You’ve seen their photos, and you’ve swooned at their story. Joli and Rob Switzer, the travel-loving twosome who took photos in the same pose—the dipkiss—in the different places they visited together while dating long-distance, have been popping up everywhere online, from Buzzfeed to People. Together, they’ve become a beacon of hope for both LDR couples struggling with geography and singles longing for proof that, yes, that kind of love exists.
“We think a lot of people are inspired by our story since a lot of them can relate to it,” the couple says in their blog. “Many of them may have had to overcome their own challenges for the ones they love. In our case, our main challenge was physical distance; for others, it might be illness, cultural or religious differences, or other conflicts. Our main goal is to show people that despite the odds, if you love someone enough, you should fight for them. In the end, true love will persevere.”
Before their dipkiss photos went viral, we featured the now-married couple in our story on Pinays who found love with foreigners, where Joli revealed that she and Rob first met at a travelers’ meetup party at the Sinulog Festival in Cebu in 2010. Now, in this exclusive email interview with Cosmo.ph, they tell us what transpired after that fateful meeting, how they embarked on a two-year LDR with him in the US and her in the PH and another year of long-distance dating with them in different US states, and how they managed to conquer those massive distances, one dipkiss photo at a time.
Tell us about your first meeting. What was it about each other that made you want to keep in touch even after that travelers’ meetup party?
Joli: In a short span of time, we were able to bond over a lot of things—like how we were both nerds in school, how we had a similar sense of humor, and obviously, our mutual love for travel. I’ve met a lot of good friends while traveling and I knew instantly that I found another one in Rob. So I definitely wanted to keep in touch. Also, I wanted to make sure that when it was my turn to go to the US, I’d have someone to show me around.
Rob: The first day, there was of course the awkwardness of meeting someone new (especially since we’re both a bit shy), but once we finally got comfortable with each other, we really connected. Then we would talk and time would fly by so fast. After we reached that point, I knew I wanted to keep in contact after I left. It’s not too often you meet someone that you connect that well with.
How long from the time you first met did you become a couple? What made you go for it despite the distance?
J: We officially became a couple three years later. At first, I didn’t think it would work. But we connected so well that even if we wanted to give up so many times in the beginning, we just couldn’t stop talking to each other! I felt so comfortable talking to him and loved that I could be my true self with him. Despite the distance, we always talked about how we wanted to eventually close the gap. So that reassured me that we were serious and weren’t just wasting each other’s time.
R: Three years later. We were discussing lack of people to travel with and since we connected so well, we decided to try to start meeting up, spending time together, and getting to sightsee. The first trip we were just going to meet up as friends, but by the time the trip ended I just knew I had found the perfect other half with whom I wanted to continue doing everything.
Had either of you been in a long-distance relationship before getting into one with each other? What were your expectations or reservations going into it?
J: No. I never really dated much in general, let alone had a long-distance relationship. Rob and I had undeniable chemistry though so I told myself that I should just take the risk and see how it goes.
Our family and friends were initially concerned because not only were we from different cultures, but we were also in a long-distance relationship! Now that we’re married though and that they’ve seen us together often, they can’t stop telling us how we’re such a good match because of how similar we are.
R: Yes, but it of course didn’t last. The trust and connection weren’t there. The connection I felt when meeting Joli I never felt with anyone before. So because of that I really thought it would be worth trying out and seeing where it went.
When you were still dating long-distance, how did you stay in touch? How often did you talk, how often did you see each other, and in what other ways did you stay close?
J: We would talk at least twice a day. Our time zones were usually 12 to 13 hours apart, so the best time for us to talk or Skype was when one of us was waking up while the other was going to bed. We would send each other cards in the mail about once a month. Sometimes, I would also have his favorite cookies delivered to his house.
R: We stayed in touch over Skype, instant messaging, and email. Occasionally we would send each other snail mail. There’s still nothing as good as getting something which has been handwritten. We would talk on the phone usually about twice a day with messages throughout the day. We would try to see each other as often as possible; usually it was about every four months. We were really open with each other and talked about everything which really helped us grow and stay close.
Where and how did you do the first dipkiss photo?
J: We tried different signature poses and the “dipkiss” ended up being the one which we both liked and was easiest for us to do. We’d only do the pose for a few seconds to get the shot and then we were done. I think one of the first ones was in New York City; we were just posing for a normal photo and he suddenly dipped me as someone took our photo.
R: Throughout our instant messaging, we would send each other cutesy pictures or pictures which we thought would be good to take when we were finally together. This was back when WeHeartIt actually had cutesy things on their website, so we called them our “WeHeartIt” pictures. One time, we were in New York just taking pictures together and on a whim I grabbed her and did the dipkiss picture. I think it surprised her but we both laughed about it and loved it. It just seemed to stick as you could kind of see us but it wasn’t just a normal stand-and-look-at-the-camera type of pose. It had some energy to it and really helped showcase our love.
How do you usually take your dipkiss photos around the world? How do the people you ask to snap the photo react?
J: It’s funny, we actually initially would only take one or two dipkiss photos per trip, not one per city. We would get too busy sightseeing and forget about it or we’d get too shy, so we’d miss doing it in some good places. But lately, we’ve been making sure to take a photo in each place so it could be a new addition to our gallery.
R: We try to find the really touristy sites or the ones with a really nice backdrop. We’re usually really shy about asking someone to take our picture but luckily we’ve been getting better about it. If no one is around we’ll try to prop the camera on something and use a self-timer to take the picture. Funny, one time in Mexico we actually had an American lady on our tour for the day who, after she took the first dipkiss photo for us, every place we went she would be egging us on to take another one in the new spot. We’ve gotten a lot of awws and smiles from people after we have them take our picture.
You got engaged in Moscow in 2016. Tell us how it happened.
