Emigrant love stories: ‘I would have moved anywhere to be with her’

On Valentine’s Day, Generation Emigration readers share their tales of relocating for love


Gary Whelan, Dresden: ‘I would have moved anywhere to live with my fantastic Polish wife’

I was at home with Skype online. It had a search option then called SkpyeMe Mode. A call came in from Poland. “I am thinking of moving to Ireland and want to hear an Irish accent to know if I will understand,” she said. I was hooked.

Six months of talking for hours on end most nights, her Ryanair flight was booked to Shannon. We were finally going to meet.

Our first date was a trip around the Ring of Kerry. The sun was shining, and it was the best first date I ever had. She moved to Ireland shortly afterwards.

Five years later, after losing my job of 11 years, the time came to move closer to Poland. We married there, before I got a job in east Germany.

We now live in Dresden, a six-hour drive to my Polish family. Two children and five years later, Ireland has not found a way to tempt us back. The quality of life here is good, made all the better by my fantastic Polish wife, who I would have moved anywhere to live with.

Jenny McGrane, Sydney: ‘The last six years have been filled with emotional airport hellos and goodbyes’

I met Billy on a chilly winters evening in Toronto, Canada in November 2009. It was a classic case of “it happens when you’re not looking”. I went for dinner in a workmates house, and there he was.

We clicked straight away, chatting freely over dinner. I remember calling my mum afterwards from a dark, snowy phone booth (and using up an entire phone card!), gushing about a wonderful new friend I had made. She was sceptical about my insistence that the relationship was platonic. She detected something in my enthusiasm for this exciting, slightly older Australian man. As usual, she was right.

I was in Toronto by a twist of fate. I finished college in May 2009, and was “all sorted” with a job after I graduated. But then the company chose to defer my employment until the next year. You don’t hear too many stories about the recession doing someone a favour. But it lifted me out of my very rigid, safe and planned path, and set me on course for a life I would never have imagined. A friend was going to Toronto to do a Master’s, so I was easily convinced to leave Ireland for a year.

I moved to Sydney in November 2013, and we got engaged last September. The six years between when we met and now have been filled with emotional airport hellos and goodbyes, visa applications, family emergencies and celebrations, achievements and disappointments, struggles and triumphs, and thousands of emails. But most importantly, there has been lots and lots of silliness and laughter. In fact, on one of our first dates, we watched Father Ted; and there’s nothing more attractive to an Irish woman than a man in hysterics over Fr Jack telling a cup to “feck off”. Well, this Irish woman anyway...

Else Sheeran Esau, Victoria: ‘I am thankful for that chance meeting, and our shared love of globetrotting’

I met my husband in the most unlikely of places - the Amazon jungle, in southern Colombia. In the months that followed, our travel adventures continued, with a short rendezvous in England, and then a month-long trip to India. My Canadian love then followed me back to Ireland were we jumped in head first, with a make-or-break attitude. We survived nearly a year in a tiny Ranelagh flat, before deciding to move to Canada.

We are now coming up on three years in beautiful Victoria, BC and in that time we have married, and had a son, Ashton.

More than five years after that South American trip, I could not imagine my life any other way. I am thankful for that chance meeting, our shared love of globetrotting, and a certain meddling friend who gave us both a nudge in the right direction during those first few encounters.

My new home is on Canada’s west coast. I am lucky to have ended up here, and even luckier to share it with my wonderful husband Logan.

Stephen Kane, Vancouver: ‘I renewed my visa to be with her’

I met Jasmine at a country bar in downtown Vancouver. I had just been laid off from my job and was out drowning my sorrows. She was out with a friend she didn’t really want to be with. Neither of us was a fan of country music. I lit her cigarette out in the street and we talked about My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. I bought her a drink, which she dropped, so I bought her another. We kissed and she agreed to a date the next day.

That was almost four years ago and we haven’t been apart since. Just before I met her I was considering returning home after my work visa was up, but I renewed it and stayed on to be with her. Jasmine has been there through every success, failure, triumph and tribulation I’ve had out here since. I could not imagine a day without her.

Myles Donnelly, New York: ‘It was supposed to be just a summer romance, but I was hooked’

I met my wife Kirsten, from New Jersey, working at her uncle’s restaurant in Switzerland in 1992. It was supposed to be just a summer romance, but I was hooked. We were two broke students, but we did whatever we could to fly, drive, train-ride and hitch-hike wherever we had to go to see each other as often as we could.

After seven years of an on/off/on again long distance relationship, taking in the US, Ireland, England, France and Germany, I finally moved to the US and we married in 1999.

