A long-distance relationship in times of coronaPersonal Updates 15 February 2021
It is early when I am walking to the train station. It is still a little dark outside and behind the windows I see how breakfast is quickly being eaten and the laptop on the kitchen table is being switched on again. We live in a strange world… My train leaves in nine minutes. I accelerate a little bit to make sure I don’t miss my train. My first destination of the day is Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Remember? The place you usually visit when you go on a holiday. For me, no holiday. I will hop on a plane to be together with my love again. Also in times of the coronavirus.
Then you suddenly have a digital relationship…
Being able to be together with my boyfriend, who lives in Spain, has been quite a challenge over the past year. After the introduction of the coronavirus, air traffic soon came to a standstill. It was practically impossible to see each other in person. During this first lockdown, we did not see each other for four months. I celebrated my birthday without him. I lost my job. Found a new job. And had to miss him in the moments when I could have used an extra hug or would have liked to do a happy dance together. We made the best of it during that time, but one thing was clear: we were not going to do this again.
When the planes started flying and travelling became possible again, there was a lot of discussion and uncertainty. The travel advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could suddenly change; the word ‘necessary travel’ suddenly had multiple and different definitions; and even though we could see each other again, it had not become any easier. In an ideal world, one of us would have flown to the other and stayed there. Unfortunately, that was not an option and there was only one thing to do if we still wanted to see each other: keep flying back and forth.
Thankfully, there is quite a bit of understanding from governments about long-distance relationships. And I notice that more and more people are starting to understand that love is not the same as tourism. But that is not enough. To be able to travel these days, you have to jump through a lot of hoops. On the one hand, it is logical, because it puts a brake on all the crazies who believe a beach holiday is a necessity. But at the same time, it makes having a long-distance relationship in times of the coronavirus even more complicated. We are now at the point where you need about four negative coronavirus tests and three official statements for one (return) trip. At one point, I had been tested three times in one week.You need a well-filled bank account and a lot of stamina.
Especially a lot of stress
If you ask me what the biggest personal struggle has been during the corona crisis, it is not the travelling itself, but mainly all the stress that comes with it. We travel for love, but everything around it has little or nothing to do with love anymore. The number of negative experiences can no longer be counted on two hands. News sites have become the biggest anxiety triggers of all time and every e-mail notification or text message makes my heart stop for a moment. “Important information about your flight” Oh, no… Will they have cancelled another flight? Only to be given the explanation about wearing a face mask, filling in all the necessary forms, etc.
And when the stress is not being caused by corona, lockdowns, panic communications, cancelled flights or all the hassle of negative corona tests, the stress is still being created by a broken plane on Christmas Eve or a 20 centimetre layer of snow in a place where they see snow once every 50 years; Madrid in this case.
Everyone is fighting their own battles
We have been homebound for almost a year now and are more self-reliant than ever. From families trying to balance work and school and longing for a moment of peace and quiet for themselves, to lonely seniors or young people slowly seeing the walls closing in on them. Everyone is fighting their own battles. So are we, and we are winning it.