I Left My Boyfriend Of 10 Years To Travel The World

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traveling woman

Thirteen months to be exact, that’s how long I went without seeing my boyfriend. I saw him on a screen every day but not once did I get to hold his hand or wedge my face into that cozy space between his jaw and shoulder.

Leaving Josh wasn’t easy. We had met in high school, fallen in love, and have been together ever since. Josh and I were the sickly cute couple, building gingerbread houses at Christmas and carving pumpkins on Halloween.

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We took road trips around America, tied-dyed t-shirts on weekends, and left love notes on each other’s cars. We got our first apartment together, adopted two kittens, and backpacked around Europe as a duo.

Our lives were deeply intertwined and after 9 years together, I left him to follow my dreams.

Teaching English abroad was one of those ideas I’d read about in a book and couldn’t get off my mind. As I spent my nights waitressing, being yelled at for not bringing ketchup fast enough, the idea was seeming more appealing.

Traveling the world was my dream and actually living abroad felt like a sure way to make it happen. I did some research, worked on a teaching certification online, and started to apply for jobs. Aside from anxiously waiting for replies, I spent my days staring at maps, fantasizing about weekends spent on the Great Wall and vacations to South Korea and Japan.

The day I received the email was one I’m unlikely to forget. “Congratulations, we would like to offer you a teaching position………” I didn’t even finish reading it. I nearly threw my laptop on the floor, screaming and running around the house; doing one of those ass-shaking, heavy victory dances.

“I got it!”, I squealed. I looked to Josh to celebrate my victory and was met with a face sporting a supportive grin but eyes showing disappointment and pain. It was happening, I was leaving him behind to pursue a career and my travel dreams.

During the six months leading up to my move, we thought about what was coming and were happy about the change. Some days, however, we wrapped ourselves under the blanket in bed and swore we would never leave.

Plans started to be made and we never questioned the fact that we would stay together, doing long-distance until Josh came out to China when my contract finished. He decided to uproot his life too, take our cats and some of his friends to Colorado to live, work, and snowboard for the year.

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I arranged my visa and Josh searched online for apartments. We disassembled our apartment and eventually took a road trip across the country to Colorado.

I helped him move into his new apartment. I had to see what it looked like so I could picture him there when we spoke on the phone. Those last few days in Colorado were the worst. Everything we did, I couldn’t help but wonder if it would be the last time.

I lost it during our last breakfast that morning in Denver. The waiter must have thought that something was up. The crying never stopped. Not during the ride to the airport, not during our final hug by the terminal, and not during the five times I turned around just to look at his face one last time.

OK, enough with the sap. Leaving each other was hard, but emotions started to level out as we got more comfortable with our new lives.

There was plenty to talk about at the end of every day and we loved hearing about each other’s adventures. Some days were plagued by loneliness and crying but most weren’t.

Life was just how I imagined it would be. I loved my job and everything I encountered seemed interesting. I made friends with people from all over the world, learned to speak some Chinese, and transformed myself from waitress/bartender to teacher and freelance tutor.

I visited every single city that I said I would and figured out how to socialize alone.

Josh eventually bought a one-way ticket to Fuzhou and we started a countdown until his arrival. The months flew by and suddenly I found myself digging through my closet, trying to find the perfect outfit to wear for our reunion. I fiddled with my hair, re-did my makeup a few times, and couldn’t believe how nervous I felt to see someone I had been dating for a huge majority of my life.

This upcoming moment was a scene I had imagined every day for over a year. I pictured a romantic reunion, meeting each other’s eyes as he walked into view-crying, hugging, and (tactfully) making out.

While it was in fact a grand reunion, it was exactly none of the other things I thought it would be. I got on the bus far too late, left Josh slightly stranded at the gate, and approached him as a sweaty mess, too out of breath from running to give him a proper kiss.

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Life got back to normal pretty quickly. Josh met my friends, joined us for day trips to the countryside, and drank binges at our favorite bars. He worked from his computer in my apartment while I taught during the day and we met up for dinner and drinks when we finished.

Our relationship was recovering quite nicely, kind of like we never were apart.

Looking back on my decision to leave, I wouldn’t change a thing. It made us better partners, fostering trust and appreciation. To be honest, our relationship has flourished because of the time spent apart and continues to reflect that to this day, nearly a year since we reunited.

I went after my dreams and my boyfriend loved me harder for it. Anyone who is willing to sacrifice their own desires and comforts for me to better my life can have my heart any day. They deserve it.

Shannon Ullman is a freelance writer who has been traveling the world for more than 10 years. You can check out her adventures by visiting her blog, Lives Abroad.

This article was originally published at Lives Abroad. Reprinted with permission from the author.