Our story

Being in a long distance relationship for 2 years gives you plenty of stories to tell. Because we understand not everyone may be up for a mini novel, we wrote 2 versions of our story. For those of you who like to get to the point, we hope you enjoy the bite-sized version. And for those who love to indulge in a love story there’s a detailed and raw version.

Whichever one you choose, we hope you enjoy! Want to know more about us individually? You can find out more by clicking here . Please feel free to drop any questions or comments below.

The short version

We met online early 2015 with roughly 5.500 km (3.400 miles) between us. We spent about 2 years of traveling back and forth before we could finally settle down together in the Netherlands. During those 2 years we were together 4 times with the longest being 3 months, we wrote each other 45 letters, 1 for each week we had to be apart after meeting in person and we spent a total of 333 excruciatingly long days missing each other after that first visit.

Many events happened over the course of those 2 years. We dealt with a 6 hour time difference on the daily, Tommy worked overnight jobs just so we would be able to talk every day. There were bad internet connections, bureaucratic hurdles and setbacks, heartache, depression and even loss and grief, all while being apart. Fortunately life wasn’t just a fight to make it work. We also spent our first Christmas and New Year’s together, we got engaged, found an apartment, got married and got Tommy’s residency in the Netherlands approved.

Now here we are happily married and living together, finally able to really breathe, trying to complete our bucket list and experience as much in this life as we can.

Hopeless romantics, keep reading below for the full and raw version.

Top tips to survive a long distance relationship letters

Where it all began

Back in 2015 things were very rocky in both of our lives to say the least. Little did we know that we were about to embark on a life changing journey. It all started with a simple ‘Hi’ on Kik messenger. He was there out of boredom, she was there to exchange art tips. And neither one was even remotely interested in falling in love. Well, sometimes life has different plans!

We fairly quickly established that we both were definitely who we said we were through very awkward introduction videos. Those videos turned into more awkward videos and before we knew it we were talking daily.

“I feel like I’ve known you forever.”

Every day we learned more about each other, growing closer and closer. We went from being strangers to what seemed as if we had been each other’s best friend forever. There were similar interests, passions and dreams. We had even experienced very similar pain. Before long neither of us could imagine a day going by without us talking. We could talk for hours on end, about absolutely anything.

That 4 letter word

Playful comments started being made about meeting up in the Netherlands. We hit it off online and what’s the harm in meeting up as friends? Worst thing that could happen was there not being a connection in person. In which case Tommy would still get to explore a country he had never been to before. Looking back at this, the way we approached it was so naive. Maybe it was being afraid of admitting it to ourselves, maybe it was fear of how this could ever work. But when your heart jumps at the sound of a chat notification, that’s when you know there’s something ‘more than friends’ going on in the good old feelings department.

“I still think it’s crazy but, I think I’ve already fallen in love with you.”

It took us less than 2 months of talking daily to admit we had fallen head over heels for each other. At that time we had no idea what that even meant for us since Tommy was living just north of Boston, USA and Djamila was living in the Netherlands. The last thing she wanted was to start a long distance relationship since ‘those always end in heartbreak.’ He was willing to come see me anyway and take his chances of ever seeing me again after that.

“I know it’s late and I didn’t want to wake you, I just need to tell you something. You don’t have to say it back but I love you.”

After a late night face time session Djamila went to bed and I tried to go about the rest of my evening. Mind you, there is a 6 hour time difference between Boston and the Netherlands. Something didn’t feel right to me about the way the video call ended, there was one more thing I felt I needed to say. I didn’t want to wake her but I knew I had to make this call. It was almost 3 am and her phone rang, confused she answered. Despite the uncertainty about how things would go in person, I knew that I loved her and I couldn’t hold it in anymore. Afraid to get her heart broken Djamila couldn’t say it back even though in her heart she knew that she loved me too.

The 2 week long first date

7 months after meeting online we finally met at the airport. With barely any sleep and a ton of nerves we started our 2 week adventure. We rented a car and a vacation home and finally had the opportunity to spend some actual time together. Absolutely inseparable we were and needless to say that same strong connection was still there in person.

