I’d be lying if I said my decision to move into a camper van had nothing to do with my love life. In fact, I believe that a huge amount of vanlifers have romantic issues to thank for their leap into this lifestyle. It’s just human nature: emotion propels people to make massive life changes, like moving into a van. And one of the biggest factors that stir emotion in us, is love.
Little did I know that moving into a van would indeed heal my heart, but present me with a whole new love challenge: the long distance relationship.
I met my boyfriend while I was living full-time in my van on the road. I stopped in an Arizona city, thought to myself, “hey, let’s hop on a dating app since I forget what dating is.” He was the first guy I swiped on, we matched, had a hilarious short and cute date at a grocery store, and over two years later, we are still going strong.
We’ve been long distance for the entirety of our relationship. I was traveling around in my van and he was constantly flying to hospitals around the country for his job.
So, how have we kept the spark alive in our long distance relationship for the last 2+ years? Read on for all of my best insights and expert tips on how to keep a long distance relationship healthy!
Table of Contents
- Mix Up Your Forms of Communication
- Make Room for Quality Time
- Don’t Talk
- Surprise Them
- Get an Online Couples Therapist
- Have a Virtual Date Night
- Try New Things When You’re Physically Together
- Brainstorm Fun Activities for Your Next Visit
- Video Call with Friend Groups
- Go On Solo Adventures
- Have Ongoing Online Games
- Avoid “Phubbing” At All Costs
- Try Phone Apps Made for Long Distance Couples
- Invest in Sexy Time Toys
- Be Transparent and Communicate Often
- Manage Expectations
- Be Aware of Each Other’s Energy Levels
- Read the Same Book or Binge the Same Podcast
#1 Mix Up Your Forms of Communication
I found that one of the best ways to keep the emotional connection strong is by varying your forms of communication throughout the week. Whether that’s a phone call, video chat, text message, or even sending each other Instagram reels.
Because sometimes, simply sending a funny Instagram reel communicates “I’m thinking of you” without having to initiate a full-blown catchup how-was-your-day conversation.
#2 Make Room for Quality Time
One of the biggest obstacles for long distance relationships is figuring out how to have true quality time when you can’t physically be together. And just what does quality time look like for every couple?
My partner and I found that the closest way to have quality time is over video chat and we have each other’s undivided attention. Usually this looks like lying in our beds, cozied up for the evening, just chatting. Some long distance couples like to fall asleep over a video call, too–whatever floats your boat!
PRO TIP: Starlink satellite internet is a great option for vanlifers who need a solid wifi connection for quality video calls. Read my nomad friend’s in-depth review of Starlink.
It’s way too easy to have short text or phone conversations where it’s great to touch base, but that’s not enough. You need that deep, meaningful “US” time to stay connected.
#3 Don't Talk
The infinite amount of ways to communicate in today’s world is a blessing and a curse. You run the risk of OVER-communicating and feeling bored in your conversations. So sometimes, it’s best not to force a conversation if you’re both pretty talked-out.
Go a day-or-two-or three?! without talking to your partner and see how it feels. I have always found that it makes my long distance relationship more exciting because each of us has more to share and is more excited to catch up with the other.
#4 Surprise Them
Not all of us have the budget or extra time to make surprise visits to our long distance partner – but you can opt to send them a care package or a small treat. With services like Uber Eats, Door Dash and even Amazon, you don’t have to break the bank just to make their day!
I once had Uber Eats deliver ten chocolate chip cookies to my boyfriend’s apartment during a stressful work week. He was pumped when he got home that evening–he’s a sucker for chocolate chip cookies!
#5 Get an Online Couples Therapist
I kid you not, this is one of the best things to do in a long distance relationship. I don’t care how healthy or unhealthy your relationship is–everyone can benefit from talking to a therapist. And with loads of online therapy resources available today (think BetterHelp or even just therapists who have gone remote since the pandemic)–you can find what you need.
My boyfriend and I have an online therapist and she has helped us talk through some of the sticking points in our relationship. And with each of us having busy schedules, I found it calming to know that we’d still have a designated hour of “US” time to talk each week.
#6 Have a Virtual Date Night
Make or go out to dinner “together” over a video call! You could even make it a fun competition by buying the same ingredients for a dish and see who makes it better 😉
Or each of you try a new restaurant in your areas and order the same meal to compare. Truthfully, my boyfriend and I have never actively planned a “date night”. We just take our relationship day by day and see how we feel like chatting (or not). But, I think this is a fun way to mix things up in your long distance relationship.
#7 Try New Things When You're Physically Together
It’s really tempting to just cuddle up, watch movies and do nothing when you finally ARE with your partner. After all, you’ve been deprived of cuddles for weeks or months–you need recharging!
And yes, make sure you recharge on that–but not at the cost of plateauing your relationship. In order to grow as a couple, you need to see each other in different environments and situations, and learn how each of you responds. It’s a great way to build trust and a deep understanding of who you are. So whether you go on a new hike, walk, try a new restaurant, meet a new friend, or whatever fun activities strike your fancy–continue building new experiences together!
#8 Brainstorm Fun Activities for Your Next Visit
One of my favorite things to do in my long distance relationship is plan out fun stuff we want to do on our next visit. This usually involves picking out a new hike, a new restaurant with epic pancakes (we both love pancakes and are determined to find the best ones), a movie we want to see, or even a project or chore we want to get done together.
