30/11/2016

LONG-DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP 101


Looking for advice on how to survive that monster, long-distance? Look no further, 'cause you're with a professional. 4 different partners, a total of 2 years of expensive phone calls and lonely nights. My current boyfriend of 3 years and I survived over a year of trans-Atlantic love. What works? What doesn't work? I swear by now I have seen it all.

Restless feet and hunger for adventures come with a cost. Sometimes, in the midst of all this rambling, we fall in love - and always with the wrong person, right? No, really. It's always the person who lives the furthest or is about to leave for Abu Dhabi in a month. But you're in love, and a few panicky and tearful nights later you've made the decision to try long-distance. Moments later you find yourself aggressively googling the cheapest flight tickets to the other side of the world. Congratulations. You have now officially entered the purgatory of your relationship.

I'm going to be honest here: not everyone can do it, and not every relationship can take it. My long-distance relationships have failed, but at times they have also had happy endings - I know both stories. I know how it feels to stare at someone's back disappear behind the security check point, knowing you will never see them again. But more than those painful goodbyes I have seen them appear from behind the sliding doors of the arrivals gate, smiling from ear to ear, knowing your patience paid off and you will never ever have to be apart again. (Or so you wish...)

This is why I wanted to divide my Long-Distance Relationship 101 into two parts: DOs and DON'Ts. Before we start, however, I want to point out a few extremely fundamentally absolutely necessary important points:
  1. Long-Distance Relationship is not a normal relationship -  Stop treating it as such. I have heard countless of people tell me "I couldn't talk to my boyfriend every day even if we were in long-distance". Well, bad news: when you literally can't see each other for 4 months, suddenly those 30 minutes of casual chatting a day become more important than you think.
  2. Long-Distance Relationship needs extra effort - Be ready to commit to that. It's not easy, it was never about to be, so give it the extra push it needs and take time to maintain your relationship. Every time I got asked "How are you guys doing it?" the answer was pretty much "Hard work and patience." It's work. It can get tiring and frustrating, but if you want to succeed, stay strong.
  3. Long-Distance Relationship is still a relationship - Give it the dignity it deserves. I have been treated as single both by my friends and people interested in me because "he's away so you're practically single, right?" No. No. No. Being in a long-distance relationship might mean you can't fall asleep on each other's arms every night, but it should not resonate back to other people as me wanting to fall asleep on anyone else's arms in the meantime.
Now that these three things are clear and memorised, we're good to go!
Disclaimer: these are my personal observations based on my own experiences. Everybody works differently, and every couple is unique. Please don't throw rocks at me if something I said didn't work for you.

DO: KEEP IN FREQUENT CONTACT WITH A CONSISTENT SCHEDULE

As I mentioned above, long-distance relationship is not like a normal one. The rules of this game are different. As someone who's been to a few completely ordinary relationships myself I'm aware it's possible to stay together without putting much effort into daily texting sessions - and if something urgent comes up and your date night is cancelled, no big deal. There's always tomorrow. Especially with a decent time-zone issue you should always schedule your skype sessions in advance. Make them if not daily, at least frequent. It's surprisingly easy to drift apart when you have no idea what they've been up to lately, and your status in their everyday life fades. Alex and I skyped almost every day, and if it was absolutely impossible for me to stay up until 2am or for him to wake up at 6am to skype, we at least sent a ton of Facebook-messages. We sent each other a bunch of completely ordinary photos every day, just to maintain the feeling of sharing a life together.

DON'T: CHAT WHEN YOU BOTH HAPPEN TO BE ONLINE

I admit making this mistake in my failed long-distance relationships in the past: I just kind of expected us to end up on MSN Messenger (yes I'm that old) or skype at the same time, despite the 9-hour time difference, which resulted in us basically not talking, ever. Something else always came up and I didn't make it to my computer on time. Needless to say, I lost the connection and we broke up.


