The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

THE DISPLACED Q: Where did you meet your honey abroad?

It can be hard to make new friends abroad — let alone find a significant other. Thus it’s always inspiring to hear from nomads who’ve found that special someone hiding under a shamrock drinking green beer, or in other such fanciful locales. One such lucky fellow is Tony James Slater, the newest addition to the TDN team. Here is his story — can’t wait to hear yours!

There’s always a great story behind a travel romance, I find, often running the full gamut of emotions, from anguish to bliss. From experiencing a breathless holiday whirlwind romance to finding a soul mate in a distant land, nothing beats a tale of love — true and requited, tragically unrequited or trapped agonizingly somewhere in between.

And today I would very much like to hear yours!

Because our February theme is LOVE — and because it’s rapidly approaching That Day, when you should have bought something a bit special for your other half — I would like to invite EVERYONE to share their tale of passion and/or romance abroad!

Now, I can’t ask you folks to do something I wouldn’t do myself — so here’s an interesting tale of my own…

Once upon a time, in a faraway land…

I first met my wife in America. I know, right? Fascinating! But wait, I’m English — and the young lady in question, Krista, is from Australia, as evidenced by her nickname: Roo.

Roo had been working for Camp America, which supports summer work adventures in the United States. She was teaching kids how to ride horses at a summer school in Maine. And, as fate would have it, that was where she met…my sister!

My sis, whose name is Gillian, was doing Camp America at the same time, and was the only other staff member who wasn’t scared of horses!

Roo and Gill got to know each other quite well — so much so that the pair of them went traveling around the US after the job finished, which is where they met…Richie! An awesome, Kung-Fu kicking dude, muscle-bound and handsome, Roo fell for him immediately and the two became an item.

Which could have turned out rather differently for me, except this unexpected romance kept the couple in America for much longer than expected. You see, at the time some of this was happening, I was in Ecuador volunteering at an animal shelter. On my way home to the UK, I called in to the States to visit my sister, when I also met Roo and Richie. We traveled together for a couple of weeks and had a lot of fun.

Then Richie left, Roo left, and I followed my sister back to the UK, where, as explained in a previous post, I grew bored and dissatisfied with my hollow, consumer-led lifestyle.

(In other words, I was broke.)

Twists and turns worthy of Shakespearean comedy

So Gill remained close friends with Roo, inviting her over to England the following summer. She arrived just in time to be part of my farewell party — I’d finally scraped together enough cash to go to Thailand, where I planned to volunteer at an animal clinic and learn to dive. I would be gone for three months — exactly the same length of time that Roo would be in England.

Which was a pity, as she’s recently broken up with Richie and I rather liked her.

Gill and Roo explored every corner of my native country together, and Roo went back to Australia having elicited a promise from my sister that she would travel to Oz as soon as she could afford it.

I, meanwhile, had missed my flight home. It was accidentally on purpose — my subconscious clearly didn’t want me to leave Thailand just then. My regular conscious didn’t want me to leave either, being rather more aware of my income — or at least, the lack.

Volunteering for a living is notoriously unprofitable, and I couldn’t earn money from diving until I could afford to get qualified. A bit of a Catch 22!

But then — we came into some money. Both my sister and I profited from the sale of a house we’d helped renovate since getting back from America. I used the money to become a Divemaster (and for just a little bit of partying!), while Gillian, rather more sensibly, used hers to buy a ticket to Australia. She stopped off in Thailand on her way through, found me drunk in a bar and gave me such a talking to that I promised to come to Australia just to get her off my back. She was determined to save me from myself, which was probably for the best (I had very little intention of saving myself!).

I dallied for another three months while Gill met up with Roo in Oz and started to explore. They bought a beat-up old van between them and called it Rusty because, well, it was. Seriously — you could see daylight through bits of it.

