"And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet, and learn to be at home."
Wendell Berry

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Love and distance

Something I haven't really written about on this blog but which affects my life a whole lot and which I get asked about quite a bit is being in a long distance relationship. When I left for my eight month, round the world solo trip, I was three months into the best relationship of my life. Three very amazing months in.

So why did I go when things were so great at home?

My only answer is that I couldn’t not go. I had this trip planned for a couple months before things got serious between us, and there was a point when I honestly considered cancelling it. But in the end I knew that I might never get this opportunity again—that I might have a regular-hours job again, that I might be broke again, that I might have kids or a mortgage, and that it would only be harder for me to leave for that long if we’d been dating for a year, or five years. And I knew I had to do it. With anyone else, I think I would've ended things before leaving or not left at all. But with Ad, things are different—good different. Maybe it was exactly because things were going so well in my relationship that I felt okay about leaving, and about staying together through it: It seemed strong enough to survive the time and distance. And if it wasn’t, then it wasn’t meant to be anyway, right?

Isn’t it hard?

It’s incredibly hard. Even while I’m having all these sweet experiences, it’s hard to miss out on everything at home. Christmas was hard. His birthday. I’m missing attending three or four weddings with him. Sundays—New York Times and coffee and lounge day—are tough. Difficult days when we can’t give one another pep talks are bad. Not being able to just physically be around one another is the worst.

How do we cope?

We hang out together on Skype. We email things we'd usually chat about. I write letters and send postcards. I carry pictures around and show people I meet and talk about him constantly. I count down the days until we meet in India. We make plans for when I get back. But while I think about him a lot, I also try to focus on the experiences I’m having, why this is important to me, and why I’m not ready to come home just yet, despite what I’m missing. After I cried four days in a row after we talked on Skype, I realized we just can’t talk every day. Because as good as it is to see one another, it actually does make it harder.

What does Ad think about all this?

He’s been incredibly supportive and reassuring that everything will work out. Of course, after a month and a half, I’d say that it’s been much harder than either of us imagined it would be, and eight months, which sounded like a long time when I started, now feels like an eternity. But I still feel like it was the right thing, and I’m so grateful to be with someone who is sure enough of himself—and us—to be able to deal with my craziness. I can’t wait to travel together some day (and also to be together at home). Til then, Skype has my undying gratitude.


  1. I met the love of my life 32 years ago and, through thick and thin, have always realized and believed that I was the luckiest person in the world. You are right on in saying that you couldn't not do this adventure my dear...not going would have always been in the back of your mind....and, after seeing you and Ad together....I have a great feeling (and love) for both of you.

  2. Dad, that comment was the sweetest thing I have ever read. I love you.

  3. Great post Jill. Long distance freaking sucks, but reunions are the absolute best. You can do it!

  4. I tried long distance right after college, with someone I was madly in love with but had only been with for four months (had already planned to live in Taiwan before we started dating). I'm sad to say that it didn't end up working out, but that was in the days when email was just starting to become common. No IM, no Skype, no Facebook, etc. I was just thinking recently that if I had to do it again now, I'd be able to make it work, especially when there's an end date to the distance. You guys will make it! Have a great adventure in the meantime. (which you are, I know!)

  5. Thanks, all, for the encouragement. Only a month until we meet in India!

  6. Number one: I love those "stolen" photobooth pictures, so funny.

    Number two: You're one of the strongest people that I know, and I know that you can do this.

    Number three: I love you both!

    And I agree with Gina, I was always on team Ad!

  7. Team Ad!

    Sister, love you big.

  8. I support you! Matt and I lived apart for a year, and it was aight. It was similar--he had to go, and I wasn't leaving. But skype and e-mails really help. The first time we skyped, I got teary eyed, staring at his gigantic face on my computer screen. But we made it through and all is bright and beautiful.

    There's a part of me that's grateful I had some "me" time before the nuptials. I think about that every time I see his balled up underwear under my bed.

  9. Oh man. Speaking of me time, Ad and I were just noting that we're going to have to be VERY comfortable with one another in India. After the notorious Delhi Belly, we might not want to look one another in the face for four more months, anyway.

  10. It's like those Precious Moments dolls:

    "Love is... wiping each other's butts."

  11. (This is Jennifer.)
    I heard about "Jill" long before you became a couple. You make Ad very happy.

    Back when international travel meant communicating by snail mail & an occational phone booth call-I was a nomad for 10 months. I left a boyfried in CT and found the love of my life (husband of 33 yrs)in Athens 2 times! What will be will be. Jennifer

  12. Agreed, Jennifer. I've got a good feeling, because he makes me very happy, too.

    Also, as you can see, my family and friends are also in love with your son. You did good.