First visit. Finally together

Finally together!

First visit. Together in the apartment

Enjoying each other’s company in our vacation apartment

Time flew by and before we knew it we were approaching that dreaded goodbye. On one of our last nights together Tommy suggested we got out of bed to go for a drive. That drive became one of our dearest memories. It was dark and no one was on the road. We were holding hands while waiting for the light to turn green and James Bay’s ‘Hold Back The River’, our song, came on the radio. As if to further confirm we were indeed meant to be together. At this point there was no question about how things were supposed to go from here. We were going to fight for a future together and give it our all, no matter what.

First visit. Together at the zoo

At the zoo for Djamila’s birthday

First visit. Together at the beach

Enjoying our last days together

Back to reality

At 6:30 am we woke up, tired and our eyes swollen from crying. This was it, that awful goodbye. One last hug, one last kiss and then he walked away, leaving me behind, both heartbroken. The best way we could describe that feeling is as if your soul is torn from your body, leaving behind nothing more than an empty shell. We agreed that I would fly out to Boston the following January to spend another 2 weeks together, but that was a long time away.

“Your absence is screaming in my face, I miss you so much and it hurts so bad.”

We were both absolutely miserable. We started planning our next visit to try and forget the pain. Because they saw how hard it was on the both of us, Djamila’s parents ended up giving us the best early Christmas present ever, by inviting me over for the holiday season. This meant we were just given 3 additional weeks together.

For 13 weeks we were counting down the days, talking to each other as much as we could. Every spare second was dedicated to either texting, phone calls or video calls. For every week we had to be apart we wrote a letter to each other. This helped a lot because it not only gave us something tangible but also something to look forward to every week. Slowly but surely the weeks went by and our reunion was right around the corner again.

The most wonderful time of the year

After the 2 weeks we spent together the first time, we felt so incredibly lucky to have 5 whole weeks this time around. The first 3 were spent with Djamila’s family in the Netherlands. Our days were filled with fun outings during the day and playing cards and watching ‘Dexter’ in our tiny room at night. Spending time doing the most mundane things had never been this great. We couldn’t be happier.

Tea and cake outing

Out for some tea and cake

Cards and Indonesian snacks

Evenings filled with card games and Indonesian snacks

Christmas outing

Holiday cheer everywhere

Being silly

Doing what we’re good at; being silly!

The holidays came and went by again. We felt so blessed to be able to spend it together. To both finish out 2015 and start 2016 together was such a gift. It truly was a magical time filled with so much love and holiday cheer.

Christmas kisses

No mistletoe needed!

Our first Christmas dinner

Christmas 2015, our first Christmas dinner together

After the holidays we slowly started preparing for our 2 week trip to the States. There were definitely some mixed feelings, especially for Tommy. Even though we were still together, he was heading home so in a way his trip was almost over. However we were determined to have an amazing time together and keep the tears at a minimum.

She said yes!

Our hotel at Boston’s North Shore served as the perfect home away from home. We were able to do our own cooking and have a lazy day staying in whenever we felt like it. It was January so there was plenty of opportunity for Djamila to experience a New England winter. There were long nights spent by the fireplace, late night drives where it seemed we were the only people in the world and plenty of fun and laughter playing in the snow.

Snow fun at Cape Elizabeth

Snow fun at Cape Elizabeth

Night drive in Beverly

On one of our night time drives

Games and tea by the fireplace

Games and tea by the fireplace

Every day was memorable to us, we were together and went on some awesome outings. We pretended to be shopping for our imaginary house in Europe at Jordan’s Furniture, we visited the New England Aquarium and had the best pizza at Pizzeria Regina in Boston’s North End to name a few. There is however one day that was most memorable to the both of us. That was the day where Djamila said yes!

At the New England Aquarium

Having fun at the New England Aquarium

Shopping at Jordan's Furniture

“Do you ship this to our (imaginary) house in Europe?”

