I'm leaving Aus in March to go to Asia and the UK, and have a boyfriend of 3 years as well (It'll actually be our 3rd year anniversary the day before I depart).
I love him to pieces and we go well together, but I'm going crazy staying in one place and he's got his car that he loves and doesn't want to leave.
I'm 21 and he's 23 so the age gap isn't as big as you and your boy - and 23's not a normal 'marrying age' anymore, whereas I guess 33 is, so I don't know how relevant my opinion is!
My thinking is that even though I'm going to miss Y (my guy) terribly, i don't want to do a long-distance relationship. It's a whole year out of our lives, and if we both just waited for each other - what if I get back and we don't 'click' anymore? What if we both turn down people we really like for a whole year and then find we've both changed?
There's also the what if I wait and he messes around while I'm gone? What if I find someone I really like, and think 'ahhh... I'm on holiday, he'll never know!' . An LDR takes a *lot* of work (or a *lot* of money and free time, like Mikey's got going!) and what if you put in all that effort and it comes up to be for naught?
We've decided that we're going to 'break up' when i leave - i.e. we're both technically single while I'm gone. We'll keep in touch and stay friends while I'm away, but that's it. When I get back, we're going to look at the situation and review our relationship - decide whether or not we want to get back together.
That way I think it saves a *lot* of the hurt - because there's no possibility of 'cheating', and the main block of pain is when you miss them for the first few months like anything - so something you go through anyway. You don't return with a huge heap of expectations (or guilt, depending on how you change through the year) and if you do still like the person, but they don't like you, it's an easier let-down than 'Well, thanks for waiting the whole year, and it's good to see you, but I'm in love with someone else now'.
It's kind of callous and I really *don't* like the idea - because when I leave, I'll still be in love with the guy. But I think in the long run it's easier on both of you.
If it's meant to be, it will - you'll get back and the sparks will fly and it'll be like nothing ever changed. If not, there just won't be anything.
I think whether you play LDR or 'free & single', nothing will change that. As long as you both have an agreement on what you think will work best and accommodate both of your situations (not just 'what you want', because then you might never leave!) it'll work out OK for you both - whether happily together or happily with someone else.
Having said all that, fingers crossed all our relationships go well!