Long Distance Relationship Advice
Did you know that @halfhalftravel was started from our long-distance relationship during 2016-2017?
Dan left New York City for 12 months to travel and work remotely on a program called Remote Year. It’s professionals who want to travel and see the world. As someone who loves to travel, I told him to go for it, as he’d never regret working remotely around the world.
What happened after Dan left was that we dated long-distance for an entire year, and quite a year it was. We learned so much about ourselves, our independence and our relationship with each other.
We often hear from people who want to travel and are in relationships. What we generally feel is that two people in a relationship should support each other. Of course, it’s not always so simple if one person wants to go away for a while and the other person either does not want to or cannot make it happen, with work, personal life or other commitments.
In no way are we telling you to pursue a long-distance relationship if it’s not going to be ideal for you and your situation. What we would like to tell you is about how we survived a year of dating long-distance, from New York City to Europe, Africa and Latin America, and how you can do the same.
Be as honest as possible with your significant other.
One thing about Dan that I came to admire very quickly was his honesty. I knew that if I texted him while he was in Valencia or Lisbon and asked what he was doing at that moment, he had no reason to ever not give me the truth.
And so it was – for twelve months we were 100% honest with each other, down to what we were eating. If I had overindulged in gluten-free dairy-free dessert, Dan knew about it. If Dan skipped a day of training for his marathons, I’d hear about it.
People would ask me, “How can you trust each other when you’re so far apart?” and I would say, “The same reason you trust anyone in your life, no matter where they’re located. If you put your trust in someone, you should expect the same. If not, they’re not worth your time!”
Communicate as often as you want.
Start with exploring some new apps for communicating. You might think ‘phone call,’ ‘video call’ or ‘text,’ but you can keep communication constant in so many ways.
We’ll never forget the night we had a late-night call while it was 11 pm for me, while I was on my friend’s rooftop in Washington, DC, and Dan was out having a proper European weekend at 6 am in Serbia. Usually, we’d have a call while I was working out and biking after my day at the office had ended, and Dan was heading to bed in his apartment in Prague.
Our farthest long-distance call was during my business trip in San Francisco, when I called him, eight hours in ‘the future,’ while he was in Rabat, Morocco.
We’d GChat all day long at work (don’t tell our bosses!), and when we weren’t at work, we’d be checking our phones for WhatsApp texts from each other. I’d email him during my nights while he was in Europe, knowing that he’d wake up to them. When Dan was in Latin America for the other half of the year, we were more or less in the same time zone and it made things a whole lot easier.
One thing we also did was plan time to chat with Google Calendar. We’d send invites and see if the other could make it, and then we’d have it like a designated time to get on the phone.
Plan visits whenever possible.
The worst part of long-distance relationships is being far away, but maybe the best part of long distance is being far away.
If Dan hadn’t been in Colombia for two months, we never would’ve explored Salento and the world’s tallest palm trees, or the architecture and culture of Barcelona. Lucky for me, as fall and winter fell upon NYC, I got to escape the snow with warm weather destinations that had already become part of his itinerary.
As soon as I’d have a flight booked, I got to do all my Lonely Planet browsing, research accommodations, figure out what to pack and how to prepare for the trip. Best of all was that Dan let me do most of the planning, as it was my outlet of excitement.
Find creative methods to stay connected.
Our main methods of staying connected were over several favorite online tools: WhatsApp, GChat (now Google Hangouts), regular e-mail and video calls, usually also over WhatsApp.
Our e-mails would sometimes be lo-o-o-ong, like a re-cap of “What I did this weekend that you need to know about,” or sometimes short, like, “Remind me your arrival date in Cordoba?”
We felt like we were always connected; that is, except for the time Dan went hiking in Morocco and was ‘off the grid’ for an entire two days. He had told me where he was going, but because he wasn’t planning the trip and hadn’t looked into the Mt. Toubkal specifics at all (it’s the highest point in Morocco), he hadn’t known or considered the fact that he’d nearly immediately lose Google Fi international cell service.
As a traveler myself, I soon realized that this must be the case. While in the back of my mind I wished I had gotten a final goodbye and a memo that I’d hear from him 48 hours later, I had to work with the assumption that he was fine and summiting a really hard hike!
The last way we stayed connected was by seeing each other’s “check-in”s on the Swarm app. Swarm is an app that came from Foursquare, so it’s based on places you go. You can “check in” when you go to a location, and your friends who have the app will see that place, and can comment. It’s also the perfect way to remember places you’ve been that you’ve forgotten about. That’s mostly what I use it for nowadays.
