Sorry, I know that technically Valentine’s Day was yesterday but I have some really huge life updates that I want you to know about so I figured this post was better late than never. Please forgive it for arriving a bit late. If I could only begin to explain to you how insanely busy these last few months have been for me… I would! In this post, I’ll give it a shot.
Some of you may have picked up on a few of the little hints I’ve dropped in my previous posts that I have returned home from my backpacking trip for the holidays at the end of 2018. That is true. I did. For many different reasons, it was necessary. While I still plan to travel, I had a few important things to take care of first.
Homeward Bound Just Before December!
I wasn’t anticipating returning back to the United States anytime soon. After a particular phone conversation with my mom and dad, I started to scramble to readjust my budget because I needed to fly all the way back to America and on short notice, that isn’t always cheap! My trips are entirely self-funded so I didn’t want to rely on my family to get me home. The result? I had a three-leg flight. First to Austria, then to Spain (no, I didn’t get to see my boyfriend), and finally back to the United States.
Spending Time Around Loved Ones
First and foremost, I needed to see my family and friends again after being abroad on my own for six months. Being away from everyone that you know isn’t easy. Jorge joined me for a month or two which helped but I was still traveling solo for quite a while! While I may be an introvert who gains energy from time spent alone, at the end of the day, I still also need to recharge by surrounding myself with people whom I love and care about.
Long-Distance Relationship Updates
As you know, Jorge and I spent a decent chunk of time together during my trip. We saw each other in Greece, Spain, and even in Poland! We learn from the time we spend together and the time we spend apart.
So much has happened in every destination I’ve visited while backpacking that I am still working on writing, compiling my photos, and putting together all of the stories to share memories from my first backpacking trip. For the most part, the stories that I’m writing are all post-Jorge since he had to leave to begin his master’s degree program in Madrid after he visited me in Poland. While I’ve fallen a bit behind on those stories, I want my readers to be up-to-date on my life events so you understand what is happening in the meantime.
Hence, the reason for me writing this post.
Jorge and I started brainstorming ways to spend more time together in the future. Due to Schengen visa laws, after my 90 days were up, we would be unable to see each other anywhere in Europe for another 90 days once I departed from Poland. That, in a nutshell, is perhaps the greatest struggle regarding travel logistics when an American dates a European. With the expenses being as high as they already are to fly back and forth, it is even worse when the laws prevent you from being able to see one another.
After leaving Poland, things got rough for the two of us. Jorge and I barely talked for a whole month while I did my own thing in the next country I set off to visit. It wasn’t until I was already at my “last” destination that we got back in touch with one another to have a serious conversation about the future of our relationship. From that conversation, new possibilities were born.
The Brainstorming Phase
There were questions I have never asked Jorge because I think I was afraid to face them. With certain questions, it was easier to always avoid them. I sat alone on a bed in a country I barely knew thinking to myself that if things aren’t meant to be between me and him… I would need to make a conscious decision to move on, to carry on with my life, and to give a whole-hearted effort into convincing myself to move on.
I couldn’t handle being in this weird state of purgatory any longer.
I needed for me and him to talk again. I needed a two-way dialogue. I wanted answers to my questions and I finally felt like I deserved them. With more information, I could finally make a choice for myself about what to do next in our relationship. If we were going to breakup for good, I wanted to know so I could go into that mental space. If we weren’t, I wanted to talk about other options.
The Challenges of Being in a Long Distance Relationship
Since Jorge is enrolled in a master’s degree program, I would never ask him to stop that for any reason. For that sole reason, Jorge would be staying in Spain for two years no matter what. If the master’s degree would benefit his future and make him a more valuable professional, the most important thing to me is that he completes the program he set out to finish. With all we’ve been through, I still didn’t even know if he was still considering wanting to live in America. We talked about the future. As much as I love Spain, since I don’t speak any Spanish (at all), it never felt like a practical or feasible option for me to live there.
In terms of other countries, there were different places I fell in love with during my trip. At times, I would wonder what it might be like to live in some of those places long-term. Of course, becoming a resident of another country isn’t always a straightforward or easy process. Even if it was unreasonable, it crossed my mind.
Going back to the original question: What could we do to be together?
Where could we live? And how?
How Can An American Live With a European?
I looked into options to see how I could legally go to Spain to be with Jorge. Even if only to see how it goes over the course of a few months initially, it would still be better than being apart in the meantime. We began to research ways I could come. Aside from a tourist entry which grants you a stay of no longer than 90 days, we found our other options really boiled down to:
- Get married.
- Get hired to work for a Spanish company.
- Enroll in a Spanish academy or university.
- A special relationship visa that I discovered called a Pareja de Hecho.
I have to say that when the topic of marriage came up, I really took a step back and thought…. oh my god… are we actually really having this conversation right now? I was overjoyed but shocked… and amused at how exactly it was happening! The fact that that could happen was just surreal to me in the moment. I know some people might say, “the world is a different place,” or, “you’re too young,” which I get but I still think it’s odd because both my mom and my dad were already married at my age and they both turned out fine. Still, the pareja de hecho seemed like the best option for us but the requirements are rather tricky. We decided that it would make the most sense for me to start off with a trip to Spain as a student.
Over the course of the last few months, I’ve been very busy gathering all of the documents to apply independently for a Spanish student visa. The process was anything but easy but I know it will be worth it. Spanish is such a great language to know especially when you’re already dating someone who speaks it as their native tongue.
Applying for a Student Visa
After months of gathering all of the student visa requirements, I scheduled an appointment at the corresponding consulate. I brought all of the requirements and submitted my application.
My appointment was on Chinese New Year! 🐷My family and I went into the city for the appointment. I appreciated them coming along to support me! So much work went into preparing for that single appointment that I had to book over 30 days in advance. Trying to get a long stay visa independently was a lot more involved than the visa process I went through to go to China 3 or 4 years back. I am feeling so relieved now that this HUGE step is over and I just need to wait for them to process everything. Since my appointment was on Chinese New Year (and in relation to Spain) it totally felt like the perfect day to wear red. ❤️ Hoping the year of the pig brings us all good luck, health, wealth, and much happiness! 😃