Long Distance Relationships and Why You Should Still Travel

Almost nothing turns my stomach more than when I hear a friend say, “I want to backpack Europe… (pause) … but I just don’t know.” (When the pause is their reflection of  how their boyfriend/girlfriend would react.)

Lots of people want to travel or study abroad or teach overseas but resist doing so because they are in a relationship. And the thought of surviving a long distance relationship (LDR) seems unrealistic.

Personal Experience with LDRs

I have been with my boyfriend for over three years. Of that time, I have spent 17 months in Asia. Even now, back in the US, we are still “technically” long distance because he lives in Boston and I live outside of Philadelphia. Of course, a couple hundred miles is nothing like a couple thousand. While we experienced ups and downs (especially in the beginning), being apart has only made our relationship stronger.

I know, that sounds counterintuitive. How can you get closer to another person when you’re in completely different timezones? But the reality is that while I was off living and working in Asia, I was becoming a better person. I was pursuing passions, discovering new interests and so forth. At the same time, on the other side of the globe, my boyfriend was following his own dreams and working towards his own goals. Simultaneously, we were both becoming more well-rounded individuals in our given fields. In the end, bettering our individual selves led to a better relationship with one another.

Because I experienced such fulfillment overseas, it kills me to hear others not take advantage of the opportunity just because of a relationship. Below is list of common reasons to not travel/study or work abroad/go to college in a different state and so on because of a relationship status. Following I kindly provide explanation why these excuses are simply myths.

“But I’ll miss him/her too much.”

LDR Sadness

February 2011 was the first time I was apart from my boyfriend. I was in China. It was a few days after I arrived for my study abroad orientation. The whole group was at the Great Wall. We were spending the night nearby so we could climb it at 4 AM the next day to catch the sunrise.

It was freezing. There was no running water. The beds in the room were small, without any real blanket. And my “pillow” was a sack of rice. Everyone in the group layered on pants and hats and scarves—just to go to sleep. I remember I was wearing a winter coat. I also vividly recall silently sobbing myself to sleep that night. All I wanted was to be back in the US with my boyfriend. And to be warm. And able to brush my teeth.

I am not going to lie and say it’s easy to be away from your significant other. My first sob session felt miserable. There’s really no way to avoid missing the other person. But looking back, I have to laugh. I was so young and dramatic. The reality is you won’t be crying yourself to sleep every night.

Overcoming challenges makes you stronger as a person. Working through obstacles in relationships can make those stronger, too. Every relationship is different. For me, being in a long distance relationship allowed me to trust my boyfriend more than I trusted anyone.

Again, it seems counterintuitive. It would appear as though you would trust someone less when you don’t see them. But when apart, all you have is trust and commitment to one another. No romantic dates, no hand holding — literally, no physical interaction. There is just conversation and written word. Ultimately, I believe not having physical interaction allows relationships to grow in other, non-physical ways.

To this day I recognize my experience in China as one of my most defining moments in life thus far. Despite the difficulties of being away from my beau, there is no way I would take back that semester in China.

“But what if they meet someone else while I am gone?”

Don't make these LDR excuses

First and foremost, I only think long distance relationships are for people who are serious. If you don’t see yourself spending the rest of your life with that person, you shouldn’t try to sustain a LDR. So, assuming it is “serious”, if the other can’t handle a month or two or six apart without “meeting someone else”, what do you think the future will entail?

In any relationship, whether six or 6,000 miles apart, there is always a risk that they “could” meet someone else. And you “could”, too. But the fact is if there is a strong foundation of trust and commitment, this won’t happen. And if it does, it’s probably for the best. Better now when you’re studying abroad than they “meet someone else” when you are married with kids.

“But what if things aren’t the same when we see each other again?”

LDR myths

Things won’t be the same when you see each other again; especially if the time apart is 6 months or longer. The amount of differences, though, is something that definitely varies from person to person.

