That Time We Got Engaged in Nepal: The Best Day of Our Lives
It was sunrise on a beautifully clear and crisp morning, and both of us stood in awe as we watched the mountains come alive with colour all around us.
And if that wasn’t magical enough, it was also the time that Mark chose to get down on one knee and pop the question!
It’s hard to believe that it’s actually been that long already (what is it they say about time flying while you’re having fun?!) — and even more so that we’ve never actually shared the full story of what went down here on our blog!
We always meant to fill you guys in properly, but the general chaos of life just always seemed to get in the way. Now that these weird times have given us a chance to slow down, the first anniversary of that special day has crept up on us, and we’re starting to get our act together with wedding planning, we figured there was no better time to finally share that story.
So without further ado… this is the tale of how we got engaged on a mountain in Nepal!
BUT LET’S GO BACK TO THE START…
The beginning of our love story is actually less romance and instead, a little bit of chaos and unpredictability.
We met more than 10 years ago now, at a pregnancy and babies expo (yes, it still makes us laugh too!) in our hometown, Melbourne. Mark was working at the Nintendo stand designed to keep bored dads occupied which happened to be set up right next to where I stood, handing out flyers for my friend’s photography company next door.
We got chatting, and ended up talking for hours about anything and everything. But if you thought that a lifelong love was born amongst the chaos of pregnancy hormones, crying babies, and stroller test-drives, well, you’d definitely be wrong.
See for a range of reasons, the timing just wasn’t right back then. Though we often found ourselves gravitating towards the other and knew deep down there might be something kind of special there, we simply never quite found ourselves on the same page at the same time. Over the next three years, we became close friends instead - though don’t be fooled, it did get a little messy at times!
Then, on a balmy summer evening 7 years ago, we finally got our sh*t together and decided to make a go of things for real - and we’ve basically been inseparable ever since! That summer evening led to our first weekend away, to the Grampians about 3 hours from Melbourne (our fave place in Aus!).
That first weekend away led to our first overseas trip together, to Tanzania in 2014, and that first trip together led to us moving in together, planning our big round-the-world trip together, and eventually, throwing caution to the wind and leaving our jobs and Aussie lives behind to travel long-term.
Since then, we’ve spent a year backpacking around Asia, Europe and Africa, we’ve found homes in London and Budapest, we’ve built an online business together, explored and eaten our way through more than 45 countries together, and enjoyed doing it all side-by-side.
But as the years wore on and our adventures multiplied, there was still something we hadn’t done yet… which brings us to:
MARK’S BIG PLAN…
After 18 months away from Australia, we returned for a three month visit to see family and friends in November 2018. After the obligatory tears and hugs from family, the first thing my mum and sister asked me was, “have you thought about getting engaged?!”.
I had, obviously, many times over the last four years - it was clear from very early on that Mim was the ‘one’ (she laughs at my bad jokes, which is reason enough!). But whether it was fear, laziness, or timing, I’d never got around to organising a ring and planning a proposal. Being semi-nomadic over that time, it had also been nigh on impossible to organise one, especially considering we spend literally 24 hours a day, 7 days a week together.
So after two or so months of being back in Australia, and with Mim and I living on opposite sides of the city (with family), my mum asked the question again.
“Shit, I reallllly have to do this asap”, I thought.
So, after trawling Pinterest and Instagram with my sister, and talking about all things diamonds and white gold with mum, I visited a local jeweller and designed a ring from scratch, using some heirloom diamonds passed down through my family. I was super worried Mim might not like the design, but when I saw the ring for the first time I nearly cried… it was perfect!
The next step was to work out when to propose.
We’d been in discussions with a travel brand to head back to Nepal in May, so with it being both our favourite country in the world, I knew I wanted to propose there. The problem was, the trip to Nepal wasn’t confirmed until April, and we were due to spend six weeks in Bali, and then travel by train through India for a month prior to then.
How the hell was i going to keep this ring safe, and safely hidden from Mim’s prying eyes!?
I devised a plan to store the ring in my camera bag, wrapped in bubble wrap inside a lens case. It was the best solution I could think of; the bag never left my sight, and I manage all the camera gear, so the likelihood of Mim discovering the ring was slim.
