The global pandemic has been a stressful period for many, and while some of us have been lucky to experience lockdown with our families here in Asia, some have had to weather the storm alone.
With international travel bans in place for the foreseeable future, many couples and families have been forced to remain apart from their loved ones.
To ease the stress and provide emotional support for those dealing with long-distance relationships due to the pandemic, a global grassroots movement #LoveIsNotTourism was coined in 2020. The group aims to help couples unite with each other, provide support to those who are separated geographically, and highlight successful couples who have been reunited. So far, the group’s Love Is Not Tourism Facebook group has garnered 47,000 members, while its other group, Couples Separated by Travel Bans, has 17,000 members.
We recently spoke to three couples separated by travel restrictions to find out how they’re coping and how they’ve managed to maintain a long-distance relationship throughout the pandemic.
Celine Castro, 21
Celine, based in Mexico, met her boyfriend who lives in Myanmar, on Facebook. The two have been teaching each other Spanish and English, respectively.
Having met online during the pandemic, the two have not been able to meet. “The distance, obviously, is our biggest challenge because we are not even on the same continent, and we really want to be together. Still, we haven’t stopped talking to each other, but it has become a little more complicated due to the current situation in his country,” says Castro through Facebook Messenger.
Despite how long it’s been, Castro shares that the couple planned to meet when the pandemic ends. “I think the key thing to overcoming these challenges is patience and love. For us, I hope we’ll have better understanding and communication as well.”
Queen Conjurado, 22
Queen and her husband, Michael, met in 2016 through Facebook. Queen, who is based in the Philippines, added Michael on Facebook after seeing that he was friends with her cousin who lives in Switzerland.
For two years, the young couple courted each other online without ever meeting. It was only when Michael flew from Switzerland to the Philippines, the duo solidified their relationship status.
Queen was dealt with a major blow during the pandemic when she lost her father. “I was so lost, and he was too far away to comfort me. It’s not easy to fight a battle when you know your companion is not beside you. I was really depressed, but he never got tired of trying to cheer me up and help me in any way he could,” says Queen. In December 2020, Queen flew to Switzerland to be with Michael when he revealed that he wanted to propose to her. The couple eventually got married in a civil ceremony in Switzerland in February 2021.
Lookpat (Chonnakan Hianglar), 26
Lookpat, from Thailand, and her boyfriend James, 31, met in March 2020 on Tinder. The two spent four months exploring Chiangmai, Thailand, before James returned to England due to the pandemic.
To keep their relationship fun and fresh, the couple would play video games together online, send each other postcards, and speak every day. However, it hasn’t always been easy. During the pandemic, Lookpat’s dog died, and it was tough for her when James wasn’t physically there to comfort her.
After five months of doing a long-distance relationship, James decided to move to Thailand to be with Lookpat. Currently, the couple lives in Chiangmai and are so excited to start their life together. “We have been in a relationship for one year but have only really spent four months physically together. This time, I will not let him go. We are both looking forward to what the future will bring,” shares Lookpat.
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