While I was in Thailand I went nine months without seeing my boyfriend. Because of his schedule and the timing, he wasn’t even able to visit me like he had in China. Truthfully, after about month six I forgot what he looked like. I “saw” him all the time on Google Hangouts or in Facebook photos, but I totally forgot what it was like to be around him. All I had was the memory of what it was like to be around him.

That may sound scary. However, for me, it was like blind faith. I knew what we had was special. Even though I “forgot” what it was like to be around him, I knew it would still be good when we were together once again.

And I was right. Despite some initial awkwardness at the airport, we quickly fell into previous patterns. Before we knew it, it was like no time passed. That’s how it is with close friends, too. When it comes to best friends and family and boyfriends, things have a way of picking back up where you left off.

“My boyfriend/girlfriend doesn’t believe in long distance.”

Common Excuses Made to Avoid LDRs

Well… Reevaluate personal long and short term goals. Also, the relationship itself.

I know a few people who attempted a LDR with a person who blatantly said, “I don’t believe in long distance.” Sherlock Holmes isn’t needed to figure out those relationships failed fast.

Yes, spending as much time as possible with your significant other is important. “You only have one life to live.” But that same idea can apply to all your passions — not just a significant other. If one of your passions is learning a new culture, helping others overseas or just wanting to see a new part of the world— you should pursue it.

On your deathbed you will wish you had chased those dreams. Especially when you were healthy and young with the freedom to move about without the burden of poor health.

“I’m worried that he/she will break up with me.”

Couple Sitting Down - LDRs

Maybe I’m wrong, but if chasing after something you are interested in is break-up worthy — that sounds like an unhealthy relationship.

“If you do this, I’ll break up with you.”

It seems sort of threatening.

However, if this is the case, really think about future obstacles. Again, if you plan on being with this person in the long-run, spending a short time apart will pale in comparison to other obstacles heading your way. Think raising kids. Career layoffs. Aging parents. Health issues.

What are a few months apart? And, ultimately, do you really want to be with someone who uses “breaking up” as a punishment for doing what you desire? (Within reason — if you desire to do illegal things, that’s a whole other story.)

In the end, travel or living abroad is not for everyone. And that’s fine. A couple doesn’t have to undergo long distance to be strong or successful. But what is important is that you follow your calling. A significant other should be supportive and your driving force — not holding you back. They should be pushing you to pursue your dreams. Whether that dream is to travel to India to empower impoverished girls or to start your own restaurant — they should be your number one cheerleader along the way.

As I have said to my boyfriend in the past: “What’s a few months apart when we’re going to spend the rest of our lives together?”


BONUS: a recent study showed that greater distance apart predicted more intimacy, communication, and satisfaction in relationships. See — distance DOES make the heart grow fonder!

Are you in a long distance relationship? What do you think about the myths I outlined above? Tell me in the comment section below! Or send a tweet! sharing your thoughts.

Images: Tariq Daouda/FlickrGuian Bolisay/Flickr; Mrhayata/Flickr;

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  • the boyfriend

    awww, i love you : , )

  • orchid

    But what If He is a distance apart wit-another girl colleague alone? In the name of work demands

    • Are they living together? If not, I wouldn’t be too worried 🙂

      (unless something has been done in the past that would leave you thinking otherwise …)

      • orchid

        Thanks Laurence.. probably different rooms. But seeing each other daily for two weeks. Meals together and all.

      • sima

        same with my boyfriend , he was far for 4 months and he told is living with another guy,when i get suspicious for like a month ,he finally told me is living with his instructor which is a girl ,they are together most of the day but he says there is no physical thing! i am so frustrated and dont know if this is true or not ,bcaz he has lied to me about this aswell .please help me is it possible they live in a small apartment eat together study together excersise together and not having physical attach???

