Author and travel and travel journalist Jennifer Cox appeared on "Good Morning America" to discuss her new book, "Around the World in 80 Dates." In it, Cox recounts her effort to find Mr. Right by globetrotting from country to country and date to date.
Here's part two of an excerpt from Chapter 3:
The water in question was part of the Scandinavian southern archipelago, where the North Sea forms Kattegat, a wide channel between Sweden and Denmark. Even while I was concentrating on my soothing mantra of "don't be sick, don't be sick," I could appreciate it was intensely beautiful. We knifed through the clear water; the sharp-edged waves from our boat had turned to gentle ripples by the time they reached the shores of the tiny islands we passed. I could hear the local children chatter and laugh as they milled around in rock pools and dived off rafts into the cool water. Behind them, pine trees crowded down to the boulder-studded shoreline, like kids around an ice cream van. The occasional tiny red stave house peeped shyly from between branches, pristine white roof bright against the deep green of the needles. We flew across the clear blue water; the air felt clean and fresh. I was both nervous and excited: I felt sure this was the final leg of the journey before Anders and I would meet.
Some of the tension must have shown on my face. Martin, sweetly misunderstanding, took one hand from deftly skimming the boat from tip to tip of the bouncing waves. "Don't worry," he shouted over the noise of the engine and crash of the water, touching my arm reassuringly and frowning with concern. "We have all been told you get very, very sick on boats and I am to watch and see if you will vomit."
I smiled weakly and wiped some of the salty spray from my face to hide my embarrassment, as we plowed ever onward into the surf.
Half an hour later, I was watching a cluster of tacking boats filled with orange-life-jacketed children learning to sail. I reflected on how wonderful it would be to grow up having sailed dinghies, ridden horses, or hiked and biked mountains virtually from the age you could walk. In England, it seems everyone has watched TV or idled in traffic from the age we could sit. I snapped out of my ruminating: The roar of the engine had become a gentle purr. Martin had slowed the boat and was standing at the wheel, scanning the horizon.
"Are we lost?" I asked, suddenly really nervous about meeting mysterious Anders. Maybe going back to the hotel, having a big bath, and catching up on sleep wouldn't be such a bad thing.
"No," Martin replied politely, but preoccupied as he eased the boat through a rocky channel, all the time scanning the horizon. "They are here somewhere."
Where the hell am I being taken? I suddenly thought crossly. Why didn't Martin know where they (THEY?) were? What was next? To get into a submarine? Who was the goddamn date with -- Captain Nemo?
I was starting to get impatient. Enough was enough. Let's get on with the date or take me back to the hotel so I can watch cable and be as one with the minibar.
But at that very moment, Martin pushed the throttle down on the boat and we sped forward: He had spotted them.
I was about to meet Anders.
We were sailing toward a floating pontoon moored to a rocky outcrop in the middle of the sea. It was a big pontoon, about eighteen feet by thirty, a large cabin in the middle with a deck front and back. I could make out two men standing on the front deck, one pale, fiddling with ropes, one tall and dark, looking straight at me. He waved.
Oh, my God, it was Anders. Finally.
Except, all of a sudden, "finally" felt like it had arrived far too soon. I didn't feel ready. Clutching my bag protectively to my chest, I felt completely overwhelmed with nerves and I suddenly wished my date had been with lovely, sweet Martin after all.
I waved back to Anders with a confidence I didn't feel.
The sun was bright on my face. My hair had been whipped insensible and my eyes were stinging and weeping after an hour being buffeted by the salty wind and surf. As Martin sailed closer to the pontoon, Anders steadily came into focus. I groaned to myself wretchedly: He was absolutely gorgeous. Completely and ridiculously handsome. I was utterly out of my depth.
As Martin navigated the boat alongside the pontoon, Anders, who had been leaning against the railing watching our approach, stepped forward to help me aboard. My legs wobbling, my nose running, I pleaded with myself not to fall in or do or say anything stupid, as he reached down, took my hand in his, and pulled me up toward him.
