On Love Abroad

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I haven’t had a long term relationship in over 5 years. Of course I’ve dated and had a few flings that lasted more than a month, but I’ve spent the last 4.5 years traveling the world solo. I’ve always been against long distance relationships because I had a strong belief that it probably wouldn’t work out, would end in heartbreak, and wasn’t worth my time. It definitely takes a special kind of person to travel the world with and I would guess that most couples wouldn’t come home together if asked to embark on a round-the-world trip. I read an article once that said, if you were engaged to some one, instead of spending the money on the ceremony and a blowout wedding, use it towards a trip around the world together, and if you arrive home, months later, together, at the same airport, then you know you’ll be able to get through anything together. I’m all in favor of that idea.

Flash forward to present day and I am 6 months in to the happiest relationship of my life. I have finally found someone I can travel with, that values and respects my independence, constantly encouraging me to do whatever I want and follow through on my pre-him travel plans. But as luck would have it, I met him towards the end of my 7 months in Mexico. When I went to work in the Caribbean for 2 months, we stayed in constant contact and I returned to Mexico for 3 weeks to visit him afterwards. I then surprised him another 2 months later for 5 days in Playa del Carmen and will return to Mexico to work another season in mid November. This time we have decided to live together and are trying to save money to head to Indonesia or Australia this spring. I can’t tell you how excited I am to have this amazing human by my side in the future, and I can’t tell you it’s been easy because it hasn’t. We had to learn to deal with the distance and build our relationship despite it. Neither of us compromises well normally, but as our love grew so did a mutual respect and understanding for each other’s necessary freedom. So, I may not know a lot and I’m definitely still learning. But when it comes to long distance relationships, this is what I can tell you.

You will fight, but don’t hang up the phone angry. We both voiced early in the relationship how hard it was to be upset with each other when our only means of communication is a telephone. It’s bound to happen that things will get heated, but make a pact to refuse to hang up the phone angry, even if that means saying, “I’m a little upset right now and don’t think it’s a good time to talk about this, can we please discuss it later?” If you are on the receiving end of this, even if you are a lets-fix-this-in-the-moment person like me, you’ll have to learn to respect your partner’s need for thought and take a step back. We have hung up angry before but one of us has always called back within 5 minutes, in a much calmer tone.

Text every day. You might not be able to realistically pick up the phone every day and have a conversation, but make the small things count. Make a point to message a good morning and good night text, it’ll go a long way. My partner and I don’t talk but twice a week probably, sometimes less, but we aren’t the type of people that need constant contact. But with me traveling around, I sometimes wouldn’t call when I said I would and would go over a week without picking up the phone which made tensions run high and ensured that our first conversation in an extended period of time was a fight. Things happen, we are all human, but showing your partner you care throughout the day, and messaging if you can’t follow through on that call isn’t too hard. After all, we know how frustrating it is when we can’t get ahold of friends for days, imagine your significant other across the world. This also goes along with snapchats, inside jokes, or whatever makes the two of you, “you”.

Include your partner in your decisions. This may be harder for some than others. For example, I’ve gotten so used to being alone and making decisions without taking another into consideration that I still do this sometimes. Even though they may seem small and insignificant to your “separate” lives while you’re away, those little or big decisions still affect your future. I know things can get busy, but take the time to update and check in with your partner. After all, they do know you better than anyone, so make a priority for them to be at your side emotionally even if they aren’t physically.

Respect each other’s freedom. Freedom is the very reason we are most often single. And freedom from the mundane is why most of us travel. So finding a relationship with a freedom lover can be a bit tricky. I can tell you from experience that if I’ve felt smothered in the past, I would just end it because I wasn’t willing to compromise. One of the first things Victor told me is that you should love someone so that the person you love feels free. It was then that I knew I could build a future with this person. He encouraged me to fulfill my travel plans that I had before I met him, but made me promise that the next plan I made would include the two of us. Because he respected my freedom, I felt free in our relationship. I’m also notoriously bad at staying in touch, being a kinda “out of sight, out of mind” type of person. Although it took a few months and we’re both still learning, we don’t need to talk constantly or tell each other ever detail of our daily lives, but we do need to respect that we’re both still individuals living separate lives for the time being. The most beautiful relationships I’ve seen are people who push their partner’s to be the best version of themselves. Because we both want each other to succeed, we push one another to work towards our goals instead of smothering them.

Don’t play the insecurity card. We all get a little insecure sometimes, we’re human. And being in a long distance relationship usually plays towards those insecurities because we aren’t around to constantly reassure our partner, which can make us start questioning the other person’s integrity. Let me stop you there, don’t. Just don’t. Jealousy is a weak emotion. If you are feeling jealous that your partner isn’t able to talk to you as much as possible, or unsure about his new friend who happens to be a girl, then these things are on you. If you chose to be in a long distance relationship with someone, then you must trust this person. If you don’t, then that is something you have to deal with. You are not your partner’s life coach, nor should you waste your time constantly reassuring someone that you love that they are important to you and have a place in your life. I will do this from time to time because it happens, but I definitely wouldn’t deal with it regularly and you shouldn’t either. Don’t be one of those people.

Respect each other’s cultures. More than likely, if you met abroad, your partner is from another country and probably speaks another language as a first language, which means dating looks a lot different in other countries then it does in America. When you get in your first fight it’ll probably be due to a language barrier or cultural misunderstanding. Trust me, I know. And it can be really frustrating trying to understand someone else’s upbringing, culture and language. But talk calmly to each other and don’t take things too personally. We tend to think of these fights as an attack on our country or language when really it’s just due to ignorance that the other doesn’t understand. Be patient with each other when these things happen and take your time explaining instead of getting frustrated. You may quickly realize that the two of you just think completely different on something, that’s okay, respect the other’s opinion and move on. This won’t be the last time that happens when you love someone from another country, so learn to move past it.

I know there’s a lot of skepticism about long term relationships and I can’t guarantee you they will work out. My partner and I just dealt with his visa getting denied to visit me in the US, so I am now making my way back to Mexico. We are trying to head towards Australia next year where Americans can get working holiday visas and Mexican nationals cannot, another hurdle we’ll have to overcome together. But the world is a big place and there are lots of places we can fit in it, together. I can’t tell you if your relationship is right or wrong, or if mine will work out either. But if you feel strongly enough about another person, with the right amount of luck and a lot of respect it could go farther than you think. Good luck!

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