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Nate and Jackie on their wedding day in 2012 (Photo: Jackie Laulainen)
Who: Jackie and Nate Laulainen
Where we met: Alpine Meadows Ski Area, California
When: Winter 2007-2008
Relationship Status: Married 2.5 years
They say that true love happens when you’re least expecting it.
After being burned by a guy on a trip to Europe, I returned to the U.S. feeling dejected and determined to stay single, with plans to move to Italy in a few months and start over. I had been away for a year, but I moved back to Tahoe for a wedding and a ski season that would be cut short by my travel plans; nothing could stop me.
That’s when a familiar face noticed I was back in town, and he was single. I had met Nate while working at the ski area the season before, but at that time I couldn’t be bothered by his intentions to hang out. A year later, I figured it would be no different, as I was on course for Italy and I knew I wouldn’t be around long. I finally agreed to go out with him, not on a date, but as friends, which continued to happen.
The couple’s first picture where it all started, at Alpine Meadows in 2009 (Photo: Jackie Laulainen)
Slowly, and then all at once, I realized what was happening. My plans to escape to Italy and start over were beginning to include him. This was unprecedented. Knowing I needed to buy my ticket to Rome, I had to act fast. Somehow I knew that this was it, I wasn’t staying, and I wasn’t leaving without him, which left one option. Not one month into our relationship, he bought a ticket to Italy.
We put all our stuff in the same storage unit and moved to Rome together in May of 2009 after officially dating for just four months. In my opinion, there is no better way to test your compatibility with someone than to travel together. During our time in Italy, we worked two jobs together, which brought both ups and downs that tested our character and gave us challenges to face as a couple. Getting through some of these obstacles gave me incredibly encouraging signs about the man I would eventually marry. I knew I wouldn’t have to travel alone ever again. I knew I had found my match.
Falling in love in Italy (Photo: Jackie Laulainen)
In the land of love, we grew in our relationship together. We were able to be residents and tourists at the same time, exploring the cuisine and countryside of my favorite country, and we traveled much of Europe together with friends for two months at the end.
Even after taking the leap and being together 24/7 so early in our relationship, I couldn’t imagine spending any time away from him. The strength of our relationship was obvious by the time we returned to the U.S. six months later. Broke from traveling but in it to win it, we began to figure out our lives together.
We spent another couple of seasons in Tahoe getting back on our feet before taking an open-ended road trip all over the northwestern part of the country to find a new place to live. After we’d spent three months on the road, destiny showed up with a job offer that brought us to beautiful Bozeman, Montana, where we fell in love all over again. Loving where you live makes it hard to leave, but we continued to travel when we could, blessed to be able to come home to a place we love.
Conquering bucket lists together at Machu Picchu (Photo: Jackie Laulainen)
Six months after moving, Nate sent me on a birthday scavenger hunt all over our house. I found gifts in every hiding spot, even out in my truck in the snow, before he finally dropped to one knee to give me the last gift, an engagement ring! We married in August of 2012 in front of the beautiful Bridger Mountains, right next to our new local ski area.
Bozeman is our favorite place to call home, as it caters to our need for adventure, nature, challenge, and quality of life. As I published my book and have built my travel blog and become a travel writer, Nate has been by my side, usually with a camera, sometimes with flowers, supporting me all the way. He recently launched his own travel blog, which makes us even more of a team in a completely new way, and we couldn’t be more blessed to be together in this venture. As our crazy-awesome, sporadic, unconventional path of life continues, we both look forward to facing what it brings together.
We just know it’s going to keep getting better and better.
Still skiing together, now at Bridger Bowl in Bozeman (Photo: Jackie Laulainen)