Now both on deck, we stood six inches apart and gave each other a long, appraising look.
Anders was about six feet three and in his early forties. His skin was tanned golden, his thick brown hair wavy and swept back from his face, which was lined in a manner that suggested he knew his own mind and was used to getting his own way. He was deeply handsome, his green eyes offset by a strong jaw and full mouth. He was obviously very fit, dressed casually in a white T-shirt with a khaki shirt loosely buttoned over it, strands of hair curling up from his chest.
He looked a lot like Mel Gibson.
What the hell was Ann-Charlotte doing with a friend like this? How was this possible? She was like me: We didn't know people like this. We knew normal people, people who played table football and smacked into the full-length mirrors in the Met Bar, thinking it was another room. We knew people who looked like the boy next door, because in all probability they lived next door. This man was in another league altogether.
"So, I shall go now, Jennifer. It was a pleasure meeting you." I stopped staring at Anders and spun around. Martin was climbing back into the speedboat with pale, rope-fiddling guy, and they were getting ready to head back to the shore.
I would have paid any amount of money to go with Martin rather than stay here with Anders, but I knew that wasn't going to happen. Plus, I told myself sternly, attempting a degree of control and to stop my thoughts free-falling, This is what my journey is all about: to challenge my "type comfort zone" and be open to the possibility that a "new type," although unfamiliar territory, might actually make me happier.
And with a friendly wave, Martin motored off. This was it: Short of faking a burst appendix, I was committed to dating Anders.
Maybe sensing my apprehension, Anders did the best possible thing. Dipping into the cabin and emerging with a bottle of chilled Moët and two glasses, he gestured that I should sit on one of the chairs by a long, wooden bench.
"Jennifer," he said in a deep voice, his Scandinavian accent drawing out the syllables, "it is a pleasure to finally meet you. I think your story is a brave and fascinating one, and I am very much looking forward to hearing more of it. But first, I hope you are a little hungry as I have prepared some light food for us. I must return to the kitchen for a few moments, so why don't you just sit and relax and enjoy the view."
I remained standing: I was still keyed up and didn't feel comfortable being waited on.
"Oh, Anders, please let me help," I protested, but Anders just smiled warmly, handed me a glass glistening with bubbles, and pulled out the chair for me to sit on. Realizing Anders was being gracious -- and knowing it would be undignified to argue -- I settled into the seat. His hand lightly brushed my shoulder, then I heard him turn and walk into the cabin -- which I now knew to be a kitchen -- behind me.
Moments later, the sound of strings, gliding like a shoal of fish around Frank Sinatra crooning "Young at Heart," came from speakers mounted on the side of the cabin.
When I was a kid my parents used to play us Songs for Swingin' Lovers; I've always loved Frank. I immediately relaxed and smiled appreciatively. I was allowed to do this. I could let someone treat me really nicely without over-thinking or fighting it. I remembered the Love Professor and realized this was one of my tasks: to learn to surrender a little control and trust that my feelings would still be considered. Also that I wasn't the only person who could make events run smoothly.
It was about 7:30 p.m. by now and the sun was still hot and bright. The water seemed to have a soft haze over it, a gentle mist that floated above the protruding rocks, making them appear like the heads and shoulders of a small crowd dressed in cashmere sweaters.
I was enjoying both Frank and the Moët but I was also very curious about Anders. I didn't want to interfere with his preparations, but maybe he could cope with me chatting while he cooked (one of those comfortable relationship intimacies that I really missed).
I walked with my glass over to the cabin door. "Room for a passenger with a lot of questions?" I asked.
Anders looked up from a chopping board full of smoked fish and lemons, a ramekin of what looked like dill mustard dressing in his hand. He smiled welcomingly. "I would like that very much," he replied. "Please make yourself comfortable. Maybe you would like to look around, too?"