Kirsten is the love of my life. We live today in upstate New York with our three boys, Aidan, Jude andFinn. We get home to visit my dad, siblings and the boys’ cousins every few years. I am a naturalised American now and love life here, but I will always be a proud Fermanagh man.

Holly, Co Cavan: ‘He often told me he’d follow me anywhere. And he eventually did’

I moved to Canada in January 2013. After a year there I hazarded the world of online dating where I met Mark.

American. Devilishly handsome. Charming. Playful. Romantic. “Interested in some friendly conversation?” his profile read.

We shared four months of “friendly conversation” before our eventual meeting in July of 2014, on neutral territory, halfway between my home in Vancouver and his in Seattle. It was like meeting my best friend.

We spent many months taking buses and trains back and forth over the border. Vancouver’s Grand Central and Seattle’s King Street Station became special places; places of butterflies and skipped heartbeats, embraces and, too often, heart-breaking goodbyes.

I visited Mark last Valentine’s Day. I had barely stepped foot on American soil when he dropped to one knee and asked me to marry him.

He often told me he’d follow me anywhere. And he eventually did. We’re spending this Valentine’s Day in my home town in Co Cavan. Two years of long-distance international love has come to a close with our move home. Our American doggies are with us. And we’re getting married three weeks from now in the garden, overlooking the lake.

Aoife Gallagher, Dublin: ‘After a year of seeing each other through computer screens, Danielle will arrive in Ireland in three weeks’

On St Patrick’s Day 2014, while living in New Zealand, I met Danielle. She came from California on a two-week trip to visit our mutual friend Amanda. She made me cry with laughter and we had an equal love for The Cure. After a few days of sussing out if she was interested or not - and with a couple of whiskeys for courage - I kissed her. What followed was a week-long whirlwind romance that could sicken the most hopeful of romantics. There were tears as we said our goodbyes, not knowing if we would see each other again.

We kept in touch when she returned home. The more we talked, the more we realised we may have let something very special slip away. After some persuasion I convinced her to put her life on hold and come back to New Zealand for the ski season.

For the seven months that followed we were inseparable. As the season came to an end, we faced the prospect of having to leave each other again. I decided to pack up my life in New Zealand and move to California. I didn’t have a visa. We didn’t have money. But we certainly had enough love to get us through - or so we hoped.

A stressful month ensued in California as we tried to build a life for ourselves. Unfortunately, luck was not in our favour. In January 2015, I made the hard decision to return to Ireland and go back to college. But after over a year of seeing each other through computer screens, Danielle will arrive in Ireland in three weeks’ time for a short holiday. Although still unsure what the future holds for us, we have come too far to give up now.

Louise Keilthy, Copenhagen: ‘People thought I was crazy, that the relationship was spontaneous’

Myself and my friend had been travelling around Central America and Colombia for six months. We arrived at our final destination, Bogota, just before Halloween in 2014. I was introduced to a Danish guy over a game of ping pong. It was the first week of his three-month trip, and my last. We hung out for the whole week before I flew home.

As we sent many text messages and chatted on Skype, me in Ireland and he in Colombia, our relationship grew. He suggested visiting me in Ireland before he returned to Denmark. My family and friends thought it was a crazy idea, but I I went with my gut and agreed to his visit. When he arrived, we traveled all around Ireland and it became obvious our relationship was more than a fling.

He returned to Denmark and we communicated long distance for a while, but we both knew one of us needed to move. I have now been living in Copenhagen with him since last June. I have a job, new friends, and am learning Danish.

People thought I was crazy, that the relationship was spontaneous. It was, but taking a risk on it has led to the best thing that has ever happened to me. Plus it makes a pretty good story.

Jamie Cuthbert Dindabure, Co Cork: ‘After three weeks he had asked me to marry him’

In 2007 I grabbed with both hands the opportunity to leave Ireland for six months and work in Barcelona as part of my degree. I was 20, single and happy to be going on an adventure. After two weeks I met Christopher, a Chilean who had also just arrived on a sabbatical. After just a week of meeting we had moved into a caravan together, where we continued to live by the beach for the next five months. After three weeks he had asked me to marry him.

He returned to Ireland with me on a tourist visa, before we both decided to go to Chile for a year. Looking back now, it seems we moved awfully quick, but in the moment it all seemed right. After a month I was able to chat well in Spanish, and I bedded down a little community of friends and got a job teaching English. We worked and studied during the week, but our weekends were for exploring and sports.

On our two-year anniversary we had a tiny wedding in Cork with only my immediate family, but in 2011 we celebrated our marriage on a ranch in Casablanca in Chile with 50 of our friends and family. It was the best day of our lives. We are now parents to two gorgeous kiddies, Amelie and Samuel, who love their bilingual life. We return to Chile as much as possible but our base is here in Cork.

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