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The author and her beau, overlooking the view of the mountains.

Contributor Gabriela Garcia reflects on her “location independent” relationship.

Our yellow jeep wound along a perilous stretch of road alongside a cliff in Maui. I’d insisted on taking us to see a series of natural pools that lead to the ocean. My boyfriend thought this idea was ridiculous. Already, we couldn’t find the opening to the trail, and our friends were expecting us back in time for dinner. We started arguing.

Suddenly, he pulled over by slamming the brakes. I found myself looking directly in his eyes.

“What are we doing here?” he asked. He wasn’t talking about our plans for the day.

The Way We Were

For a long time, I didn’t know what to call my relationship. My boyfriend visited me in Miami. I spent the summer with him in New York. We met in the Dominican Republic, then later in Maui.

It wasn’t always this crazy.

We occupied the same world for some time, graduated college together, built a life together in New York. Our days filled happily with summer concerts, new restaurant openings, and lazy afternoons drinking wine on the fire escape.

But while he thrived in his creative work atmosphere, my life felt more and more like an endless droning desire for 5 PM Friday. As I found more freelance writing work, I dreamed of quitting my job altogether.

When I finally found the courage to make my break, I decided it made more sense for me to base my life in Miami for at least six months a year. My boyfriend was shocked. His business grounded him in New York for the most part, and he was happy with his life. I tried to assure him — as well as myself — with possible plans. I would come stay with him every few months; we could meet up in different places all over the world. It could work.

The author in Paris.

He knew I hadn’t been happy and in the end supported my decision. I was excited about the possibility of a relationship that could span different continents but also provide the reassurance of everyday routine. We agreed that we loved each other and wanted to make it work.

Our Lives Now

In some ways, our relationship re-energized. There’s new found anticipation each time we see each other. The constant shifting of location keeps life from ever getting stale.

But sometimes there are signs, invisibly chipping away at my confidence in the relationship, whispering ever more loudly that more and more often we occupy separate realms. I no longer recognize every little detail of his apartment, don’t know every aspect of his life. Nor does he know mine.

And yet, I relish my independence. I see my empty calendar and imagine the possibilities, but I still have that anchor drawing me back to him. I miss him, deeply, but my life is full of unique experiences and excitement.

His Side of Things

It has been a different experience for him. He’s had to readjust to his same reality only without me in it. He traces the same people, same places, same city only without me.

Then I reappear and everything is like before, until I leave again and he’s forced back to finding our city without me again.

The author in New York.

I didn’t realize until that rainy day in Maui just how the things that bring us happiness no longer had the same source.

He tells me he doesn’t want to lose me, but he doesn’t want to have me half way either. Neither of us has an answer, and so we keep things going the way they are. But we know we cannot continue like this indefinitely.

What Are We Doing?

This week, boarding a plane to New York is bittersweet like never before. He’s moving to California to work with a client. I’m considering Costa Rica for a few months. Things are getting more complicated. The middle ground moves farther away for both of us.

Neither of us believes in long distance relationships. Neither wants to change life course for the other. It seems our question has an easy answer now. Easy, except we love each other and want to be together.

What do you do when everything in a relationship fits except the worlds you are occupying?


Have an answer for Gabriela? Want to weigh in? We’re interested in hearing your thoughts!



About The Author

Gabriela Garcia

Gabriela Garcia is a freelance writer who splits her time between New York, Miami, and, as often as possible, the world. In between pondering the universe, she enjoys Jivamukti yoga, camping, and chance encounters with fascinating people. She loves interacting with fellow travelers on Twitter.

  • Annie

    Hi Gabriela,

    What a real heartfelt article! I am sorry for the tough decisions you have to make over your relationship. Long-distance relationship (I think) are the hardest thing in the world. It’s like your heart is being torn in two. I really struggled being away from my boyfriend but we were in quite a different situation, unsure of our future together and not really on the same page and I think that added to the pain when we were apart.

    It’s so difficult to really give advice on a situation like this. I can say that from your article it sounds like you both know what you want and are out there doing it. I think that for now you are fighting constantly against the current. You are still young, I say go and do what you want and see what changes. Maybe your heart will only want the other more, maybe you’ll find a new love in travel/work/a new city, and trust me I am not saying “maybe you’ll meet someone else” cause I wanted to KILL everyone who told me this. It’s not the point.

    It’s hard to take such a huge leap but either you have to take the broken heart and know it doesn’t mean it’s all over or decide that love conquers all and know that you can find another job/city to love if the person you love is in it.

