This is a story of what happens when we say yes. Yes to life, yes to travel, and by the time these words are printed, yes to a lifetime of love.
The night we met I wore a white bathrobe and brown tennis shoes. My street clothes lay dripping on a drying rack from dancing in the Balinese heat just hours before. So all hopes of a cool first impression were obliterated from the beginning.
Lucky for me, he wasn’t my height, my type, or even from my country, so I took solace in the fact that I would probably never see this very tall, extremely handsome and foreign man ever again because he lived in London.
That week, my friends and I were visiting Bali all the way from Los Angeles. I was single but had no real intention of leaving the group I arrived with (especially not for a boy I just met).
But over some vegan food, and with all my best friends present, the table talk meandered through the benefits of butt tanning to how much palo santo is enough to properly cleanse the days vibes.
And to my surprise, my tribe of wild friends didn’t scare him right out the door; he even agreed to come spend time with me on the beaches of Canggu a couple cities over.
For me, travel wasn’t just a fun thing to do if you had the disposable income and the necessary days off; travel meant I got to see him.
Yes, it was as romantic as it sounds, and no he did not turn out to be a serial killer. We went dancing, watched the sunset, and laughed on mopeds in the pouring rain. I wrote him poetry, and he told me about how he loved reptiles and what life was like growing up in Poland. We spent every minute as if it were our last, because as far as we knew, it was.
But that single day turned into a weeklong romance spanning the entirety of the island and I cried when I finally watched his car drive down a dirt road to take him to the airport.
Maybe that’s how most holiday romances end, but for us this chance meeting in Indonesia turned into intentional visits to LA and London; with each visit as romantic as the last.
A couple months after Bali I brought him roses from the London Heathrow Airport, and we ate Indian food in some of the best spots in the UK. We laughed like bandits on the tube through the city and watched the day become night while sitting on Tower Bridge. In America, we took road trips to the Grand Canyon and he rolled in the waves of La Jolla cove with the wild sea lions that also frequent those waters.
However, each time we said goodbye I told myself, “Well this is it. It’s been fun. Thank you for the experience but I live in Los Angeles and two cities over already seems far. Never mind 8 time zones and the Atlantic. I will probably never see you again, but if I am lucky I will have a new friend to visit when I happen to cross the pond.”
Perhaps that’s what made each meeting so sweet. Every moment shared was treated with the tender and sacred care of two paramours who knew this could be our last moment together. Sure we were in love. But we were realists living in different countries.
Right about the time I was getting comfortable with the commute (the direct flights from LAX to LHR proved easy enough) the entire world under underwent a different shift that no one could have predicted or planned for; the pandemic. Suddenly every single one of those 5,440 miles became a roadblock to our relationship (that’s 8,750 Kilometers for anyone not in the US).
To make matters worse, international borders closed down between the UK and the US. Without any warning, life forced our summer love into winter.
Two weeks of “flattening the curve” dragged on into thirteen painful months of separation. We got creative. We had video chat dates where we would surprise each other with food delivered to our respective locations.
Movie nights on streaming platforms, touch bracelets for when a text couldn’t say enough, and I even received a few hand written love letters during that time (ladies and gents don’t ever let people tell you distance is impossible).
In full disclosure, and despite our best efforts we did take a brief three-month break during that time. But the heart never forgets the people or places that foster its full bloom.
Perhaps it’s the passionate optimist in me, but I have always believed that a closed door is just a chance to open the windows. And after our brief break, that’s exactly what we did. If the borders would not open to us, we would find each other in whatever countries would let us visit. At one point, my partner even offered to swim.
Most couples dream of the opportunity to see the world with their significant other. I personally remember a work trip to Paris where my exact thoughts were; “the only thing that would make this moment more magical is someone to share it with.”
But for our budding love story, we had no other choice. So every couple months we would save up our coins for a trip, run the numbers through every flight aggregator we could find, and every couple of months we would meet somewhere warm. Summer was back.
For me, travel wasn’t just a fun thing to do if you had the disposable income and the necessary days off; travel meant I got to see him. More than being trapped in the monotony of my house, travel felt like truly being home.
That year, we traveled more than anyone I knew. We frequented Mexico’s Caribbean coast and spent a romantic two weeks in Greece.
On the final morning in Mykonos, we watched the sunrise as we walked on the beach. I packed my bag while he stood on the balcony and waited for the world wake up. But when he turned around his eyes were so full of tears, I don’t know if he actually saw the grief written all over me.
“Every time I am with you it feels like I am living my real life,” he said, “the rest is just a waiting game for you.”
So how much of our day-to-day existence is spent on this waiting game? How many seasons pass us while we wait for life to change?
I asked myself that question dozens of times in the early days of our relationship. What if this is my shot? What if this trip is the one I will tell my grandchildren about one day? Or what if I am just addicted to the thrill of a romance unfolding on the other side of the world?
They say, the number one predictor of relationships is proximity, and yet there we were in the middle of a global shutdown; and three years later, here we are. So as I open up my passport, and look at each and every stamp, I no longer see dates or shapes in colored ink.
I see stories, and adventures; chances taken and sweet versions of myself that were irrevocably changed by a destination and the people I met along the way. I see pieces of my heart left behind in far off places, and lessons given back to me that somehow left me feeling more alive than when I left.
For most of my life I never had a great answer for why I spent so much time, energy and resources on travel.
But if only to meet him… the light of my life, my personal Polish miracle… Well I suppose there is no greater purpose than this.
Editor’s Note:This story has a very happy ending. After falling in love in Bali, and spending three years courting in different cities and countries, Dakota and Dariusz got engaged in Holbox, Mexico, in 2021, and were married in Las Vegas in 2022.