30 Days, Cities and Chances to Find True Love

Simon Husted charts the journey of adventurer Kevin Richberg and his foray into the wild world of dating during the traveler’s stop in Cleveland last year. Find out what 30 days of dating different people entails. Hint: Lots of gas money. Photograph by Nora Rodriquez.

From March to the final days before October, Kevin Richberg invested hours every day drafting plans for a new adventure. However, this adventure was different from any journey Kevin embarked on before. Kevin didn’t need a scuba mask, a sleeping bag, or a belt of harnesses for where he planned to go and what he planned to do. Kevin, who at 32 years old has visited 89 countries, wasn’t searching for a challenge 2.5 kilometers below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, or on top of Africa’s largest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro. Kevin’s done that and more. In this adventure, Kevin planned to search for love on a 30-day-long road trip leading him to 30 dates across 30 U.S. cities — plus Beijing. If you think this is an exploitive dating experiment, you’re wrong. Like his other treks, Kevin treated this adventure as a learning experience more than anything else.

Kevin started his cross-country dating adventure in New York City Oct. 1. He traveled as far south as Houston and as far north as Spokane, Wash. Pittsburgh was supposed to be Kevin’s last stop in the continental U.S., but on Halloween, Kevin surprised all of his Facebook, Twitter and blog followers when he announced plans for a 31st date in Beijing. Like something from a television drama, Kevin chose who he wanted to move forward with when he returned to the United States Nov. 10.

But Oct. 29, 2010, Kevin graced Cleveland with his presence.

He arrives at the downtown Starbucks I suggested to meet. No, I am not Kevin’s date, but that doesn’t mean Kevin is new to answering and asking questions. Aside from taking in the culture and sights of every city he visits, the largest portion of Kevin’s cross-country dating adventure is learning about who his dates are. Rarely any physical intimacy and absolutely zero sex is involved during his dates. Actually, that’s one of Kevin’s very few ground rules. Almost every guy he meets at each city plans the day’s events, just as long as the venue isn’t the man’s house, a suspicious club or any place potentially compromising the situation. The premise of each date is learning about one another.

Kevin Richberg traveled the United States (with a stop in Beijing, China) searching for love. Photo: Nora Rodriquez

Although no part of his adventure appeared on cable, Kevin’s face and body certainly belong there. Kevin stands 6-feet, 2-inches tall with blue eyes, cropped brown hair and a build muscular enough to hint at his long history of traveling in the wild. Kevin’s appearance is ripped straight from daytime soaps — he’s the handsome male character straight female viewers cringe at when they learn he’s working for the opposite team. Even the 10 to 20 pounds Kevin claims to have gained throughout his adventure — a necessary price to pay when you indulge at restaurants with a new guy every day — is hardly noticeable.

Kevin is more than just a pleasant sight to stare at, though. The upstate New York native holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biology from California Tech, and this past spring, Kevin earned his master’s degree in marine biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He hasn’t received a job offer to be a marine scientist yet, nor is it his intention to invest his life in that type of field. Kevin aims to make a living off travel writing.

“I’ve been thinking too long that a career is something you are good at, not necessarily something you are passionate about,” Kevin tells me, adding he learned that lesson mostly from watching the career paths his mother chose.

“She did a lot of things that she was good at and wasn’t very happy,” he says.

Kevin’s passion for travel writing appears frequently throughout his blog. For every city Kevin stops to meet his next date in, he writes one, two or sometimes three blog entries that relate more to the city than the date itself.

A gay stud on a cross-country dating adventure sounds perfect for a viral PR stunt, but it’s difficult to argue if fame and glitz are Kevin’s intention at all. The idea seems written for reality television, but aside from this story, answering questions on an LGBT radio show based in Orlando, Fla., and writing a few blog stories for Advocate.com, Kevin hardly seeks any media attention. He doesn’t try to exploit his adventure for monetary gain, either — regardless that his travel and hotel expenses rose to more than $5,000.

Kevin’s blog isn’t even exploitative. The blog entries aren’t anything like other dating blogs. Kevin never writes about what clothes his dates wear or what inappropriate innuendos his dates suggest, nor does he post anything regarding drama between him and a date. Kevin provides details of whom he dates without judging them.

For example, following his sixth date in Greenville, S.C., Kevin wrote a blog entry relaying a disturbing story his date shared. The story told of a husband who murdered his aggressive, dominant-mannered wife after she came home from work one day. The husband pulled out a gun from his pocket and shot her twice as she left her parked car. The wife collapsed dead onto the concrete, bleeding from the neck. The husband then shot his wife a third time before he surrendered to police and claimed everything he did was in self-defense. He said he feared for his life.

Following Kevin’s summary of the story, he wrote “Was this poor soul my date in Greenville, South Carolina? Are you kidding me? Do you really think I would go out with a man who shot his wife twice to down her and then again for good measure … ? No sir … I had a spectacular date with this man’s lawyer instead.”

