Sam’s hands were sweating as the car came to a stop. She caught sight of her girlfriend Jordan’s platinum blonde hair and ripped open the car door. They ran to one another and embraced.
“You’re taller than I thought you’d be,” Sam whispered.
After calling and texting for about a year and a half and dating long-distance for the past nine months, Miami University first-year Helena “Sam” Flake and Lotte “Jordan” Baardsen were finally able to meet in person when Sam traveled to Jordan’s home in Sauda, Norway in June 2018.
“I was just full of nervousness and excitement,” Jordan said. “And then we ran to each other and we just hugged and it was just the best hug ever.”
They first met online when Jordan commissioned an art piece from Sam in November 2016.
Sam, an artist who creates costumes and drawings, painted famous Norwegion singers and landscapes. As she grew older, Sam started accepting commissions from all around the world. After four years, she continues to sell her custom costumes on platforms like Instagram.
A mutual friend, Kira Strøm, who previously commissioned a piece from Sam, connected Sam to Jordan when Jordan was searching for a costume creator. After asking for the address to ship the piece, Sam discovered that her client lived in Norway.
“I had never spoken to someone native to Norway,” Sam said. “I was so entranced by it.”
“I was like, ‘You know what? I’m not doing long distance again. This sucks.’”
Sam has been “obsessed” with Norway almost her entire life. After learning her great-grandmother was born there, she spent a lot of time learning about Norwegian culture. In seventh grade, she committed to learning the language.
“You don’t really hear about [Norway] a lot,” Sam said. “A lot of people say, ‘Oh I’m from Germany,’ and ‘I’m from England,’ but you don’t hear about Norway. So I thought it was really cool.”
Sam’s parents, Lisa and John Flake, greatly value family tradition and history. Her family has adopted some of the traditions of her grandparents, such as cooking lefse, a Norwegian dessert.
Sam immediately started asking Jordan about Norway’s culture. Then they talked about Sam’s art and their music interests, and began to feel a deeper connection. Even after Sam shipped Jordan’s costume, they continued texting everyday and calling often.
“In the back of my mind, I was thinking ‘I really want to date this person, but I also really don’t, because she’s so far away,’” Sam said. “So I tried to stay away for quite a while.”
Sam had previously been in a long-distance relationship with a girl in Wisconsin, about a nine-hour drive from Sam’s home in Lebanon, Ohio. After they broke up, Sam decided to take a break from relationships.
“I was like, ‘You know what?’” Sam said, “I’m not doing long distance again. This sucks.”
Jordan said neither one of them wanted to ask the other out, but they both knew they had feelings for one another. They had been texting and calling almost everyday, sending each other their favorite cat posts on Instagram and Facetiming whenever possible.
After about six months of flirting, Sam finally asked Jordan to be her girlfriend. They began dating in October 2017.
“As soon as I dropped my bags off, and we went right outside the security, I pretty much broke down.”
Sam’s parents were a little nervous about her dating online, but because of Sam’s previous relationship, they were a little familiar with long-distance relationships. However, Sam’s mom, says they still worried about how Jordan and Sam’s in-person relationship would go.
That Christmas, Sam’s parents surprised her with the trip to Norway. At the news, Sam began to cry, thanking her parents over and over.
Sam and Jordan’s parents met over Skype to discuss the details of the trip. Her parents planned to leave Sam with Jordan for about a month, while they continued their vacation and traveled home separately.
In June, Sam and her parents flew to Norway and spent a few days sight-seeing before driving to Jordan’s home. When Sam’s family arrived, Sam and Jordan embraced while Lisa met Jordan’s grandmother, Brit Baardsen. Brit smiled between tears and told Lisa how happy she was. She knew how much meeting Sam meant to Jordan.
“It’s at that moment I think kind of John and I both knew that [Sam] was going to be well taken care of,” Lisa said. “[Jordan’s] family was really supportive and very excited about [Sam] coming over there and being part of their family.”
Jordan and her family took Sam to their lakehouse on an island called Ottøy. Sam and Jordan fished, went swimming and took the family boat out.
One of Sam’s favorite memories was in the middle of her trip. The two decided to take the boat out to watch the sunset. The air was cool over the still water. Sam packed blankets and coats onto the boat as Jordan called her dog, Doffen, to join them. Surrounded by the Norwegian Sea, they held hands while music played softly. They stayed out until long after the sun went down.
They spent a month together at Jordan’s lakehouse. Sam said she felt like she could have spent a year there. But eventually, she had to go home.
On the bus ride to the airport, Sam and Jordan clutched hands. As they entered the airport, Sam tried not to cry. They had made plans to see each other in March, but that was eight months away.
“As soon as I dropped my bags off, and we went right outside the security, I pretty much broke down,” Sam said.
“We trust each other because that’s the only thing we have.”
Just over a year after Sam’s trip to Norway, in July 2019, Jordan came to the United States to go on a month-long road trip with Sam. They lived out of Sam’s truck as they travelled west to visit places like Yellowstone National Park and Grand Tetons National Park. Sam and Jordan used the trip to see if they could live together as a couple.
While on the road, Sam doodled the head of a cat while Jordan drove. Later Jordan drew the body. When they arrived in Oregon, they had the drawings tattooed onto their arms.
Despite the trips they’ve taken together, Jordan said the distance is harder on both of them the longer they are together.
“I actually know what it’s like being there with her, by her side,” Jordan said. “At first, it wasn’t like I missed that feeling, because I didn’t know what that was like.”
The couple still texts everyday and call each other at least once a week, trying to close the thousands of miles that separate them.
“We trust each other because that’s the only thing we have,” Jordan said.
Jordan plans to return to the United States in December 2019 and stay through Christmas. Sam will fly back to Norway with her in January and remain there until the spring semester begins.
“The thing about long distance relationships,” Jordan said, “is it’s hard when you’re away, but the feeling when you’re together, you just don’t ever forget that feeling. You never grow tired of the person you’re actually with. The only thing you grow tired of is the distance.”