Love with English Boys by Melissa Jensen. In that case, there are plenty of secluded pubs and romantic parks perfect for a stroll and finding a little privacy amongst the crowds.
How could you not fall in love with the world’s best pasta and gelato? Um, sorry — fall in love over pasta and gelato, I mean? Italy’s history and architecture make it a natural fit for travelers, but on top of that, the country is known for its delicious decadence — in food, and in amore.
Don’t believe me? Just ask some YA heroines. Caught between a sexy local and a hot fellow American? The heroine from Wish You Were Italian by Kristen Rae understands. Or maybe your summer fling could be more, like in Love, Lucy by April Lindner. Or Italy might just help you understand your family and find love along the way, like in Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch.
On A Tour
You’re lost, you don’t speak the language, and you have no idea how to get from the train station to your hotel. Traveling place-to-place can be stressful, yes, but when else do you get the opportunity to impress by knowing how to say thank you in a dozen languages? And deciphering a train schedule in another language together? Surprisingly romantic. They say variety is the spice of life, and it certainly doesn’t hurt in the romance department!
Just ask the main character of Jen Malone’s Wanderlost, who falls for a new love as they guide a tour group around Europe. Or the heroine of Alison Cherry’s For Real, who finds herself in the middle of a reality show romance abroad. Or how about Mackenzi Lee’s hero in The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, who takes a debaucherous Grand Tour through 18th century Europe with his best friend—only to maybe find that he’s falling in love with him in the process? Or, if you like a little danger with your romance, there’s my own series, The Conspiracy of Us, where the heroine has to race around the world with the boy she’s falling for to save their lives and crack the conspiracy before it’s too late.
Central & South America
For Americans in search of love abroad, there are some very romantic destinations close by. Maybe you’ll fall for the perfect person on a bohemian backpacking trip through Belize and Guatemala and beyond, like the heroine in Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard. Or be like Robin Talley’s heroine in Our Own Private Universe, and find romance with a girl you meet on a mission trip to Mexico.
Whether you’re enjoying the trendy neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, the historic towns of Panama, or Costa Rica’s miles of beaches, there’s something love-ly for everyone.
From the white sand beach paradises of Thailand to the shopping districts of Shanghai, there are approximately a million romantic and diverse destinations to visit in Asia. If you ask a YA heroine, though, she’ll probably tell you that Japan or Korea should be your first stop if you’re in the mood for love.
To westerners, both countries are known for their sophisticated cities, but their natural beauty is just as amazing. In a day, you can go from sharing a crosswalk with thousands of people under the neon lights of Tokyo’s Shibuya district to the serene beauty of hiking Mt. Fuji. Or from snacking on exquisite homemade kimchi in Seoul to skiing at one of Korea’s legendary resorts.
Sitting with someone special, watching as a bright sun sinks into a turquoise sea. Imagining what life might have been like at the sites you visit thousands of years ago. Getting off the beaten path and finding an adorable small town where you and the object of your affection can relax without the distractions of the big city. Lucky you—Greece has all these things!
Maybe it’ll be like in Sophomore Year Is Greek to Me by Meredith Zeitlin, and you’ll have a fun flirtation while learning all there is to love about your new surroundings. Or like My Best Friend, Maybe by Caela Carter, if you’re angsting about your perfect guy while your best friend is angsting about her perfect girl — and finally, you realize that your friendship is the most important relationship you’ve both had all along. Friend love!
The largest city in the Czech Republic is undoubtedly beautiful, but its turrets and ornate cemeteries are more than that: they bring a fairy tale magic to the city that make it easy to fall in love.
Now, whether that’s with a boy, like the protagonist’s best friend in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, or with someone a little less human, like the heroine herself, you’ll have to visit and find out. And if you like your magical Eastern European cities with a side of murder and conspiracy? You might find a Prague romance like in The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman.
So what’s the best place to fall in love? If you’re like a YA character, the answer seems to be on an adventure, whether that adventure involves math class in a new language—or fighting evil supernatural creatures in a city halfway around the world.
And if you’re not looking for or don’t find love abroad? You might just find yourself instead, which is pretty darn great, too. Happy travels!