Can Vacation Sex Save a Relationship? Catherine Cohen Investigates


This summer Women Who Travel is exploring the ways that travel intersects with our sex lives.

I’d love to go on vacation without myself. A true escape: just my lover, the Aegean Sea, a blushing cocktail, and perhaps some disembodied version of yours truly that didn’t care about cellulite or e-mails or the gentle roll of fat beneath my breasts whose shape nearly resembles a second set of breasts, a miniature pair that exists solely to mock the first. My body laughs at itself the way I do my own follies. It’s how we cope, my body and I.

You see, I’ve never felt sexy in summer. My thighs rub together in the most gruesome way and my hair clings wet to the back of my neck like it’s got nowhere to be, which to be fair, I suppose it doesn’t. I’d much rather relish an endless winter: draped in fur, tucked away in a corner booth, sipping whiskey, and slipping the toe of my leather boot between a pair of slacks, feeling for things I’ll soon taste in the dark. Summer may be canonically sexy—how I long to writhe around like Britney in the “Slave 4 U” video, gyrating from beach to club and back again, but this kind of erotic bliss is so obvious that it’s practically gauche. Sex in the summer? How expected! Scrolling through Instagram, I don’t envy any of the couples sipping their Amalfi spritzes on the Aperol coast, or cheers-ing their engagement with a pop of Veuve Clicquot. I, too, have taken an EasyJet flight to Florence—and all I got was a urinary tract infection.

It was bold, therefore, last summer, when I suggested that my boyfriend and I take a trip to Greece. I hadn’t traveled much with a partner. Travel to me had always been about collecting stories—finding yourself underneath a blacksmith from Belfast or atop a bisexual in Barcelona who shows you that, whoa, squirting is real. But I felt it was time to evolve; telling the story is often more fun than living it. I was 30 now, and in a happy relationship ever since I found myself in the rare position of having met someone who was honest, kind, and open to fucking me in a closet at a house party the first night we met. The Holy Trinity!

Together and in love for over three years, we’d narrowly survived a pandemic together while juggling careers in the entertainment industry and various interpersonal dramas. In short, we’d made it through hell and deserved a vacation. I’d already been overseas working for about a month and thought my respectful king could join me for the last two weeks of my trip. We’d meet in the UK and pop over for a romantic few days in the Mediterranean. But when he arrived for our long-anticipated vacation the vibes were…askew.

What is it about a pleasant locale that bubbles all the banal unpleasantries of a relationship up to the surface? I knew it. I knew a happy couple’s vacation was a myth. Sure, we hadn’t seen each other for a while and been a bit distant during our time apart—our nightly FaceTimes had grown more infrequent—but I thought whatever emotional distance the actual distance had created would be healed by my favorite love language: physical touch. That was our thing! Amazing, primal, forget-your-own-name sex. Did I mention we Made Like in a closet the first time we met? But after he landed in London, all we did was argue. About nothing and everything as lovers are wont to do. We bickered in Edinburgh and quarreled in Athens. We clashed in Mykonos and broke down in Paros and by the time we got to Santorini we were too exhausted to talk anymore. I really wasn’t sure if we’d make it back as a unit. But then we checked into the fuck hotel.

I am nothing if not a basic bitch, and am therefore a firm believer that the right hotel room can save a relationship. So after days of tension, we angrily rolled our luggage up a narrow flight of stairs in Santorini. Something very funny to do angrily if I’m honest—and what’s more embarrassing than trying not to laugh when you’re furious? And so in that no man’s land between angst and release we approached our hotel, which was, well, unassuming—far from the beach and the nightlife and the chaos, it just looked like a big white cave. But once we passed under an awning of bougainvillea and arrived at our room, we were caught off guard by a spectacular sight. For the first time ever, I felt the pictures on Expedia actually didn’t do a place justice. To put it frankly, it was a sex cave: an old wine cellar repurposed into a vast windowless space, filled with only a large bed next to a private hot tub complete with a mini fuck pool on the private patio. When your hotel room has a small pool, that’s for sex, sweetie!

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