Trip-planning as a couple

As September gets closer, I’m putting final touches on my planned holiday with my boyfriend. This isn’t our first vacation together, but it’s the first one that requires international travel for both of us, and the first one to require substantial planning and booking ahead of time. With our previous trip to Manchester and the Lake District, we showed up at hotels where we’d booked, ate where we wanted and went to whatever museums we wanted. It was generally unhurried and relaxed. This year, though, the planning is more intensive.

I booked my flight for September back in March, and at about that same time, booked tickets to see “Much Ado About Nothing” at the Globe Theatre in London. This was for a play six months away and seats were still mostly sold out or unavailable. This past weekend, I managed to secure tickets for a Yo-Yo Ma solo performance at Royal Albert Hall, part of the BBC Proms concert series. The tickets sold out the same day they became available and I was lucky to get them.

Still ahead for booking: our return flight to Prague, Gatwick Express return tickets, tickets to visit the Sky Garden in London, ghost tour tickets in Prague, the Prague Card combination museum/transit pass, seven of our eight nights in hotels, some restaurants (including the Michelin-starred Alcron in Prague) and Thorpe Park tickets. Some things we’re doing were my idea, some were his idea and some came from both of us. It’s compromise, and it’s wonderful.

Just thinking about the sheer amount of stuff we’re fitting into this week is taxing. But that also makes it unique and amazing, the second in what I hope will be an extensive series of holidays, both long and short, for us as partners.

I’ve heard before that if you and your partner can travel successfully together, you’ll be OK. While we didn’t travel too extensively last time, we were able to catch trains and find hotels smoothly. I’d say we passed the initial hurdle. We didn’t fight or get frustrated with each other. This coming trip will require a little more coordination and put us more to the test, but I can’t wait. I love talking about it with my boyfriend and I love the two of us working together to create an experience that’s ours.

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The family you choose vs. the one you’re born into

I spent Thanksgiving week in Kansas City at my parents’ house. I hadn’t seen them in about six months, and hadn’t seen my dog for longer than that. The house was mostly the same, with a few changes here and there. My mother had, for instance, cleaned out and organized my bedroom, turning it into a tasteful yet still personalized guest room.

This was a notable Thanksgiving because it was the first one I’d spent with my parents in three years. Last year I spent Thanksgiving in Germany and two years ago I was with my grandparents in Vermont. Three years ago, I had just returned from England and was still readjusting. Four years ago, I was in England.

We decided to spend the week together, just the three of us. And the dog. I’ve always been closer to my parents than many people, I guess, because I’m an only child. At the end of the day, it’s the three of us. And the dog, so long as there’s cheese.

I’m also normally a fairly insular person. I don’t let people in easily and I can be aloof. I don’t make friends that easily but the friends I have are uniformly rock solid. So the arrangement of me, my mum and my dad is pretty much fine with me.

And yet I spent this week in almost constant contact, via email and Gchat, with my boyfriend, thousands of miles away. It was important to me that he understood what was going on and why, what was involved and that it mattered to me. He’s promised to celebrate the holiday with me when and if we make it to that point of being able to celebrate it together.

While it was great to celebrate the holiday with my biological family, it was also wonderful to start to share it with, if all goes well, my eventual chosen family: me, my boyfriend and our blended families. There’s that saying of, “Friends are the family you choose,” but this is decidedly deeper … legal even, eventually, maybe. It was a big step for me to share the intricacies of the holiday and family traditions with someone else, and for that sharing to be valued. That my boyfriend is a foreigner makes it that much more special, because, lacking the Thanksgiving tradition growing up, he has my example to follow.

Poor prior experiences with trying to open up about traditions to the men I’ve dated made me appreciate the enthusiastic response from Jamie all the more. It made me want to go all out for him and to make him look forward to the holiday every year as much as he would if he were American.

I think we may make it after all.

(Jinx.)

In praise of digital relationships, romantic and otherwise

Earlier tonight, as I prepared to go to bed, I looked up a few old schoolmates on Facebook. People to whom I was never particularly close, even then. The ones I found were nearly strangers to me. I have nothing in common with them now, and the only thing I had in common with them then was geography. Even that wasn’t exactly a matter of agency, given that we lived where our parents had chosen to live.

I’ve long rejected the notion that friendships and relationships should be based on geography. Obviously you’ll eventually want to meet your closest online friends and especially your online romantic interests, and romantic partners would ultimately relocate for each other. But choosing a friend or a partner based on elementary school or high school or even college always seemed needlessly limited to me. I know many people who found their long-term partners in school; I wasn’t one of them. And while I do retain close friendships with many people with whom I went to school, I have just as many close friends whom I met through various online means, based on our mutual interests.

Because of my shyness and, to use the technical term, resting bitch face, I’ve long had difficulty getting close to people I meet first in person. I know that I come off as a bit awkward and aloof. I communicate much better in writing. Even my co-workers compliment my humor and wit in our office chat program. So it makes sense that someone like me would more easily forge written-based relationships. 

One of my best friends now is someone I’d have never met at all, in person or otherwise, were it not for our mutual love of Harry Potter and various other geekery. We crossed paths online over five years ago and up to this point we’ve visited each other and we regularly chat long-distance about other things: cooking, pets, work, moving. I talk to her about things I’d talk to any true friend about in person.

My current long-distance partner (soon to, in a few weeks, hopefully become my short-distance partner for a few days at least) approached me because he admired my online writing about, of all things, “A Song of Ice and Fire.” That was six months ago and we’ve been talking non-stop ever since. Though I’m eager to see him, I don’t consider what we have to be inherently less meaningful because it’s mostly based on written communication.

Finally, the peril of going to school in the Midwest and in England and living on the East Coast is that nearly all of my friends, even if they began as in-person friends, became long-distance friends. Written communication is absolutely essential, whether it’s a tweet, email, text, Facebook message or something else. This is what helps me sustain my friendships, because the vast majority of my friends live hundreds or thousands of miles away.

I have more in common with a handful of people thousands of miles away in England than I do with a handful of people in Kansas with whom I shared a few years of schooling 20-odd years ago. It’s worth it to me to forsake in-person interactions for the time being in exchange for a deeper emotional attachment through writing. I wouldn’t trade a day’s worth of emails with my partner for 50 middling OKCupid dates in D.C.

But I am excited to see him, though …