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Sunday, February 19, 2012

In A Heartbeat

It started off with a planned trip to Australia after graduating from the university with one of my best friends.  We wanted to take a break before entering the "real world", so we decided to go to Australia for a year on a working holiday visa.  We thought we'd be able to get jobs working at one of the beach-side resorts or on a cruise line.  Unfortunately, after arriving in Australia, we quickly ran out of money and found it was much harder to get hospitality work than we originally thought it would be.  So one day while we were surfing the internet for work in a hostel in Brisbane, we came across a work hostel that was taking in backpackers.  We booked our rooms and coach ride to Bundaberg.  

The night we arrived in Bundaberg, I wanted to cry after seeing where we would be staying.
  I was in a two bedroom unit that was currently housing about five strange guys and one girl who didn't even say hello to me when I walked in.  It was dirty and there were cockroaches and dirt everywhere from people coming back from the farms.  Definitely not my idea of a holiday, but after a few days, we started getting more comfortable and meeting people.  The third night we were there, everyone had drinks at the hostel and went to one of the local bars.  At some point during the night, I set my sights on one of the guys who lived in my unit, Dan.  I ended up throwing myself shamelessly at him and we walked (stumbled?) back to the hostel together.  Everything just progressed from there.

It was nearly impossible to get any privacy in our tiny unit with eight other people living in it, but we used to stay up late each night until everyone else was in bed (even though we had to be up at 5:00 am to work at the farms) and we would talk or just cuddle on the couch, enjoying the time to ourselves.  Bundaberg was definitely not a place that anyone would consider romance inducing, but somehow it just seemed right for us.

After three amazing months getting to know each other, it was time for Dan to continue his travels in Australia. He had to leave the hostel.  It was heartbreaking and a terrible ordeal for both of us.  We didn't know if or when we would see each other again.  My friend and I left Bundaberg shortly after, all of the friends we had originally made were moving on and it was time for us to go as well.  When we got to Sydney, we started looking for work again.  Dan and I still spoke on the phone, trying to come up with a plan. Dan was out of money and had no other option but to fly home. We agreed that I would stay, and Dan would try to come back out as soon as possible so we could be together. I was stuck between staying and being unsure of our futures or going home. Ultimately, I decided I would cut my trip short and fly back to the states with my earnings from fruit picking and use this to visit Dan.  To throw another twist in this story, ours was an international romance in more ways than one.  Dan lived in England and at the time was I living in Minnesota.  I left my friend in Sydney about six months into what was supposed to be a year long trip (she was disappointed, but knew I needed to go back). Two hours before Dan boarded a plane back home to England I called him and told him my decision - needless to say we were both very happy. So began our first stint of being apart.

December eventually came around and I went to England to visit Dan.  It felt so surreal seeing him again when he picked me up from Heathrow.  The trip to England was wonderful. We spent some time seeing London, visited Plymouth, where Dan grew up, and spent some time in Bournemouth, where Dan was currently living and working.  After an amazing few weeks it was time to say that word we had become familiar with, but both dreaded - Goodbye.

Once I was back in the states, we started working on a plan to see each other again.  Naturally, it was time for Dan to come and visit me.  We were both working at jobs we didn't really enjoy; it was a means to an end. We continued to keep in touch using Skype. The six hour time difference and our work commitments made it hard, but we weren't going to let it come between us.

 At the end of March, Dan flew to the states for the first time.  Another three months had passed, yet as soon as we were together the time we spent apart just faded to nothing. We tried to enjoy our time together, but leaving was always at the back of our minds.  The day before Dan flew back to England we laid in bed and talked about how we could be together more long term. After a long conversation about pro's and con's we finally agreed to both save money and travel. It would mean more time apart, but it was the simplest way to be together. The idea of getting married was not really discussed but it was on both of our minds.

 The day finally came where I had to bring Dan to the airport and my heart broke for a third time.  When he got back to England we again caught up on Skype. It was obvious that the last goodbye had affected us more than either of us could have imagined. Dan proposed explaining that he never wanted to have to say goodbye to me ever again.

After that the planning started. We decided I would move to England.  I had to apply for a fianc√© visa (which consisted of a lot of time, money, and nerve wracking waiting).  I was granted my visa and flew over to England on July 31st, 2010.  Dan and I were married in a small civil ceremony on September 20th, 2010. We had a full out wedding celebration in the states a year later with all our friends and family.  We've had a lot of hardships and obstacles to overcome just so we can simply be together. After our first full year together it still seems crazy to think about our journey, but all the pain, being away from each other, planning, and saving, moving to an entirely different country were worth it and I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat.