It’s no secret that Peace Corps can sometimes seem to be a dating service for those struck with wanderlust and plagued by the happy need for adventure. Whole Facebook pages are dedicated to volunteers who come home married to other volunteers they met during their service (or sometimes to citizens from their country of service).
This phenomena of service-turned-romance deserves a closer look. This month, we’re diving into the top 10 reasons Peace Corps is for lovers.
1. Pre-Service Approval
The Peace Corps application process is a lengthy test of commitment and patience (though it’s recently been significantly streamlined to avoid this). Peace Corps is looking for something special in their applications: someone hungry for one part adventure, one part life-changing experience, one part dedication to service, and one part changing the world.
By nature, the application process is like the pre-screen on a dating website. By the time you fly into country, you know you’re with folks who share common values, goals, and dedications in life.
The dating pool refined to the finest.
2. Confinement Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
Peace Corps training puts you in close confinement with other volunteers for up to three months. Such close quarters and constant interactions in an intense, foreign environment can create one of two things: a desperate need for solitude or deep and lasting friendships between volunteers.
And sometimes, just sometimes, those friendships blossom into romance in the unplumbed regions of the world.
3. Long Walks on the…Tarmac?
There isn’t much about being a Peace Corps Volunteer that’s convenient.
There will be times where you find yourself waiting for transport on what seems to be the hottest day of the year, trudging along some lonely road in a rain squall, or choking on the dust from yet another day of watching canters, buses, and cars pass you by. Those times are made a lot better by the right company, and sometimes shared misery can turn into a Peace Corps relationship.
4. Speaking of Misery…
It’s a special moment in any relationship when you have to turn to your partner and say, “Can you keep stirring the ramen? I have to visit the headman (euphemism).” Having your partner alternate between holding your hair back as you vomit or holding the door closed as you relieve yourself for the tenth time this hour into a hole in the ground can form special, lasting memories for a couple (perhaps ones that you’d rather forget).
If you can get past the embarrassment factor, the level of trust it takes to let someone listen to your food poisoning expulsions or wipe the sweat from your malaria-induced fever can last for a lifetime.
A Peace Corps Volunteer prepares dinner by candlelight. Photo by Hannah Harrison.
5. You Look Like a Million Kwacha
Peace Corps life and all its fineries — no running water, no electricity, squat toilets — doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the highest standards of hygiene.
Time spent with your Peace Corps sweetheart can involve a determined appreciation of the “natural look.” Many volunteers say goodbye to shaving, make-up, and all the rest of the extras meant to attract a mate.
Thankfully, both of you are pretty gross (or at least a few days out from your last shower), and the lack of deodorant or clean underwear (or any underwear, for that matter) doesn’t strike you as too unpleasant after a few months of romance in a one-room hut.
6. Candlelit Dinner for Two
The magic of no electricity or running water gives you the chance to gaze lovingly at each other as you haul water and boil rice. After a stunning sunset, it’s time to light the candles and fry the soya pieces.
Dinner by candlelight, sometimes even shared out of the same pot (fewer dishes!), is the perfect prelude to watching the stars and listening to the chattering of your village, unpolluted by city lights or noise.
7. Prove Your Mettle
Aside from developing your cooking finesse over charcoal or with a handful of unpronounceable spices, Peace Corps living gives you the chance to show your sweety exactly what you’re made of. Bulging muscles from hauling water and cooking fuel, thighs of steel from hundreds of kilometers of biking, and the glow of your most recent sun or windburn are sure to woo any heart.
The dirty work of Peace Corps. Photo by Hannah Harrison.
8. A Common Thought
Learning a new language and being unable to communicate in the way you’re used to back home can be an unending frustrating experience, and one that only other volunteers can really relate to. The bond built between volunteers as they negotiate learning a language can act as a communication method in itself. Suddenly the ability to read culturally common body language, turns of phrase, and those frustrations that go unspoken in local language are more important than anything you can say.
9. The Love Language of Less
Speaking of unspoken language, Peace Corps almost universally requires volunteers to live with less than they are accustomed to in their normal lives. It’s one of the things that can be hardest to communicate when you finally go home; friends and family just don’t understand the cultural impact of living a life composed of less of everything.
Finding a partner in the Peace Corps means having someone who understands not only that readjustment at home, but also a lifetime of less stuff and more living no matter where you are.
10. A Room for Two
Of course, not everything about Peace Corps is rough and tumble. Serving in developing countries can put volunteers in close proximity to exotic vacation destinations. (Yes, we do get vacation!) But, on a Peace Corps budget, sharing a room, meals, and packing one bag helps to keep costs down.
Between an exotic destination and quality time with someone who really “gets” your service, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect setting to spark something special.
Have you ever found love in an unusual place? Share in the comments!
Want to read more about all there is to love in Peace Corps? Check out Hannah’s blog!