Delicate Arch, Utah

Delicate Arch, Utah

I was sure I would never do it. Never get married, never give up my independence. But life, it seems, has other plans for me. “Never” should now be replaced with “imminent.”

I made the “never” decision after I got out of college, after I had traveled to South America on my own, had lived there for six months finding and making my own way, experiencing the freedom and joy of traveling—alone. I had come to the realization that a family was not in my future.

But it turns out love of travel need not be a deal breaker. Without actually looking, I found someone who shares it with me.

I wasn’t sure what to say when he “asked me out”. I didn’t really date, because I knew it wouldn’t lead to anything, and I never wanted to give anyone false hope. I was also simply content with my own company. I didn’t need anyone, so I never looked. So when Brian asked, my first impulse was to say no, but eventually I reconsidered, thanks to a friend’s intervention and our growing friendship.

There was another factor to consider as well: at that time, Brian was my boss, so our relationship would have to stay secret (mostly—Girdwood is a small town).

Milford Sound

Milford Sound, New Zealand

So I prayed, and I poured out my feelings into my journal. By the time I was done writing, I felt I had a definitive answer, and I was surprised by the rightness of it. If that’s even a word. Not only were our personalities compatible—we had been working well together for more than a year at that point—we shared the same values and motivations, including the travel bug, and I already knew I liked and respected him.

So when I agreed to date him, to be his girlfriend (in secret, sort of), it was with the knowledge that it would lead to more, and that I actually wanted it to. I knew how he felt about me, before he even told me. When he first told me he loved me, I almost said “I know,” a la Star Wars, but refrained—it was an important moment for him and I didn’t want to trivialize it. When I finally said it to him—much later out loud than in my heart—he just squeezed me a little tighter.

What surprised me was not that he asked me to marry him. What surprised me was that he waited so long. We  had both already declared our love for each other, both already realized/decided that we were in it for the long haul, by which I meant forever, but he delayed. He was searching for the perfect moment, I guess. And for the perfect ring, which doesn’t exist, at least not for me. He says I’m hard to buy for. In reality, it’s just that I’m unconventional. Or thought I was, until I realized I wanted to get married. Really wanted to get married.

Tongariro Crossing

Brian on the Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand

So I dropped a few (not-so-subtle) hints, and enlisted a few of his family members to help. He always told me he was trying to win the Boyfriend of the Year Award first. Apparently he didn’t think taking me on a trip around the world would guarantee him a win, so I stopped mentioning it, even in jest.

It was New Year’s Eve. We were in a quiet town in New Zealand wine country. There was a concert in the town square, but only a couple of blocks away you couldn’t even hear the music. We made our way to the park, with its fountain, colorfully lit up for the occasion. No bending on one knee. We weren’t even facing each other. Instead, he held me in his arms and we both faced the fountain, and he whispered a question into my ear. “Did I win the Boyfriend of the Year award?” As soon as he asked the next question, the answer was undoubtedly yes. To both questions.

So my aversion to marriage suddenly became an inordinate desire for it. Our secret relationship is now being shouted from the virtual mountaintop. We are physical opposites (not just male and female, but big and small, dark and fair, outgoing and quiet) but our hearts are the same.

Sailing in New Zealand

Sailing in Bay of Islands, New Zealand

We have spent the Northern and Southern summer on this trip, which has taken us from Alaska east to Maine, west to Hawaii, and south all the way to New Zealand. Of course, we’ve gotten along and we’ve argued along the way, but we were always headed the same direction. And now, we’ll be headed in the same direction for the rest of our lives.

So yes, he did win the Boyfriend of the Year award, and ironically, he clinched by pledging to be ineligible for it next year.

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