I had a map spread across my kitchen table and a pen in hand. My roommates and I were plotting a European adventure, and with wine-stained lips we charted our way across the continent by train. The utter excitement and drunken confidence had us mark eight cities in 15 days; it was drafted to perfection.
One of us travelers, however, was not like the rest. While my roommates were planning romantic conquests and dreaming about riding on the back of Vespas, I was looking at the lock screen on my iPhone, which showcased a photo of me and my long-term boyfriend. I hadn’t even left yet and my inbox was littered with “I miss you” texts.
I quickly found that there is no rulebook or guidelines on how to find the balance between love and individual adventure. How do I stay present in my travels? How much communication will get in the way of that? And how do you convince someone that trust doesn’t only come in the form of a text message?
Thanks to my penny-saving personality, I decided not to spring for the overseas data plan. This meant I had to keep my phone on airplane mode for the entire trip.
I decided this would be more of a metaphor than a technological inconvenience. Meaning, I would only let myself think about my boyfriend when I had Wi-Fi. While some may believe it is robotic or insensitive to try to power down your feelings with a slide across the screen, I thought it would be essential to the trip’s success.
My boyfriend and I had a big talk before the trip about what he should expect in terms of communication. I explained that going off the grid didn’t mean I was any less committed to our relationship. That he shouldn’t expect that I would get Wi-Fi at every single restaurant or bar, but that if I did I would reach out. I wanted to reassure him that I would be able to explain my adventures without any of the details inciting his jealousy. And in the course of our conversation, we both agreed sending ugly-face selfies in front of national monuments is hilarious.
I would only let myself think about my boyfriend when I had Wi-Fi.
After we eventually hammered out the details of the texting terms I felt this wave of happiness wash over me. It was like everything was falling in line and his willingness to not sweat the distance made me fall even more in love with him. Was this maturity? Were we doing it right?
While not every guy is the same, and this communication speech was definitely easier said than done, it taught me something about relationships that I have come to believe is universal. Setting boundaries doesn’t have to be a breakup. When you put respect at the forefront of your relationship the rest tends to work itself out. You need to make yourself unavoidably heard, come up with a plan and stick to it, even when you want to go back on it yourself.
My Europe trip will forever be one of the greatest times of my life. We rode bikes in Amsterdam, danced till the early mornings in Berlin, discovered hidden alleyways in Prague, found out why Billy Joel was singing about Vienna, enjoyed the fruits and fermentation of the south of France, and rang in New Year’s Eve in Paris. It was idyllic.
My initial plan to put my boyfriend on airplane mode didn’t work out entirely like I expected, though. While I would like to tell you that I didn’t think of him while I was supposed to be reading museum plaques, and that the entire trip was as an Instagram-filtered dream, I can assure you it wasn’t. Anyone who has felt this strongly about someone can tell you there is no “do not disturb” button for your emotions.
What I can assure you is that every view looks far more beautiful through your eye than through a phone camera. I found that meeting people abroad and being unafraid to build fast friendships lead to some of the best experiences. And that what may seem like a lifetime away from someone will feel like a second when it’s over.
A very wise (handsome) man once said, relationships are all about growth, and to find a person who can encourage it will only take you both further. Plus, after all of the overseas banter and “I miss you” texts, you may be surprised to find the passion that attracted you to them in the first place reignites. Turns out, absence really does make the heart grow fonder.