Nov 132011
With Colin this summer in Beijing's Forbidden City.

With Colin this summer in Beijing's Forbidden City.

On Wednesday I came home to find a rose petal scavenger hunt!

Under the largest petal was a beautiful letter from my beau, Colin, along with the instructions: “Go to the smallest suspension bridge in the world.”

I Googled the clue… and it turns out the smallest suspension bridge in the world is in the Boston Public Garden!

I sprinted the five blocks from our apartment to the garden and onto the bridge over the Swan Boat pond… just as Colin strode up from the other side, wearing a great suit!

He hugged me and gave a beautiful speech, then got down on one knee, took out the ring, and said: “Will you marry me?”


The bridge in the Public Garden where the proposal happened!

The bridge in the Public Garden where the proposal happened!

I screamed a lot and then said, “YES!”

“Don’t fall in the water,” Colin cautioned as my knees buckled with happiness.

All of the people around applauded, and a woman took the photo of us that is the third in this article.

Then I semi got down on one knee and proposed to Colin with a silver ring we had gotten… and he said yes! πŸ™‚

How the heck did this all happen?

In other words, how does a thirty-year-old gal go from traveling around the world alone from 2009-2010 to sporting a giant smile and a ring on her finger less than two years later?

The photo snapped right after the proposal, with our rings!

Right after the proposal, with our rings!

Much of the progression was documented right here on this blog, so let me walk you through it. Click any blue-highlighted words to go to the full articles of each adventure.

Back up to August of 2009 when I left the country. AΒ major reason I decided to travel the world was because I was “in a rut” in numerous aspects of my life, romantic realm included. It seemed the same patterns kept repeating themselves (or rather, I kept creating the same patterns), and I was stuck.

In the back of my head as I boarded that first flight towards Japan, I was convinced that I would find love abroad. Maybe a Great Love would emerge in Barcelona, along with a great job, and I would conclude my Around the World voyage by moving to Spain permanently!

I loved traveling, and I met amazing people, but Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Italy, Ghana, Spain, and Portugal came and went without a Great Love. “Alas,” I sighed, “Perhaps I will be alone forever?”

When I came back to America after a year of travel in May of 2010, my dear friend Gareth threw me a Welcome Home party. She brought a fellow named Colin to the party who I had never met. “Hmm,” I thought. “Very cool that he is doing Teach for America and is smart and kind and tall.”

Flying a terrifyingly small plane on an early date!

Flying a terrifyingly small plane on an early date!

I began to notice a change in myself after traveling far from home for so long. Before my travels, I was so wander-lusty, it was hard to focus on anything in front of me. But when I returned home in May, I really got how wonderful Boston and my friends and family here are. For the first time, I realized it would be an option for me to settle down in one place with a beloved person, and really love it.

Gareth left for Peace Corps in China, but over our Skype conversations, she kept bringing up Colin. “Why don’t you go out with him sometime?” she kept asking.

Finally I did, in September of 2010. I will be eternally grateful to Gareth for her matchmaking magic, because it soon became apparent how amazing Colin is. Not only is he a wonderful listener who is making a great impact on the world with his work, but he’s also full of adventure! Like, serious ADVENTURE.

In front of the astoundingly futuristic Shanghai skyline.

In front of the astoundingly futuristic Shanghai skyline.

On our fourth date, Colin used a Groupon to take us… flying in a 4-person plane high above New Hampshire! I was so terrified I cried and almost threw up, but in retrospect, it was really awesome. Perhaps it was a lucky omen that we flew directly over a heart-shaped lake!

Then, Colin and I enrolled in a seven-month Leadership course which had us travel four times to Manhattan for classes. It may not seem to be much to travel from Boston to New York, but recall that I have much practice traveling alone, but rather little traveling with a partner. The co-traveling skills we honed together during those seven months would be key in our later travels. We continued to practice co-traveling on journeys to DC, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

Working together at the "Meet, Plan, Go" travel conference.

Working together at the "Meet, Plan, Go" travel conference.

Several months into our relationship, Colin revealed that before he had met me, he had purchased a super-discounted Florida-and-Bahamas-Cruise package, and that we were set to leave in June of 2011, right after school let out! Together, we got to laze under the swaying palm trees of Grand Bahama, and I shared with Colin one of my favorite travel places of all time: flashy Miami! And we rented a silver Mustang rental car. Vroom vroom!

But Colin is a vegetarian. “Would that stunt our adventuring?” I wondered. Ooo boy were my fears ever allayed after Colin attended a Haggis-eating party with me. Haggis is basically mystery meat boiled in a sheep stomach. Guess who ate it like a champ? “That man is NOT a vegetarian!” one of my students indignantly commented on the ensuing article. πŸ™‚

And all of this came fully in handy during our biggest travel challenge yet: China in the summer of 2011 to visit Gareth! We climbed the Great Wall of China together, toured the Forbidden City, took aΒ 16-hour train to the steamy heart of the country, gobbled all sorts of “exotic” foods (including poultry feet and pig tail!), gazed upon the futuristic Shanghai skyline, and had a generally phenomenal time.

Crazy dancing during my cousin's DC wedding.

Crazy dancing during my dear cousin's DC wedding.

And now it’s the autumn of 2011, Colin and I have been delightedly together for 14 months, we are fianceed, and I am so thankful!

And through all of this, you can see the role travel played.

First, I know for sure that giving myself that year to see the world alone granted me the ability to appreciate being in one place with a beloved person.

Second, having amazing, diverse travel adventures with Colin did wonders for our relationship, bonding us and creating stunning shared experiences in a year and a half that many people don’t see in a lifetime. Because of the rigors of co-travel, we have also developed partnership and communication skills that work!

