The secret how we mock the “rule”.
People say that long distance relationships doesn’t work. But we disagree. Or perhaps we are an exception to the rule; because not even 12,000km could keep my fiance Owen and I apart.
In 2018, I was working in Encarnación - the summer city of Paraquay, 500km away from my hometown. In February, this small town was alive for the Carnaval Encarnaceno and I was right in the bustle of it, managing a stand for Ipanema. (flip flop brazilian brand)
After work on the 16th of February, I was catching up with my girlfriends, Lorena and Teresita, over drinks at the local Irish watering hole - the Galway. It didn’t go unnoticed when two handsome foreigners came and sat on the table next to us.
Lorena was quick to recognise their accent and whispered, “they’re Aussies” before wandering over and striking up a conversation with them. Meanwhile, I was left wondering what an ‘Aussie’ was. I had never heard of Australians referred to as such, before.
The two lads, Owen and Marty, in love of travelling off the beaten track, were on holiday. And Lorena immediately took a liking to the tall and confident Marty. He was akin to her dream guy. Unfortunately, the boys soon left the Pub, and soon we decided it was time to hit the dance floor. We made our way to the nearby Iris Bar. As fate would have it, the “Aussies” had beaten us there.
It wasn’t long before Lorena and Marty were lost in conversation and bopping along to the music. Being the perfect wingwoman, I tried my best to talk to the abandoned Owen in my broken English, and invited him to dance. He was no dancer but he did try. And looking back now, it’s hard not to laugh. To me, it’s something out of a rom-com, a real meet-cute. Two strangers, with a language barrier, stuck keeping each other company, while their friends hit it off.
The following night, we met up again at the carnival. After 14 hours of work, I was tired and trying to communicate in English soon became too much effort, but Owen don’t let me apart of the conversation and asked Lorena to translate each words they said. This was something that struck me. I wasn’t used to a man being interested in tiny details. If I’m honest, I wasn’t romantically interested at this stage, and yet that consideration on his part, was endearing.
You hear of those big, electrifying sparks. An instant jolt, love at first sight. But I haven’t found this to be true. I think we fall in love gradually, with small, almost insignificant moments. On their own, they amount to nothing. Over time though, they snowball into something greater — something that means so much more.
After spending more time together in Paraguay, we made plans to meet in Peru where he would be travelling later. I remember the butterflies in my stomach when I was booking my flight. Was this really something I was doing? Just heading to a different country to meet some guy? Something inside me told me that Owen was worth it though. I don’t know what that something was, but it was right. That week we spent together was like we had known each other our whole lives. We were comfortable around each other to a whole new degree. It was just so natural, that maked hard when we had to return to our respective countries.
I won’t sugar coat it. When your relationship is blossoming it’s hard to spend time apart. But that doesn’t mean it can’t keep growing. While we were separated by distance, we still found ways to become closer, and be a part of each others’ lives. With cute messages and gifts, we celebrated the highs and endured the lows together. I received my first ever bunch of flowers from Owen and when my office was robbed, he still made me feel safe and secure from afar. I commemorated his birthday by creating a special gift in honour of our shared passion for history, using a cardboard cutout of his pic, I enacted an imaginary tour of the Independence House in Paraguay, walking around the landmark taking pictures with his photo on a stick definitely drew some looks, but it was worth it. It took me a week of designing and constructing but making Owen feel special is what made it worthwhile.
Later in the year, we had planned a trip to Europe together. I was nervous on my flight to meet him, in London. It was my first long-haul trip. Jet lagged and feeling out of my depth, I was genuinely anxious and afraid when I landed. I was alone, I wasn’t fluent in English and while I looked around the airport in desperation, I couldn’t see him. To calm myself down I decided to get a coffee and wait in the cafe. It took a few hours but he found me. I don’t know how, but he did. You can imagine how relieved I was. I was just so glad to see him.
On our European tour, I got to know Owen at a whole other level. In many ways he was an adorable child, in a man’s body. He was always up for whatever crazy, fun ideas and antics I threw out. Having someone so willing to enjoy life with you is amazing.
We travelled through many romantic cities, London, Munich, Amsterdam, Paris and Dublin. And while most women would love to be proposed to, amid such fairytale settings, I was looking for something more. I wanted a real partner, someone who would be a supportive friend, and who I could count on in love and in life. That’s exactly what Owen showed me, on our travels. In fact, we first discussed living together, while visiting Neuschwanstein Castle.
We will always be thankful for that trip. More than anything, it truly consolidated our relationship. It gave us the chance to see what we were like by ourselves. It is said travel can tear people apart or bring them together. For us it was definitely the latter. Thank goodness!. Our tour helped us bond in new ways. We discovered new common interests and proved we had what it takes to work together. It gave me the confidence to say yes, let’s give this long-distance thing a real shot, because it’s worth it.
While most people find it hard to understand the dynamics of a long-distance relationship, or how your love can grow while being physically apart, it’s really not that complicated to me, For us, building a strong relationship was easy because we trusted each other.
Love is a matter of choice. We chose to believe in each other, to nurture and grow our relationship. Our love was not conditional on where we lived. It was an ‘all bets in’ situation. That was a conscious decision. And I know it was the right one. Because for me, there is no other — no one can come close to the person he is. I choose him, he chooses me, every day, over and over again. That’s what makes our relationship work.
When your are happy, time flies, and his birthday arrived again, other years together and other new surprise, rather than just buy a random present, I wanted to create something truly special. So I reached out to his friends and family and made a video collection of heartfelt birthday wishes.
As our relationship flourished, the time came for me to visit his family. So, in march 2019 I flew the 12,000 km to Melbourne. Just like he would have been, I was nervous to meet his parents. I wanted to make a good impression. In my own culture, one’s in-laws can be a handful. Would this be the same in Australia? It was the complete opposite. I was immediately welcomed, warmly and with open arms. They treated me like one of the family from the instance I walked through their doors. Something I am so grateful for.
Whether we were in the same country or not, our relationship was a continuum. There weren’t any stops and starts. It just happened that at times we didn’t need the internet to stay connected, and other times we did.
In March this year, it was my turn to re-visit Australia. And I’ve been here ever since, because of the coronavirus. While this was not how either of us had planned our 2020, it’s given us an opportunity to try and build a new life together.
Looking back, sure, there were times where I wondered whether we were making the right decision. I think that’s normal. But now, 2 years on from that first fateful meeting, I have zero doubt. My love for Owen has not only grown, but he has shown me how wonderful it is to be loved in return.
To be clear, I’m still not the biggest believer in Hollywood-style love stories. In real life, things are never that easy or instant. We’ve gone through all the ups and downs of normal couples and long-distance is definitely not easy.
Still, life has taught me that the most beautiful things can happen if you take a risk and follow your heart. Ours was an unexpected love story. One I wouldn’t change for the world. We chose each other, we took the plunge and gave our relationship a shot. I was, I am, and I will always be happy we did.