18,000+ Km To The Next Date
Here’s what I’ve discovered
Not for you? Can’t blame you.
But I need to tell — long distance-relationships have their upsides.
I’ve dated a Kiwi (that’s what the New Zealanders lovingly call themselves) for nearly four years now. For the sake of his privacy, I call him Harold here. He lives in a jaw-dropping tiny little jewel of a hobbit town in New Zealand, while my roof is in a big city in Germany.
Undoubtedly, some countries are even further apart, but ours are already pretty close to opposite ends of the poles.
If you engage in a long-distance relationship, much depends on your commitment and willingness to keep traveling to meet each other. And on some other factors, of course.
You can still meet a ‘live Harold’ anywhere.
Lonely heart hunters have increasingly more faith in online dating platforms that pop up like mushrooms during the right season. They try to make us sign up, sign in, and stay.
I am not sure if New Zealand is any different in this regard. Probably not.
But when I met Harold, it was “live,” in flesh and blood. No social media required — the way it used to be with less confusion.
It just happened.
On a sunny day on one of the big ferries that commute between New Zealand’s two stunning islands. As perfect a place as any.
When the top of the South Island* began to emerge right in front of my eyes, I was still clinging to my breath after the rough Cook Strait crossing. The looming mountains were majestic, and the many tiny bays we passed gave off an aura of intimacy.
Suddenly, Harold stood next to me, leaning on the railing as if he had entered my life as a matter of course.
Just like that!
That’s how our story began.
*If you haven’t been to this place yet, jot it down on your bucket list — somewhere near the top.
You don’t know what’s next, and you don’t care.
When you meet someone on the other side of the planet (or a little less far) who you fall for, you’ve essentially got two choices:
- have a ball, but call it a day right afterward and set your sight on a closer fish, or
- have a fantastic time and sign up for more.
I threw my caution to the wind and signed up.
Though I couldn’t stay back, I had the feeling we would do it again — the how and when miraculously sorted itself out a few months later.
But seriously, when someone in the distant world stares at you for the first time and softly says, “When you smile, your eyes smile,” you’ve got to come back.
Well, I did, anyway.
You keep meeting, and the fire keeps burning.
Not everyone has the time or the gold or both to afford a relationship as far away as ours.
I realize that the word “afford” does not sound overly romantic while talking about two loving people wanting to meet each other.
Yet, in our case (which admittedly is a little extreme), we’ve crossed countless times zones and burnt through a lot of cash while shooting back and forth before we could even see each other.
But that’s not the thing.
There’s also a world of unique locations in between here and there. Not all of them are halfway, but often half the price. Joining your partner outside each other’s home country adds an extra spark to your relationship.
Plus, you may discover things you’re really great at together, like traveling on motorcycles in the Himalayas, for example. Or you’re watching the sun go down in Sri Lanka in eager anticipation that it’ll rise again soon to another beautiful day for you to share.
Or something else that knocks your socks off — my list is pretty long.
You suddenly praise what you often despise.
A 24/7 but-not-every-day relationship needs fuel. And a lot of it when you’re apart. Though long-distance calls no longer burn a hole in our pockets (of which I’ve had many in the past), we must stay tuned.
Like many others, you may despise the social media channels, of which some offer convenient free communication services. Fair enough, you’re just not into them.
But even if you’re not, download their goddamn apps and use them. When I met Harold, he was nowhere near any of these platforms. I admired him for his rigidity but had to turn him around for my sake.
Letters still take up to three weeks!
You commute until there’s a knock.
The day will come when you abruptly notice you can no longer cope.
The (long) distance starts taking its toll. Calls get made less frequently but turn out a little longer because there’s so much to catch up on. While you go about your days, you start losing close track of what’s happening in your partner’s world.
No matter how much you love (and) seeing each other, the traveling bit, and spending a fantastic time together before you part again, the shady side of distance will eventually roll in.
One good night there’s the knock at your door.
It’s loneliness … and wants to come in.
You start realizing that you’ve missed out on each other’s daily soaps big time. You do stuff by yourself that you enjoy exploring together — even something as trivial as cruising through a grocery shop. And that’s when you need to sit down on each side of the world and get back to the drawing board.
There’s no right or wrong.
There’s only together or apart.
Don’t discount what you’ve had until you know.
You’ve done everything, you’ve given your best. And then comes the inevitable moment. It’s time for a change. In or out. Here or there.
Maybe it helps if you think of it as a chapter in a book about your life that you’re going to write.
There may be a time when you look back and realize that this was one of the most thrilling and intense loves you’ve ever had in your whole life.
And when you turn to the final page of your book one day, you suddenly discern that this relationship could have just been one chapter, or perhaps the opening of a story of a lifetime.
You won’t know until you’ve written yours until the end.