  • Ken Tanaka

    I suggested for western women who travel to Asia is better to go with their boyfriend (western ones) and do not stay too long in asia which may drain more costs & budget.
    price in asia paced expensive like my country (i.e japan) and korea,, susi in Japan worth ¥ 100000 for one,, living in asia for white women is very difficult, but whatever its dont give up welcome to Asia 🙂

    • I am dying to go to Japan! But yes, very expensive. I was in Thailand, which is much more affordable 🙂

  • Heather Nelson

    This is an incredible post. I love my boyfriend, but we’ve had some rocky times as of late, and I know that when I study abroad in the fall that things will either work between us or they won’t. I’m young, and though it may hurt if things don’t work, I’ll bounce back and be better off having experienced another culture. I’ve saved this page so that I can reread it whenever I need that little boost of confidence and assurance. Thank you so much! Much love x

    • Hey I am glad you found it useful! Even though I wrote this awhile ago, I still feel the same way. And for the record: me and my boyfriend are still together!! Best of luck to you and going abroad is an amazing decision. I haven’t travelled extensively for some time … And I always think back to my memories abroad and teaching in Asia 🙂

  • Josue Ricardo Romero

    I have been with my girlfriend for about 11 months, and last Fall she went to go study abroad in France for 4 months and spent a month prior to that in Colombia for medical reasons. We spent most of last summer together, and we spent this Spring semester living together, as we will this summer. We’ve been perfect ever since and we both are dedicated to one another. This Fall she has decided that she wants to study abroad again, but in Thailand. My initial response was a resounding no because it scares me to have to go through another 4 months without her, but I understand that this is who she is and she is a traveling enthusiast. I want to join her on her trip this time around, but my GPA doesn’t allow me to unless I can find a way to convince the school or a program to accept me. Whether I go or not, I know she will and I love her to the very core of my existence and know that we’re going to spend the rest of our lives together. But I just want to know if it’s okay to feel these feelings of doubt even though we’ve done it before? I don’t ever want to take away the opportunity of her doing something she absolutely loves, but I actually want to join her in these experiences and know what it’s like to experience something as magnificent as this, since it’s been my dream to study abroad as well. I just want to know if I’m wrong with any of these feelings I am conveying.

    • Wow..it sounds like me and your GF have a lot in common…(studying abroad multiple times, etc.)

      (And me and my boyfriend, for the record, are still together 🙂 And we’re still kind of long distance…not like Thailand…but we live about 5 hours away from one another.)

      Anyways:

      I think what you’re feeling is completely normal. Especially because you do want to study abroad, too, but unfortunately cannot. I have to say there are other options..like volunteering or teaching (except you usually need a college degree). However, that would mean taking time off from college. Which may not be something you want to do. (Totally understandable.)

      It seems like you trust your girlfriend — which is good. You’re just bummed out that you can’t go, too. Again — totally healthy and understandable.

      I think it’s awesome that you’re so supportive. And I am sure her independence and curiosity is part of the reason why you love her so much 🙂

      So — let her embrace it. And let yourself let her embrace it. Trust me: there are not that many guys out there who are supportive like you and my boyfriend. It is hard to find. And if she is smart (I am sure she is) she realizes this, too.

      And, lastly, know that you two can one day travel together. You have the rest of your lives to do so — what’s a semester apart? 🙂

      • Josue Ricardo Romero

        I have a question. Did your boyfriend and you ever thought about exploring the option of studying abroad together? My girlfriend and I are thinking about it, but don’t know of many people who tried exploring this option or entertained the thought at least.

        And you’re right, I do view her as the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. What’s a couple months apart when it’s the betterment of our individual selves? Especially when I know it’s something we both need to work on.

        • Well…to answer your question…it’s a little complicated because the first time I ever went away, we broke up for a bit. Not because either of us wanted to “explore other options”.

          It was mostly because at that time we had just started dating, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay with someone for 6 months long distance when we had only known each other for 2 months…

          Anyways:

          We never had an “open relationship”, where we were together and saw other people, too.

          Everyone is different, and different things work for different people.

          For us, it was never an option. I really don’t think it would have worked out for us. (Again, we’re still together today…and I first studied abroad in early 2011.)