    Sometimes I think it can be right that if you love something let it go and you might really be revealed the answer. For now you are too far stuck in the unknown to make a proper decision. You have to decide what you (both) can and can’t sacrifice in life, what you want the most and go for it. The rest will fall into place.

    I wish you the best in the decision and in your adventures!

  • Ashley

    Wow. So much of what you wrote here mirrors my own experience — except in this case you’re living a few years into my future.

    I have no advice for you. I’m in a similar place. I know the obvious answer, but it’s definitely not the easy one. For now, it is a balancing act, trying to find out how much of his lifestyle I can tolerate while I probe him to try mine out a little more. We’re definitely ignoring the question that’s coming up. “Where is this going?”

    I know the obvious answer, but I don’t know the right one.

    • Gabriela Garcia

      Yes, I think you touch on why it’s so difficult…knowing the answer, but not having it be the ideal one. I think that balancing out different lifestyles can work for a while, but in my case it became exhausting (in different ways) for both of us.

  • Candice

    Gabriela, I don’t have much experience in the love department, but this story breaks my heart a little. It’s amazing you both survived the relationship this far, I have friends who aren’t even willing to give distance a chance. I hope whatever you decide, it works out best for both of you!

    • Gabriela Garcia

      Thanks Candice! I don’t think I have a lot of experience either. I’ve just been going with the flow and trying to figure it out as I go along. Which is probably why I’ve ended up spending all my money on back and forth flights.

  • Kirsten Alana

    I can only speak through the lens of my own experience to reply to this, and it is this:

    I was married once, and changed almost everything about my life to fit into my husband’s version of happily ever after. I believed because I loved him that the payoff would make it all worth it. It wasn’t. I nearly died, not just emotionally. We’re divorced now and at the time of the divorce proceedings I was the most empty I’ve ever been in 28 years.

    At 29 now, looking ahead into my 30s, sometimes I feel loneliness being without a man in my life. BUT – the worst moments of that loneliness, are better than my best moments when I was married. I am living life on my own terms now and happily traveling and doing the things I LOVE to do. Blessedly, I’ve also dated a bit in the cities I’ve traveled to and in the places I’ve been since being married. It isn’t a perfect solution. But being single and doing the things I LOVE, is one million times better than being married to someone and having to give up all the things that made me me, just for love.

    • Gabriela Garcia

      Thanks for your sharing your experience, Kirsten. I think that’s my greatest fear–I don’t want to stop myself from doing the things that I want to do (or stop him from doing the things that he wants to do), because in the end we would just end up full of regrets and in a bitter relationship. I think that what I love about our relationship is that it has never made me feel trapped, but rather as if we were overlapping our own individual lives. And I think it’s why we are willing to let each other go, as painful as it is.

      I think relationships are difficult enough to navigate–I can’t imagine the strength it takes to end a marriage, even when it’s no longer vibing with who you are. I admire your courage!

  • Turner

    The fact that you two have lasted this long over a great distance says you both care enough to make it work… but in the end, circumstance or sacrifice will have to push the two of you in the same place at the same time. I just don’t see how it could work otherwise.

    • Gabriela Garcia

      I agree, Turner. I think it’s worked so far mainly because I spend half the year with him in New York and in between that I’ve never gone more than a month without seeing him. Now that things are moving into territory where that would no longer be the case, I think we are forced to make difficult but realistic decisions.

  • Julie


    First, thanks for writing this. Had I not broken off the relationship I was in prior to Francisco, I think this would have looked a lot like my life.

    I would never be so presumptuous as to offer you advice, but I think that you touched on something so profound when you said “I no longer recognize every little detail of his apartment, don’t know every aspect of his life. Nor does he know mine.”

    For me, so much of the spark and spirit of any of my relationships are really about the tiny little quotidian details of our days spent together. It’s about the stuff that may get tedious at times, but which, in the end, makes all the difference. Some of my closest friends from childhood and I have grown apart simply because we don’t quite know how to relate anymore across the physical distance that separates us. We know only how to talk about the “big things” in our lives, when the fact of the matter is that what’s really most important is what goes on in the daily fabric of our lives.

    No matter what decisions you make, I think you’re very brave to have written this beautiful piece and you both have a love and respect for one another that will stay with you forever.

    • Gabriela Garcia

      That’s so true, Julie. And definately part of the reason that I don’t think I can do a true long distance relationship. I think the reason we’ve managed to remain in a relationship for the past year and a half is that we have shared several months out of the year completely being a part of eachother’s life in New York. Now that things are changing and I would no longer be able to live in between two places, I think the chasm would be too deep to overcome.

  • Spencer Spellman

    First of all, bravo for such an excellent and transparent piece. I love how you’ve really opened yourself up to your readers and there’s some great commentary here.

