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We Are Engaged! Or: How Travel Can Find and Build Love

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.”

With Colin this summer in Beijing's Forbidden City.
With Colin this summer in Beijing’s Forbidden City.

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

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! :)

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. A 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. :)

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 a 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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Adveturous Aubrey

Thursday 10th of March 2016

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! :)


Thursday 10th of March 2016

Thanks! We've never been to the Philippines, but it's on my list of places I long to go!


Sunday 27th of January 2013

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 ...

Interested in Living and Working Abroad? : We Said Go Travel

Monday 15th of October 2012

[...] 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! [...]


Monday 24th of September 2012

You can watch a clip of our wedding on reality TV (TLC's "I Found the Gown") here: !

Episode Slice #4: Lillie Marshall on Positive Effects of Long-term Travel | Atlas Sliced

Monday 24th of September 2012

[...] How traveling allowed her to open her heart and find love! [...]

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