On the Maglev magnetic train in Shanghai. Onward!

On the Maglev magnetic train in Shanghai. Onward!

Anyway, the bottom line is that I’m engaged to an amazing guy and am so happy about it! Thanks to all of you for reading and for all the congratulations I have been receiving!

Now it’s your turn.

What are your thoughts and experiences around romance and travel?

What wedding-planning advice do you have?

And of course, do you have any Honeymoon destination suggestions?

Hugs and love to you all, and may there be more love in the world every day!


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  124 Responses to “We Are Engaged! Or: How Travel Can Find and Build Love”

  1. I love to see couple who travel together it makes me feel happy and I wish I could backpack with you guys. I’m from Philippines I’d like to travel with you. Nice post! πŸ™‚

  2. I met a girl from Poland in London, She had been stuck in a rut and tried something new. Result is our paths crossed and we married last year and live in Greece. Since then she has had to get over a lot of adversity, but she is the one, and I knew it when we first met – Be happy and enjoy life – its for living – We wish you every happiness …

  3. […] 4) Reflected on my interests. When in college, I really didn’t make a lot of time to reflect on what I liked. I picked a general social science major because of its broadness. Traveling game me time to examine and develop my interests. It helped me grow and find love! […]

  4. You can watch a clip of our wedding on reality TV (TLC’s “I Found the Gown”) here: !

  5. We get married tomorrow!!!! Here’s the update on how and why we are going FULL OUT on Wedding World!!!

  6. As someone who has finished three long-term backpacking adventures and is in the middle of a fourth with my wife, I give you two a huge cheers, salud and bravo. It’s so special and rare to find someone that you can not only connect with emotionally and mentally, but who shares this passion for seeing the world in such a unique way. The life of a backpacker is not an easy one, as you know, but one that is best shared with a best friend. πŸ™‚

  7. This is a really cute engagement story!! It’s so romantic and just perfect! πŸ™‚ I can’t wait to see the wedding pictures πŸ™‚

  8. Fabulous story. I may have found a special lady in Peru. Also very unexpected and, to be honest, unwanted. But that’s when the best stuff happens!

    I already knew you were engaged, but it was really nice to read the story here. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Congratulations to you and Colin. It’s a beautiful, inspiring story. Sounds like you’re marrying your best friend. I’m a very happy married gal of 18yrs and the main reason for our marriage bliss is that I married a very kind human being with great moral values who became my best, best friend! Good luck to you both and Happy Wedding! My husband and I met in Hawaii and we’ve lived here since – It consists of many beautiful islands – Consider Hawaii for your honeymoon!!! If not, Bali, Indonesia is another great place – a very spiritual place and Balinese are one of the kindest, humble people I’ve ever met!

    • Thanks so much for your kind comment and good advice, Kim! So wonderful to hear stories of blissful couples!

  10. What a wonderful story, congratulations!! I just discovered your blog and stumbled on this post…. It’s good to kmow there is hope for the rest of us. I have that same fear that I will remain alone forever!! And travel hasn’t brought “the me” for me yet…maybe the key word is “yet”!

    • So glad you found this site! Thanks so much for reading and commenting, and indeed, “Yet” is always the key word!

  11. I Love you Lillie, I wish you could have been my teacher. And I am so happy for Colin and you he is a lucky guy. I get emotional reading your stories together. Congrats to you both and Thanks for spreading your love Story.

  12. […] learn more on Lillie’s blog post about how travel can find and build love! […]

  13. Very good man.I like this post and wish you happiness

  14. Thats really cool you guys are engaged! Your husband looks tall, is he? (I wish I had a Go-T like that) πŸ™‚ πŸ˜€

  15. OMG!!!! You made me cry! That is so romantic, I hope you guys have a wonderful life together. Congradulations! <3

  16. Aww, That is so sweet and romantic! I loved the pictures you posted.

  17. comment: “Im not crying” (this is what we say around my house when sentimental inspiring things like this make me cry)
    wedding advice: ask people who are really excited for you to do stuff that’ll help you prep and save money — they’ll be glad to contribute in fun and creative ways πŸ™‚

  18. Aww ! That is amazing, I hope that you and your fiance have a happy life together.

  19. I fell in love with all the pictures you guys took together. So cute! On Friday, I liked how you brought your little brother to read our essays.

  20. Congratulations! This was such a great story. I love the proposal plan that Colin had! It seemed so romantic. I also love all of the pictures of you and Colin together. I hope you two have a great time together. He should come to a publication celebration one day. πŸ™‚

  21. I reccomend France for a honeymoon spot.

  22. Congrats! Once again I wish you the best.

  23. Congratulations, I’m happy for you!

  24. I LOVE this!!! You both are so beautifully in love!!! Thank you for including me in this journey towards your blessed day!!!

  25. Congrats! I wish both of you the best. A good honeymoon spot is Hawaii or Aruba.

  26. This is SO cute. Traveling around the world can really build up on love. I traveled to different schools and found a lot of people who I liked. One day, I’ll find him. But you’re VERY lucky that it took less than 2 years to get married. Good luck!

  27. congratulations! you’re so lucky to have found a great guy who is ALSO and awesome traveler. i can wait to see what kind of crazy-awesome honeymoon you guys cook up!

  28. What an adorable and romantic post. Congratulations. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with us. πŸ™‚

  29. Ms. Marshall,
    This is the sweetest engagement story I have ever heard!! I’m so happy for you both. He’s one lucky guy to be engaged to my favorite teacher! πŸ˜‰ Well, congrats! I wish you both the best! <3

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