• Ine Vandenwyngaert

'Love Is Not Tourism’: Angela and Julian’s story

Updated: 2 days ago

The coronavirus outbreak has impacted us all. Whether we lost a loved one, a job, or we were forced to change our personal or social life.


This is no different for international couples. As countries suddenly shut their borders during the pandemic, lovers and unmarried couples living in different parts of the world were kept apart. Long-distance relationships were challenged at the best of times, when the support and motivation of a loved one are the most needed. And the governments failed to respond to the needs of these couples to reunite. They classified these trips as “non-essential”.


Fortunately, many travel restrictions have now been eased, and couples and families from different countries have been able to reunite. Particularly European countries and Canada have lifted travel bans for binational long-distance couples, allowing them a happy and long-awaited reunion. The #LoveIsNotTourism movement fought hard to make this happen. Couples around the world lobbied the government by petitioning and using the hashtag #LoveIsNotTourism on social media.


World Wild Hearts interviewed international couples who were affected by these travel restrictions. And even though they met while traveling abroad, they emphasize that Love Is Not Tourism!



Angela and Julian's Story



This is the story of Angela from Cookeville in Tennessee (USA) and Julian from Mönchengladback in Germany, who found their way back to each other after being separated for seven months.

The first time we met


Our love story begins at a study abroad fair in my city. I had recently returned from my semester abroad in Spain, and Julian was just beginning his semester at the Tennessee Technological University. We were asked to attend the event to represent our Universities. Our tables were set up right next to each other and eventually, Julian made his way over to introduce himself. We talked for a good while and then he had to leave for class. Julian then found my contact through a mutual friend and asked to meet again soon. A little later, in the fall of 2019, we started dating.



Our time separated


The last time we saw each other was in February 2020, right before the life-changing news that the coronavirus had spread across the US and the rest of the world. The border closures brought a lot of uncertainty to when we would be able to see each other again.


However, in spite of being separated, we faced these unexpected challenges together. We were "face-timing" when we weren't sleeping or working. We always tried to come up with new things to do while on the phone like a craft, game, or movie. Spending time with each other, even if it were on the phone, was the best part of our days.



But things got worse when I started to experience severe hip joint pain. I received the news from the doctor that I was in need of 4 major surgeries. Two proximal femoral osteotomies and two torn labrum repairs are the operations needed in order to relieve the constant pain I endure.


But as we watched months pass with no answers, we started to make efforts to reunite. We shared our story on social media, contacted our government officials, and closely followed the news regarding #Loveisnottourism. My story was widely shared and listened to. Julian’s visa application was granted as a “medical exemption” for him to travel to the US.



The Reunion


We reunited at my home in Tennessee at the end of September 2020. We were both speechless and it took hours to realize we were actually back together. We are deeply grateful that we are finally able to spend time together.


Unfortunately, in a few weeks Julian will return home. We will resume our long-distance relationship and anxiously await the next opportunity we have to be reunited. We understand the precautions put in place to protect tourists and travelers at the moment, but strongly agree that love is not tourism. We both still love to travel. However, with all the changes, we realize it will be much more difficult than before. Our greatest hope is that the USA will provide a solution for separated couples and families in the near future.




The main lessons I learned from this experience


Patience, Communication, and Trust. Every relationship requires these three characteristics, however, they are more challenged for those who are long-distance. A hidden advantage of long-distance is communication. We are forced to converse rather than watching a movie or playing on our phones. We discovered we learned more about each other in this time apart than we would have if we were physically together.



My advice for couples who are still fighting to be together


Communication is key. Since your loved one isn't there, let them feel as if they are living beside you. Tell about your experiences, good or bad, and share as much of your life as you can. Don't neglect quality time, even if it's on the phone. This will keep the relationship happy and healthy!



What efforts can you make to reunite?


Although Angela and Julian were fortunate to be able to reunite, many others weren’t. Couples around the world are still fighting to be together. These are the things you can do to change this:

  • Share your story on social media with the hashtag #LoveIsNotTourism and #LoveIsEssential to encourage governments to ease restrictions for international couples

  • Encourage your friends and family to share your story on their social media to reach more people

  • Join a #LoveIsNotTourism Facebook Group (there are specific ones for countries and general ones) and speak up

  • Take action in your country (contact country leaders, etc.)

  • Sign the petition for your country (listed here: https://www.loveisnottourism.org) and share with your friends


Curious how other international couples fought to be together? Check out the 'Love Is Not Tourism' story by Shira and Carles, who were separated for 6 months.



Were you and your partner also affected by travel bans? Feel free to add questions or comments below!


People all around the world have had life-changing travel experiences. Whether it's studying abroad, traveling for leisure, working abroad, or living abroad! Check out more of our Traveler Stories.

Hi! We are Ine & Zac. An international travel couple from Belgium and the US. We created World Wild Hearts to inspire life-changing travel experiences like we've had. Use these tips, stories, and guides to inspire your next adventure of a lifetime!

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