Fast forward to Bali, where I safely hid the ring inside our camera insert in our Villa, and then to India, where I basically lived with my camera bag on in 40+ degree temperatures to keep it safe (yep, I even slept with it on overnight trains!). They were three nerve-wrecking months to say the least, and something i don’t recommend to anyone!
Somehow, when we arrived in Nepal, I’d managed to keep the ring safe and sound, and Mim hadn’t discovered it.
I knew I wanted to propose overlooking the Himalaya mountains, so during our short stay in Kathmandu, I organised a three-day hike to Poon Hill/Ghorepani. I knew sunrise was magical from there, and it would be the perfect place for our magical moment.
We packed light, but I insisted of taking the whole camera bag. Mim couldn’t understand why I would carry a 15kg camera bag the whole way when we could’ve easily reduced the size, but I needed the ring and the security the bag provided.
The trek itself was amazing. Over the two day hike to Ghorepani, we talked about how perfect this was, and how lucky we were to be back in one of our favourite countries in the World.
It felt like we’d returned home, hiking through the magical forests in the foothills of the Himalayas, overlooking snow-capped peaks towering in the distance.
Regardless of what happened next, it was a dream trip that would stay in the memory bank forever.
HOW IT HAPPENED | MARK’S SIDE
To experience sunrise from Poon Hill, you need to wake up at 3am and start hiking to the summit. It’s a pretty easy hike, but in the early hours, in the freezing cold, and over 3,500m altitude, it makes it a hard slog.
We made it, just in time to enjoy the magical sunrise experience overlooking the Annapurna ranges. We took the obligatory snaps, and just enjoyed the moment for what it was - a seminal travel moment.
At this point I knew it was going to happen, and started getting a few butterflies in my stomach. I started scouting areas to propose, away from the crowds where we could enjoy the moment ourselves.
Of course, I needed an excuse for all my running around, which was that I was “looking for somewhere to set up the tripod to take a photo together”. We rarely take photos (we’re trying to get better at this!), so it was a plausible excuse and Mim totally bought it.
I found the perfect spot, and started setting up the tripod, asking Mim to stand in position to test the frames. In the meantime, i was in the camera bag, sneakily pulling the ring out of its box for the first time in 3 months.
I popped it in my jacket pocket, and ran to Mim to test a few photos together.
As I ran back to check if the photos looked good, I popped the ring into my hand, set up a time-lapse at 1 sec intervals and ran back to Mim to take a few more photos.
It. was. happening.
I was super nervous at this point, and it all felt so surreal (it still does to this day).
I looked at Mim, dropped to one knee, and proceeded to ask her to marry me.
Halfway through, at the point where I told her I loved her, i burst into tears. I was a bumbling mess but she knew what was up and said YES.
It’s funny - if you look at the time-lapse you can see me look away, which was my attempt to compose myself. It’s also funny to see the point where Mim realises what was going on, and breaking down herself.
It really was the most magical experience we could’ve ever asked for in the most magical country on earth.
HOW IT HAPPENED | MIM’S SIDE
The sky was still inky when we rose from our warm beds and raced to the window of our mountain teahouse to check the weather.
Last night, the skies had been ominously grey and foggy, but the clouds had parted as we slept, and treated us to a clear and crisp morning. The waning moon and stars still twinkled over the Himalayan mountains surrounding us, and the whole scene was breathtakingly perfect.
Pre-dawn mountain mornings like these are always our favourite; stars above, the unrivalled quiet stillness of a brand new day, and the heightened anticipation of knowing that the goal you’ve been pushing towards for days is finally within reach.
In hindsight, it’s probably a good thing that I had no idea what was in store for us, considering I was already jumping out of my skin to get to the summit.
Hopping from foot to foot, we laced our boots and raced downstairs, ready for our final 45-minute hike from the town of Ghorepani to the summit.
We started off quietly, focused on making out the shape of the path in front of us in the half-light. It’s steep, and about halfway through we crossed the 3,000m mark: the magic point at which you tend to feel the altitude.
Long-time readers might remember that I don’t do too well with altitude (I actually got pulmonary oedema on Kilimanjaro and had to turn back), and at this point I started to slow down a little as breathing became thicker and the burn in my legs more intense.