Brainstorming activities is a fun way to build on the “us” future and help you not feel rushed or pressured when meeting up. Because let’s be honest, there’s pressure to check off all of the “relationship” boxes when you can only be together for limited amount of times. And pressure does not help anything!
#9 Video Call with Friend Groups
A really tough part of LDRs is not being able to integrate your partner into your daily life and communities. You can be really removed from each other’s worlds, which makes sharing a future more difficult to envision.
That’s why occasionally having video calls with your friends and your partner (and/or your partner’s friends as well) is a great way to reinforce your partnership. It helps them catch up with your own friends, spices up conversation, and reminds your friends that your long distance partner is an important part of your world.
#10 Go On New Solo Adventures
Long distance relationship ideas don’t have to include the both of you. Because a partnership is great, but it shouldn’t be your single source of happiness. It’s important to keep investing in your own self, needs, goals and interests even when they aren’t around. This will ultimately make your relationship healthier and avoid co-dependency.
What’s more, going on a cool new solo adventure gives you something new to talk about with them!
#11 Have Ongoing Online Games
There are soooo many virtual games available these days–whether it’s a random Facebook game or a phone app game–the sky is the limit! Not only is it a fun and quick way to connect with your partner, but each of you can play when it fits into your schedule. This way, you’re still communicating but don’t have to worry about schedule conflicts with work or differences in time zones.
#12 Avoid "Phubbing" At All Costs
I’ve been hearing a lot about this new term, “phubbing” –and it’s very applicable to long distance relationships. The dictionary defines it as, “the practice of ignoring one’s companion or companions in order to pay attention to one’s phone or other mobile device.”
We’ve all been phubbed at one time or another. It’s a deep pet-peeve of mine. So whether you are physically WITH your partner and phubbing them for your phone, in the limited time you have together, don’t expect your relationship to last much longer. And even when you aren’t physically together, phubbing could be just as bad if you go hours without responding to your partner. In either case, it erodes trust and respect, and slowly builds resentment.
#13 Try Phone Apps Made for Long Distance Couples
I think it’s really cool that there are loads of phone apps available for long distance relationships. Some of them track your relationship history through time, some give you new ways to communicate (ie walkie talkie style), some prompt probing questions to deepen your bond, and some prompt downright naughty questions to spice up your virtual bedroom life. The pick is yours!
#14 Invest in Sexy Time Toys
Another VERY tough aspect of long distance relationships is the lack of physical intimate moments. Not all of us are into sexting, but you need a little something so it doesn’t feel like you’re just pen pals.
Enter: sex toys for long distance relationships. Some companies such as KIIRO have created sex toys that connect to an app, where your partner can control your toy from afar! Just hop on a video call and help each other share some blissful moments together….meeeow!
#16 Be Transparent and Communicate Often
I say “communicate often” but it’s up to both of you to decide what your definition of “often” is. It all boils down to making sure both of your needs are met, without one of you feeling put out.
Since communication and physical time together is limited in a long distance relationship, it’s that much more important to be transparent about how you’re feeling. In fact, being open and honest is what will help you stay connected–so don’t fear speaking your mind if you needs aren’t being met. If you are really afraid of disrupting the “peace” in the relationship, it may be time to question if this is the best relationship for you.
#17 Manage Expectations
No relationship is perfect and everyone makes mistakes from time to time. But mistakes can feel a lot more amplified in a long distance relationship, because it’s often difficult to work out immediately. And making up in-person is always more satisfying than over a phone call.
That’s why I think it’s extra important to choose your battles wisely in an LDR. While you want to work out your issues, you don’t want too much of your time going towards talking about the relationship, versus actually just…being in it. But it’s up to you to set your boundaries and communicate your needs.
#18 Be Aware of Each Other's Energy Levels
My boyfriend and I had been in the habit of catching up late in the evenings. But we’d run into issues where he’s (an admitted) workaholic and I’m in a time zone one hour ahead. So by the time we talk, he’s absolutely exhausted from the day and it’s already my bedtime.
A great workaround we sort of just flowed into was having morning video calls. We both get up pretty early anyways, and it’s so pleasant to sip our coffee together. Our chats keep me happy and energized throughout the day. And he isn’t a zombie from the work day yet!
#19 Read the Same Book or Binge the Same Podcast
Have your own private virtual book club and spark some interesting conversations by reading the same book. Even if you have different taste in genres, try compromising, where each of you gets to choose one. Or, work together to find a book you can both agree on!
PRO TIP: If both of you are considering van life together, check out my roundup of the top twenty van life books for inspiration.
I haven’t tried reading the same book as my boyfriend yet, but one thing we love doing on (the numerous amounts of) long car rides, is binging the Mr. Ballen podcast. I love true crime and he loves interesting, factual stories–and Mr. Ballen hits the mark for both of those. We usually learns something new about something totally random, and I get my murder crime fix.
Keep Your Long Distance Love Strong and Healthy
Every relationship in every shape and form requires effort–it isn’t always smooth sailing. But if you keep a positive outlook, assume the best, and follow some (or all of) my best practices, you can always feel fulfilled and content in your long distance relationship!
Just be sure that if your partner comes to visit you in your camper van, your tiny home is still presentable–check out my top hygiene tips for van life!