The kitchen was surprisingly well equipped: a full-size stove and fridge, plus, from what I could see, cupboards full of crystal glasses and fine china. The windows were fringed with blue and white gingham curtains; a stack of pressed white linen tablecloths and napkins sat on a counter. Agreeing that I would set the table outside, I busied myself with cutlery.
Stepping between the lovely kitchen and the picturesque deck looking out onto the water, I found it a little hard to get my head around how perfect this all was.
"Anders, you really do have the most incredible boat," I told him. "I'm so happy that you invited me out here, thank you." Anders, who was ferrying trays of cheese, crudités, and fish out to the table, laughed.
"I wish it was my boat," he said sincerely, "but I have just borrowed it for tonight. Besides," he continued, returning to the kitchen and pausing to inspect the open fridge before selecting a bottle of wine, "haven't you noticed, it's not a boat, it's a floating sauna."
I laughed out loud, not particularly because I thought he was joking but more because it seemed too far-fetched to be true.
He smiled back at me. "No, I'm serious. Go and have a look." He gently took my arm and turned me toward the back of the galley kitchen. Still laughing, I walked over, pulled aside the curtain, and stepped through into a narrow corridor. To the left, another curtain screened off a little toilet and sink; at the end of the corridor was a glass door, the view beyond it obscured by the steam streaming in rivulets down the length of it. Gingerly turning the handle on the door, I was immediately hit by a blast of heat that made my eyes sting. Anders had been serious, it was a full-size sauna: two long, wooden benches, white towels and gowns folded on the end, a grate filled with glowing coals in the middle. At the end of the room, another glass door looked out onto the rocks to which we were moored. It was incredible. I'd never seen anything like it.
Anders, who was still busy with the food, and, I suspect, keeping a respectful distance in the kitchen, looked up when I walked back in. "Well?" he asked playfully. "Did you find the sauna?" I rolled my eyes at what seemed to me the insane opulence of it.
"Anders, that's just crazy," I stated with incredulity.
"Why crazy?" he asked with a grin.
For a moment, I was worried I would appear a bit of a country bumpkin. "It just seems so extravagant," I replied slowly, trying to put my culture shock into words. "In England, to go to a sauna is a real treat, to go sailing is a bit of an event. To go sailing on a sauna seems the equivalent of bobbing for Godiva chocolates in a barrel of Moët."
He laughed at this, appearing as it must have to him like a scene out of Pygmalion. He reassured me by putting it into context: "Don't forget, in Sweden we think to take a sauna is very normal. And as for the floating part, this is a coastal city: Water is a big part of our lives."
He seemed gently charmed by my reaction and I in turn felt more relaxed that we had subtly acknowledged our differences but not found them too much of an obstacle. When I had arrived, Anders had scared me. He was too everything: handsome, rich, powerful . . . He was still all those things, but I was less fazed by them now that I was starting to get a sense of his personality.
I did still feel apprehensive about one thing, though. "So, that was why I needed to bring the bikini, then?" I asked, trying to keep the I-would-sooner-throw-myself-over-the-side-than-let-you-see-me-in-a-bikini note from my voice.
Suddenly Anders looked awkward, too. "Yes," he replied. "I thought it might be romantic, but…" My heart leaped at the "but." "… maybe it is too much too soon? Perhaps it is good just to relax and enjoy each other's company?"
I could have kissed him.
And Anders, maybe sharing my performance anxiety, looked relieved, too. Picking up the final tray of food and flipping a cloth over his arm, he bowed mockingly. "If madam is ready, dinner is served," he announced with a flourish.
Sitting across from me at the table on deck, Anders unveiled exquisite dish after dish: strawberries dusted with sugar and threaded onto skewers; hot, tender fish sandwiches dressed in a piquant sauce, each a single mouthful dripping warm olive oil down my forearm; baked cheese coated in crunchy herbs served with a tangy mustard dip. Crisp chunks of bread and brimming bowls of glossy salad acted to counterpoint the rich flavors and textures.
