I Left My Boyfriend to Follow My Dreams

December 1, 2015
ha long bay vietnam

Thirteen months to be exact, that’s how long I went without seeing my boyfriend. I saw him on a screen every day but not once did I get to hold his hand or wedge my face into that cozy space between his jaw and shoulder.
Leaving Josh wasn’t easy. We had met in high school, fallen in love and have been together ever since. Josh and I were the sickly cute couple, building ginger bread houses at Christmas and carving pumpkins on Halloween.



We took road trips around America, tie-dyed t-shirts on weekends and left love notes on each other’s cars. We got our first apartment together, adopted two kittens and backpacked around Europe as a duo.


Our lives were deeply intertwined and after 9 years together, I left him to follow my dreams.
Teaching English abroad was one of those ideas I’d read about in a book and couldn’t get off my mind. As I spent my nights waitressing, being yelled at for not bringing ketchup fast enough, the idea was seeming more appealing.



Traveling the world was my dream and actually living abroad felt like a sure way to make it happen. I did some research, worked on a teaching certification online and started to apply for jobs.
Aside from anxiously waiting for replies, I spent my days staring at maps, fantasizing about weekends spent on the Great Wall and vacations to South Korea and Japan.
The day I received the email was one I’m unlikely to forget. “Congratulations, we would like to offer you a teaching position………” I didn’t even finish reading it. I nearly threw my lap top on the floor, screaming and running around the house; doing one of those ass shaking heavy victory dances.
“I got it!” , I squealed. I looked to Josh to celebrate my victory and was met with a face sporting a supportive grin but eyes showing disappointment and pain. It was happening, I was leaving him behind to pursue a career and my travel dreams.
During the six months leading up to my move, we thought about what was coming and were happy about the change. Some days however, we wrapped ourselves under the blanket in bed and swore we would never leave.


Plans started to be made and we never questioned the fact that we would stay together, doing long distance until Josh came out to China when my contract finished. He decided to uproot his life too, take our cats and some of his friends to Colorado to live, work and snowboard for the year.
I arranged my visa and Josh searched online for apartments.


We disassembled our apartment and eventually took a road trip across the country to Colorado.


I helped him move into his new apartment. I had to see what it looked like so I could picture him there when we spoke on the phone. Those last few days in Colorado were the worst. Everything we did, I couldn’t help but wonder if it would be the last time.
I lost it during our last breakfast that morning in Denver. The waiter must of thought that something was up. The crying never stopped. Not during the ride to the airport, not during our final hug by the terminal and not during the five times I turned around just to look at his face one last time.
OK, enough with the sap. Leaving each other was hard, but emotions started to level out as we got more comfortable with our new lives. There was plenty to talk about at the end of every day and we loved hearing about each other’s adventures. Some days were plagued by loneliness and crying but most weren’t.
Life was just how I imagined it would be. I loved my job and everything I encountered seemed interesting. I made friends with people from all over the world, learned to speak some Chinese and transformed myself from waitress/bartender to teacher and freelance tutor.



I visited every single city that I said I would and figured out how to socialize alone.
Josh eventually bought a one way ticket to Fuzhou and we started a countdown until his arrival. The months flew by and suddenly I found myself digging through my closet, trying to find the perfect outfit to wear for our reunion. I fiddled with my hair, re-did my makeup a few times and couldn’t believe how nervous I felt to see someone I had been dating for a huge majority of my life.
This upcoming moment was a scene I had imagined every day for over a year. I pictured a romantic reunion, meeting each other’s eyes as he walked into view-crying, hugging and (tactfully) making out.
While it was in fact a grand reunion, it was exactly none of the other things I thought it would be. I got on the bus far too late, left Josh slightly stranded at the gate and approached him as a sweaty mess, too out of breath from running to give him a proper kiss.
Life got back to normal pretty quickly. Josh met my friends, joined us for day trips to the countryside and drinking binges at our favorite bars. He worked from his computer in my apartment while I taught during the day and we met up for dinner and drinks when we finished.


Our relationship was recovering quite nicely, kind of like we never were apart.
Looking back on my decision to leave, I wouldn’t change a thing. It made us better partners, fostering trust and appreciation. To be honest, our relationship has flourished because of the time spent apart and continues to reflect that to this day, nearly a year since we reunited.
I went after my dreams and my boyfriend loved me harder for it. Anyone who is willing to sacrifice their own desires and comforts for me to better my life can have my heart any day. They deserve it.

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  • Reply Laura @ Grassroots Nomad December 1, 2015 at 9:03 am

    This is great! I’m sure you are both better for the experience – if you didn’t give it a go you would always regret it. My partner and I are doing a similar thing – he is spending 11 months sailing in a race around the world and I am traveling, volunteering and travel writing. We are 5 months in and meeting up for a few weeks over a Christmas! 🙂

    • Reply Livesabroad December 2, 2015 at 12:34 am

      What you wrote is exactly it! Eleven months will go by before you know it and I think what both of you are doing sounds so amazing. I’m sure you will have plenty to talk about when you meet up over Christmas!


  • Reply Agness December 1, 2015 at 8:04 pm

    I used to be in love when I was travelling. On one hand I wanted to stop and get as close to him as possible, but on the other hand I wanted to explore the world and continue my adventures. Now I’m single and I’m also happy :).

    • Reply Livesabroad December 2, 2015 at 12:33 am

      I am glad that you chose the world. I think that we can’t be truly happy with someone if we resent them for holding us back!


