A few weeks into my relationship with “Ben,” I left town for about two months. The week after we moved in together, I left again. Every couple comes into a relationship with baggage, but mine was a little more literal. I’m a travel writer, and my job sends me on the road regularly. As much as it’s awesome to go to Mexico City or Copenhagen to report stories, my on-and-off travel schedule has made it hard to build relationships. And when it came to building a relationship with a dude I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, I had to learn how to make it work – even when “it” was an ocean away.
In some ways, our relationship is just like any other long-distance relationship. We chat on Skype, keep in touch on IM, and make a point of checking in just to talk about normal stuff like what kind of mischief the cat has been up to. But it’s hard to get rid of the guilt I feel when I’m sitting on a beach or in an outdoor café when I know that Ben is chained to his computer at the office or going to boring meetings.
Just because I’m traveling doesn’t mean I’m on vacation. If anything, it’s depressing to think that you’re standing close to some of the world’s greatest museums and restaurants but you’re too busy or broke to enjoy them.
There’s a particular sadness of sitting alone in a snug hotel bed wishing there was someone sleeping next to you. In Paris, watching impossibly chic French couples stroll past hand in hand while I’m up for the eighteenth straight hour jet lagged and trying to track down the one person who will let me quote them in a story, all I can think about is how nice it would be to switch places with that girl whose boyfriend is stroking her hair and whispering something in her ear.
Ultimately, every relationship – no matter what the members do for a living – involves compromise. Ben and I decided to move in together, partly to split expenses, but partly to make sure that we could spend as much time as possible together when I was in town. Every time I go somewhere, whether it’s for three days or three weeks, I bring him back a gift – usually, a bottle of local wine or spirits that we can drink together or something that refers back to one of our inside jokes. I’ve also committed to going away for shorter periods of time.
Because Ben has what I call “a real person job,” with two weeks of vacation a year, he can’t always join me when I’m heading off to a place he’d really like to visit. But we have been able to compromise somewhat. At the end of those two months that I spent away from him early on in our relationship, we met halfway – in Dublin. Though the rest of my trip had been about work, I was able to commit to ten days just with Ben. I’d been to Dublin before, and he hadn’t, so this was a vacation about him – all the sites he wanted to check out, all the foods he wanted to try. We took cheesy photos in front of landmarks and slept in late. On the flight home, we got to sit next to each other, just like any other normal couple who’d gone on a vacation together.
I love my job. But I also love Ben. And for now, we’re making it work.
[Photo of woman typing on the beach via Shutterstock]