We ate with our fingers, after a while forgetting to wipe them clean on our napkins so that, unnoticed, our wineglasses became imprinted with buttery impressions of our lips and fingertips.
And all the while we talked. We talked about my journey, our friends, our lives, and what we thought might be our futures.
Anders was a local events organizer and had just finished his two big shows for the year: a huge arts and music festival and the Gothenburg Grand Prix. He admitted he was exhausted and was looking forward to catching up with friends, but mostly to spending time on his own in his very basic log cabin in a nearby forest.
"Really?" I asked in surprise. I must have said it with a little too much surprise, as Anders raised his eyebrows quizzically. "Sorry," I said quickly. "I didn't mean that rudely, I just meant . . ." I groped for a tactful way to say he looked too urban and sophisticated to rough it. "You look like someone with a taste for city life. I can't quite picture you drawing water from a well and combing your hair with twigs."
He smiled, looking vaguely flattered. "I need time in my cabin," he explained. "It is my retreat, the place I go to recharge my batteries and switch off from everything that pulls and makes demands of me."
I could understand that. "I get like that, too," I agreed, "but I always feel guilty: I spend so much time traveling and away from my friends, I feel I have to put the time in with them when I get back or they get really irritable and difficult." And, to be fair, I wanted to put the time in, too: Traveling for work might be wonderful, but it was also pretty lonely.
Anders looked a little sad. "Yes, it is hard with friends as they do not understand that, yes, my work is fun, but it is also very demanding and with long hours. As I have become older, I am less troubled by the demands of others and enjoy my own company more and more." He explained that it had caused his most recent relationship to break up, as they were both traveling extensively for work and spending long periods of time apart. Although he looked hurt by this, I also sensed that Anders was someone happy to be on his own, reconciled to and actually enjoying his own company in a way I suspected I never could. He had a grown-up son from a marriage long over. When you're a guy and you've had children, maybe that particular need is sated and it's your own company you value for its peace and continuity.
We talked for hours. We talked through dinner; we talked through juicy spikes of chopped tropical fruit; we talked through rich, bitter chocolates; we talked through coffee; we talked through cognac. We talked through Frank Sinatra, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Matt Monro. And as we talked about Gothenburg and London, and relationships we'd loved and relationships that had broken our hearts, jobs we'd adored . . . I knew he was not my Soul Mate. I enjoyed being with Anders and found him very attractive, but ultimately we were looking for different relationships. He was an educated, passionate man with a true appreciation of fine things. But he was a loner. Being on my own scared me to death: I wanted to meet someone who was open to the possibility of falling in love, running the risk of getting hurt along the way, but still believing there was someone wonderful out there for him. I didn't want to experience life solo, I wanted a Soul Mate to share it with, and was willing to travel the world to find him.
By now it was 3 a.m. There was still light in the sky, but it had a silvery luminosity about it, like it was the moon shining rather than the sun. We both had early starts the next day, Anders to help a friend move house, me to catch a train to Stockholm. He rang another of the ubiquitous captains to come and tow us back to land.
Back on dry land, a taxi was waiting. We sat very close on the backseat as we drove back to Gothenburg. I felt we had really shared something -- I'm certain he did, too -- but I was unsure exactly what.
When we arrived at my hotel, Anders got out and walked me to the door. We stood looking at each other without speaking, just as we had done all those hours ago on the deck of the boat. But so much seemed to have happened since then. He held my hands in his and studied me, smiling enigmatically. He then took me in his arms and pulled me tightly against him.
"You are a very special woman, Jennifer, it has been an extraordinary evening," he said in a low voice, tense with emotion. I felt the same way and got quite teary. "Will you be okay to catch your train?" he asked softly. "It's early, isn't it?"
I made a face. "Eight thirty," I told him. Loosening his hold on me a fraction, he looked at his watch. It was 4 a.m. "It's fine, though, there are a ton of trains to Stockholm," I said. "I can easily get a later one if I'm too tired." I sensed he knew that nothing was going to happen tonight and he wasn't going to make a move. I'd started thinking that breakfast together would be nice but didn't want to suggest it myself.
