I met my man up a mountain. Well…not entirely true. Technically we met at the bottom of a mountain, then trekked to the top. But that doesn’t sound half as romantic. So we tend to stick with meeting ‘up’ the mountain.
It was on an organised group trek to the top of Mount Toubkal in Morocco, and it was the first (and to date, the only) mountain I’ve ever climbed. I’d gone on my own, an impulse decision brought about by a turbulent year in my personal life that led to me ‘rediscovering’ myself and deciding…heck, let’s climb a mountain.
I’d always liked the idea of climbing a mountain. The fact that I had little-to-no experience of climbing didn’t occur to me as an issue, I did lots of hiking and surely that counted for something, right?! Fortunately I’d made a lucky assumption: hiking experience coupled with a decent level of overall fitness meant I was able to climb my first mountain with a look of relative ease and indifference…although, admittedly, that look was ever so slightly forced on one or two occasions!
Maintaining a cool composure all the way to the top of a 4,167m peak in the 30° June heat of the Atlas Mountains isn’t easy for someone more accustomed to British climes…and throwing in the added pressure of wanting to look attractive to a potential suitor didn’t exactly help.
I feel I should clarify at this point that, when I booked my trip, the thought of finding a date hadn’t even entered my head. I was thoroughly happy as a single female; in fact I was thriving as a single female! I loved doing my own thing, at my own time, with only myself to please. I had reached a point of complete contentedness in my own company and had brazenly declared to friends that I had zero intention of dating until my body clock ordered me to settle down and pro-create.
I was not ‘on my game’ in the dating department and was entirely unprepared for meeting someone. And in an effort to keep my kit as lightweight as possible I had left behind anything that I could have used to boost my appearance: no mascara, no jewellery, no pretty clothing…all I had at my disposal was my hiking ability and my charm!
The little stomach flutters that accompany a realisation that you fancy another human being appeared about thirty minutes after I arrived at the hotel. Pretty darn quickly, especially by my standards. I wasn’t prepared for the flutters, and to be honest I didn’t fully understand why I had them…this man wasn’t my usual ‘type’ (I’m fairly certain I’ve told him this, so hopefully it doesn’t come as a shock when he reads it here!). Nonetheless, the flutters were unquestionably there and the more time we spent together the worse they got.
The trip lasted eight days. It was the world’s longest first date.
If I had to describe either of us during that time the words ‘sweaty’ and ‘smelly’ would both feature prominently, as would – thanks to the glorious but somewhat spicy Moroccan food cooked daily by our nomadic cook – ‘farty’. I would also probably include a description of our unflattering hiking clothes, worn multiple days in succession due to luggage restrictions, and mention the fact that the chest straps on my backpack squished my boobs into a weird shape for eight hours a day.
All in all, it doesn’t create the picture of a romantic first encounter. But perhaps that’s what made it so perfect. We met each other in a raw, basic and, to a certain degree, vulnerable state. Most people would probably admit that they don’t put their whole selves out there on a first date; you hold a little bit of you back because you’re trying to portray the best version of yourself. There aren’t many people that can keep that mask in place for eight days straight and after a long day of hiking I categorically didn’t have the energy to fake it! It was very much ‘what you see is what you get’.
And hey, it worked. Nothing ‘happened’ in Morocco, but we had established a connection. We had spent evenings staring up at the stars together, had quizzed each other on our life back home, had shared jokes and observations and a few moments of flirtation away from the watchful eyes of our walking companions. We’d become completely comfortable in each other’s company.
When we arrived back in the UK we said our goodbyes at the airport and went our separate ways home – me to Southampton, him to Bristol. We said we’d see each other again, and it wasn’t an empty statement…we knew we meant it.
Two days later he ‘popped down’ to visit. The next weekend he came to stay. And the weekend after that. I visited him too, even if it was just for one evening between working days, because it felt like a completely normal thing to do. Gradually he started staying longer, working from my place on weekdays, and before I knew it my spare room had become his office and I was washing his underwear. He’d moved in. He even relinquished his own tenancy; Southampton had become his official home.
That was after just three months. But our life in Southampton wasn’t set to last: he saw his future in Bristol, but he saw his future with me as well. So, after a surprisingly brief discussion, we decided Bristol would be ‘our’ home, and I started job-hunting. It took a little while but eventually I landed myself a great job and – almost exactly one year after we’d first met up that mountain – I left my job and my home, bid farewell to my family and friends, and relocated. And the weird thing is…it didn’t feel weird. It felt completely natural and obvious.
We’ve been in Bristol for seven months now. I have a great job, in a great city, and we’re building a life. I still pop down to Southampton regularly, which is hugely important to me. But my outlook for the future is a world away from where it was before I moved. Thanks to my career move I’ve found a sector I’m passionate about, and thanks to the creative and lively influence of Bristol I’ve started doing more of the things I love – including starting this blog to share the stuff that’s important to me. I’ve become a more confident, more worldly, more ambitious and more adventurous person. I have more focus, more drive. I understand myself better and recognise my strengths with more clarity, I’ve found my feet in the world and feel like I can take on anything it throws at me.
And ultimately, I have the man who followed me up a mountain to thank for all of that.