The love story of a Teacher and Paraglider in Colombia

Couples love on each other 365 days a year but February 14 is recognized as an official holiday. I was very excited to interview Sonya about how she found love abroad. I met her 9 years ago in Ghana when we became roommates during a month long study abroad trip. We have told each other many stories about our dating life but this by far is the best story that she has told.

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Tiffany: What motivated you to live abroad?

Sonya: After meeting other solo travelers, I dreamt about taking my own personal adventure. After being approved for a 6-month leave from my job as a teacher, I broke my apartment lease and parked my car in my sister’s garage. During the first 6 months, I traveled to Mexico, Cuba, Guatemala, Venezuela, and Colombia. I budgeted approximately $40-50 per day which included food, bed at a hostel, local transportation, and an occasional tour. I normally stayed in hostels vs. hotels and used local transportation vs. airplanes to keep within my estimated budget. Hostels are a great way to meet friends and form new travel buddies. Local transportation allowed for cultural immersion.

Tiffany: Were you looking for love abroad or did it happen naturally?

Sonya: While traveling I was looking to have fun and meet new friends. When I’m in other places I am fearless, uninhibited and free from social constraints. This allowed me to be open to dating and everything that may come along with that. I wasn’t looking for love but I was open to the possibility of finding love. Possibilities allowed me to find the love of my life (William) in Colombia.
Tiffany: When did you fall in love? At what point in your relationship did you know that you wanted to be married?

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Paragliding in Colombia

Sonya: While at a hostel in Colombia, someone told me about a small city north of the capital called San Gil. I booked a Para gliding tour and William happened to be the instructor. The following day we met again and talked for several hours about everything. Prior to meeting William, I scheduled a trip to Peru. After arriving in Peru, I became sad because I missed William and wanted him by my side so we could explore together. About a month later, I returned to Colombia to spend more time with William. Even though our relationship developed quickly, I knew that he was different from all the other men I had previously dated. He was honest and wanted more than a temporary good time. Although I enjoyed our time together, I began to miss my family in California. Of course, I wanted William to return to the states with me. Unfortunately, his tourist visa application had been denied several times. I decided to apply for a teacher position in Bogota, Colombia and taught Middle School Science for a year. After dating for Colombia years we came to the USA to officially tie the knot.

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Tiffany: How have you and your husband adjusted to living in the USA?

Sonya: I experienced culture shock after returning from Colombia to the USA. It was hard to adjust due to not having employment and searching for a new apartment. It was hard for William as he didn’t know the language or the culture. He had to heavily depend on me for mostly everything. I had to teach him about simple things such as crossing the street and driving as they are a bit more aggressive in Colombia. He even dealt with racism. He was stopped and harassed while on his bike because he fit the profile of someone with a backpack. At the time he did not speak English which made the situation both frustrating and scary. Many times we both felt like it was a mistake coming to the states but realized the challenges has made our relationship stronger.

Tiffany: What were your family and friends initial reaction after learning about your new found love?

Sonya: Thankfully my friends have been happy and supportive of our relationship.

On the surface, my family was very supportive. Many of my family members attended the court ceremony and my sister provided a photography session as a wedding gift. A month after the wedding my family told me the truth about their feelings toward my new husband. They thought I was settling and deserved better. My husband asked my family to give him a chance to prove that he could be a great man and a provider. 7 years later and he still has not gained their approval. Their fears have added to our stress as a couple but or relationship has remained solid and become a beautiful rainbow despite the doubtful feelings of my family.

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Rainbow in Iguaza Falls

Tiffany: What advice would you give to a person who falls in love abroad? Take a risk or play it safe

Sonya: I would say take one day at a time. I often check in with myself. I’ve learned to be cautious if I have a weird vibe about a guy and press forward if I’m feeling good vibes. I advise people take risks with caution.

Tiffany: Where have you and William traveled too since being together?

Sonya: Due to my husband initially not having a passport, our first trip was a road trip on the west coast to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Bryce and Joshua tree.

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Road Trip in Southern California

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In 2014, we had to find a place where you didn’t need a visa as a Colombian. We had to choose between the Philippines and Turkey. We chose Turkey due to the Turkish language and wanting to learn about Muslim culture. It was an experience; we were able to see Syrian refugees and freedom fighters. We often had to tell people we were Colombian and not American due to backlash from the Turkish community.

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Thermal Pools in Turkey
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Relaxing in Thermal Springs

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In 2015, we traveled for 6 weeks to Brazil (Rio), Argentina and Paraguay. I love South America due to the fusion of African, European and Indigenous cultures.

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Brazil

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In 2016, we decided to travel to ten different cities in Europe. We really enjoyed this vacation because we met up with friends who we have met while traveling on other trips.

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Leaning Tower of Piza

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Copenhagen, Denmark

Our future plans include Southeast Asia (Thailand and Cambodia) and East Africa (Uganda and Kenya).

Tiffany: Do you believe that traveling together has strengthened your relationship?

Sonya: There is potential for conflict due to the decisions that you have to make. For example, you have to make daily decisions about what to eat, how much to pay for tours, hotels, and excursions. Despite the challenges, I think traveling is great to get away from the daily grind of everyday life. There is an opportunity to bond, relax, immersion in other countries and enjoy each other company.