"Maybe you'd like breakfast, then?" he suggested.
I beamed. "That would be lovely," I replied. "But I know you have to help your friend move."
A cloud flitted across his face and he frowned for a moment. "Ah yes, my friends. I will have to call them and see what can be done. In the meantime, though," and again he held me close, this time brushing his lips across my ear, "I want to thank you for this evening. It has touched me greatly."
And then, taking my face in his hands and tilting it up toward his, he looked into my eyes and kissed me very lightly on the lips, touching my mouth gently with his fingers. Complicated emotions played across his face: sadness, indecision, desire? I was unsure, but he held my gaze intensely. Mesmerized, I held my breath. Tracing his fingers up my face and stroking my hair, he kissed me lightly once more, then turned and got back into the taxi. The door closed and it pulled away.
I have to admit, I was so tired by now that I was almost relieved to see him go. I desperately needed some sleep. But watching him gaze at me through the window of the taxi, I felt thrilled and tantalized. The whole exchange had been romantic, electric, complicated, and unresolved. Would I hear from him tomorrow? Did I want to? Too tired to search for answers, I went up to my room, lay down fully clothed on the bed, and fell into a deep sleep until the alarm went off three hours later.
By 9:30 the next morning, the train had already carried me an hour east of Gothenburg.
When the alarm had gone off, I'd taken a quick shower and packed, listening for the phone the whole time. It hadn't rung. Neither had it when I'd queued to buy the ticket to Stockholm. I'd boarded the train in a dream: It would make a mess of my schedule if he did call and I had to take a later train. But if I couldn't deal with a change in my plans, there was no point in me being on this journey in the first place.
But seriously, were we even compatible? He looked like someone used to women with drawers full of sheer lingerie, who wouldn't need to sit at weird angles to attain the illusion of a perfect fit. My underwear drawers were full of "favorite" (i.e., unattractive but comfortable) bras, mismatched socks, and bars of soap I kept meaning to use but constantly forgot I owned. Was I too old to change? Was I an old dog that could be taught new tricks? It was hard to know. I suspected that in order to meet my Soul Mate, I needed to embrace new ideas, but if those ideas were too much of a stretch (or squeeze), I'd never really be happy.
Had Anders known all this? Or had I been putting out not interested vibes? Or was it all part of him being a loner, that he didn't feel the need to follow up? Or maybe he had a whole basket of issues I knew nothing about?
It felt unresolved, but, curiously, I was fine with that. Although I wanted the satisfaction and closure of him calling, I wasn't troubled by the fact that he hadn't. My self-confidence wasn't free-falling and I didn't feel rejected.
Then my phone rang and I nearly fell off the seat. Was Anders opening it all back up, just as I was going through the rationalizing ritual of closing it all down? No, it was Ann-Charlotte, incandescent with curiosity about how the evening had gone. She oohed and ahhhed and ohmigoded through my account before exploding: "And so, has he rung?"
"Of course not, you nit, or I wouldn't be on the train," I retorted in exasperation.
"Well, for goodness' sake, Jennifer, call him. You must call him, what are you waiting for?"
But I wasn't going to call. I'd spent one magical evening with Anders and had enjoyed every moment of it. But I knew that that was it and -- unlike in the past -- I was going to trust my instincts. We'd had fun, but we weren't right for each other; more time together wouldn't change that.
Then it suddenly hit me with a jolt: Hey, I don't get seasick on floating saunas. Pleased with my newfound expensive tastes and certain it was only a matter of time before I'd be bobbing for
Godivas, I curled up on my seat and fell into a deep sleep that lasted until the train pulled into Stockholm five hours later.
Excerpted from "Around the World in 80 Dates," by Jennifer Cox. Published by Simon & Schuster. Copyright © 2005 by Jennifer Cox.