To the ends of the earth — well, the Great Southern Land

That’s when I showed up. Penniless again, I arrived in Perth airport without the price of a cup of coffee to my name. I’d been living in Thailand for a year by this point, and all I owned was a bulging bag full of dive gear. It was winter in Australia and I didn’t even own a pair of shoes, or anything at all with sleeves.

Not in the least bit phased by me looking like a homeless person, Roo found me work with a local temp agency and within a few weeks I had enough money to travel.

The three of us piled into that crumbling van and set off for horizons unknown…and somewhere along the line, Roo and I fell in love.

Which thrilled my sister of course, as we were all sharing a tent. (But don’t worry — we got our own tent before long!)

Poor Gill left us, in disgust, in Sydney. She’d always hated being around couples in love — romance just wasn’t her thing. I still feel a little guilty for this…well, almost. But not quite!


Since then, Roo and I have visited more than a dozen countries together. We married last July — in England because only Roo’s immediate family is in Oz. (She’s of Dutch descent, so all her rellies from Holland came over — including some she’s never met before! Her Aussie family — all four of them — flew over to the UK for the ceremony. ) And we now live in Perth — for a while in Roo’s family home but we now have a flat of our own. People always ask where we met — out of politeness more than interest, I feel — but it usually surprises them when we both say “America!”.

And as for Gill…well, she lingered in Sydney long after Roo and I left. Then she grew bored and flew to New Zealand, to a job in the ski fields, where she met a short blonde ski technician from Hampshire, UK, called Chris. They hit it off rather well as it happens — Gill had always liked short men — and four years later, the pair of them were married, a month before us and less than fifty miles away.

Roo got to be my sister’s Maid of Honor!

And because I’d been out of the country for so long that I’d lost touch with all my male friends, Gill — poor, suffering Gill — had to be my Best Man!

* * *

Your turn!

So. Let me hear it! Tales of love in far-flung and exotic locations: the triumphs, the failures and the ones that got away! We want to hear them all — post them in the comments section please, so everyone can read ’em and weep! (They don’t have to be as long and waffley as mine — I’ve been told I can be verbose.)

Oh, and keep it clean — some of these expat love stories lasted long enough to have children, and even grandchildren.

Tony xo

TONY JAMES SLATER is a self-confessed adventureholic. For the last six years he’s been traveling nonstop around the world, working at a variety of jobs including yacht deliverer in the Mediterranean, professional diver in Thailand and snow boarder in New Zealand. Last year, Slater published his first book, That Bear Ate My Pants!, an account of his misadventures while volunteering at the animal refuge in Ecuador. (The book was featured in The Displaced Nation’s list of 2011 expat books.) He is currently working on a second book set in Thailand, while exploring his new home in Perth, Australia.

STAY TUNED for Tuesday’s post, on 7 of the world’s most seductive foods — for seducing that valentine of yours.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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Image: Tony Slater and Krista (Roo) participating in the traditional European ceremony of handfasting where the couple’s hands are tied together (in their case, with a garland of flowers), at their medieval-themed wedding last summer.

34 responses to “THE DISPLACED Q: Where did you meet your honey abroad?

  1. ML Awanohara February 6, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    Dating experts always say that the best way to meet your ideal mate is to pursue your passions. It seems that you and Roo are both passionate about sports (horse riding, diving) and adventure travel, which in the end was what brought you together. I met my first hubby in a graduate school class in the UK, and the second, when I was working for an academic foundation that was giving away money to American and Japanese scholars and journalist-scholars (he was in the latter category). I guess I’m a bit of a nerd! But, hey, whatever floats your boat, right?

