Venturing into the unknown, with excitement and hope.
A few years ago, I met an American girl studying in my hometown, a small village in South Wales.
I remember her exuberance for life, as she walked along the road saying, “Hello,” to strangers, she wouldn’t stop smiling. She was on her own adventure.
It doesn’t matter whether I believe in fate or any path that’s ‘meant to be’—I have no answers to those assumptions. All I know is that my eyes opened with excitement.
Three years later, Jamie is my wife, and we are half way through a visa application to live together in the United States.
It has not always been easy.
I want to help mentally prepare those of you who are embarking on a similar journey. I thought I would share with you some bare-bones tips and advice from what I have learned through this time—the blind leaps, the wayward roadblocks and the all-out explosions of this choice of living.
Here are my top 10 tips for surviving a long distance relationship:
1. Bask in the scope of your decision.
You are about to embark on an adventure that people write songs, poems and books about. The romance of a message in a bottle is what you are going to create. The seas and lands between you are going to pull at your strengths and weaknesses unlike any other relationship you have had before. This is raw; this is living.
Attempt to keep a mindset semi-detached to the situation. Take time to step back and realize what you both are doing. Be proud of yourself for being the kind of person who is willing to take the chance. This is a grand definition of character. Bask in that.
2. Realize how amazing you have it.
First and foremost, if you have found somebody you love and who loves you back—you are one of the lucky ones. Don’t get caught up in the technicalities straight away. If you have found somebody, a rarity, that compliments your every aspiration, make this the priority.
The intricacies can be mapped out as you explore your new world.
3. Communicate daily.
Whenever possible—strive to talk everyday.
We have never been in a better position to indulge in a long distance relationship. The Internet has really changed the world we live in for the better. It means distances aren’t dictated by their physical truths. Today, I can sit at a computer and talk face to face with Jamie in real time. I can send free text messages through email. I can instantly send photographs and videos. I can map out a virtual photo-album. With a click, I can book a last minute flight in seconds.
4. Honesty must be ripe.
“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
If you’re going to survive this kind of relationship, this quote should be your mantra.
You see, I believe that truth is love. Or, to put it another way, love, without truth, can’t be love.
You have to be honest with each other. You have to make every effort not to waste each other’s time in this one short life. This is a huge dedication; this isn’t just some weekend fling. It is going to take sacrifice on many levels. You will need to readjust how you spend your time—you’ll spend hundreds of hours, if not thousands, on flights, you’ll miss nights out with friends, you’ll miss family occasions and you’ll probably take off a few years from your life, as a result of all the stresses that go hand-in-hand (though, this isn’t bound just to long distance relationships, of course!)
It’s easy, just respect each other enough to be truthful. Live your life in a way that merits easy honesty. Bottom line, folks—do as Bill and Ted would do and be excellent to each other!
5. See the adventure in everything.
When Jamie first left, I said good-bye at the airport, not knowing what the future would hold. How amazing is possibility? Really, think about it—everything can happen.
On this occasion, I was flying out from Heathrow toward a land that much of my childhood heroes were from. Like many others, I have been raised on a plethora of American culture, from films to books to music.
To the traveler, the ‘everyday mundane’ is magical. Landing at the Newark airport amongst a million lit homes at midnight, passing strangers with accents so familiar, and rolling a quarter into an airport pay-phone…magic!
6. Know your traits: demons and angels.
Be honest with each other, and be honest with yourself.
This kind of relationship will test your nature and temperament. You’ll have all the usual issues; only they will be magnified. You may go a little crazy over-thinking situations; I know I have. Alone, at night, thoughts stab in the dark. You are a few thousand miles away and in a different time zone. Your lover is living in a different day.
You have to overcome these demons.
The best way to do this is to draw strength from them. Rectify feelings of jealousy by making an even bigger attempt to be together. Use your unyielding conviction to overcome all of your obstacles. Counterbalance each demon with an angel.
The most important thing for me has been having a date in mind to look forward to when I know that I will be seeing her again.
It doesn’t matter if it’s eight months down the line—you’ll know it is eight months down the line.
It’s expensive, but it’s the adventure once again. The adventure begins when you are sitting at your desk or wherever you earn your bread, when your mind is focused on the prize at the end of the line, when you are saving. Each step makes the next step more worthwhile.
Make your togetherness the priority.
8. Make the big decisions.
If you are coming to the point whereby you want to make the next leap, it’s time to make the big decisions.
Who is willing to move where? Will you both move somewhere new? When can you realistically be together? Are there children involved? What of work? What of money? What of marriage?
These practicalities seem like hefty casualties of the free-living adventure, but I assure you they are not. They are all part of the process of excitement.
Be on top of things. Be creative. Decorate roadblocks.
9. Make the most of your time apart.
You will have long pangs of time alone. Just because you cannot be with the one you love at that very moment doesn’t mean your life must be put on hold. On the contrary—now is the time to invest in you. Not only will it make time flow by faster, but it will build your mental character, too.
How about a free college course? There are 725 of them here. Start a yoga class. Learn a martial art. Learn a new language, perhaps your partner’s native tongue? Start a business. Start a blog. Write a book. Put on a charity fundraiser. Start a book exchange.
Set your goals and ease your way through the hard times apart.
10. Time will be cruel, but your reward will be luxurious.
Finally, I want to tell you of the most painful day of my life.
Just over a year ago, Jamie fell into serious pain; a kidney stone had infected her blood. I read that survival rates for such an infection were questionable at best. Medical complications and new discoveries on top of that brought about a wave of invasive emergency surgeries—the whole thing seemed to happen so fast that I became lost in limbo.
I was on the other side of the world while the woman who I want to spend the rest of my life with lay on an operating table. All I could do was wait for a phone call to come through to tell me if she was still alive—every slow second dragged me to the next.
I have never felt more fraught or helpless.
That day, time was cruel.
Now, I want to tell you about July 29th, 2012: we had spent the previous two weeks casually viewing wedding rings. On July 29th, I had the secret of a ring in my pocket—that night she agreed to be my wife.
The next day, in a last minute collection of friends and family, brought together with the promise of an impromptu wedding day, we made our vows together.
That was the last day I spent on American soil. I had to fly out minutes after the ceremony, but I knew what we had done, and I knew what was able to come next…
That day, time was luxurious.
The next time I land there, we’ll walk to our new home together.
I wish you all the luck you deserve in your own worldwide adventure!
Hi, my name is Sion Lidster. I am a fan and freelancer of all things wordy, currently residing in the mountains of South Wales. I am the editor of Dayglobes—an online publication of inspirational activity. Indoors, I am a tech geek and project nerd. Outside, I like nothing more than packing a suitcase and gearing up for the next adventure with an IPA in hand! I am looking to make the best of times with my fiancée, friends and family from now until it’s too late! You can contact me through Facebook or by visiting sionlidster.com.
Like elephant love on Facebook.
Assistant Ed: Tawny Sanabria/Ed: Bryonie Wise