Smiles at Regina Pizzeria

Smiles at Regina Pizzeria

The best pizza at Regina Pizzeria

The best ever pizza!

Everything was planned out well – Djamila had no idea exactly how well – for a road trip to Maine. It was still early in the morning as we made our way to our first stop, a scenic drive on the Kancamagus highway in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. The views were absolutely breathtaking and it was Djamila’s first time seeing mountains. She excitedly took it all in, not suspecting a thing about what was going to happen next.

Kancamagus Highway

Excited about the mountains and with no idea what was about to happen

Highest point Kancamagus Highway

Right before the proposal at the highest point

At the highest point, just under 3000 feet, we got out of the car to admire the view. There was no one around, tiny glistening snowflakes were softly falling down on the snow covered trees and mountains.

“I love you.” “I love you too.” “Enough to spend forever with me?”

For a few moments we stood there in awe, in a peaceful silence. A warm and loving embrace followed. He told me he loved me, I said I loved him too. Then he asked me if I loved him enough to spend forever with him. Surprised I looked at him and saw the beautiful ring he presented to me. The next few minutes pretty much consisted of me saying “Oh my god” repeatedly after which I excitedly accepted the proposal. It truly was such a magical moment in the most magical setting! We carried on enjoying the mountains and continuing our way to Maine and eventually back to the hotel as an engaged couple.

We just got engaged

We just got engaged!!

As always time flies when you’re having fun and so the day of our goodbye greeted us that morning like an unwanted guest. Sadness got the better of us, our last few hours together were mostly spent hugging and crying. Djamila was so reluctant to leave that she even suggested to make a run for Canada. Not that that would have made any difference!

“I can’t even begin to explain how bad it hurt watching you walk away.”

We waited as long as we could before Djamila finally made her way to security. Goodbyes never get any easier, letting go of each other was a slow and painful process. Walking away from him, us both in tears, was the hardest thing I had ever done.

You say jump, we say no thanks

The thing is, this time around we thought it was going to be the last time we ever had to be apart. The plan was to both find full time jobs, save up and apply for Tommy’s residency permit. All this was supposed to happen over the course of roughly 4 months. Sounds easy enough right? Wrong! The plan we were holding onto so tightly quickly crumbled and left us in a slight state of panic.

Fast forward a ton of bureaucratic hoops, we learned we were not going to be able to get any of the required documents any time soon. As he was trying to talk me down from a meltdown upon hearing the bad news, Tommy suggested moving up the wedding so we could apply for his residency as a married couple, which made things easier in our case. As quickly as we ran with this new plan, even quicker we found out that getting married while not living in the same country also requires a bunch of bureaucratic hoops. Well, when you say jump, we say no thanks and find another way!

“Why don’t we get married in Vegas?”

Thanks to Tommy we did find another way. This way however was kind of ‘out there’ for us and my first thought was it had to be a joke. “Why don’t we get married in Vegas?” While it’s not as easy as they make it seem on TV, getting married in Las Vegas was our best and easiest option. I needed a little convincing but quickly got excited about this latest plan.

Even though one aspect of applying for residency seemed sorted, at this point we knew there was too much left to deal with before we could actually apply. With this not being the best news, we wanted to be together for as long as possible the next visit and staying at Djamila’s parents house wasn’t going to cut it. That’s why she was going to find us an apartment so I could make full use out of the 90 days I was allowed in the country at a time.

5 months, 21 weeks, 148 days

To us these 5 months were all about working hard to achieve our goals after dealing with all the bureaucratic setbacks. It only motivated us more to make it all happen. Tommy even sacrificed sleep by working an overnight job just so our schedules would line up and we could talk every day. We kept sending each other a letter a week. The stack of envelopes was daunting this time, being almost twice the size as the last stack. The occasional surprise package was sent as the sender eagerly awaited the other’s response on FaceTime. I remember sitting down for dinner with my family one evening when the doorbell rang. Confused my dad got up and came back into the kitchen with the prettiest bunch of roses and a teddy bear. Now that’s Tommy for you.

Surprise flowers and teddy bear

How sweet is this?!