  2. Tony James Slater February 7, 2012 at 5:10 am

    I think that’s a great point – I sometimes wonder what life would be like if I’d ended up with someone else – boring would be the answer! Because we met while travelling and spent the rest of our time together doing the same, it was clear right from the start that that’s what we both want. I’d hate to be trapped in a relationship where I wanted to roam the planet like a penniless vagabond, writing about my crazy misadventures, and my wife wanted me to stay at home and get a career to support her taste in jewellery and fast cars :0)

  3. Wendy Tokunaga February 7, 2012 at 11:12 am

    I met my Osaka-born Japanese husband in San Francisco where we both lived. Frankly, if he hadn’t moved to the U.S. for college and career and stayed in Japan instead, he would have probably become a quite different person. I’d previously lived in Tokyo, studied Japanese and was a big Japanophile, but my Western upbringing would have clashed with someone more traditionally Japanese. His wanting to escape Japan and its often strict societal expectations is one reason why we’ve had a successful marriage and life in California. 🙂

    • Tony James Slater February 7, 2012 at 12:13 pm

      And you can’t have a stressful life in California can you? I hear the two are mutually exclusive! Kind of like Australia, the US is a big mixed bag of immigrants – perfect place (I’d imagine) for two cultures to come together without clashing – kind of round off the edges of each other’s differentness…
      Thanks for sharing this Wendy. Very best of luck to you both!

    • ML Awanohara February 7, 2012 at 3:29 pm

      No doubt it helps that Wendy’s Japanese husband can make a mean prime rib. (We know that from her interview with us over Xmas.) But does he use Kobe beef? Do they have Kobe beef in California?

      I could not agree more with your points — that Japanese men are easier to be attracted to if they’ve lived outside of Japan and to be married to if the couple lives outside of Japan. The other day I was reading this “dating story” on Expat Women — about a Danish woman who follows her Japanese bf to Japan and then is bitterly disappointed when he becomes a stranger — and I almost fell out of my chair. Not because the man had become a stranger but because the woman was naive enough not to realize that would happen. Then again, I’m told that the numbers of Western women who meet and marry Japanese men in Japan (and proceed to make their homes in that part of the world) is increasing. (hmmm… How many of those marriages last? I’d love to know the stats…)

      • Wendy Tokunaga February 7, 2012 at 4:02 pm

        Awanohara-san, thanks for your reply and comments. 🙂 I’d love to see a reference about the increasing numbers of Western women making their homes in Japan with Japanese spouses. I’ve never heard this. What I have heard is that there are increasing numbers of Japanese men in Japan married to non-Japanese spouses, but these are mostly women of other Asian heritages (e.g. Filipina, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc.).

  4. vegemitevix February 7, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Great story, with certain echoes of our story about it. In 2007 I travelled from my home in New Zealand to the UK and France, I was going through an arduous divorce at the time and the opportunity provided the perfect break. The second morning I was in Paris, I wandered along to the Musee Rodin and was wandering through the sculpture garden when I bumped (literally) into a guy framing a shot. We said hi and exchanged chat but soon disappeared off in our own directions. Later that day I was waiting in the queue outsdide the Musee d’Orsay and this same guy walked past. For some reason, call it karma, I called out to him (Oi Englishman!) and he joined me in the queue. We spent the afternoon together at the d’Orsay, then the evening and the next morning. It was a magical time and so it was with a certain amount of sadness that we went our separate ways – he went back to England and I to New Zealand. Three months later he flew out to see me in NZ, and a year later I moved from Auckland to Hampshire with my three kids, dog, cat and all my stuff to live with him. What happened next? The story is on my blog at and will hopefully be released as a book- From Pavlova to Pork Pies. Vix x

    • Tony James Slater February 7, 2012 at 12:17 pm

      Woah, that’s a great one! Coincidence? I think not.. or rather, I’m a big believer in coincidence, as one of the main ways Fate channels our lives. Can you imagine if you’d thought to call out – but lost the nerve at the last minute and let him walk by?
      It just blows my mind when I think of that sort of thing – all those tiny chances that had to come together perfectly, to create what we have now…
      I reckon it’ll make a great book! Although I’m biased, being partial to people writing about their travel adventures. Are you planning on approaching traditional publishers, or taking the DIY approach? Either way, best of luck with it :0)

    • ML Awanohara February 7, 2012 at 3:40 pm

      @vegemitevix aka Vicki Jeffels
      You mentioned the proposal at the top of Mt Helvellyn in the Lake District in your Random Nomad interview with us, but I hadn’t realized that it was the Rodin sculptures (was it the statue of “The Kiss”?) — and your calling out, “Oi Englishman!” from the queue at the Musée d’Orsay — that brought you together. How romantic! (But then Paris is!)

