A new destination, a chance meeting, a spark, then something more – sometimes holiday romances are destined to be more than just a fling.
Here are the stories of four travellers who met their partners on the road. As told to Juliette Sivertsen.
Two chance meetings
Stephanie and Dennis Markson met on a plane to Barcelona. They’ve been married nearly 50 years and have two children
Stephanie: We met on a flight from London to Barcelona in 1970. I wanted to have a drink but it turned out they wouldn’t take money in the currency I had with me. Dennis was sitting across the aisle, one row behind, noticed I had a New Zealand passport and offered to pay for the drink. So he bought the drink, and really, that was all the contact we had, other than at Customs, when we said hi to each other, then went on our different ways.
About six months later I was back in Auckland. I’d been home for about six weeks and went into what was then the sporting bar in the old Intercontinental Hotel. My brother, a friend of mine and I were there having a drink. And then Dennis came into the bar with a couple of friends. This was completely coincidental; Dennis is Australian and I had no idea he would be coming to New Zealand. I recognised him straight away but I actually couldn’t remember where I had met him. But the moment he saw me, he knew where he’d met me.
We had a conversation and I met his friends. At the end, we exchanged telephone numbers.He was actually living around the corner from me. So we agreed we would be in touch. Maybe two to four weeks later Dennis phoned me and said there was a programme on Ernest Hemingway on television that night and would I care to come over and watch it with him? And that was really the start of getting to know each other.
We got married the following year, January 23, 1972.
The tour guide connection
Jessica Wynn Lockhart and Keilie Stokes met on a group tour where Keilie was the tour guide
Jessica: Keilie and I first met in 2016. I was working as a travel journalist living in Sydney, and I had an assignment for the Toronto Star travel section. I was assigned to cover a G Adventures multi-day tour through Australia. They asked me what itinerary I would be interested in doing, and I said I would do the National Geographic-branded one, as it sounded interesting. I didn’t realise that the age demographic typically interested in National Geographic tours are not 20- or 30-somethings, but retirees and pensioners.
So I got to the welcome meeting and one by one my fellow passengers walked into the room and they were all over 70. I like travelling with that age group but it was different from what I anticipated. And Keilie was the tour guide. Unbeknown to me, she was terrified of me, because she’d been working as a tour guide in Australia for about two years at that point, but this was her first National Geographic-branded trip. There are slightly different standards for it, so she was nervous about that – then the head office called her and told her there would be a journalist on the trip. Even for the first few days after meeting me on the trip, she was still scared of me but she said I surprised her.
Because we’re so close in age (we both share the same birthday, one year apart), by 8pm all the other passengers had gone to bed, so Keilie and I would go for a drink or a walk around whatever city or place we were in and just hang out. And that’s how we became friends. I was very taken by her but I had a boyfriend.
What drew me to her was watching her interact with these older guests and seeing how much she really cared about them and wanted them to have an amazing experience in Australia. Neither of us was what the other expected.
Our friendship continued for about a year after that, then my boyfriend and I split up. And afterwards, Keilie was one of the first phone calls I made. And we’ve been together ever since – that was three years ago. We had a long-distance relationship for about eight months, then we both decided to move to New Zealand together, just over two years ago.
Love is in the air
Jacqui and Tim Richardson met on a plane to Cambodia. They have one son
Jacqui: I was going on holiday in 2015 with my friend Laura. I was living in Hong Kong at the time and Laura was moving back to the UK, so we thought we’d have a girls’ trip to say goodbye. We were flying to Siem Reap in Cambodia.
When we got onto the plane, the person who was sitting next to me hadn’t arrived yet. Then I saw this guy walking down the aisle and he was looking pretty hairy. He’d just been backcountry skiing in Canada, so he had a pretty good head of hair on him and his beard was ginormous and I was thinking, ‘Oh my lord, who is this guy?!’ His eyes were really kind and I thought, “Hello!”
We took off and Tim sneezed and I said “bless you” – and that started the conversation. And we chatted for the rest of the flight. We just had such a great chat. Laura was chatting with us to begin with as well, then she put on her eye mask and neck pillow and fell asleep. Halfway through the flight, Tim got up to go to the loo, at which point Laura lifted up her eye mask and looked at me and said, “If you don’t get his number, I’m going to kill you.”
I was really surprised because I thought she’d been asleep. But she’d been listening to the whole thing, pretending to be asleep so I could chat with him.
When we got to Siam Reap Tim had already organised his visa as he was travelling for work, but Laura and I still had to go through Immigration.
We got off the plane, got on a bus to be taken to the terminal, and Tim ran off in a different direction. So I was feeling pretty miffed because I thought we’d had some good chats on the plane. Tim ended up going through immigration really early. You could see the baggage haul in front of us, so Tim was standing there looking at his bag, and I thought if I don’t get through now, I won’t be able to catch up and that will be the end of it.
We were semi-looking for him when he suddenly disappeared, and Laura was saying, “We’ve lost visual! We’ve lost visual!” And then suddenly he popped up again. It was only later on that I found out that while he was waiting, his bag had come through on the baggage carousel, so he bent down to hide, put his bag back on the carousel, then appeared again, which is when he reappeared to us! So he was standing there waiting for us and for his bag, which had gone around five times by the time we got there.
We had our first proper date in Siem Reap at Madam Woo. Our second date was three months later. I was living in Hong Kong and Tim was in France. I’d planned to go to Paris for a long weekend to meet my parents there. Tim came up to Paris to meet me and we had our second date in the cafe next to the Louvre with my mum and dad.
In 2016, we moved to NZ and in 2017 got married. We now run French Bay House in Akaroa.
Love when you least expect it
Sonja Steinmetz and Will Johnson met when Sonja travelled to New Zealand on holiday
Sonja: I’m from Singapore and came to New Zealand for my friend’s wedding in 2014. I was planning on doing a solo trip, my first ever solo trip, and I was feeling really empowered. I had never been to New Zealand before and was excited to explore it because I had always thought it was a really beautiful country.
A week before the trip, I started freaking out. I had booked to stay five nights in Wellington before driving to Auckland, but I didn’t know what I was going to do. One of my friends in Singapore knew someone in Wellington, so she introduced me to Grant. When I got to his house, he had another friend there called William, who seemed really nice and interested in what I was saying.
We ended up chatting and enjoying each other’s company, and we all went to a party that night together. Will wanted to see me again in Wellington, so we went out for dinner and it went really well. But when you’re on holiday, there’s less pressure to make it anything serious. It was just fun. After dinner, we went for another drink and we really connected.
The next day I was leaving Wellington for my friend’s wedding in Auckland, but Will and I kept in touch the whole time on my holiday. In my head, I thought I would never see this guy again, thinking it was a little holiday fling.
Will then said he was keen to come to Singapore to visit me. The day that I left New Zealand, he told me had booked his tickets. So, a couple of months later he came and stayed for two weeks. He then went back to New Zealand, and we had a long-distance relationship for the next year. I realised if I wanted this to work, we would have to be in the same country. I took it as a sign to change my life. On my own, I thought about moving to New Zealand and I thought, even if it doesn’t work out, it was a great opportunity to change my career and life for something new. It’s not the end of the world.
So I changed my career and moved to New Zealand in 2015, and studied early childhood education and it worked out. Will and I got married in 2019 and now we have a baby.
Emotionally, when I first arrived in New Zealand, I was coming with the energy of a single, empowered female going on this solo trip. It’s ironic that in the first 24 hours I was in the country, I met someone. And we just connected. I’d never felt as comfortable with anyone as much as I did with Will.
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