  • Reply tinne / ELSEWHERE December 12, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    wow what a story! I totally recognise the unstoppable crying part as saying goodbye and the reunion part (even though we ‘only’ spend 4 months apart, but we had no clue when we’d see each other again > visa applications etc). great it all worked out after all!

    • Reply Livesabroad December 18, 2015 at 12:54 am

      It’s tough but I think that it makes the relationship and both people involved much stronger and better for it. It builds character all around! I am glad that it worked out for you guys!


  • Reply Kelsey December 23, 2015 at 5:50 am

    Love this post! I’m moving to Thailand in February to teach English and my boyfriend will be moving to London for his job. At first, I was nervous about the long distance thing, but it just give us an excuse to travel even more!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Reply Livesabroad December 23, 2015 at 11:15 pm

      Hey Kelsey! Where in Thailand are you moving to teach? That is so exciting! It’s cool that your boyfriend is moving to London because you are right….more opportunity for cool travel times! Stay strong! It will all be wonderful!


  • Reply Dennis the Dane February 15, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    Loved reading your story, really inspiring. A true, real-life, love story with a happy ending. When I left traveling I was on my own, but I encountered love while being on the road in Australia and have written a story about it and the obstacles and dilemmas you face being in love while on the road. You can read it here, if you’re interested: http://heexplores.com/?p=120. But this one, I warn you, does not have a happy ending. 🙁

    • Reply Livesabroad February 15, 2016 at 7:52 pm

      Aw thanks for reading! I will have to check out your love story too! You will eventually have one with a happy ending I’m sure of it!


  • Reply Francia Benson May 18, 2016 at 1:06 am

    He wasn’t your boyfriend, he was your partner like a husband but not legally married. It is kind of miss leading. You were leaving together and for very long and sharing everything like husband and wife do. It should be clarified. I would like to know what was his first reaction when you told him that you would like to leave the home/pets/him to travel and teach? It certainly is not something anyone can do. People cannot simply their your husbands, “hey, I am leaving for a year and a half.” So, I don’t think things went as smoth as you are trying to portrait.

    • Reply Livesabroad May 18, 2016 at 1:21 am

      I believe that since it is MY relationship, I can define it however I want to. I don’t believe in marriage and I don’t have or want a husband. Josh was/is my BOYFRIEND. I use the word boyfriend when I talk about him to other people and when I introduce him to other people. So no, the title is not misleading. Our living situation is extremely clarified because I mentioned it in the article. His first reaction was something that I also put in the article. He was happy for me but sad at the same time. I also never claimed that ANYONE could do what I did even though I believe anything is possible so technically, people could do it if they wanted it enough. Also, I think you are implying that women are bound to their husbands and can’t do anything of their own free will. I’m sorry you feel that way but that is not how I look at life or relationships. I am my own person and I can do what makes me happy. That’s fine if you don’t THINK things went as smoothly as I am portraying but since I am the one who experienced this life event and not you, I can tell you that what you THINK is WRONG in this case. We did experience struggle and I say that in the article.

  • Reply Layla Turner May 25, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    Excellent comeback.
    As if writing/blogging about personal life events isn’t hard enough, without some stranger claiming you ‘didn’t write about it correctly’. Ugh. Everyone has a bloody opinion on the internet. Including me apparently, haha! 🙂

    • Reply Livesabroad May 29, 2016 at 3:48 pm

      haha thanks for the support Layla! The internet is a weird place and the comment sections are where the strangest of them all come out of hiding!


  • Reply Caro March 16, 2017 at 1:18 am

    Hi Shannon,
    I loved your post. I am in your boyfriends situation at the moment. My living-in boyfriend (we have been together almost 4 years) has left to Thailand for health reasons (physically and mentally). He suffers from chronic migraines and he has found relief there. I stayed in our place finishing my studies.. It’s been a month, and despite we really love each other we have struggle a lot in our relationship so it was also like a escape he took (in my opinion). He is so much happier there, everytime we talk I see him laughing and telling me about his adventures, etc.. And well at first I am super happy he is finally happy (after having so much pain here) but I feel left behind to be honest and Im struggling to cope with the whole situation. Anyways, I really hope it works out for us too <3


    • Reply Livesabroad March 23, 2017 at 4:50 pm

      Hey Caro! Thanks so much for reaching out. I completely understand your situation! It is hard not to feel left out! But, like you said, you are finishing your studies and that is what is best for you! You should be happy that you are doing something good for yourself and your future. Keep talking to each other as much as possible and maybe make plans to go out to Thailand and visit. Do you think you will go out there to be with him once you finish your studies?

      • Reply Caro March 24, 2017 at 11:40 am

        Hi Shannon,
        Thank you for the advice, I’m happy and grateful I am doing what’s best for me in the moment. Unfortunately I presume he is not on board with us as a relationship, and I guess it is something I have been feeling for a long time. He says one thing and does other. I don’t want to bore you with all the conflicted and sad feelings I have right now, but the contact declined very fast, and I am not even sure about his whereabouts, one day he says to my face (well, through facetime) how much he misses me, loves me and wants to make plans together and then for 3 days we don’t talk at all or doesn’t want to be bothered… It became really rough for me since I am abroad in his country (Germany), far from my family and friends, and he is one of the main reasons I am here.. But I will stay positive for myself, and keep moving on and also being inspired by your blog 🙂

        • Reply Livesabroad March 24, 2017 at 5:44 pm

          I think that everything happens for a reason and there is a good reason why it may not be working out. Maybe you are meant for something bigger and will find a better relationship in the future. If he doesn’t want to keep your relationship going, then he doesn’t deserve to be with you anyway! Keep staying positive and working on yourself!

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