      • vegemitevix February 9, 2012 at 8:52 am

        Ooooh did I not tell you that bit before? It’s written up on the blog under ‘Dumped by An Eight Year Old and a Girl Guide in Paris. It was wonderfully romantic but the long distance relationship that followed was difficult at times, thank goodness for Skype. I loved the musee Rodin particularly ‘The Kiss’. In fact it was my photo of The Kiss that helped fuel our contact after we had returned home as my Englishman asked if I could share my photo of it with him. I did, and started chatting with him online, and we never stopped. x and

        • ML Awanohara February 11, 2012 at 8:42 pm

          Just now read your “A Girl Guide in Paris” post — and almost swooned. You certainly wouldn’t know from the title that it’s a raw tale of finding true love where you least expect it…however romantic Paris is! I’d like to recommend to others on this board looking for a good Valentine’s Day read.

          As for your other post, about being dumped by an 8-yr-old, I love how it ends on this note:

          ‘Oi Englishman’ I hollered. Ever a picture of temerity and passive femininity was I. I expected him to take one look and run… but instead he smiled a little shyly and came over to join me in the queue, Cupid’s bow sitting plumb in his bum.

          My comment about “The Kiss” was sheer guesswork. But it seems I hit the mark, just like Cupid! 🙂 xx

          • vegemitevix February 15, 2012 at 9:03 am

            Thanks hun, so pleased you enjoyed them. My husband and I (always sound like the Queen when I say that) spent a wonderful night reminiscing about how we met, by candlight last night. We’re hoping to spend our 3rd wedding anniversary in Paris in May, I’ll keep you posted if we get there. 🙂 x

  5. sandaion6Sanda February 7, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Great stories, I really enjoyed hearing about them! I am Romanian and met my Greek husband when we were both studying for our Ph.D.s in the UK. BUT… we were at different colleges in London and studying very different subjects, so we might never have met IF… I hadn’t loved ballroom dancing and joined the Student Union’s dance classes. And he wanted to hang out in a place where there were lots of girls. The rest is history! 16 years and 2 children (and several countries) later: no, we don’t dance a lot together, but…

    • Tony James Slater February 8, 2012 at 2:58 am

      Fantastic! London is such a melting pot of people from all different countries and cultures. It must be one of the best places to meet a stranger from a far-off land! Great that you guys had so much i common from the start – the hard-core studying, both having English as your second language… have your children learnt any Greek or Romanian?
      What a great story, it sounds like you guys are really happy :0)
      Thanks for sharing!

  6. robingraham February 7, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    My story of how I met K, my other half, couldn’t be less travel-related; she moved into the shared house where I lived, and that was that. it was like dial-a-girlfriend or something, only respectable!

  7. steve February 7, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    We also met whilst travelling – I’m English and she’s Chinese. We met in Venezuela on a group tour, then travelled independently together for the next 6 months.

    I now live in China, which was never on my to-do list!

    • Tony James Slater February 8, 2012 at 2:54 am

      AWESOME! Wow, that must be a dramatic difference! England to Australia is just a matter of learning to drink more beer and wear sunscreen, but England to China… wow. I bet you’ve got a lot of stories to tell! Are you learning Chinese? Or… KUNG-FU!??!!
      Good luck with your adventures, I bet you’re having a blast!