Speak positively about your choice to be in a long distance relationship.
My friends, family and colleagues would ask about my relationship with Dan. They’d express their concerns, or confusion, and it was up to me to confirm that this long-distance method of staying together was my and Dan’s mutual choice.
Plan a long-term project with your boyfriend/girlfriend/SO.
If you’ve seen our Instagram page by now, you’ll know that we started having a project together.
As soon as @halfhalftravel was born, we had a project we could both work on, despite being far away. Actually, being far apart made our project possible. If you’ve seen our photos of us arm-in-arm in Colombia and Spain or close-ups of our glasses on different continents, you’ll see how our being in different locations was crucial!
Having a project together gave us topics of conversations, and jobs to do and notes to share. It also showed all the non-believers that we could be productive together and work creatively, despite only seeing each other five times in one year.
Send real mail!
When we moved into our first apartment together in Brooklyn Heights, we started a bulletin board in our kitchen that showcased the postcards we had sent to each other during our time apart. There were notes that led us back to places and times, and reminded us of funny stories like how it took a postcard from New York nearly six weeks to reach Bogota, Colombia, for some reason.
We avoided sending packages to each other, and that’s because sending packaged mail with goods from abroad is subject to customs checks when it enters another country. If your long-distance relationship is domestic, then you’re in luck, because you can also Amazon-Prime your SO directly with a surprise in the mail.
With our inter-country relationship, we stuck to letters and postcards. We’d pick up the free types from restaurants and museums, or buy them from vendors during our separate travels. It didn’t matter if the postcard was beautiful or not – all that mattered was that the recipient of it was going to be pleasantly surprised.
Share things you plan to do when you’re back together.
While I definitely started thinking of things we could do together when we lived in the same city again, like ideas for dates, little trips I wanted to take and friends I wanted us to hang out with, we actually wound up planning a trip to Asia while Dan was in Chile.
It was likely one of those nights when I found flights for us on our United miles, and said, “We have to book this now, or we’re going to lose the chance to fly nonstop round-trip to Hong Kong,” so we got on the phone and did it together at the same time.
If it’s not figuring out how to plan a trip as a couple, brainstorm friends of each other’s that you perhaps never met in a double-date setting, or if you’ll be living together again, think of parties you want to throw and new recipes you want to try. Share these ideas with your other half, and it’ll keep you both thinking positively.
Be transparent about your concerns.
There was never a point at which I felt we ‘weren’t going to make it,’ but I definitely from time to time wondered if Dan was feeling the same way I did about various parts of our relationship. For instance, did he see a future together like I did? Was he treating this year like a test of our compatibility? There were so many things that I thought about because he wasn’t there, specifically, and I couldn’t ask him in person until I saw him next.
If you have real concerns, whether they stem from communication (or lapses thereof), doubt of trusting each other or even if you should be in a committed relationship, voice them. Voice your concerns as soon as you can, so that they don’t bottle up inside and drive you crazy.
Also consider that sometimes with your ‘person’ across town, you can have the same doubts and issues as you do when he or she is across the world. It’s a funny way to think of it. Even if he or she were twenty minutes away and not twenty thousand, you’d still bring up your thoughts with a phone call or FaceTime as soon as possible.
Talk to friends who conquered long-distance relationships in the past.
Oh my gosh–yes, talk to friends who’ve done this before. The very day I said goodbye to Dan for I-wasn’t-sure-how-long, I immediately texted my cousin, who had dated her now-husband long-distance from DC to NYC for a while, my friend who had dated her boyfriend (and now-husband) from Shanghai to Germany and my friend who had dated her boyfriend from Minnesota all the way to Shanghai. I was lucky that 90% of the couples I knew who had ‘done distance’ had conquered it in a very fantastic type of way.
Most couples I know who have dabbled in dating long-distance say it made them stronger, and/or allowed them to have more time of independence while learning about themselves, all while staying true to the person they love.
Heck, I even have a friend in a long-distance marriage! His wife is pursuing a dream she’s always had to learn about wine-making and despite that they got married in 2017, they’re making this work! Relationships are all about give-and-take, and just like I was excited and happy for Dan to pursue world travel while I stayed home in the City that Never Sleeps (not a bad deal)
Remember why you made the decision to stay together.
During the twelve months of our long-distance relationship, I never once forgot why we had stayed together. We stayed together because we wanted to keep learning about each other, admired each other’s talents and personalities and didn’t want to let one year of our lives affect the rest of our lives (in an adverse way). We gave it a chance, and we’re so glad we did!