DO
: HAVE A FORESEEABLE SHORT-TERM PLAN TO SEE EACH OTHER

It's not always possible to have flight tickets ready for the next time on the moment of parting, but it's a comforting thought to know approximately how long it will take for the next hug. I used to have a calendar where I'd cross out days for our next moments together, and there was surely something soothing in this habit. Visuals helped me cope with time passing so slow.

Long-distance relationships are relationships of uncertainty. When will we meet again? Can I afford flying to him two times in six months? Will this work out? This is why it's important to have something to look forward to as it makes the relationship feel more consistent. Being in a long-distance relationship without a plan for the future may feel like driving in a tunnel without seeing the light at the end, and in the long run the uncertainty of what's happening to you can get tiring.
(Personal touch: Alex and I once parted after Christmas, planning to meet up again in 6 weeks. Later on it turned out Alex couldn't afford flying back to Europe so soon, and our 6 weeks turned into 4,5 months. That sucked.)

DON'T: LEAVE THE RELATIONSHIP HANGING

It won't manage itself. It takes two to tango and to fall in love again every day from thousand miles apart. Long-distance relationships are all about practicality and rationality, as paradoxic as it may sound - I mean, talking about 'rationality' in the same sentence with 'let's live 5000 kilometres apart and see each other every 4 months while still staying vigorously in love' seems a little off for me too. But hear me out, it's all true. A machine this big needs someone with organisational skills to pull the levers. Plan your next meet-up. Stare at your calendar a lot. Don't expect your long-distance monster to magically figure itself out while you're busy having fun.

DO: TRUST EACH OTHER

This comes without saying. "Trust" is probably one of the most important words of any long-distance relationship. Don't get me wrong here: it's completely acceptable to be scared at times, since with time your affection or feeling of closeness might dry out and the temptation of physical comfort lures in. What helped me in the past was to ask myself the same question: Would I cheat on him/her? I figured my partner was probably having similar fears about me, and trying to put myself in his position made me feel more comfortable. But I guarantee you this whole long-distance thing of yours is gonna hit the rocks if you don't think your partner can stay faithful!

DON'T: DEMAND TO KNOW THEIR EVERY MOVE AND EXACT LOCATION

But please, please, please don't overdo this. Yes, he/she is far, you can't see them, you can't always even hear them. As pointed out in the first tip up there at the top, I prefer to keep in frequent contact throughout the day/week/month/year, but that doesn't mean you should be texting them every 20 minutes to ask what they're up to right at this frigging moment. As painful as it sounds, long-distance also needs space. Let your partner have their night out without feeling guilty for not sitting alone in the booth, texting you, while the rest of the gang is getting loose on the dance floor. That will only make your relationship feel like a burden. Or a buzzkill.


DO
: LET THEM GO

Did you discuss your long-distance relationship with your partner before deciding to jump into it? Did they tell you about their plans to move abroad? Were you ok with all this? Good. In my experience the most important part of a long-distance relationship is to let your partner pursue their dreams, and for them to let you pursue yours. This is, above all, the reason why both of my successful long-distance relationships worked out in the end. My ex was about to do a 3-month internship in Russia when we met, and I gave him space to go and enjoy it, with the condition of seeing him every 2 or 3 weeks. That passed fast and later on we moved in together. However, 2 years later we hit a dead-end when he was about to leave for an exchange semester in Turkey, and I wouldn't let him. Long story short, he's out of the picture now.

He wants to do it. Don't stop him. I have been asked to drop everything I do or am to move on the other side of the world to be with someone. That didn't turn out well. You guys need to have your own lives, and stopping someone from pursuing their dreams for the sake of seeing each other every day will leave your partner forever linger with the question "what if I had done it?"

DON'T: GUILT TRIP ANYONE FOR THE SITUATION

You need to discuss where you're at in your relationship before any decisions about long-distance are made. Both of you need to be 100% ready for it. After you've shaken hands and accepted what's to come, you have officially lost your right to complain about the situation. "I wouldn't have to aaaalways stay up super late to skype with you if you hadn't decided to go volunteer in Colombia!" In normal, healthy circumstances this should be no one's fault. Compromises have to be made, both from your and their side, but making your partner feel like they're a pile of shite for deciding to take that job will not fix what's broken.

Last words: it may seem like the end of the world right now, but it's completely realistic to get used to living in a long-distance relationship. All you need is a routine, a handful of trust and a lot of faith. Hear from the veteran: After one year of long-distance relationship Alex and I managed to live in the same place for a year until we ended up in a situation where we would again have to be apart for two months. Neither one of us ever even considered these two months to be "long-distance relationship" as we were so accustomed to being apart in the past that such a short sprint was basically a joke!

Have you been in a long-distance relationship? What helped you through it? Share your tips in the comments below!


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20/11/2016

OUR BORROWMYDOGGY.COM EXPERIENCE


Life as an international postgrad student can get unstable: the hunt for a job or a flat you know you're probably going to lose to a local, constant bureaucracy, flexible timetables and endless nights at the library. Alex and I decided to find a common hobby to take our minds off things - a dog turned out to be a good one. Meet Marley.

Well, it's not our dog to be exact. I stumbled upon this ad on Facebook a while back - BORROWMYDOGGY.COM. It's a service in the UK and Ireland where both dog owners and dog lovers can register and meet up: owners with little free time can find people with a dog-shaped hole in their lives (that's us!) to spend time with their woofs. We signed up in an instant!

It's like Tinder for dogs. A 10€ verification fee and a few supporting documents (proof of address, passport etc. to make sure it's safe) later we had a catalogue of local dogs in front of our eyes. You can select your location and the page will display all available dogs in your area. We found Marley 1km away from us.

We have been chatting with the owners for a few weeks now, and today we were finally ready to meet. It was kind of scary at first - you just enter a stranger's house and go out with their dog. We decided to head out for a walk both with Marley and his owners to get Marley used to us, bribe him with some treats and then discreetly leave him to our company while the owners retreated back home.


Marley turned out to be the easiest dog to get along with. After 3 hours he was really fond of us (or the treats, who knows).



There was something oddly relaxing in playing with a dog in the park for the afternoon. For a moment we had a completely different kind of life: not the one of assignments and economic uncertainty, but a suburbian dream on a Sunday afternoon with a dog, a tennis ball and a runny red nose.



An Irish November. It's cold all the way to your bones and covered in fog. The grass is layered with dewdrops and your socks are probably wet. You can see your breath and smell the rain. The dampness is almost visible in the photos. To be honest, despite how uncomfortable all this may sound, I think this tranquil little Sunday afternoon made me fall in love with Ireland just a wee bit more. I still need dry socks and a heater, though.


We had a cup of tea with the owners afterwards and agreed to meet up again next weekend. I've tried to find ways to get in touch with Irish people to feel a bit more at home - I figured staying isolated in a community of immigrants would probably do some harm to my mental health in the long run. If I want to learn to like Ireland, I need Irish people to prove to me their country is worth it.

So we sat down for an hour and had that cuppa in an Irish living room. It was just a cup of tea with strangers, but somehow it made us feel a bit more connected to this country - and a bit less tired of spending 10 hours a day reading about conflict resolution...
(P.S. Believe it or not, this post was not sponsored by borrowmydoggy.com - I'm just really excited about their concept!)

Do you ever have troubles feeling connected to your new country? Do you think having hobbies could help with that? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


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12/11/2016

OUR DAY IN BRAY ⎮ THE BEST PUB IN THE WORLD


Living in central Dublin in a small, mouldy flat on a street full of drunk tourists requires occasional reality escapes. Bray, a small rural town a bit to the South from Dublin turned out to be an excellent one. If you ever wanted to see a ton of photos of Irish moors, this is your post!

Bray is super easy to access from Dublin - a mere 45 minutes by train to the South. 30,000 inhabitants and a coastline to die for. This is where I'll move if I ever retire in Ireland! Well, here or Howth - there seems to be some kind of rivalry between these two regions, and to be honest, it's hard to pick just one.

My entourage for this exploration trip consisted of two of my friends from my uni program, a boyfriend of one and my own dear Alex, of course. Our Finnish-Canadian-British-German-Sri Lankan power team met by the railway station a bit after 2pm, and was greeted by this gorgeous first taste of what to expect from Bray (photo from the railway station):


Our plan of the day was to climb Bray Head, the hill you can see on the horizon in the above picture. In case you plan on doing the same, equip yourself with a bottle of water, good shoes and warm clothes - it gets steep and windy out there! There really isn't a need for a hiking map, since the hill is remotely small and the path pretty straightforward. Just follow all the people - there will be plenty.

We got to the top in half an hour, and the view is easily worth the effort. And since we're in Ireland, why not put a huge-ass religious symbol on top of the hill?





After reaching the top we made the decision to continue our exploration to a side path we found a bit down the hill. We had no idea where the road would take us, but why not find out?



We were a bit baffled by the amount of ash and burnt bushes all across the hills, but a more knowledgable person in our entourage enlightened the situation by telling us the hills actually catch fire. "In IRELAND? With all the humidity?" Apparently, yes. Bush fires happen in here too. The more you know... Check the burnt area for example in the photo below:



The drop down to the sea was scary for someone with a fear of heights like me. You can't see it from this photo, but there actually is a railroad to Greystones following the sea line down there!


Speaking of Greystones: we were able to see a glimpse of the town from the top of the hill. Not sure why there was so much smoke...


Then we ended up accidentally trespassing this farm. Google Maps showed us a way around the hills without having to go back the same way we came from, so we took the challenge and went exploring. A few gates and barbed wires later we realised we probably shouldn't be there... But it was too late. And in the end it was worth it, because look at this landscape! Look at how green the grass is! I swear to god that's not Photoshop!




And what would a day trip to Irish moors be if we didn't find any sheep?




Eventually we survived back to town, a little after sunset. Despite Bray being a remotely small town, it was almost impossible to find a place to eat without having a reservation. We tried multiple restaurants from vegan pizzeria to an Indian place, but everything was absolutely packed.

Then Willy remembered THE BEST PUB IN THE WORLD is in Bray. Yes, you heard me. It's official: Lonely Planet voted The Harbour Bar in Bray as the best pub in the world. There's no way we can't check it out while we're there.


From outside The Harbour Bar looks pretty much like any other rural Irish pub. When you enter, the first room on your right looks ridiculously small - don't let that fool you! Go through the door on the other side of the room and you'll find much more places to sit down. Much, much more... So much that my trip to the ladies' bathroom turned into a survival game (hint: it's upstairs).


We found seats from upstairs, and the place just became much more charming. Fireplaces, cozy sofas and no one else in sight - the Finnish side of me approves!

The fireplace turned out to be more useful than expected though: for the first half an hour we sat with our coats on, since there was no heating whatsoever. We were only saved by a bartender who noticed our misery and offered to put up a fire.

The place has quite a special decor. Check it out yourself:



Yes, those are pictures of popes on the opposite wall. They might have also had some satanic symbols hanging here and there. Why not, I guess?

The Harbour Bar also has three cats (who needs cat cafes when you can go to an Irish pub?). I was able to meet one of them, and they sure look like they don't mind the amount of people at all.