  8. trailingtrekker February 8, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    I met my boyfriend after traveling the world for 10mths, in my 2nd to last stop, Nepal, his friend offered him to ride me to monkey temple and we were together for the next 3wks. Now he is working as a bartender on a cruise ship and I plan to visit him in Italy on one of the cruises. He wants to marry me have kids and open a bar and hostel in some place like thailand. Long distance is tough, but skype rocks!

    • Tony James Slater February 9, 2012 at 12:47 am

      This is one of the colest stories for me, as I ‘knew’ you a little through your blog (excellent by the way) long before this happened! It’s an evolving story, a ‘breaking news’ type event! Congratulations, and this is proof positive that not only is the right person out there, but that it’s easier to find him or her if you move around a bit! The benefits of course include meeting someone who has an awesome life themselves, like this dude – working on an Italian cruise ship… NICE! Beats meeting someone who lives next door to you and works in the same BT Call Centre… well, for me anyway. It makes all the Skype calling worthwhile! I bet most ex-pat cross-culture relationships have been through this stage at some point.
      My very best wishes to the pair of you!

  9. meagan adele lopez (@TheLadyLunches) February 8, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    Tony, what a great story! I love how these meetings usually happen when we’re penniless and traveling – that’s when the great changes in life occur! So, my turn.

    I was a struggling actress/personal assistant in Hollywood, going through a really boring, miserable time in my life. My best friend (also miserable and married), Courtney, flew out to visit me from Baltimore and we decided to take a road trip to Las Vegas. After three nights of mayhem, we thought about calling it quits and heading straight home. Instead, we decided to go out on Easter Sunday (yes, it was Easter Sunday – and thanks to a few twists of fate), and ran into – literally – 15 Englishmen at the Palms in Ghost Bar. 8 hours later, he had to leave to go travel through Africa for four months. I never thought I would see him again, but four months later (after lots of letter writing), we met in Chicago for two weeks and fell in love! NOW, four years later, and 3 cross continental moves, we’re still together!

    Nothing like a Brit!

    Oh, and we’re in Chicago and I wrote a book about it 🙂 Here’s a trailer to tease you

    • Tony James Slater February 9, 2012 at 12:59 am

      That’s such a great story Meagan! As it happens I’m reading Meagan’s book about this, ‘Three Questions’, right now! I’m really enjoying it, so I strongly recommend everyone checking it out.
      I don’t want to ask the questions that are burning inside me at the moment, as I’m saving them up – I’ll be interviewing Meagan right here on the Displaced Nation in a couple of weeks, so you’ll just have to wait until then – but in the meantime, I suggest you buy her work of ‘fiction’, and decide for yourself how much is autobiographical!
      Thanks for visiting Meagan!
      And I LOVE the trailer by the way – super slick! Is that you playing yourself…?

  10. yazarc February 9, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Two lonely expats…. a Turk seven years in Colorado, about to finish up his doctorate; and me, a newly arrived Irish girl desperate for a pint! I basically asked him out (a group evening that fell through). We moved in together very quickly.
    Nine months later he went back to Turkey and I went back to Dublin. Then I visited his hometown, met the family and got engaged (announced to my very shocked parents over the phone!). I wouldn’t marry him until he returned the favour, he came to Ireland to bring me back to Turkey a year after we started going out.
    That was ten years and two children ago!

    • Tony James Slater February 10, 2012 at 11:06 am

      Wow, cool! So you guys live in Turkey now? I can imagine the decision… do we live in Ireland, or… ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? Hello, Turkey! I love this story, because you were both already living abroad when you met – I think this really helps, as it cuts out a whole layer of potential conflict when one partner discovers the other has wanderlust…
      So, when your children speak English, what accent do they use? Irish, American or Turkish?

  11. missneriss February 9, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Ok, I’ll give you the abridged version….

