the (no) distance relationship: from online love, to living together (part 1)
There’s a buzz around internet-based long distance relationships these days. Everybody has a different opinion: some people can’t for the life of them understand the appeal, and some people sing their praises from the rooftops. When I told people I was in a long distance relationship I received varied reactions. Some people thought it was cool, some people thought I was brave, some people thought I was dumb. When I told people I was planning to move overseas to live with my long distance partner, the die hard romantics applauded the idea and the die hard cynics said things like ‘you’re going to get murdered’. But I’ve been involved in long distance relationships since I was about 16 – I’ve met so many people over the internet that it’s pretty much the norm for me now, at 22. It wasn’t unexpected that I would have long distance relationships – the part that I didn’t expect was to find myself cast suddenly as the lead in my own romantic fairytale. After a long series of god awful relationships I was pretty much resigned to my fate as a Dickensian spinster, but my decaying wedding feast and decrepit wedding dress were metaphorical, comprised of a poisonous cynicism developed after having my spirits crushed one too many times, and of my own self loathing.
In a nutshell, here’s what happened. In 2012 around April/May, I started talking to someone on twitter, who I at first thought was a girl (their profile picture was of a goat). I had questions to ask about anarchism and they patiently answered me and also seemed to be reciprocating my flirtings. So we kept talking and I swiftly discovered that this person was actually a young Swedish chap called Jakob. We had so much in common that it was uncanny. So we kept talking, and on May 8th we declared ourselves “in a relationship”. I don’t think anybody really knew what to expect, least of all me. The farthest I had ever been away from my hometown Adelaide was the Gold Coast, and the furthest I had travelled on my own was Sydney. I couldn’t picture myself ever actually making it overseas on my own steam – I don’t even leave the house if it can possibly be avoided. On top of this, we are both poor students with few financial prospects, and we knew it would take at least a year to gather enough funds to meet, if not longer. That’s a big “what if” to base such a commitment on, and low self esteem led me to feel like I wasn’t worth such a commitment. So imagine my surprise to find myself, a year and a bit later, writing this article in a little cabin in Hölö, Sweden, surrounded by forests and mysterious words that I am quickly trying to learn, with a six foot two Swedish boy with piercing blue eyes playing guitar in his underwear next to me.
But there’s even more to this story. I’ve never felt remotely like this about anyone else, and my shield of cynicism started to be penetrated by hopefulness –think of Sally Bowles singing ‘Maybe This Time’ – that was me. Our plan was that I would take a semester off from study, move to Sweden, we would go backpacking around other places so I could research my new book, and then we would live together for about six months while I wrote and he went back to classes. It felt like a huge pipe dream: the two things I had always dreamed of were taking time off from the rat race to write, whilst living in the middle of an idyllic nowhere, and for a mysterious European man to sweep me off my feet and carry me off into a bohemian sunset. Even though we both worked summer jobs, and I self published my first book in June of last year and sold copies of that, and I started selling possessions on eBay (by the time I left Australia I had sold about 60 things), and we saved every penny we could, it was still looking unlikely – but then something even more wondrous happened – people on the internet took pity on us and started donating money so that we would be able to meet. Friends and strangers alike began sending money and well wishes, and it did still take a year to get enough money together, but it happened, against all the odds. And now we had a whole cast of other people emotionally invested in us meeting.
Nothing is perfect. My mum and best mates and my baby (a scaly breasted lorikeet named Hoppy) are all on the other side of the world, people drive on the wrong side of the road here, the local pizza place sells chicken banana curry pizza, and å ä ö is really bloody hard to grasp as an English only speaker. But Swedish people have good taste in candy (Australians are ignorant of the delights of Polly) and I get kisses and cuddles every day, and there are no plain packaging laws for cigarettes (heaven!). But best of all, I’ve got proof now that sometimes things really do work out – it might take a lot of patience and luck and hard work, but sometimes (and the old cynical me feels revolted by this sentiment but I’m going there anyway) dreams actually do come true.
This post is the first in a six part series we’ll be featuring on Lip. You can keep up to date with Kahtia and Jakob’s relationship as they adjust to living together via their video blog. You can also purchase Kahtia’s first novel, The Letter here.
Would you do long distance, especially cross-countries? Have you ever been in a long-term, long distance relationship? Share your thoughts below!