In addition, Kevin writes other stories shared amongst his dates, such as coming out to parents and friends, personal struggles in life and career-path goals. Kevin even shared one date’s struggle with his mother who strongly disapproves of homosexuality.

Kevin rarely provides photos of the guys he dates — something his Web audience begs to see. Pictures of wildlife, landscapes and buildings far outnumber the nine dates who gave Kevin permission to post photos, their faces included.

But the thing that stands out most from other dating blogs is the lack of negative remarks Kevin writes.

“I’ve loved everybody and had a great experience with every single person,” Kevin says. His blog entries about the dates echo very similar messages.

Kevin saves most of his negative criticism for Hertz, the rental car company that wasted an hour of Kevin’s time approving a necessary oil change, and a Baymont Inn that demanded a $15 fee for moving in four hours early, regardless that it had empty rooms.

It’s not to say the people Kevin met were lame and the things he did during his dates were similar and boring. Not at all. In Fort Worth, Texas, Kevin unexpectedly paired up with two guys for a three-some date after one guy, who previously canceled, found out he could make the date after all. After giving the guy a second chance, Kevin asked his other date that day to bring along his three adopted children. Just like a gay adaptation of “Full House,” the three men and three kids visited the Texas State Fair together and ate at Texas Roadhouse afterward. Think that’s crazy though? In Boise, Idaho, Kevin drank glasses of vodka with a gay couple who have been together for five years but remain open to the idea of a committed polygamous relationship — and who were a part of one not too long ago.

“This is about me learning, not just about my future love life,” Kevin says of his nontraditional date in Boise.

Kevin’s admirable respect toward each date, and his modest relationship with the media, may help explain why attention toward his blog slowly trickled down in the months following August. As of Jan. 6, the blog’s Facebook page had only 344 followers and its Twitter page only 235 — both less than the 398 friends Kevin has on his personal Facebook page.

Kevin’s blog received much more attention this summer when he opened his cross-country dating adventure to men across the Web. Advocate.com, The TV Realist.com, Good Men Project.com, Popngraphy.com and Queerty.com all posted stories previewing Kevin’s quest and encouraged readers to answer Kevin’s call to action. The exposure helped Kevin earn worldwide attention. Before he left for New York City, the first leg of his journey, Kevin counted more than 1,000 proposals sent.

The proposals asked prospective men to answer 10 basic questions and write a small blurb on why they’re interested in a chance to date Kevin.

One of his closest friends, Joe Gumina, urged Kevin to at least let him find photos of what each date looked like before he made his final decision. Kevin refused. Instead, he based his selection mostly on how compelling each proposal read and if its location and availability correlated well with the road trip’s stops.

Kevin knew nothing more about each date until he met each one.

Speaking of which, I had no idea Kevin and his Cleveland date were scheduled to meet up during the interview at Starbucks.

Kevin’s date arrives at Starbucks 35 minutes into our interview, and it becomes clear the interview will have to end soon. Kevin answered all of the questions I prepared, and there are no follow-up items to further our time. Nevertheless, Nora, the photographer who accompanied me to Cleveland, and I are upset to realize we’ll have to part ways from Kevin shortly.

The four of us exit Starbucks where Nora is ready to take portraits of Kevin as he is ordered around various backdrops of high-rise buildings and cars.

“I didn’t know I was going on a date with a celebrity,” Kevin’s date says in a joking manner.

Nora finishes her photo-op and the two men wish us best of luck on the story before they embark.

Later, I learn through new entries on Kevin’s blog the two shared an outdoorsy date centered around urban farming, a trend that is gaining momentum in rust belt cities. Incidentally, Kevin’s date in Cleveland adopted the practice and is passionate about the cause.

In the end, did Kevin choose his date in Cleveland? I don’t know. Kevin won’t say. Against the cries of his Web followers, Kevin wants to keep that information private.

“There is someone I’m seeing right now, but he would like it to remain completely private and just between the two of us,” Kevin wrote in a follow-up e-mail.

He made that decision public on his blog a week after e-mailing me. Not many followers commented on whether they were disappointed, but I’m certain they were. I was. It felt like Kevin left the story unclosed, with a cliffhanger for everyone to gnaw at. But this adventure was never about satisfying me or any Web followers:  It was about Kevin finding love in the most unconventional way possible.

In this day and age, where everyone’s Twitter and Facebook page competes for the most followers, friends and likes, it’s nice to see someone put himself and his special someone on a higher pedestal. And who knows; maybe we’ll see pictures of Kevin and his beau soon enough on Facebook and the websites that made Kevin Richberg summer 2010’s most eligible bachelor.

“It was never a foregone conclusion that I was going to find someone to love on this adventure,” Kevin scribes in his last blog entry. “You can date 10, 50, 100 people and never find love or the spark…or you can find it in the very first person who touches your heart. It’s never a numbers game, and 30 was just a number.”

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