For months Djamila kept a close eye on available rentals. Finding an apartment proved to be quite the challenge, but she did it! After a ton of disappointments we finally got picked for an apartment in the area we wanted. Now all there was left to do is continue to work hard and wait to be together again.

Goodbye

With Djamila finding us an apartment everything seemed to be taking shape and our reunion wasn’t far away now. Then events took a heartbreaking turn. My sister, who had been battling a rare brain tumor for about 4 years at the time, got sicker by the day. About two weeks before I was heading for the Netherlands again, she passed away at only 29 years of age. Not being able to be together just got a whole lot more difficult for us. This was the time I needed Djamila the most, life and the distance made that impossible. It was incredibly difficult to deal with this by myself, I was absolutely devastated. Djamila was so upset that she couldn’t physically be there for me. Of course I knew all this but it didn’t make it any easier. All I wanted now was to come home, back into her arms.

The Pre-move

A very long and difficult 5 months had passed when we finally fell into each other’s arms again. We had already come such a long way and knowing that we had 90 days together, in our own apartment was such an amazingly comforting feeling. Even though Tommy’s grieving process was only just starting, there were a lot of things to look forward to too. We pretty much were moving in together, that’s why we called these 3 months the ‘pre-move.’ As opposed to the previous visits, we got a taste of every day life together with me working full time. We went furniture shopping for real this time, painted the house and made it our own. It was incredible after all this distance to have our own place together. Even though we knew Tommy had to leave again, we shared a home now.

Finally in our own home

Finally reunited and for the first time in our own home

Painting the house

Djamila laying the ground work

Handyman Tommy putting together our furniture

Handyman Tommy putting together our furniture

Living together was even better than we could have imagined. We loved the simple things such as cooking together, being able to have breakfast together, play cards and watch our shows. Routine made way for fun outings every now and then with the biggest being our first vacation together. Yes we had been traveling back and forth between Boston and the Netherlands but we hadn’t really had a vacation yet. Our one year anniversary was the perfect excuse to take a lovely break to Disneyland Paris. It was such a magical trip and the perfect way to celebrate our first year of ‘officially’ being a couple.

Magical moments at Disneyland Paris

Magical moments at Disneyland Paris

The days after our Disney getaway were increasingly marked by sadness. Living together these past 3 months had been such a gift. One neither of us was willing to give up yet. 90 days seemed like forever at the beginning, yet they went by so fast. At the time we didn’t know it, but luckily this was the beginning of the last time we had to be apart.

The final stretch

Coming home alone after that goodbye was like a punch in the gut. Never had I been alone in our apartment before. I was trying to hold it together but when our dog Lizzy started searching the house for Tommy when I got back alone, I broke. She jumped on the couch, parking her tiny butt next to me and together we just sat there in sadness. I could tell she was missing him too. Every inch of our home reminded me of him and made it that much harder to ignore his absence. Finding the sweetest notes he left for me all around the house didn’t make that any easier. I had convinced myself to stay put and sleep in our own home, but as the evening came I ended up calling my parents to pick me up. In my pajamas, packed with my stuff under one arm, Lizzy in the other and tears rolling down my face I got in my dad’s car. It was going to be a long 3 months.

“I smelled your cologne and for the briefest moment I was right  back in your arms.”

It took a while for Djamila to get comfortable in our apartment again. We slowly eased her back into it by keeping FaceTime on as she was trying to fall asleep. This way she wasn’t entirely alone because I was watching over her as she tried to fall asleep. I was back living with my dad and stepmother again but my heart was still in the Netherlands. We both tried to get back into a routine. For me that also meant trying to find another job, again. Every time I left for the Netherlands I had to quit my job and find a new one when coming back. Days slowly went by, we worked, talked, wrote our letters and tried to keep our focus on the future. We really wanted to apply for my residency permit the next time I would visit Djamila. Step 1 was to finally set a wedding date! Step 2 was planning the actual wedding. This step was both so much fun and so stressful at the same time. Try planning a somewhat traditional wedding in Las Vegas, on a budget over FaceTime. Yes, not ideal as you can imagine but it was good to be busy with positive things. Step 3 was acquiring a certain type of contract at Djamila’s job. This was a vital part of our residency application, one we were extremely nervous about.