    I echo a lot of Kirsten’s remarks. I too was previously married and found myself easing into this comfortable, suburban American life where you live in a quaint town, everyone knows your name, you work a comfortable 9-5 job, have a few kids and that’s a wrap. I changed myself to fit into this mold and it drove me crazy, caused me to make bad choices and now finally am starting to do what I feel like I want to do, though certainly not at a high cost.

    I’ve traveled more than ever this summer and it’s like I’m falling in love all over again with travel and life and just taking every bit of it in. I’m finding that it’s more about what I want to do and what makes me happy (though selfish as it may sound) and the people that are somewhat a part of that and less about trying to fit a certain mold or be someone who I’m not for the sake of some glorious virtue.

    Will I ever get married again? I’d like to think that despite my baggage, there’s someone out there who would share the road with me, but who the hell knows. Until then…I’ll write my own story, rather than living someone else’s.

  • N. Chrystine Olson

    Oh…what an appropriate article. I just had a conversation with a love interest about life and travel and a few other things. We’ve ended things mutually because I’m just too “Out there” and he meant literally. Retired smokejumper who eventually couldn’t see the beauty in a month or more in New Zealand on motorcycles. He was excited a few months ago when we re-connected after 11 years in different lives, but now that I’m ready to start getting serious (about the trip and us possibly) he balks. I’d said I didn’t want to do any more big trips solo. Should know better. There’s a reason I’ve been a confirmed bachelorette for a couple decades ;). I’m going anyway!

    Great piece Gabriela, it’ll work out the way it’s supposed to: your life, your loves, your path. Again Matador provides just the inspiration I need.

  • Max – The IT pro

    Great article! Love rocks! :-)
    I was raised in 3 countries and travelled back and forth. I’m also from a single mom who instilled in me that ability to take care of myself — basically since I was 8 when I emigrated to Canada from Barbados. This experience, along with my mom not putting up with my dad’s shit, taught me be comfortable in group environments or just being ALONE — all on my own — and enjoying life for what it is: Unlimited adventures.
    Therefore when it comes to relationships, I (the consummate Gemini) go with the flow. If I reeeally vibe well with someone, I’ll stick around and commit my all. However, I know what I want out of life and, well, if our paths are diverging, I’ll happily move along — remembering all the great times.
    But honestly, I just feel like traveling, exploring, meeting interesting peeps and animals (in my case, East Africa’s amazing wildlife) without any RESPONSIBILITIES (kids, marriage, mortgage, auto payments, etc.). Interestingly, most of my friends back in Canada are TIED DOWN — a lot, not too happy. So I think I’ve made the right decision.

    BUT, if Miss Right crossed my path, I wouldn’t hesitate to stick around if she had similar exploring-living-life-to-the-fullest ideals. Otherwise, no big deal. I’ve got me…and I’m pretty comfy with me. :-)

    So, Gabriela, just do what makes YOU HAPPY and if, by chance, your boyfriend does the same thing (what makes him happy) AND you 2 still have strong feelings for each other, then by all means STICK with the relationship. Otherwise, “fly robin, fly!”

  • Beach Bride 101

    This is such an incredibly honest post!

    I’ve learnt that sometimes it’s better to not try to find a “name” for your relationship. Why not just keep going with the flow? True love is hard to find. Ask anyone and he or she will agree. Looks like you and your boyfriend have a really strong bond (you wouldn’t have lasted this much if you hadn’t).

    Plus you’ll never know, something might happen that will completely change your situation. If I were in your position, I would hate to end it only to realize a few months/years later that I’ve just let the love of my life slip away. But that is just me I guess.

    I wish you happiness both of you, whatever you decide to do.

  • Karen L

    Thank you for sharing your story Gabriela. Making a relationship last is hard work. I was in a long distance relationship for almost 2 1/2 years, with me in the San Francisco area and him in Holland. We got through from visiting each other frequently and talking everyday. I knew that in the end, one of us would have to move and he did.

    No one knows what’s best for you and your bf except you of course. But if neither of you believe in long distance relationships then eventually a compromise will have to be made.
    I hope everything works out for you and you do what makes you happy.


  • Sam F

    i admire how you seem to handle this situation and find it very intriguing. but to get to the point, it’s prob harder to do than say but it seems easy – meet half way – find middle ground – COMPROMISE.

  • Caroline Von Broembsen

    Maybe its just accepting the struggle, until love itself decides to change circumstances and either bring you together or pull you apart. Sometimes love is bitter sweet , thats what keeps it alive. Good luck.

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