Love and Adventure: Nick

Nick and I met in July 2004. I was 21 and he was 22. I am from Boston and he is from Minnesota. I was in school for writing and communications, Nick was studying engineering. Considering our accents and our upbringing, we might as well have been from different countries. I suppose that is why we had to travel to the other side of the world to meet.

Our senior year of college (later than most people), Nick and I both made the decision to leave everything we knew to study abroad. I arrived in Australia a day late and met up with my already touring group in a town outside of Melbourne. That night I sat next to Nick on the bus on the way to dinner. I thought he was so handsome. We talked about our hometowns and our families.

When we arrived at the restaurant, I tried to find somewhere to sit and Nick made a joke about us sitting at a table by ourselves. I awkwardly laughed and rejoined the group. We did end up sitting by each other and began to mix ourselves into conversations with friends, who are still some of my favorite people in the world.

Day three of Australia. The people between Nick and I have become family. 
Nick and I were friends right away. We clicked in such a natural way. I had never met anybody like him. I was drawn to him. I remember the first night we all went out, we were all dancing to a live band and he was never far from me. It was the first time I thought he might like me. That night, he gave me his coat when we walked home. He stopped with me at a convenience store to get water and we were having so much fun chatting that we missed the hotel.

Neither of us were in a good place to start a relationship. Nick had ended a long term relationship before coming on the trip and had decided he was going to enjoy being single. I was dating somebody from home when I first arrived and even after ending the relationship, thought I needed to be on my own for awhile.

Train ride back to campus after our first trip to Sydney.
After what seems like a long time, but was actually only a few weeks, Nick told me he had feelings for me. We were sitting at a bar by campus and I told him I felt the same but that I could not handle more than friends right now. Nick said he understood and agreed. There was a lot of going out in those weeks before class started. I would intentionally take a different cab or sit at a separate table to create space between us but every night without realizing it, we would end up spending time together. Everybody else would wander away, or maybe we would, and I would realize- shoot, it happened again.

One night, I realized I did not care to stay away from him anymore. Being around Nick made me happy. Talking to him made me giddy, and every time I knew he was looking at me, my stomach was in knots. After a long day of surfing and dinner with friends and a walk back to campus, our friends sat in the soccer field and watched the sky. It was a clear night and you could see a billion stars. Eventually our friends left and Nick and I stayed. He told me he wanted to kiss me and I told him he should. It was the best first kiss.

The night of the first kiss.
At first we tried to hide our relationship from our friends, I was afraid that it would not last and I did not want to lose our friends due to awkwardness. Our friends knew probably before we did that we were heading toward something real so after sneaking around for a few days, we attended a party separately. Not long into the gathering our friends started singing "Kiss the Girl" from Little Mermaid. By the second round of sha-la-la's Nick gave in.

Masquerade party in my room.
 Nick took me on a real date to make it official. He was very proper with how to start a relationship and it swept me away. Taken from my journal:

Thursday he took me on our first official date, so apparently now he's my boyfriend. It was awesome- great dinner and I could tell he was nervous. He gave me really pretty flowers, dressed nice- black button up shirt- gelled hair, just shaved, smelled good. So cute. Wouldn't let me pay for anything and we went to the movies- I fell asleep during Bourne Supremacy.

Sydney Opera
A few months into the relationship I wrote:

I feel like I have known him forever. I was drawn to him from the first moment that I saw him. We have so much in common and he's funny, smart, sweet, extremely good looking, and I fit so well in his arms. It just seems right.

For five months we lived on the beach and fell madly in love. We made amazing lifelong friends and traveled. We went on an extreme adventure tour through the South Island of New Zealand and found ourselves bungee jumping, skydiving, glacier hiking, whitewater rafting and more. For a girl who is afraid of heights, it was incredible and even more so- to do all of this with him by my side.

Ice Bar in New Zealand

 What weighs heavier in my memory than those wild adventures, are the every day moments that were so special.  

With Nick- there is nowhere else I would rather be. Last night we sat on this bench on top of a hill looking at the ocean and I could not think of anything that would have made that moment better. The waves were like fireworks and I am happy.

Minnesota/Winter themed party in Australia. The scarf is the first gift Nick ever gave me.
This party was on what turned out to be the day we married, 7 years later. 
Nick and I used to go for walks and talk about what would happen after Australia.

We have less than a month left here and it scares me to not see him everyday but we've been talking about it, how we will make it work- because I want this, I want to be with him. The plan is that I will go to Minne for New Years and he will come to Boston for spring break and when we graduate- I will probably move but he offered too-

Last week on Campus. Notice my Dad in the back.
And we did those things. My parents came to visit at the end of our trip and Nick got to meet them.
January- I was in Minnesota for a week over New Years. February and March- Nick flew to Boston for spring break and then my birthday. After graduation, Nick was offered a job in Minneapolis and I flew out for ten days. We picked a neighborhood we wanted to live (Uptown). August- Nick flew to Boston for my sister's wedding and then, one week later, I got into my car and moved halfway across the country.

It was the hardest thing I have ever done. Not the moving, the move was exhilarating. But living in Minnesota and chasing love. It was terrifying. There were times when I wanted to walk away, when I wanted to get into my car and go home but I was never ready to give up.

Date night my first year in MN.
We were young when we met, though we didn't think so at the time. We had so much growing up to do and we still do, but have come so far. I have never gotten enough of him. Even when we argue, we will not go to bed or leave the house without an I love you.

Since arriving at his doorstep in August 2005 we have had so many adventures- hiked the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu, returned to Australia to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef and drive Great Ocean Road, Trekked around London and Paris drinking pints and visiting museums. We dated for seven years before getting married on August 20th, 2011. You can see photos from our amazing photographer here.

 But like when we first met, so many of the greatest times, are the small moments. We have been living together since 2005, celebrating holidays and building a life. In May 2013, we welcomed our daughter into the world. Emaline Joann Gardner Valley is our greatest adventure and biggest joy. We are so proud to be her parents. In those quiet moment at home, I often think how amazing it is that my little family came together.

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