As we slowly wove higher, the world around us started to wake. First, the light grew stronger until there was no need for headlamps, then a pinky glow began to creep across the sky.
Worried we might miss the sunrise entirely, Mark ran ahead a little with his camera bag - and I wondered, for the umpteenth time on this trek, why he’d insisted on bringing such a heavy camera bag with him…!
When we all finally reached the crest, we were greeted by the most stunning sight imaginable: the mountains of Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri, Machhapuchhare, Annapurna II, and Lamjung laid out right before us, illuminated by a glorious golden sunrise.
Somewhere nearby, a fellow hiker had somehow carried his guitar up with him, and serenaded us all now with some acoustic faves (Hallelujah and Ed Sheeran classics, of course!).
Overwhelmed at having spent the last few days in beautiful natural surroundings in my favourite country with my best friend and now being treated to the most perfect sunrise and atmosphere, I was already fighting back happy tears as I took it all in.
Eventually, Mark convinced me that we should try and take some couples photos together — something we’re terrible at remembering to do, but trying to get better at! — so we found a quiet corner with prayer flags fluttering and set up the tripod.
As I stood waiting, I had NO idea what was brewing, and as Mark spent the next 10 minutes running between the tripod and where we were standing, checking ‘test’ shots and asking me to move a few steps this way or that, I tried to keep my patience in check.
Little did I know that this was all part of his plan to distract me!
Eventually, he set the camera on timelapse and ran back to where I was, taking a few shots side-by-side before all of a sudden, he’d dropped to one knee and was holding out the most beautiful ring (which, I would learn a few hours later, Mark had designed himself using family heirloom diamonds, something that means more to me than I can say).
Let’s just say if I’d been close to tears already, now there was well and truly a flood as the surprise and happiness took over, and it’s all such a blur that all I really remember is nodding my head furiously and saying yes!
It makes us laugh so much now, watching the time-lapse back and seeing my goofy, totally unaware smile in the seconds before it all went down, and then all the emotion that followed for us both.
A few hikers around us had clued onto what happened, and came over to wish us well. Being so far from our families, we often miss out on celebrating big moments with them, so it was so lovely to be able to share our excitement with others too!
Saying yes to my favourite person, during our favourite pastime (hiking) in our favourite country in the world was a dream, and to add it to our collection of incredible experiences we’ve had in Nepal is just so special.
It honestly still makes me just as giddy and emotional when I think of it now, even a whole year later!
If you haven’t yet, check out our post on Instagram, including a little GIF timelapse which shows our magical moment!
View this post on Instagram
HE ASKED… SHE SAID YES! 💍 ↠ A few days ago, during sunrise in our favourite country in the world, Mark got down on one knee and well, as you might have guessed… Now we’re ENGAGED 💕! ↠ To say it was unexpected is an understatement; after a 4:30am start and a steep hike to the summit, I thought the highlight of our morning would be sharing a chocolate bar at the top (our mountain tradition!). Little did I know that when Mark set up the tripod in front of these beautiful prayer flags for some ‘coupley shots’, he had a ring hidden in his pocket and a cheeky plan up his sleeve! Swipe across to see how it all went down 😍 ↠ We don’t normally share much in the way of lovey-dovey stuff here, but this really was one of the most beautiful, emotional moments in both our lives. Nepal has such a big piece of our hearts, and we couldn’t be happier to add this memory to our travels here. ↠ It definitely hasn’t sunk in yet, and we’re still giddy with tears and laughter, but we’re so excited for a lifetime of adventures together. 💕 ↠ #IChosetoWander
Fast forward a year to today, and we’ve finally been able to celebrate with our family and friends, and after initially feeling a little overwhelmed by the whole wedding planning thing, we’ve locked in our date and our dream venue and are navigating planning our big day in the midst of this weird Covid-19 world.
It’s definitely a tricky time to be planning a wedding and isn’t without its stresses — like working in the travel industry, for example, and not knowing how the next 6 or so months will play out for our business or whether our friends and family from overseas will even be able to attend — but despite that, we’re so excited to plan for our dream day and share a big celebration with our nearest and dearest in early 2021!