  • Eugene Wong

    Thank you a lot for your sharing. I’ve been worrying & thinking a lot. All her safety and also our relationship. But what you said was true, “What’s a few months apart when we’re going to spend the rest of our lives together?” I really love this. I believe that my girlfriend and i am gonna have a successful relationship ahead in the future just because i can see the future with her and that i’m gonna trust her no matter what. And also, i have got a big God. 😉

    • Hey Eugene — thanks for reading 🙂

      Exactly: “What’s a few months apart when we’re going to spend the rest of our lives together?”

      Guess what — me and boyfriend are still long distance! We only live about 6 hours away now (driving) but still only see each other 1-2 times a month. It is possible and if you see yourself together in the future — several months is nothing.

      In the grand scheme of things, it is a fraction of the time you will spend on earth.

  • elango

    hi my gf and i have been together for almost 2yrs. She just finished her degree and wants to pursue her masters. She has to travel to another country to do her masters as they don’t have the courses in my country. Also she will be away for a year and it’s very strange for me as I’m not used to being in a long distance relationship and i am not a big fan of it.
    I have heard so many stories from my friends that their 3-5yr relationship has ended since their partner was abroad. And i just don’t know what to do. I will miss her alot. and i am worried about her safety in a foreign country. I also have been so used to seeing her everyday. I have told her I’m not in favour of her staying away from me, but her education is important.
    I do have fears that things might not go well. As even the most strong willed change their minds in a blink of an eye. I don’t know if what I’m feeling is normal. I just need some advice on what I should do and how I should handle the situation. Please help

  • I have been with my girlfriend for around two years now. For the First 16 months or so, we lived together in my home country. I am a father from a previous marriage, and my son (8) lives in the same town as me. My girlfriend went home to her country of origin, and I miss her so so much. All I want to do is be with her, and I know she wants to be with me too. She has some family business to take care of and she has been gone now for 8 months. It has been extremely rocky between us, and we have both suffered mentally and emotionally. I don’t know what to do.

    My son is a content little boy, and seems very happy with his life. I’m torn between being alone, single and a good father here, or being most likely healthier and happier with my girlfriend in her home country for 6 months or so, while we decide where to go once she has completed her work.

    Please don’t judge, I really wouldn’t wish this on anyone. 🙂
    If anyone has words of wisdom or perspective, I would be very grateful.

  • My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost three months now, but we knew each other as friends for while before that. I have been planning for long time to go to South Korea for a year to teach English, and he’s always been extremely supportive of this dream. My parents on the other hand just don’t understand why I feel the need to go so far away, and they’ve been trying to use him, among other things, as a reason for me to stay in the US.

    “Why would you leave when you finally have a boyfriend?” or “Aren’t you worried he’ll break up with you?” and the dreaded, often repeated “What does *boyfriend’s name* think about all this?”

    UGH.

    It’s beyond frustrating, as if my parents have become radios tuning into all my anxieties. But your article really helped to verbalize some fears I definitely do have about LDRs and also why it’s completely possible for them to work out and make the relationship even stronger in the process. So thank you for putting your experience out there! I know I would always regret (and maybe even resent) not pursuing my own goals out of fear and insecurity.

  • Malcolm DeFrantz

    Thank you so much for writing this. My girlfriend just went off to Nice, France for the semester on tuesday, and the tears have really started to roll in for me.

    We have only been dating since last semester (5 months), and its pretty obvious that we want to be with each other for the long haul.

    After reading your article and just getting off the phone with her and hearing how fun her first night out was and all the new friends that she is already making, I am more than reassured and excited to face this obstacle in our relationship head- on.

    I plan to go out to visit 3x, ( the end of february, on my birthday at the end of March, and in May after finals.) and am excited to see how we grow with each other.

    Thank you again so much for taking the time to share your experience. You have truly lifted a huge burden off of my back.

