Love Across Continents: Lessons from Transcontinental Dating

By Karen Regn

Be prepared for heightened pre-date jitters. Before each international date, it’s advisable to assume a veil of apparent calm over your blood-pounding nervousness. There’s the worry that one of you will have a sudden change of heart and cancel; that the charming, slightly pixelated face from Skype will unexpectedly turn your stomach in person; or perhaps that dysentery, malaria or some other illness or natural disaster will wreck the vacation you’ve been anticipating for months.

Because of the expense and, let’s be frank, investment involved, this kind of dating is not to be taken lightly. There’s a serious safety issue. It’s advisable to ask for your date’s home address, phone numbers, and his employer’s name. My guy gave me all that plus his passport number without even having to ask, in order to make sure I was completely comfortable before taking the first trip with him. On my end, I purchased a flexible plane ticket, just in case things went south and I needed a fast exit. It turned out I wouldn’t need any of it, but taking these precautions made the meeting jitters a little more bearable.

Of course, if you’ve been counting the days until you can see the object of your desire, much of these jitters will disappear once the trip is in motion. I found that a hug, a kiss, and chat over coffee quickly cleared away any lingering reservations.

Keep your cameras at the ready. The best thing about making such a big hoopla about our dates was that every vacation was documented fully. Pulling a camera out at dinner to snap photos of your potentially auspicious first date might be pushing it at a standard evening meal, but who can blame you when you’re in the middle of the vibrant Fringe festival or tromping around Edinburgh’s castle?

The aspiring travel photographer that I am, the man, whom I’ll now refer to by his name, John, said he’d never been photographed so much in his life. In the end, it was an auspicious moments goldmine.

Filter out the noise and tension. After months of separation, setting off on a trip means squishing months of longed-for quality time into a togetherness marathon. When combined with cramped accommodations and the usual travel headaches, dating becomes super intense.

In order to get to know each other, you need to sift through all the distractions met along the road. It’s a challenge to really connect. Seeing a potential partner in the most extreme situations is illuminating at best. You’ll see how he operates under extreme conditions, sure, but how can you know a man’s authentic personality when he’s suffering from altitude sickness and a stomach full of dubious Alpaca jerky?

The trials of a Peruvian mountain trail (our second date) nearly squelched our chemistry. A series of 4am wake-up calls, sore muscles, nosebleeds, and freezing cold temperatures put a damper on our blossoming romance. As we camped and hiked together, we were attempting to trust each other and work together like couples who had known each other for ages. In many ways we succeeded, but at times we quarreled and retreated with hurt feelings. My favorite moments along the Inca trail were our quiet chats by mountaintop streams and gazing at the brilliant Milky Way on clear nights, rather than the energetic hike itself.

Find a happy medium. The antithesis to our overly ambitious tour of Peru, our date in New York was a laze-fest. We paid a premium to stay in Manhattan, but after long brunches and idle walks in Soho staring into each other’s eyes, we managed to miss the majority of sights on our itinerary. The lesson we learned; don’t pack activities into every moment of your itinerary, but try not to abandon it completely. Otherwise, why even visit the place? Peru was too much and New York was too little. Something in the middle would have been just right.

All we want is a room somewhere…and no more megadates. Forming a relationship across continents will never be easy, so why not shoot for the moon? At least that was the opinion John and I shared, until after a year we had both spend several thousand dollars and were getting sick of flying all over just to grab a few jetlagged hours together.

After our last date, my friend’s wedding in Ottawa, we flew back to England together and with much relief settled into monotonous cohabitation. I relocated to live in Manchester with John since my work is more flexible. Since our arrival, we haven’t boarded a plane or traveled more than 50 miles away from home. But, we’re thrilled about it. Sure, we talk about taking another trip together in a year or so. But for now, we’re broke. And besides, we just want enjoy the novelty of staying put for a while. I certainly didn’t know what I was getting into with those first poolside margaritas. Of course, I wouldn’t change anything about the year we spent impulsively flying around the world to get to know each other, but thank goodness it’s over.

When not traveling, Karen Regn works as a freelance writer for online and print magazines in the areas of travel and wellness. Originally from Florida, she now lives in Manchester, England with her boyfriend. You can keep up with her on Twitter @karenregn.