By Isis Briones
September 21, 2019
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I’m lucky if I see my boyfriend once a month.

Everything changed when he took a job in East Africa last year, but being in a long-distance relationship is not as bad as it sounds. In fact, it may be one of the best things that’s ever happened to us.

How, you ask, is a transatlantic romance a good thing? While living in New York together beforehand seemed like the dream, we were also unhappy with our desk jobs and it affected our relationship. It was time for change, so he took a huge risk and moved to Burundi to work for a nongovernmental organization. After months of missing him and failing to plan a visit with my limited vacation days, I ended up doing something I never thought I would.

I left the magazine job I worked so hard to get, booked tickets to Burundi, and decided to become a full-time freelance writer. My New York lease was ending and I figured there was no better time to start a new chapter of my life — but don’t get me wrong, I was also scared to death. I no longer had a steady paycheck, didn’t have much savings, and on top of that, was headed to a country with a terrifying travel warning. Did I make the right decision? Should I beg for my old job back? Do malaria pills actually work? What’s the likelihood of being captured by Burundian rebels? Wait … why am I doing this again?

Almost miraculously, everything worked out and I don’t regret anything at all. I took full advantage of my time in Africa and got the eye-opening life experience I needed. I flew into the neighboring Rwanda — since it was an easier route from the U.S. — and stayed there for a week on my way to Burundi. On my second day in Rwanda, I went on a safari in Rwanda’s Akagera National Park for under $50 and found myself unbelievably close to animals I’ve only ever seen in animated movies.

The following two months I lived in the small Burundian town of Muramvya and despite the language barrier, I got to know some amazing locals. We even penciled in a weekend trip to see the mountain gorillas at Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I didn’t get to hug one like I hoped, but being mere meters away from one of our closest animal relatives is something I’ll never forget.

Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever and I returned to the U.S. to advance my writing career. But while I was in Africa, I actually ended up saving money because I had given up my cubicle of an apartment.

After I returned to the U.S. I moved back to my hometown: Richmond, Virginia. Boosting my savings and lowering my expenses gave me means to travel. I couldn’t have asked for a better setup, especially since a reunion with my boyfriend means an international getaway to a place that’s convenient for both of us. We may not be able to talk for days at a time due to poor electricity and internet connection in Burundi, but we make up for it by meeting in a new city every other month — trips we never would have taken if we still lived in New York.

A few months ago, we went to Amsterdam simply because I found a round-trip flight for less than $400. Over the holidays we were heartbroken that he wasn’t coming home, so we treated ourselves to a meet up in Dubai. From eating a 12-dish Dutch-Indonesian rijsttafel in Amsterdam to skiing indoors at Ski Dubai, we’re constantly making memories we’ll cherish forever.

Though it takes serious effort to make our relationship work, we’re lucky we found flexible jobs and like to travel. While the goal is to go back to living in the same city, I wouldn’t trade our adventures for anything.

No matter how long you’ve been dating (six and a half years, in our case), there’s a special bond you’ll develop through traveling with your significant other that you never knew existed. Going on a trip and spending that much time with someone is the ultimate way of really getting to know them. Who knew that being halfway around the world would be what brought me and my boyfriend closer together and allowed us to reach a whole new level in our relationship?

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