    We met on tour to Uluru in 2005. I was the tour guide/driver/cook/nurse/Steve Irwin wannabe and Maarten was a skinny little gap year Dutch back packer. It was winter and we were camping. The first morning he claimed he was so cold he would sleep with me and by the last night I came back from brushing my teeth to find him snuggled up in my swag. After kicking him out (not all us tour guides are filthy opportunists…) we stayed in contact for a couple of years before I relocated to Scotland. He came to visit and we fell head over heels, married (in Australia on 10.10.10) and I’m expecting my first baby literally any minute now.

    • Tony James Slater February 10, 2012 at 11:12 am

      Uluru!! Classic place to meet the love of your life! And I know what you mean about the temperature, I’ve camped there in summer and it’s still freezing at night! Nice tactic he used though… I never dared try that one myself! Must have been quite a temperature adjustment to relocate to Scotland after Oz, even if you were in the desert. I love that you guys kept in touch – there was obviously a spark there than you nurtured for all that time! And now you’re taking the next step… congratulations! That’s another thing I haven’t dared to do yet :0)

  12. Shannon Young February 9, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    I met my half-British, half-Chinese boyfriend at a fencing club when I was studying abroad in London. We dated long distance for 2 1/2 years when I went home to the USA and he returned to his childhood home: Hong Kong. I moved to Hong Kong to be with him, but then a month later his company sent him back to London! After another year of long distance, he came back to Hong Kong and we’re together for good.

    Thanks for the stories everyone!

    • Tony James Slater February 10, 2012 at 11:15 am

      That must have been a real pain! You going all the way to Hong Kong, only to live alone while he was sent to London! It’s great that you guys stayed strong through those years of long distance romance though – those must have been very tough. You obviously had something worth keeping alive! Thanks for sharing Shannon!

  13. Runaway Brit February 12, 2012 at 7:00 am

    Hey, great story. I’m glad you got your girl in the end (and that your sister forgave you!). I’m British and met my Swedish boyfriend on a beach in Cambodia. I was living in Vietnam at the time and he was travelling SE Asia with some mates. He stuck around in Vietnam for another 2 years and then we moved to Sweden together before travelling South America! We have now just arrived in Tenerife to find work to fund our next travels 🙂

    • Tony James Slater February 20, 2012 at 10:12 am

      Woah! Now THAT is complex! Must have been a powerful attraction between the two of you, to lead to him staying in Vietnam for 2 years, when he was only planning to travel through! Thats a pretty good indication of true love – when someone tears up an international plane ticket for you! Good job the Swedes speak such good English, eh. I wish I could fund another travel around South America! Best of luck to you both, with your job-hunting – nice little bar on the beach sounds about right :0)

  14. Jan I Am February 14, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Here’s my #Mexico love story.
    The first time my soon-to-be-future-husband & I had a solo date together it was a week in the Mexican Yucatan. We lived 3k miles apart and had only met twice. As I was committed to be a birthing coach for a girlfriend, we couldn’t get together until after the baby was born. As soon as that happened, we met in Cancun & headed straight to Cozumel for a few days. Within no time, I was totally smitten. There’s something to be said for really getting to know someone when they’re out of their element – so traveling together was a true test of his patience, revealed his respect for his fellowman and showed me the way in which he easily managed being together for 7 days straight. Paved the way for a great relationship that is now in its 18th year. Lucky me. Picked the right travel companion for a lifelong journey.

    • Tony James Slater February 20, 2012 at 10:20 am

      Jan that’s a fantastic story! Congratulations to you both. I hope I survive eighteen years with my wife! It’s so true though, that meeting someone while traveling can show you them at their best and their worst. Stress comes thick and fast when you travel, so it’s a good indicator of how someone copes with this. Also you can easily find out about nasty habits and how well the two of you can survive together. People tend to be more open when they travel too, more likely to reveal their true character and talk about their past, their hopes and dreams… I’m sure you two did a LOT of talking in Mexico! And it worked out so well! Best of luck to you both, and thanks for sharing Jan!

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