Tiffany: Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years.

Sonya: I am currently a middle school science teacher my husband will be a student at Dominguez Hills in the fall and plans to be a math teacher. A career in teaching will allow both of us to travel during the summer. We are currently planning to have children. Our goal is to travel and explore with our children to provide them with adventures and memories.

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Williams Graduation from Long Beach City College next stop Dominguez Hills
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My Graduation from Cal State Long Beach with my Masters

Tiffany: What tips would you provide for people dating abroad?

Sonya: I encourage everyone to seek both individual and couples therapy. I would also encourage people to date or live together prior to marrying. It will allow you to see you’re significant in different setting and climates. You are going to encounter haters, stress, and frustrations but the key is to follow your heart. Don’t let fear stop you from doing what you want to do. We are happy because we now are both bilingual, have two countries we call home, gained knowledge and perspective on life. Lastly, remember how and why you fell in love.

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55 Comments

  1. Awww, thank you Tiff for capturing our story so beautifully in both words and pictures. We feel honored that you took the time to celebrate our journey as a couple. Abrazos grandes! Con amor, Sonya and Wiliam

  2. Awwh..this is such a sweet story. I love their story and they looked so happy on their wedding day. Thanks for sharing it with us. I hope others open themselves up for love wherever they find it :-).

  3. I loved seeing this couple’s travels! What an amazing story, and an amazing journey. Traveling really allows you to see all the different sides of your partner. best of luck to them on their journeys!

  4. I recently wrapped up my stay abroad after studying for my masters in England. I know how the the travel bug can be, especially when you meet someone! I was all about focusing on my degree and making great friendships, definitely not meeting a ‘special someone; but I did anyway hehe

    Always great to hear of ‘love abroad’ stories blooming into something lifelong and awesome!

    • I wish I could have studied abroad while in grad school as my ultimate goal is international Social Work. How was your study abroad experience? I would love to hear your love story, sounds interesting.

  5. Great interview. I never thought of finding love while traveling abroad. It can certainly happen. I enjoyed reading Sonya’s story along with her advice.

    • Yes, I love how they have the opportunity to travel and explore new destinations across the world!

  6. Ohhh how I love a good love story! And this could’ve been a movie! I love reading the entire interview! So special…listening to stories of how your parents got together and things that happened while they dated never get old…and their children are going to love hearing how Mommy and Daddy got together!

    • Wow a movie, never thought about that but it certainly could be. Yes, I think telling traveling stories to anybody is cool and even more special when you can tell personal love stories about how you met is even more special.

  7. Wow! What a story. It hadn’t really occurred to me the possibility of finding love while abroad. I do travel quite frequently but I know I would be apprehensive due to many of the things Sonya and her hubby encountered. I love that their love has persisted through it all.

    • While traveling have you met people that were interested but you kind of blew them off because the thought of dating abroad seems weird?
      Yes that is the key persisting despite the obstacles and road blocks.

    • This is very true, you never know will love will find you so you must be open to all possibilities.

  8. It was meant for me to read this story this morning. I am in the process of finishing up my own love story right now! Unfortunately, I am still waiting for “The One,” but stories like this keep me hopeful! ♡♡♡

    • I’m interested to hear you love story!Everything happens for a reason, Hopefully the One will come soon. #alwayskeephopealive

    • Don’y you just love a good love story! Traveling puts you out of your comfort zone, if you and your partner can get through some things while traveling he/she maybe a keeper.

    • Yes, I was glad she was honest. .I designed the question to help other couples who fall in love abroad and they need to know the real deal about finding love abroad.

  9. Man when love has no boundaries. I appreciate this love story and she found love abroad. I always joked maybe my husband isnt American lol.

    • Why do you say that? Where is your husband from? Love abroad is a unique relationship and I’m so glad she was open to finding love.

  10. This was a wonderful story! Thank you so much for sharing! As a single woman, I love to travel and I’ve become more open to possibly finding love in a different place! Praying for you and your husband and wishing you the best!

    • I think traveling opens up your heart and mind to different things. I def think you should be open to finding love abroad, you never know what could happen. Look forward to reading your blog post if the magic happens during wanderlust trips.

    • I am jealous my self, they always say I travel a lot but I have nothing on their yearly travels. Yes, you have to focus on yourself because other people feelings will have you lonely and sad.

  11. The thermal pools look incredible. I love a good story, I don’t know if I could survive moving to a new country and not knowing the language. It warms my heart to know they are doing well.

    • I have never tried a thermal but its on my list of things to try. Yes not knowing the language was super difficult for him. I remember when he first came now he is pretty fluent and entering the university this Fall.

  12. This is beautiful! I dealt with my own mother not approving my marriage (I got married at 20) and 5 years later she now wants to come around. My father on the other hand was nervous that I was getting married you but the greatest advice he gave me was,it’s my life! Don’t worry to make anyone happy especially now that we are already married. The main focus is your spouse that is my new family now. And we now live happily ever after !

    • We love our parents but sometimes we have to whats best for ourselves. glad to see you mother coming around, hoping you all are moving forward. Its normal for fathers to be nervous but he allowed you to make your own decisions. Cheers to happily ever after.

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