J: At our last stop in Moscow, two days before the end of our trip, we visited the Red Square at night. Rob wore a fancier button-down shirt and that should’ve given it away for me since he usually likes comfy T-shirts when traveling. While admiring the lights and architecture, I noticed that Rob started to look uneasy and was not his usual shutterbug self. So as we continued to walk closer to the beautiful St. Basil’s Cathedral at the end of the square, Rob nervously got down on one knee, whipped out a lovely diamond ring from his pocket, and popped the question. To which I enthusiastically responded, “YES AND DA!”—which is yes in both English and Russian. Our friend, who was on the tour with us, was walking right behind us when this happened so he was able to capture the moment for us.
R: Even after knowing her for years and knowing (initially) that she was going to say yes, as the moment came closer and closer, of course I got really nervous. It was funny as she kind of picked up that something was wrong with me as I wasn’t acting like myself. A few times she even almost touched the ring in my pocket, and I kept batting her hand away. I felt like everyone was going to watch me when I did it. When I finally blurted the words out, I think I even said “Do you want to marry me?” instead of “Will you marry me?” Then once she said yes, I got back up off my knee. I realized I don’t think anyone actually saw me even though it was in the middle of the Red Square.
You got married this year. How has married life been like so far? For Joli in particular, what’s it like to move to the US permanently?
J: We keep pinching ourselves about how amazing it is to finally come home to each other daily—something we’ve fantasized about for so long! Married life has been awesome but we do fight and make up like any normal couple. Whenever we feel really frustrated, we usually stop and remind ourselves of everything that we’ve had to go through to get to this point—all the hard work, all the time, and all the effort we put in. Whatever else we’re fighting about then starts to seem petty in comparison.
As for moving to the US, like most Filipinos, I’m so exposed to US culture and I know the language well so it’s not a huge culture shock. It’s just minor things you have to adjust to, like the weather. What I miss most though is my family and friends. Thankfully, Rob’s family and friends have also been so warm and welcoming to me. Having the Internet also makes it easy for me to always keep in touch with people back in the Philippines. Plus, before moving to the US for good, Rob and I agreed that we would make an effort to see my family often, either by them visiting us in the US or by us visiting them in the Philippines. I last saw them at our wedding here in the US in June of this year. I was so blessed to have my whole immediate family be present for that important event.
R: Married life has been great. It’s nice being able to always do things together and get to go on short weekend trips. Of course there’s been some adjusting now that we’re living together, but we’ve been really good at working things out with each other and seeing the other person’s point of view on things. Being open and discussing things really helps. Luckily, we both agree that if we start getting upset with each other, it’s nice to go in separate rooms, cool off a bit, then come back and work things out. Trying to work things out with a hot head just seems to make things worse.
When did you make the dipkiss photos public? What made you decide to do so?
J: For a few years now, we’ve been sharing a few of our dipkiss photos with our family and friends online, though we only started sharing them as a full collection at our wedding. Our wedding was travel-themed so we found it fitting to include them. For the longest time, family and friends have urged us to make a blog to document our travels. So less than a month ago, we officially launched our Instagram account and our blog, Dipkiss Travels, and we were surprised at how fast it took off from there.
R: We’ve been showing them to friends and family since the wedding in June and the response has been really positive about them. We thought it’d be nice to share them along with our love story in hopes that it would help inspire other long-distance couples online.
How has your life changed since you went viral online?
J: It’s still fairly new so I wouldn’t say too much has changed, aside from all the media attention and our photos being shared everywhere online. My favorite thing about being viral is all the messages from our new followers. Some of them have told us how much they love our little project and how it’s inspired them to travel more. Others have shared their own adorable long-distance love stories or have invited us to visit their countries.
We’ve received some hate too, especially about how they think our trips are so extravagant. Then there’s also the handful of people who stereotype us Filipinas, which makes my blood boil for a second, then I remember that quote, “Whoever is trying to bring you down is already below you.” For every hate comment, there are hundreds and thousands more positive responses, so that’s what we’re focused on.
R: It’s really amazing each time I find another website online which features our story or pictures, especially when it’s in another language. I feel like my friends and family are proud that they know someone who managed to go viral online. It’s still new; hopefully we’ll get to the point where we’ll get to meet some of our followers on our future trips. It would be really cool to have someone we kind of know in a foreign country who could show us some of the amazing local spots.
What’s next for you as a couple—travel plans, plans to start a family, more dipkiss photos?
J: We definitely want to start a family in a few years. Given how much time we’ve spent apart during the course of our relationship, right now we just want to travel more together and to enjoy married life with just the two of us. He really is the love of my life and perfect travel partner. Thanks to the amazing responses to our dipkiss photos, we definitely plan to do more and hopefully, in more new cities!
R: Now that I’ve finally found the perfect person who loves going on all these crazy adventures, it’s really hard to stop traveling. We do need to eventually look at buying a house and starting a family, but we’re hoping for another one to two years of traveling beforehand. Too many more places to go and so many more amazing places to take dipkisses.
What tips can you give other LDR couples who want to go the distance like you have?
J: Make trust the foundation of your relationship. It’s crazy that even if we were on the opposite ends of the globe, we were so open and honest with each other. We often knew more about what was going on in each other’s everyday lives than the people physically around us. Relationships like these are not for everyone and that’s okay. But if you love someone enough, you should fight for them, no matter what everyone around you says.
R: It really helps if you have a set date for when you’re going to see each other. It gives you a countdown and something to look forward to. It was really hard for us when we first got back from seeing each other; there was a lot of uncertainty over when we’d be together again. It made the LDR hard, but once we finally had a date, then the excitement of finally being able to see each other again came back. The other thing is just really being open and honest with each other. It really helps build trust between the two of you and make the distance not seem so far.