  • Randy McBubbles

    Quite the article to read, since I’m merely just a seventeen, about to turn eighteen, year old teenager, who’s having a difficult time with how I am supposed to solve the conflict within my head. ‘^^

    I am currently in love with a girl three years younger than me, which, I have had to make sure that it is not TOO big of a deal to date someone like that! What impresses me is she has the determination to date me when I hit twenty one (three years until she is eighteen!), which is profoundly enticing! The conflict that rages within my head is, by the time I hit twenty one, my mother proclaims one of us would move on by the time three years go by!

    I love her, and she loves me, she has always told me her main focus is me and I believe it! I love my mother, but I do not wish for that incident of her/me to move on, while I attend college!

    Do you think a long distance relationship, if taken seriously, would help me in this matter? I have witnessed relationships that WERE NOT relationships, and girls I did not really want to date, puppy love… not so much experience, aside from an experience with a girl, whom once liked me when I was in middle school, but I still liked her when she was in high school (if that counts as “puppy love”.).

    Thank you for taking the time to read this comment, hopefully you can help me at your fullest extent! 🙂

  • Laura Rosales

    Currently studying abroad in Taiwan and my significant other is back in California along with my family. Definitely had my sob show already after becoming homesick on week three. I’ve got five months to go. I’ll be home in no time but for now, I will enjoy my studies and travels while I become a better person myself. As for my lovely man, he also is becoming a better person himself. He plans on visiting me more than just once while I’m settled out here and my heart couldn’t be any happier! This is a story I can’t wait to share with our future kids.

  • Hi Lawrence Bradford!

    I found your article today and it felt very inspiring to read it.

    However, I’m in a dire situation here

    And I’m slightly overwhelmed with everything that’s happening in my life

    So, could I ask for your advice/ help please? 🙂

    I’m currently in a long distance relationship myself- with a man I love more than ever.

    However, he never texts me.

    I mean, he always replies to me when I text him. But if I dont, he could go for weeks without texting me.

    Imagine my situation when I’m dying because I miss him

    And it’s not his fault because he has to work in places where his phone is out of coverage area.

    So, he forgets to text me

    Or he replies with great lethargy when I text him

    He hates texting.

    So, I switched to calling him every weekend instead

    But that has started to get in his way too as he goes 36 hours without sleeping due to unending work and my calls aren’t making things easy for him.

    He makes the effort to call back at times

    But this is just not enough for me.

    I tried calling it off with him many times earlier

    But he is too nice of a guy and he comes back crawling.

    He never texts or calls nonetheless

    And I’m suffering a lot here.

    He is like my fiancee atm. And his mother is my best friend.

    And so is his sister.

    His family and i are connected and we love each other a lot

    But I cannot get through the fact that by the end of the day, he is left with no energy to contact anyone.

    He has gone weeks without contacting his own mother at times too…

    He is bad at keeping in touch

    But by no fault of his own

    What do I do? /n

    I feel like I would lose my own soul if I broke up with him now

    And i know he is super nice.

    But I’m dying and I have no idea what to do

    Please help me…

  • Melina Major

    thank you for posting this. in a few weeks i’m going to be heading to beijing to teach for a year. and ive been finding it really difficult to cope with leaving my fiance. worrying a lot about when we’ll be able to talk, given the time change. and where we’ll be able to talk because of the censorship in beijing. its very stressful. but its comforting to hear that others have made it through. i love him and want to marry him. im scared to leave but i know this is what i want.

    • chey

      Hi, I also have a boyfriend and he doesn’t want me to work abroad. I’m also confused now I also love him and want marry him. it breaks my heart whenever i saw him sad. I know he cried earlier and doesn’t want to show me. But I really want to go and work there. But I’m not sure how long.

  • miller

    (ravidattvyas522 @ gmail. com) is a wonderful spell caster. Very trustworthy, he just restored my marriage.

  • chey

    Hi laurence. I love your post and it’s inspiring. I also want to work abroad but my boyfriend doesn’t want to. I keep on asking him and he just said yes even tho he doesn’t want. I don’t know how long will I stay and work their. my parents and sister keep on asking me to go. but i don’t want to leave him. it breaks my heart whenever I saw him sad. he cried earlier I know he just doesn’t want to show me. now he wanted to be alone cause after 1 month I will be going to dubai. I love him and I want to marry. he’s not perfect but he’s the only guy who take care of me the most. I’m really confused now and i don’t know what to do. I hope I will hear something from you soon. Thank you!