“I miss you and think about you every minute of every day.”

After fighting long and hard to get the contract I unfortunately had to share bad news with Tommy, I didn’t get it. What on earth were we supposed to do now? Finding another job that would offer me the contract was a one in a million chance. We looked into every other possible way to get Tommy here permanently but nothing would work without that contract. I started to feel the pressure of everything, the application, the disappointment of the contract, planning the wedding and being alone. I was really struggling there for a bit. Luckily with Tommy’s support and some down time I got back to my old self again. However I couldn’t wait for the next 2 months to be over so I could finally steal a hug again.

Welcome home 

December finally came around and we were so ready to close this distance! Just in time for the holidays I made it back home to such a warm welcome. Lizzy went absolutely crazy upon seeing me and the house was so inviting in all its Christmas decorations. We couldn’t wait to celebrate our first Christmas in our own home. We kept it low key and just enjoyed our time together. Our main focus rightnow was preparing for our trip to Las Vegas in January to get married.

Christmas 2016 in our own home

Christmas 2016 in our own home

Christmas 2016

Christmas 2016

Getting married in Vegas was not something I ever thought I’d do. I’m not really a party girl to begin with so this was quite out of my comfort zone. Then again, I also said I would never get into a long distance relationship and look how that turned out. The hardest thing was not having our families there, so who knows we might do it all over again and throw a big party one day! On the other hand this seemed so ‘us.’ We always had that ‘us against the world’ feeling, traveling was always a part of our relationship and without adapting we would have never survived. So in a way, traveling to a crazy destination with just the two of us seemed to really fit. I was set on keeping things as traditional as possible, so we quickly decided to stay away from all the chapels. With the Venetian as our location, my traditional wedding dress, Tommy’s suit and a great professional photographer I’d say we did pretty well for a non-Vegas style Vegas wedding. Now all we had to do was hop on 2 planes, pick up our marriage license and tie that knot!

Wedding bells and neon lights

On the morning of our wedding day we woke up really early because of the jet-lag. We took our time and actually watched a bunch of ‘Catfish’ episodes in bed for a while. It felt so surreal that we were actually getting married that day. As a little wedding present to ourselves we booked a night at the Venetian so we made our way there to see if we could get an early check-in. Not only were we able to check in early, we also got a complimentary upgrade to a higher floor with a view! The room was absolutely gorgeous and we had never stayed anywhere this classy and pretty before. That afternoon I had an appointment in our room to have my hair and makeup done, I started to feel like an actual bride! Tommy looked so handsome in his suit and I felt so pretty in my dress.

Wedding Venetian

Inside the Venetian with its beautiful classic style

Wedding outside the Venetian

One of our favorite pictures outside the Venetian

Our photographer took us around the hotel to get some pre-ceremony shots, it felt so weird at first to pose with all these people around, congratulating us. However our photographer was great at making us feel at ease in no time and we ended up having a lot of fun. The ceremony took place at sunset, we had both written our own vows and Djamila’s parents joined us via FaceTime. We shared laughs, some tears and so much love, it truly was a very beautiful and intimate ceremony. As Mr. and Mrs. we headed towards the Las Vegas strip for some nighttime pictures with all the lights and Bellagio’s fountain show. Satisfied and in love we came back to the hotel to get changed for our wedding dinner. It was our photographer who recommended going to this amazing Italian restaurant where we ended up having some incredible food. They even treated us to a complimentary celebration dessert! That night we laid down in bed, for the first time as husband and wife, tired from a day full of excitement. Filled with gratitude we can now look back at a somewhat unconventional yet amazing wedding day.

