Long-Distance Relationships With Nina Ahmedow
As a part of our new series about long-distance relationships, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nina Ahmedow.
Nina is a cosmopolitan vegan traveler who was raised in Germany. She has lived in Canada and has been living in Greece for almost six years. She is the voice behind Lemons and Luggage, a travel blog dedicated to illustrating the diversity in travel and offering an alternative perspective to male-dominated travel content creators.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you share a little bit about yourself?
I’m a travel writer and editor. Given my love of travel, I suppose it’s only natural that I ended up in a long-distance relationship. But I’m also really interested in veganism and sustainable living.
How did you and either your current or former partner meet?
Actually, we “met” on an internet forum, so it was quite accidental. It was a close community of fans of a particular musician, and we started chatting and then emailing each other. Eventually, we started talking on the phone as well, and things progressed from there.
Long-distance is tough, what made you decide to give it a try? Did you have a conversation with your partner, or did it happen naturally?
At one point, we felt like we should meet to see if there was more to our online friendship. So I hopped on a plane from Germany to Canada to be able to meet the guy. We never really intended for it to turn into a relationship, but after spending more than two weeks there it seemed like the natural thing to do.
One big thing we did once we realized we were going to give it a try was to come up with a plan to be together more permanently. So I applied to university in Montreal as an international student. This gave us almost a year of living in the same city, but it was a long process (a year from my first flight to Canada). Now we had something to look forward to in the first year of our relationship. But it also made the years after I had to return to Europe more difficult.
During your time apart, how did you stay connected? Please share examples or helpful tips.
The time difference made it very difficult to stay in contact. We had to wake up very early/go to bed very late in order to be able to talk on the phone. We tried to call every day. This was before smartphones so a plan that included free calls from Germany to Canada was essential. We also sent text messages updating each other about our day, plus longer emails whenever we felt a text message wasn’t enough to convey our feelings.
Messengers like MSN were also still a major thing to do back then. We were basically glued to a phone or computer for much of the time.
It isn’t easy to be away from loved ones for an extended period of time, especially during special events or bad days. How did you celebrate one another while apart? And how did you support each other when either of you had a hard day?
We belonged to different religions so holidays weren’t really a problem, but birthdays sure were tough. We would send big boxes with gifts (often sending them way in advance to be sure they arrived on time) and try to spend as much time on the phone as possible on birthdays.
When someone had a particularly bad day we tried to cheer each other up via text messages mostly.
What did your family and friends think about your long-distance love? Were they supportive?
Long-distance relationships were still quite rare at the time (at least in my circle) so people were skeptical. Faithfulness was something that his friends were worried about as well until they met me. And let’s not forget that the fact that we had met online was quite bizarre at a time long before dating apps became the norm. But once people saw us together their concerns faded very quickly. Most people we knew were quite supportive.
What was it like for you when your friends would go out during the weekend? How did you keep your spirits raised?
I actually found spending time with friends on the weekend to be a great support system.
I tried to spend a lot of time doing things with friends, like going to the movies, etc. I found this very helpful as a way to stay present. But it also gave me things to talk about with my partner.
Communication isn’t always easy, especially when there is distance. How did you handle miscommunications within your relationship? Can you share a brief story about how this played out and what steps you took to resolve things?
Miscommunications definitely happened a lot, both because of the distance but also because we were still very young. What definitely helped, however, was that our whole getting-to-know-each-other process had also taken place via the internet and phone. So we were able to use those means to our advantage.
Written words can sometimes be misread. But they can also be very helpful because you can take your time to formulate an email rather than just yelling at each other.
For us, this was especially the case in terms of jealousy. This irrational feeling can be difficult to express over the phone leading to a lot of misunderstanding. But when each partner takes the time to write a thorough email this can help to clarify one’s emotions. I truly believe this is an advantage that people in “normal” relationships don’t have.
Can you recommend any books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources that you used to help sharpen your communication skills during your LDR?
As I said, it wasn’t really a big thing back then, and we had to learn a lot of things just by experiencing them. But I definitely searched the internet for romantic ideas, little gifts, etc.
I think nowadays LDRs might be a bit easier in the sense that there are more resources people can look to for dealing with the difficult moments.
What surprised you the most about your LDR experience? Please share some stories or examples.
Like I said before, I think it really helped me improve my written communication skills. And who knows, maybe it’s even part of the reason I create online content. Almost anyone I’ve ever talked to who has been in a long-distance relationship seems to agree that the time we put into verbalizing our emotions in LDRs is so much more than in regular relationships.
I thought that it would be more difficult not to be able to go out and do things together all the time. But the bond that two people share doesn’t have as much to do with activities as it does with emotions which obviously transcend boundaries.
If you feel comfortable sharing, our readers would like to know how your LDR ended. Are you still together?
No, my LDR ended after a few years. We were both still in university so two factors were important: First of all, because we were so young any relationship may have only lasted some years anyway. But secondly, we were not in a position to see a light at the end of the tunnel. There was no way for either of us to permanently move to the other country. So we had to be realistic about how much longer we would be able to continue in a long-distance relationship.
What are the most valuable lessons you learned from your LDR experience? And would you recommend long-distance for other couples? Why or why not?
Communication (both by phone and email) is key. If you don’t prioritize keeping each other up to date but also sharing your emotions and thoughts it doesn’t matter how often you get to see each other.
I think I would recommend a long-distance relationship if it’s temporary. But I think you have to figure out early on what the possibilities of living in the same city are. I think it’s even possible to keep up the LDR for an extreme amount of time, say ten years. As long as you have a solid plan towards living in the same city somewhere down the line.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for joining us!