#RealTravel: “I Fell in Love in an Ecuadorian Jungle"

Yahoo Travel profiles readers who came back from a trip with the best souvenir ever — true love. Want to share your own story? Email us at traveleditors@yahoo.com.

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Suzanne and Michael met through friends on an Ecuadorian vacation. (Photo: Suzanne Rozdeba)

Who: Suzanne Rozdeba (freelance writer and editor for NBC Today.com) and Michael Holcomb (financial analyst)

Where they fell in love: In a jungle in Ecuador

When: July 2003

Relationship status: Married five years

(As told by Suzanne)

I first met Mike at the Magic Bean, a hostel in Quito, Ecuador. I was writing a travel story for the New York Daily News, and my two friends Gorman and Nancy came along for the adventure. Gorman invited his friend Mike, a tattooed (swoon) surfer (double swoon) who was living in Hawaii. We met at the hostel’s outdoor bar, where I was lured in by Mike’s easygoing manner, his love of travel, and the surfer-life stories he told over multiple mojitos. 

We explored Quito and stumbled upon a salsa bar, where an Ecuadorian woman swept Mike away. We laughed as he danced clumsily. (It was cute.) Afterward, we all headed back to the hostel, where Mike pulled out William Burroughs’s poems (I’m sure Gorman did an eye roll) and asked us to take turns reading. I had a handsome surfer with tattoos, Burroughs, and brains on my trip.

Michael (L), Gorman, Nancy, and Suzanne (R) in Ecuador. (Photo: Suzanne Rozdeba)

Related: #RealTravel: The Couple Got Married After Meeting in Morocco

After touring Quito for a few days, we rented a pickup truck and headed for the coast. Mike and I felt sick after some delectable empanadas, and discovered a shared tragedy for two foodies: We’re both lactose-intolerant. It was bound to be true love.

We drove through a cloud forest with no map. (I insisted we wing it.) Gorman and Nancy navigated the thick fog that covered the mountain roads, while Mike and I sat in the back of the truck, excitedly talking about the places we wanted to travel to. We had no clue that wild dogs were leaping at the front of the car and that we were running out of gas.

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The couple posing in front of Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen, Denmark (Photo: Suzanne Rozdeba)

We made it out in one piece and visited several coastal towns. Later we hopped a bus to the the jungle town of Tena and trekked through the Amazon, sleeping in huts overlooking the Amazon River. We floated across on tires where our guide warned that there were parasites that could climb up our urethra! Mike and I looked at each other wide-eyed and focused on the breathtaking scenery, instead. We walked through bat caves and to a school in the middle of a clearing where children sang in Quechua. Mike showed me his silly side and spoke with the kids in broken Spanish. It was one of the most humbling moments Mike and I had ever experienced, and a trek that would stay with us for years. It was there that I secretly started to fall for him. 

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Suzanne and Michael on their wedding day in Krakow, Poland (Photo: Foto-Mikulska)

Mike went back to Hawaii after our trip, where his roommates nicknamed me Jungle Girl. Six months and countless long-distance calls later, he left his surfer haven and moved to New York to be with me. We dated for six years before marrying in Poland, where my parents were born. Family and friends flew in for a week-long celebration, and we stuffed ourselves with kielbasa and pierogi, downing it with Polish vodka. We drank, ate, and danced (often all at once) until 6 a.m., a Polish wedding requisite.

Related: #RealTravel: They Met and Fell in Love While Sailing in the British Virgin Islands

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Suzanne and Michael dancing at their wedding. Suzanne’s cousin brought his Polish dance troupe for a surprise performance. (Photo: Foto-Mikulska)

We honeymooned in Vietnam and Cambodia, exploring temples, fishing villages, and floating karaoke bars, tasting curries from various regions, and scooting between hundreds of motorcyclists crowding the streets. They were adventures we found quirky, and loved, and reminded us of why we fell for each other in the first place. 

Michael and I are both adventurous and want to travel the world together. We would love to see the pyramids of Egypt, ski and snowboard in Patagonia, go vineyard hopping and rent an apartment in Provence. I’m also hoping his Polish language lessons will eventually pay off so that he will understand what my grandparents are snickering about behind his back.

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