    • Antonette Brondial

      Hi chey, I’m also in the same situation as yours. It’s so sad, I’m so torn. What happened? Did you pursue your career abroad?

  • Vincent

    I am from Philippines but living in Germany and I have been dating my girlfriend since last 3 years, she lives in Poland and I visit every month to Poland to meet her, I lived in UK for 4 years but left UK and moved to Germany because my girlfriend wanted me to live in Schengen country so that I no need to get visa to visit Poland so I choose Germany as it is rich country and I can able to support my poor parents in Phillipines. Now we are planning to get married but she want me to live only in Poland and she dont want to change her country, I can’t live in Poland because salaries are too much low in Poland that I will not have enough money for myself so its impossible to help my parents, and also in Poland racism is big problem and I had tried to look jobs in Poland but got very less salaries and 2 times I faced racism where I was insulted in public because of my different eyes look but I never faced any racism in west European countries. My girlfriend do not understand my situation and want me to live in Poland. I love her so much and lived with a dream to marry her one day but when time come she is not understanding my situation. I am totally confused and don’t know what to do. One side is my parents and one side girl of my dreams. All problems can solve if she will come abroad anywhere in rich country so that I can support my parents also. I many times tried to explain my situation but she just dont want leave her country. Please suggest me what to do :'(

    • Hard Luck

      How amazingly I am in the same situation as you…I am also in Germany and she is in Poland, she just doesn’t want to leave Poland. I don’t understand if it’s real love or just long distance manipulations. Get in touch with me if you want aniroodh.three@gmail.com

  • Nelly

    Im going to be in a LDR for four years and Im really scared. I trust my bf, I love him and he loves me back and he has proven himself a lot without need of it. But the fear is there and it’ll still, the thing is (as you said) to trust each other… And I have more trust un him than fear on me, so… It’ll be really hard, but will work out.
    We proposed to each other to get married when he comes back:3
    I love him a lot. I’ve never loved someone as much as I love him. So I cheer him up when he has doubts about his trip. Im actually really proud of him, so… I’ll be really happy and willing to ser him becomin a better self and Im going to do that too.
    Thanks for the article :’) it helps me a lot. Hope you read this.

    • Kah Kheong

      Hi Nelly, how has it been going for you and your boyfriend after 8 months? I will be in a LDR for 3 years with my GF too. Just checking if all is well for you

  • Kim Rose Cadallo Sabuclalao

    Hi!

    Thank you so much for sharing this. It somehow enlightened my mind on long distance relationships. I am currently processing my student visa to ausie. Although he is encouraging yo pursue my career in australia. I have doubts that it may affect our relationship due to long distance. The myths/issues that you pointed above were the ones I’ve been thinking about. I have a lot of what ifs and so unsure of my decisions in my relationship with my boyfriend. I am so afraid i may make a mistake in my life that i could never take back. I am so thankful to read this post. May God bless you always

  • Marcos Andres Delacourt

    This is beautiful 🙂

  • mercy

    I used to think magic was bogus but after Martin left me I felt open-minded to try it. Maybe I was desperate too. But this is real! You restored the love we had for each other. And now he proposed as you promised he would! I am your friend forever and very grateful for all of this. I will come back again, very soon contact priest ogidiga via email: miraclecenter110@gmail.com or call his cell phone on +23481882260982.stella from las vegas

  • Tanya Miller

    Great Post thank you😊I am in a relationship for the last 18 months and have moved abroad to begin a new life with my children. I thought once a month visits would work but with commitments and flight prices this idea is not looking to great. I am now at the point of wondering..do I continue with a long distance relationship…should I begin a new life? I totally trust and adore him…but should I accept this style of relationship for ever? How will my children feel? I don’t think he will ever move away to be with me due to his commitments with his children😕