At the Venetian's gondola rides

At the Venetian’s gondola rides

Wedding Las Vegas Strip

Kisses at the Las Vegas Strip

At the Bellagio

At the Bellagio fountains

Our first full day as husband and wife couldn’t have been spent any better. Excited to escape the craziness of the Strip, we hopped in our rental car for a road trip to Zion National Park for a mini honeymoon trip if you will. For our actual honeymoon we went to Norway, during our one year wedding anniversary but that’s a story for another time. Looking back we definitely wanted more time to explore the park but we had a great day nonetheless. Our short trip to Las Vegas was coming to an end and before we knew it we were already back at the airport the next morning, awaiting a long way back home. 

Irish luck for the new Mr. & Mrs.

Coming home to a decorated front door and house was the cutest thing ever. Djamila’s parents surprised us with some balloons and the whole shebang for our first time coming home as newlyweds. We were jet-lagged beyond measure and ended up cooking noodles at 3 am in the morning but none of that mattered because we did it, we actually got married. The post-wedding bliss slowly turned into regular daily life again and we were getting ready to file for my residency permit. You might ask yourself ‘how?’ since that whole contract thing fell through. Well, it turned out Djamila’s job came through for us after all (yay!) so all we needed to obtain now was our marriage certificate. 

Newlyweds surprise

A super cute surprise to come home to!

After all the goodbyes, the tears, the heartbreak and the struggle, the day was finally there where we could file for Tommy’s residency permit. It was St. Patrick’s day in 2017 when we personally handed in all the paperwork at the immigration office. We were too paranoid to leave something we worked so hard for to the post office, no offense. With a huge sense of accomplishment we left the building to get some Guinness for a well deserved celebration that evening. Believe it or not, our song ‘Hold Back The River’ played as we were in the store. Considering it was 2 years after it was a popular radio song we took this as a sign of good old Irish luck that everything was going to work itself out perfectly fine. 

Lucky Guinnes

Our lucky Guinness beers!

It was a very weird feeling that after all our hard work, none of it was in our hands anymore. Our fate was now in the hands of a stranger sitting at a desk, trying to do their job and decide whether I could stay in the country. Nerve wrecking to say the least! On the morning of April 25th 2017 we got a call from Djamila’s mom saying she received a letter from the immigration office addressed to me. Don’t ask me why they sent it there because we have no idea. Immediately we put on some clothes to pick up the letter. Could it be the final decision? Wasn’t it too soon? Did that mean we were denied? Nervous as can be we quickly headed over and went straight back home because we wanted to open it there. If this indeed was the decision that either meant our days of doing long distance were over or that I had to leave the country pretty much immediately. With shaking hands Djamila opened the letter, surprised she said that it very simply stated I could pick up my residency permit. To double check that information she immediately called to confirm I could indeed stay. After that confirmation it slowly started to sink in that all our hard work had finally paid off, I could stay. No more goodbyes, no more lonely nights and no more missing each other so badly. We couldn’t feel more proud, accomplished and in love because we finally actually did it.

On a final note

If you made it this far, thank you so much for reading our story, you rock! We hope you laughed, cried and went ‘aww’ a bunch of times or at the very least enjoyed it. If you are currently doing long distance yourself, hopefully our story inspires you to hang in there, because it can work out! It was one of the hardest things either of us ever did, but it was more than worth it and we would do it all over again if we had to. To dreams, to inspiration and most of all to love, cheers!

3 Comments

  1. October 1, 2018 / 7:22 pm

    Hi Guys,

    Great and wonderful site! lots of information, colorful and nice pictures. I’ve tried every link on the site and they are all working. Great!
    I’m glad that I may give you guys the first reply on your site. The only remark that I must give you is the brightness of your tekst. Maybe a little bit darker? Or maybe I’m just getting old..

    Anyway, I’m very proud of you guys. Lots of love and keep up the good work!
    Your dad

    • togethertheytravel
      Author
      October 1, 2018 / 7:24 pm

      Thanks so much dad! Haha maybe you are just getting old 😉 The text is nearly black haha. Thanks so much for the feedback, greatly appreciated!

  2. Marisa
    October 3, 2018 / 2:35 pm

    It s a wonderful story and i am very proud of you both

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *