Back in Colombia

We’d kept it a surprise. No one in Colombia knew we were coming back earlier. They were all awaiting our arrival on the 21st of October.

The decision to come back sooner came from an intersection of a few thoughts and feelings. Mi novio missed his family. He’d been away from them for 4 months and he was keen to see them again. The travels we were doing in Argentina and Chile just exacerbated his desire to go  get back on home soil. We also realised we were spending far more than we had budgeted. I had underestimated how expensive it was for two people to travel.

Unfortunately to change our flights was also super expensive. We virtually had to forfeit our flight and buy new ones. So we looked at travelling to Colombia by bus. Money can be a strong motivator and in a move away from my normal logic, mi novio convinced me that taking the bus was a sensible financial option and that it wouldn’t be the nightmare of my imagination.

After 11 days en route from Argentina, 4 border crossings and 7 nights sleeping in buses, we arrived to the tropical heat of Santa Marta.

Loading bags in Chile
Loading bags in Santiago. Even an excess baggage charge doesn’t compel people to travel lightly.

Laden with 2 suitcases, 2 large backpacks, 2 small backpacks and a carry-on bag we walked the narrow street to mi novio‘s house and opened the gate. From inside the house there the was a flurry of excitement and shouts as the realisation of our early arrival dawned.

Almost two weeks after arriving and with the flights we have booked set to fly tomorrow, I can look back and say it was a good decision to come back earlier than planned. What we’ve accomplished in this time here and the money we’ve saved are just two small benefits when compared alongside the reunion of family and the happiness I saw on his son and mother’s faces.

Although the 11 days of travel and 7 nights in buses faded into a distant memory as soon as we left the bus terminal in Santa Marta, it is an experience I am not keen to repeat and I still think we are slightly crazy for giving up the airfares that would have got us here in 8 hours.

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Are you also looking to do an international bus trip in South America?

Here’s some details of our trip to help you out.

Buenos Aires, Argentina to Santiago, Chile > approx 19 hours. Most companies offering this route stop in Mendoza. Cata Internacional has a daily direct bus. We took Pullman Bus which leaves Sundays and Wednesdays and was $450 Argentinian Pesos each (other companies quoted $500 pesos). This was probably the most attentive service we received on the buses. We were plied with coffee and soft drink, given a snack sack, dinner was provided in a restaurant and a ham and cheese sandwich provided for breakfast and there were good, new release movies shown. The seats weren’t as comfortable as some of the others but we were provided with a pillow and blanket. Our tickets said we could take 20kg of luggage each, but this was not weighed. Note: We went to Santiago to pick up luggage we’d stored and there are direct buses to Lima from Buenos Aires.

Cruz del Sur bus
Crossing the Chile/Peru border.

Santiago, Chile to Lima, Peru > approx 52 hours. There are a few companies (Cruz del Sur, Ormeno, Andesmar and more) that offer this service, although they all operate on different days. We went with Cruz del Sur and paid $40,000 Chilean Pesos each. We chose Cruz del Sur for the departure day and also because they provided service on board the bus and most meals and also for the baggage allowance of 30kg. The bus companies seemed to be stricter on overweight baggage than airlines, and we had to pay 800 Chilean pesos for each kilo overweight. I would definitely recommend Cruz del Sur as we received very good service from the dedicated waiter who always advised us 10 minutes before we were to stop and told us how long we were stopping for. He also kept the movies going back to back during the trip and showed a good variety of new-release films (ie not just action films!) and he was also helpful at putting on the English sub-titles when I asked. Blankets were provided. Cruz del Sur have a connecting service to Guayaquil, Ecuador if you are heading further north.

Onboard Ormeno
Enjoying the space on the bus after most passengers got off in Cali.

Lima, Peru to Bogota, Colombia > approx 76 hours. There weren’t as many operators as we had expected, and since Lima doesn’t have a central bus terminal, it’s even harder to find them. In the end we had to go with Ormeno despite having read bad reviews online and hearing that it is just a bus trip, there is no service included. We paid US$180 each (you can withdraw US dollars from ATMs in Lima and there is an ATM inside the terminal. This did not include any meals. The bus stops at various places for you get off, go to the toilet for number 2’s and eat. Two drivers completed the entire distance and they were drivers only. They didn’t advise anything about how long each stop was for and were rather surly when asked anything. The seats were the most comfortable of all the trip with a pillow top cushion. However there are no blankets or pillows provided for a journey of 3 nights (this bus also stops in Guayquil and Quito, Ecuador and Cali in Colombia and some days has an onwards service to Venezuela). We were also only allowed 20kg of stowed luggage and 6kg hand luggage. Each extra kilo was charged at US$1, however they were slightly less precise about the weighing process and didn’t charge us for the full overweight baggage we had. Ormeno definitely wasn’t as good as other companies and the movies were sporadic and seemingly of the one genre, but also it wasn’t completely horrible.

He arrives tomorrow!

Tomorrow!

Mi novio arrives tomorrow!

After 186 days apart, it’s only one more sleep until we get to throw our arms around each other.

Everything is ready for his arrival. The place is tidy and I’ve baked him a chocolate love cake (and also a lemon tart). Now all that remains is for me to calm my nerves.

As of tomorrow, in less than 12 hours, everything is going to change. This is why marriage, particularly that of the type where people don’t live together (or even have sleepovers) before getting married, is such a big deal. It is a massive life change and it’s not without its stresses. I can see why people get cold feet when that little change-resistant, pessimistic voice starts getting in your ear. But the most important thing is to keep looking forward and trust your decisions that have led to this point. Change is exciting!

Mi novio is finally going to be on my territory and I’m anxious about how that will go. Will he like it? Will he feel comfortable enough here in order to one day come back here to live? Will he like the person I am here, in my home environment?

I guess all that will be answered soon, after I greet him at the airport with a massive public display of affection and we start the next phase of our lives, the one where we live together – in the same country – and we talk face to face instead of on Skype.

 

Making a long distance relationship work

Every relationship is different because every person is different in their hopes and dreams and in their personalities.

Whilst I’m not sure what a definition of a successful long distance relationship is (is it when you stop being long distance and have a relationship in person?) I thought I’d share some of the things that have worked for mi novio and I.

1. Commitment
We are both committed to having a relationship. We want to be with each other with the exclusion of all others.

2. An end date
Sunday 10 June, 2012. We are working towards the day when we’ll be together again and for always. The day after which there is no more long distance and we are both living in the same place. Without a definite date, or month, I think I would go crazy. It’s like anything unpleasant, it makes it easier to get there when you have a finish time, such as when that time on the exercise bike just got really hard, but you only have 3 minutes to go, so you dig deep into your energy reserves and do it.

3. Plans for the future
We have so many plans together involving travel, setting up a home, starting a business and having a family. When the going gets rough for a time, we can always seek refuge in these plans to get us through the time we are spending apart.

4. Honesty
All relationships require honesty, but a long distance relationship lives and dies on honesty. It is so easy to misconstrue something when you are not there in the situation. And it’s best not to hide things, even those things that can be taken the wrong way or cause pangs of jealousy. Being open helps mi novio to remember that I trust him and that he can trust me because I’m telling him everything I’m doing.

5. Remember it’s hard for them too
Sometimes I forget that mi novio is going through the same things as me. I wonder what he’s up to, who he’s spending time with and what little things are going on in his life beyond the computer screen. It’s actually worse for him because he has never been here in Australia so it is much more difficult for him to imagine what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis, whereas I can picture him going to work and spending time with his family.

6. Good communication
Long distance relationships are built on the memory of chemistry and clad with good communication. Even if mi novio’s day is the same everyday, I want to hear about it. I want to know all about what he’s doing because I’m not there to do it with him. A long distance relationship really gives you the ability to polish your communication skills and improve your story-telling abilities, your story is far more elaborate than I woke up, went to work and came home.

7. Make an effort
Relationships aren’t a one-way street. Both partners should make the effort to contact each other as they both have the responsibility to look after the relationship. It is much more convenient and cost-effective for us if I’m the one to call mi novio, but he will still email or send text messages so not one person is left driving the communication in the relationship. When I’ve felt as though I’ve been the one in control of the relationship contact and it starts to frustrate me, I ask him to send me a love note via email and this makes my concerns melt away.

8. Don’t be afraid to argue
It’s not all “I love you, I miss you” lovey dovey chat. All relationships have tension at times, and it’s easy to dismiss these feelings because of the distance and think you have to be nice to your partner. One time I had this funny desire to pick a fight with mi novio. I had no good reason for arguing, but I was feeling so numb with all the I miss yous that I just wanted to feel something different, something more passionate. And then it happened. I got grumpy, behaved childishly and then we talked about it. A lot. As we continued to talk through the issue I felt myself relax completely and feel a wave of love wash over me. Now I know why I picked the fight. I wanted that glorious feeling. However if you’re going to fight, you have to make up, and it’s best done straight away. Relationships seem to sour quicker over distance if a conversation is left on a bad note.

Mi novio is going to be here with me very soon, although the days seem to be ticking by slowly. As I think about our long distance relationship changing into an in-person relationship, I also think about those that are still in the land of long distance or who are just embarking on a relationship in different places. I wish for them strength, persistence and faith in love.

What else do you think makes a long distance relationship work?

A long distance love affair

I last saw mi novio in person five months ago.

I jumped on a plane leaving my heart in his hands in Colombia. I didn’t have an exact date as to when I would next see the love of my life, but every confidence that it would happen and we would overcome any challenges that distance imposes on a new relationship. We had made plans to be together, and I knew returning to Australia was just a short-term pain for a long-term gain.

I had spent the last couple of weeks we had together in an emotional frenzy. All at once I was glad to be with him and yet missing him already for the time we would spend apart. I feel like I cried more times in those weeks than I had in my entire life. (And still he wanted to be with me!) Our last day together was strange and stressful as the cable guys arrived to install internet access to his house so we could Skype each other, a blessing that cannot be underestimated in a long distance relationship of any sort.

I look back on the past five months with the satisfaction of knowing there is only one more month to go until we are together again in person. It has been like the five-day trek to Ciudad Perdida where we met, only elongated. There have been tough climbs to reach the top, exhausted with the effort, but happy that once reached, the terrain would change again to be easier. You marvel at the magnificent scenery and pause to take in the incredible views. Then unexpectedly, the difficult and treacherous passages would appear again and require delicate maneuvering to pass the obstacles. Heavy rains would come and make the path even more treacherous, making it slippery and muddy so you had to step with care so as not to go sliding down the mountain. But the jewel, the reason for the hike is reached, and it is beautiful and rewarding and a very happy moment. I’m looking forward to that jewel moment in just one more month. I’m nearly there!

I commented to a work colleague that one of the unsettling things about being in a long distance relationship is that you don’t know how you are going to feel about the situation at any given time. One morning I could waltz into work, happy for having spoken to mi novio and feeling comfortable in our situation and then by lunchtime I could be feeling an ache in my heart because he’s not physically present and I can’t go home to a normal life, just to a Skype screen. There is no rhyme or reason for this see-sawing. There’s nothing he’s doing or saying that causes me grief or irritation, it’s just a giant Wheel of Fortune spinner whirring away bringing the good and bad feelings at random.

In a moment of clear headspace I had an insightful conversation with myself. It went something like this.

Inner Voice: So Camille, where do you really want to be?

“In Colombia with mi novio.”

IV: Then why aren’t you there now?

“Because I didn’t have the money to go back straight away after my commitments back here.”

IV: But you’ve already met those commitments, so what are you still doing here?

“It’s really important for me that mi novio comes here to meet my family and friends and find out where I’m from before I move to Colombia indefinitely.”

IV: So?

“Money is a factor, you know how much the airfares are. And I need to have money to buy things for my new home in Colombia.”

IV: When has money ever really stopped you before?

“Yes but it also takes time for mi novio to get a tourist visa, so I’m working in a temporary job and dealing with the time apart from him so I can have it all.”

IV: Okay then, appreciate the journey because you will get there. Stop feeling hard done by, because this is your choice.

My inner voice is right of course. I need to enjoy the journey, enjoy the time I get to spend with just me before it is the two of us and appreciate that distance is making our relationship stronger.

Are you in, or have been in, a long distance relationship? How are you coping or did you cope with the distance?