This story begins in Medellin, Colombia—the only place in the world that I genuinely hate.
And yet the place that changed everything.
Or at least the place that set the wheels in motion.
It’s hard to say when it started. Perhaps when I scheduled that first digital nomad meet up: a night of cocktails and sushi with other full-time travelers. He was there, though we didn’t talk much that night. I told my best friend that I wanted to see him again—the nice guy, the nerdy one, one of only two others who headed home early to get a good night’s sleep.
Then again, perhaps it started midway through December, when I scheduled a fourth meet up and nobody showed, except him. I sat for an hour savoring my hamburger and reading a zombie novel. He—Chad—told me he’d be late, so I waited. And then we talked for a few more hours, past our bedtimes—about growing up and entrepreneurship, cycle trips and podcasts, audiobooks and anxiety—and I was glad for the rest of the no-shows.
In the week that followed, I made him dinner. It was a culinary disaster, the recipe awful, but the company was nice. We talked about marketing and relationships. And we took a long walk in the forest and came back for smoothies. It was all very easy, a bright spot in an otherwise dark time of my travels. I didn’t know if we were friends or something more; I was just happy for the easy laughter and the long walks and the honest conversations.
Then came my last night in town—New Year’s Eve. He’d asked if he could take me to dinner. I wore a dress for the first time in a month. We wandered the town and talked and ate and eventually he took my hand and then gave me my first-ever New Year’s Eve kiss (though he didn’t know that).
The next morning, I left for Flagstaff.
We talked about him coming to Arizona, but no tickets were booked or dates were set. It was a single date, built on a few weeks of comfortable, laughter-filled friendship. Something beautiful. But not something I decided to count on, having been too often disappointed before.
And so I went to Flagstaff and dated.
I went to a steakhouse with another writer and to sushi with an addiction counselor. I went on my first Tinder date and met another world-traveler online. I had margaritas and cups of tea and game nights and hikes.
In the meantime, we kept talking occasionally, but it didn’t feel serious. Until January was drawing to a close and he told me he wanted to come to Arizona. For real. Soon. To date me.
First, I told him no. My heart was tangled up in too many things. There was too much risk. What if he flew across the country and there was no spark? What if things got serious with one of the other guys? Things seemed to be headed that way. It wasn’t fair to let him come, I convinced myself. And so I told him not to.
But he wouldn’t let me go so easily.
He wasn’t pushy or loud. He didn’t show up on my doorstep the next morning. But he was insistent. He wasn’t going to go out without making his case.
I was worth the risk, he said. I was what he wanted. We share the same values. We had something in Colombia. If he’d known that four weeks apart would make me feel uncertain, he would have come sooner. He couldn’t just let this go.
He was right, of course. Something was there. And if he was willing to fight for that? Well, I had to see what would happen. My best friend said I’d regret if I just let this go. And she was right.
So I told him to come.
And a week later, he was here, stepping off the plane in Flagstaff with a bicycle box and a newly grown beard (and you know how I love beards).
For two weeks, we walked and talked and went to literary readings. He took me out for a multi-course dinner (the way to my heart) and we discovered we were on the same page about more things than we’d even realized. And then one weekend I made him my own multi-course dinner and told him I’d like to be exclusive.
He said yes.
And so everything shifts.
We’re mapping routes and booking accommodations for Park City and Minneapolis and New York and Montreal. We’re browsing Airbnb rentals in Vancouver and planning adventures in northern Arizona’s slot canyons. And in between, we’re walking in the sunshine downtown, working quietly in the local coffee shops, making dinners together, watching Big Bang Theory, hiking the Grand Canyon, and making the most of a Flagstaff spring made more beautiful by all the changes its bringing in our own lives.