Lesson 2: How to Manage Long Distance Relationships

I am British born and raised (yes, British, not English! My Scottish mum would not be happy at the number of people who get that confused), but I live in Portugal. And, I’m just here to say that long-distance relationships are hard.

The phone calls, the voice notes, the zoom calls, sending presents across borders, changing time zones, busy schedules… there’s a lot to it. It’s a lot more demanding than the usual British way of texting “pub?” and being there within the hour. There’s a lot more real, thoughtful effort to be put in than when you live in the same city as someone. It also takes reciprocal effort, which can be difficult when you’re the one that’s far away, and life back home seems to be going on without you at a faster pace than ever.

When I talk about long-distance relationships here, I’m not talking about romantic ones. What I’m talking about are the other kinds of relationships, with family, friends, colleagues and writers.

So many are simply lost when you move away. The casual acquaintanceships that needed a little more nurturing; the old colleagues you were particularly fond of; the owners of the local chippie or corner shop; the people you saw every week at dance class. When you think about it, there’s a lot that makes a place feel like home.

Without getting too deep into my personal life…

Being hours of well-organised travel away from many of the most important people in my life is more difficult than I imagined. Sometimes, it’s the support. I missed it more than ever with the stress of launching Outloud Magazine whilst working a full time job and keeping up 101 hobbies (and maintaining my sanity). Sometimes it’s the guilt of being so far away when they need me.

For a long time, travelling was an escape for me. I would go away for a while, sometimes for months at a time, but I would always end up back in the UK. More specifically, with my family ten minutes down the road, and my best friend a slightly longer bus ride away.

I never expected my stay in Portugal to last more than a couple of months, but here I am over a year later, and Lisbon really feels like home. I actually officially received my residency card a few weeks ago (yay!), but there is still a lot of paperwork to follow (thanks, Brexit). Now I’m finally free to travel again (bizarre Portuguese bureaucracy had me kind of trapped here), which is probably why all of this has been on my mind this week. 

Living in another country is not something out of the ordinary for millions of people around the world, and it is something I manage quite well. (At least, I think so. Maybe you’d be better off asking my mum).

What has been more of a challenge, and an unexpected one to say the least, has been maintaining relationships with the writers at Outloud from many miles away.

Long-Distance Writer Relationships

I’m sure many of you can relate to the experience of learning to communicate remotely during the pandemic. That was an experience in itself! But although my day job can be quite creative, I do a lot of the idea-generating solo. I’m usually either given a task to complete or a project to work on, or I’m told to come up with some ideas and report back. All this cross-border collaboration stuff is very new to me.

Come to think of it, it’s not very often that I have led a Zoom meeting, and that might be more my point. I remember the first meeting we had about Outloud. It was daunting. The thing about Zoom calls is that you can really see everyone looking at you. It’s not like being in a real room, where people are taking notes or looking around or distracted by a presentation or display screen. No, everyone is looking right at you. For a minute I was stumped, even though I had planned out everything I was going to say.

Learning to help writers through their creative process over a Zoom call has been a steep learning curve for me. As has keeping up with their progress, offering feedback, and generally giving them the support I would like to provide them with.

As grateful as I am for modern technology and everything it has given us and the magazine, I am less grateful for the lack of development teleportation-wise.

Oh, to have a writers room.

Open Doors & New Experiences

Anyway, enough doom and gloom for one column! As challenging as it has been, I am learning every day, and that’s something I will always be grateful for.

I’m also grateful that, with the removal of these barriers, we can have people contributing to Outloud from all over the world. Whilst our columnists are spread nondescriptly across Europe (they’re always travelling!), other writers and interviewees are coming in from even further afield.

Over the coming weeks and months, we have interviewees lined up from across Europe, Canada, the US, and even India. So, I am increasingly grateful that our remote-based team has led to these opportunities, for myself and for the magazine.

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