Growing up I was always the single one. While my friends dated and got into long-term relationships, I never found anyone worth it. I knew I wanted something that would last and would not settle for anything less.
I had gotten a taste of traveling when I studied abroad in Chile so after graduating, I knew I wanted to see the world. My friend was teaching English in Korea and kept telling me how awesome it was. At first I didn’t look into it because I wanted to move to Japan. I was so enamoured with Japanese culture, even studying the language in high school, and was sure I wanted to marry a Japanese man. But then I decided to give Korea a shot.
I was actually really excited at the thought of moving somewhere where no one knew me, I couldn’t speak the language, and would be working in a totally different field. I kinda hoped that traveling half way across the world, maybe I would find someone more like me; someone who shared the same adventurous spirit. Surely someone who would move to the other side of the world to teach English would have more in common with me than the loser guys I was meeting back home?
So I put in my application to teach elementary school English and got selected to do a phone interview. When I picked up the phone it was actually an American voice, a guy named Ryan. He was the “native English speaker” who I would be replacing at the school. He was so friendly and easy to talk to. I remember getting off the phone and calling my mom to tell her how well my interview went with Ryan. I told her how I wished he wasn’t leaving because I believed we would really get along!
Well, I ended up getting the job and arrived in Icheon, South Korea on November 22nd, 2009. Sadly Ryan had left on November 21st and I pretty much inherited all of his belongings: kitchenware, clothing hangers, speakers, even his sheets. I took over his classes, too, and the other teachers and students raved about how amazing he was. The other teacher told me Ryan was now in Hawaii with his family and that he was 4th generation Japanese (could it be?!!).
Ryan and I ended up emailing back and forth a little bit to pass over info about his classes. I added him as a friend on Facebook and we made small talk until I posted a photo of me in heels. He said “cute shoes!” Turns out he is the biggest shoe fanatic and collects Jordans. Well I, too, love sneakers, and we started talking on Facebook chat. We discovered so much that we had in common that it turned into a daily thing, chatting every afternoon and sometimes for hours!
He told me his job in Japan fell through and he wasn’t having luck finding a job back home in the States. He asked if I thought they would take him back at the school. I got so excited! I mentioned it to my Korean co-teacher and she was so excited at the thought, also. They all loved Ryan. The timing ended up being perfect since the other English teacher was not interested in renewing her contract, which was expiring in April. So Ryan decided to come back to take over her position.
In the meantime, we continued chatting on MSN and Facebook and the spark grew. I told him how I had always dreamed of going to Japan and was planning to go there in May to visit my friend. He said he would love to go back and invited me to stay with his cousin who lives there. Ryan and I hadn’t even met yet but we were already contemplating a trip together?! And staying with his family?! We decided to go for it and booked the trip!
When Ryan finally arrived in Icheon, I remember he was just smiling so big and told me, “wow you’re even more beautiful in person.”
The next day he took me on this amazing date consisting of a picnic and a hike when he asked me to be his girlfriend. Inside my heart was exploding! Yes yes yes! When we hiked back down, there was a ceramics event going on. We were taught how to make some ceramic vases and got to decorate them. Until this day they are displayed in our living room, which marks that special day, April 24th, 2010.
The days and weeks went by and every single day was spectacular. We went on our trip to Japan and I remember laying my head on his shoulder on that plane ride home, thinking to myself that I love him, already. He made me so happy and we had such an amazing trip together in Japan. Something I had been dreaming of my whole life!
In August, my dreams shattered. Ryan was offered a job back in Hawaii and he decided not to pass it up. Ryan left for Hawaii in September. My contract was ending November 21st. Instead of booking my flight back home to Canada, I got my job to book my flight to Hawaii instead. When I got there, Ryan’s family greeted me with aloha and welcomed me like family.
I had been researching ways to be able to stay in the US with Ryan, but all the options were not viable. The only thing I could do was enter as a regular tourist and stay the maximum allowance of 6 months in a calendar year. I barely got through the border as the agent grilled me on the way there. She questioned who I would be staying with and how I could afford it. They really don’t like hearing you are going to go stay with your boyfriend for months and don’t have a job or any plans…lol. I tried looking for jobs in Hawaii, but it proved impossible to get a work visa. The 6 months together were lovely and we really solidified our relationship but eventually June rolled around and we knew I would have to leave the country.
We took one last trip together to Bali to be a part of Ryan’s friend’s wedding. Ryan promised me not to worry because we would make it work. Two weeks passed and he flew all the way to Vancouver to surprise me. He only stayed 36 hours, but it was the best surprise ever because he got to meet my family and they loved him. 10 weeks later, we saw each other again and he proposed! I couldn’t have been happier.
We couldn’t wait to get married so we got married in Canada 6 weeks later. But since his family in Hawaii couldn’t make it, we planned two more weddings in Hawaii (one in Kauai and one in Oahu) for the following year. Unfortunately, even after we married, we still had to wait for Ryan’s visa application to be approved. It was super long and a lot of work. We had to go through hoops to get the criminal record check from Korea and then get it translated. We had to include lots of proof documenting our relationship to prove it was legit. Luckily I had so much proof – all those MSN chats and Facebook messages.
Long distance relationships are hard work and take a lot of patience but when you know the other person is truly your solemate (get it?) it is worth it! I would definitely do it all over again. I’m sure lots of people thought it wouldn’t work out. I mean how likely is it that you would meet your dream match abroad, come from different countries and get married after only 16 months??
Taking the leap to move to Korea was the best decision of my life. I found someone who thinks the same way I do and has the same outlook on life. I learned that when you travel and get out of your comfort zone you really can meet people more like you. It turned out right that if I traveled half way across the world I would meet someone I was more compatible with than if I stayed home. I learned that it is always worth it to not settle for less than what you want and deserve. Opening my mind and heart to new experiences was the best thing I ever did. Traveling truly helps you find yourself.
I read a quote once “Travel because you have no idea who you are until you experience yourself through different people and realize how we’re all the same.” This really resonated with me and it turned out to be so true.
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