My long distance relationship changed me in a lot of different (positive) ways, but the biggest change I saw was in how I viewed the world and myself in it.
“Must be nice to go somewhere every year on vacation….”
– me, 2010 (one year before I met my Belgian.)
That’s right, I was one of those people. One of the people who said the words that I now hate when other people say, because now all I can think when I hear them is; “you’re damn straight it’s nice to travel and I work hard to be able to do so.”
It wasn’t always like that, and I wasn’t always a travel lover. “Who doesn’t want to travel?” You’re probably asking yourself…and, well, me, circa early 2000s.
In the back of my mind, I’d think about flying somewhere for a week or visiting some luxurious hotel I saw on Travel & Leisure magazine…but then I’d go back to work, keep driving, stir my food or whatever else I was doing that had me daydreaming.
Travel seemed like a nice idea but it was just an idea, and I’m ashamed to admit that becoming more cultured and educated about our world just wasn’t something that was important to me when I was a teenager. I never followed National Geographic magazines, I never had a travel bucket list. When I saw someone’s vacation photos, I would think “that’s nice”, instead of “one day I will go there.”
So, as you can tell, I never really thought of myself as “someone who could travel”, until I met my boyfriend online. Him being from Belgium and myself being a Canadian, we knew that travel would be a huge part of our relationship if we chose to have one. That was the first of MANY (very healthy) changes to come once we started dating.
He visited me for 10 days and we used that time to figure out that we wanted to make this work, even though we were both still in college at the time. I graduated and promptly took whatever job I could get, and within two paychecks I was Google’ing “cheap flights to Belgium.”
The first time I ever flew by myself was the first time I came to Belgium (first time in Europe, even!), and it was absolutely incredible…and we didn’t even really do much. We toured a few Belgian cities, but mostly (being an international couple who hadn’t seen each other in 6 months), we were fairly low-key during my first visit. We stayed at home, ordered take out, had movie nights…we were finally able to be a “regular” couple, so tourism was likely the last thing on our minds.
It wasn’t so much the things I saw on my first trip, but it was it realizing how easy it was to see the world. Within a few weeks of working the minimum wage job I had at the time, I could have enough money to fly across an ocean and see all new things. That absolutely blew my mind.
“Why aren’t more people doing this travel thing!?” I thought.
I mean, of course as life went on I had more bills to pay and it often takes more than a few weeks to save for the kind of trips we like to take together these days – but really, it’s still so simple and you get to experience something so new, unique and incredible.
For some reason, I had grown up thinking that saving enough money to book a flight (plus all the money that goes into hotels, touring, actually doing things) was just “too much”. I knew it could be possible, but I just always thought I’d have more important things to spend money on (like rent, bills, “things.”)
My long distance relationship changed me in a lot of different ways, too;
I BECAME MORE INDEPENDENT: I didn’t “need” my boyfriend to attend that wedding as my plus one, I didn’t need flowers on our anniversary..all I needed was to know he loved me, and that’s something I never had to second guess (especially when he’s spending thousands of euro a year to fly to Canada to visit).
I BECAME MORE LOVING: Obviously, a person in love tends to see life through rose coloured glasses. I had always been a sort of hopeless romantic, but my sense of romance and love was very, very inappropriate and unhealthy until I met him. He taught me what it’s really like to feel safe and secure in someone else.
I CHANGED MY LIFESTYLE: Probably the most important thing that happened to me during this time, was that I vastly changed the way I lived in a lot of different ways. I started to change the way I thought about money and budgeting; which, at that was a huge turning point for my life (I was 20 years old, with 20 thousand of debt from college and credit cards).
I became one of those people who actually made budgets during my lunch break (like, on the computer!), while eating my salad that I pre-made for work that day instead of just getting take out like I always had.
I even started to cut out unhealthy habits that really had nothing to do with my boyfriend; like smoking, tanning in tanning beds, not drinking as much alcohol. Then, when I moved to Belgium to live with him, I started caring about what we ate and how much I exercised. I wanted to be healthy because I had a healthy lifestyle.
Essentially, once I entered into this long distance relationship – a whole new world became visible to me and I started to question every day choices that were contributing to what I now realize was a super unhealthy way of life. Instead of getting take-out for the 4th time that week, I would stop and think “that’s 20 extra dollars towards seeing my boyfriend or spending a weekend together in Paris.” And buying a new flat screen TV because mine was “too small”….that just all of a sudden seemed incredibly stupid to me.
Once you start to see the world, you start to see things more clearly. You realize how blessed you are to have a healthy body, a curious mind and an open heart.