To our eye there was nothing that special in The Harbour Bar, but people, as always in Ireland, were nice. Alex got to taste the best whiskey he has ever had, thanks to a spot-on recommendation by a random Irish gentleman sitting by the bar. The venue really needs to get some recognition though: they have a large, heated terrace and a patio outside. And for anyone into Stranger Things tv-series, they also have this on the way to ladies' bathroom:


Have you been to Bray? Is there something else we should have visited in there? Or are there other spots like this in Dublin worth a visit? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


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08/11/2016

Interview in BlogExpat: Why I Hate to Love Ireland


Ireland: this damned Emerald Isle. I can sincerely admit I love to hate and hate to love my new home country. Ireland has an international reputation of being the heart of every party - always merry and always drunk. But what's the truth? How is the life in Ireland, for real?

BlogExpat approached me a few weeks back, asking if I would like to share my immigrant story on their website. Well, of course! My rants about the ups and downs of a Finnish migrant's life in Ireland is now live:


In other news regarding my presence on the world wide web, I have now officially expanded my social media cavalcade with a Twitter account. I honestly never thought this day would come, but I'm actually pretty excited about it already! It's not my personal Twitter as much as it's a platform to share my blog's content and other immigrant stories. Check it out by clicking the photo below:

It's November in Ireland and 15 °C inside: I'm currently wearing Alex's harem pants as a scarf around my neck. Desperate times ask for desperate measures. I swear I can almost see my breath!
Check out my previous interviews on other websites:


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04/11/2016

WHEN FAR AWAY IS TOO FAR AWAY


There are times when living abroad feels like the best idea ever, and then there are times when you wish you never left. This is a story about the latter one.

Emigration is fun when things go as planned. Life goes on in your new country, and your entourage back home doesn't have much to report about - nothing negative, at least. It's easy to fall into this expat bubble where everything else outside of it kind of stops existing. My problems are in Dublin, my errands are in Dublin, my worries and duties are in Dublin. The thin linkage back to Finland only reminds of itself when I occasionally have a chance to skype or whatsapp my friends and family in Helsinki. When there's not much happening in Finland, I'm content, because I can be sure I'm not missing out on anything.

Living abroad gives you so many things: independence, confidence, experience. I have had the chance to see the most marvellous of things - the snowy mountains of Greenland piercing a carpet of clouds moments before I landed in Reykjavik, the people of the huron-wendat tribe perform a traditional Native American hunting dance during their 3-day dance festival. I have stared at the vast emptiness of the Pacific Ocean at the coast of Western Canada and admired the silhouette of skyscrapers of New York from the top of Empire State Building. But in the end none of that matters, because despite all of the different wonders of the world I have seen, all hospitals look the same.

And there is something so indescribably terrifying, something so excruciatingly painful in that moment when you follow a nurse pushing your loved one's hospital bed into the room where you know she will die.


A month and a half after receiving the news of my 71-year old grandmother's cancer diagnosis I find myself back in Finland, having booked the last possible flight still available with a week's notice. I have next to nothing in my bag: a tooth brush, a pyjama and a set of undies and socks (which of course looked slightly suspicious in the airport security check and probably was the reason I was pulled aside for a "random swabs test" for strains of chemicals in my luggage). I only brought myself, my stuttering Finnish I haven't had a chance to speak in 4 months, and my heavy guilt of ever having left my family.

She died 2 days after my arrival. The moment I heard about her death, 3 hours after visiting her in the hospital, I had this film-like rewind of all of those brief moments we had together during her last years - and they are few, as I spent her last Christmas in Canada, and I only saw her once between my return from Québec and move to Dublin. I found myself asking "what if": what if I had never left? What if I had spent the last 3 years in Finland with my family instead of travelling in god knows where? Would I have more memories with her? Would I have more to cling on to now that she's gone, when everything I have left of her are those few whatsapp messages she sent me to Dublin?

My last message to her says "Always." I stared at this word for quite some time afterwards, trying to realise there will never be anything after it.

Time is limited when you live abroad. Every moment spent away is one more moment for you to live the life you wanted, and one moment less to be close to your loved ones. Finding the balance is painful.

Have you lost someone while living abroad? How have you found the balance of living your own life and visiting your home country? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


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