Where can you meet a nice guy these days? If you’re Ali Garland, you meet your husband on Twitter! Today, Ali talks about Skype before webcams, saying ‘I love you’ before you meet in person, how to meet ‘strangers from the internet’ for a romantic week in Prague.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
Hi, I’m Ali! I’m 36 years old and originally from the US. I lived in New Jersey until I was 15, and then Atlanta until I was 31. Now I live in Berlin with my husband, who is from North Carolina. For work, I run two blogs, and do a little freelance writing. I have a few blog clients that I do work for on some of their behind-the-scenes tasks.
For fun, I travel. It’s an addiction really. I drag my husband to warm places in the winter, because Berlin is COLD, and we travel around Europe a few times a year. I also leave him at home now and then and travel by myself. When I’m home, I love eating at new restaurants, and I’m currently working on a project to try one restaurant in Berlin for every country in the world.
Prior to meeting your husband, how had you met the men you dated?
I met men in a variety of ways, but I certainly spent the majority of my 20s single. I met a couple of guys through work, and I met one at a party. I dated one guy from eHarmony for about a month, and I got a handful of dates that didn’t go anywhere from Match.
By the time I hit 30, I was looking for some major changes in my life. I needed out of my aviation insurance career because it was crushing my soul, and I started looking for ways to move overseas and travel more. I honestly didn’t want to meet a guy at that point because I was afraid it would ruin my plans. I had finally accepted being single and I wasn’t looking for a date. And it sounds so cliché, but of course, that’s when I met the right guy.
Tell us about the tweet that started it all!
I had a travel blog on a free site for about six months when I decided it was time to switch to a self-hosted site. But I didn’t know anything about the technical side of blogging or websites. After buying my domain and paying for a hosting plan, I got really overwhelmed. One day in July 2010, I tweeted out into the universe, “I just bought my domain but I have no idea how to set up the hosting!”
I got a response from a guy named Andy who lived in Germany. He told me he could help, so he stayed up late to Skype with me after I got home from work. Afterwards, I felt bad that I had never really looked at his travel blog, so I started reading. And I was intrigued.
Where did things go from there?
Andy had moved to Germany a few years prior, and he wrote about his experiences on his blog. He moved without having a job, simply picked up his life, hopped on a boat (yes, he took a one-week cruise from New York to London to move) and started applying for jobs. Since I was interested in moving to Europe myself, I started emailing him with questions.
Eventually we Skyped again. He started staying up late to talk to me after work, and our conversations led from one topic to another so easily. On Saturdays, I would get on Skype as soon as I woke up, and we’d talk all day until he was falling asleep. And then we did it again on Sundays.
We talked about everything from the mundane things in our daily lives to what it’s like to live in Germany. We talked about travel and life goals and the fact that neither of us wanted children.
And every time I mentioned the distance between us, he said, “4000 miles is just a detail.”
After a few months of this, Andy was about to go on a trip to Greece. I woke up that morning, as he was about to get on a plane for the first time in 10 years, to an email from him telling me he loved me. I was so excited because I had been bursting to say it, too. I had totally fallen for this guy, despite the distance, despite the fact that we still hadn’t met in person.
I should also mention, we didn’t even have webcams at this point. Everything was based on a handful of pictures and hours of amazing conversations. Of course, after he got back from Greece, we decided we really should get webcams!
After 4 months of Skyping and emailing, you guys met up in Prague. Was anyone in your life nervous about you meeting ‘a stranger from the internet’?
I actually had my trip to Prague booked before I ever started talking to Andy, so I didn’t tell too many people that there was now a guy coming to meet me. I was absolutely certain that this goofy guy I had been talking to for months was trustworthy. I had a few acquaintances who were nervous, but I learned you can’t take on everyone else’s fears.
But we’ve all heard horror stories, right? So to be safe, I gave my best friend all the vital information I had about Andy and the hotel. I even gave her the contact info for the US embassy in Prague in case I went missing.
To make it even more safe/ridiculous, we came up with a code phrase I was to email her once Andy and I met up and everything was in the clear. You know, that way he couldn’t email her from my account and say “everything’s fine” or something. Looking back, this seriously cracks me up.
What was it like to meet in person after so many months of corresponding?
It was weird for about the first 10 minutes. I arrived in Prague at night on Thanksgiving, and Andy came on an overnight train arriving the next morning. Since we had been Skyping, we were able to look eye to eye at each other. But in person, we suddenly had to get used to the height difference. I’m only 5’1” and he’s 5’11” so it was a little weird.
There was also the oddity of, “Hey, you’re not pixelated!” But in the time it took to walk from the train station to the hotel, it just felt normal. We spent the weekend exploring Prague, talking a lot, and simply enjoying being with each other for the first time. It was wonderful, and then so hard to get on the plane to fly home three days later.
How long after meeting in person did you realize that this was the man you wanted to marry?
Honestly, I think I knew before we even met in person. I tried not to let myself think it, because how crazy does that sound, right? I wasn’t even sure it was a good idea to say the L word before meeting in person, but we were already passed that.
After we finally met in person, it all started to feel real. I WASN’T crazy. I really did meet an amazing guy, we connected on so many levels, and he made me laugh like no one else ever had. Dating the way we did, if you can even call it dating, meant we never had any of those dinner-and-a-movie dates. We had nothing but talking, and we learned how to talk to each other really well.
I visited him in Germany for New Year’s, about a month after we met in Prague. A few weeks later, after telling my parents and some other friends that I met this wonderful guy and was planning to move to Germany, we decided to get engaged. It was a completely unromantic conversation on Skype…because who needs more sappy romance after the way we met?
We got married outside of Atlanta in June 2011, less than a year after that initial tweet. We figured out that we had only spent about three weeks in each other’s physical presence before our wedding day. A month after the wedding, I moved to Germany and started a new life.
How do people react now when you tell them how you met?
Usually they ask, “Did you guys meet in the US or in Germany?” So they’re surprised when we answer, “Both.” This of course leads to the story of how we met through Twitter while living on opposite sides of the Atlantic. The details of how we met in Prague and how we made a long distance relationship work isn’t a normal dating story. And everyone thinks it’s incredibly romantic.
What have you learned from this that ANY of us could apply to our daily lives?
I’ve definitely learned that life almost never turns out the way you think it will. It’s good to have goals and work towards the things you want in your life, but you can’t plan it all out. I never could have imagined meeting my husband through Twitter.
Even though I wanted to live in Europe, I never considered Germany, but now I’m so happy to be here. I never thought I’d be working for myself and making money through blogging, but I am and I can’t imagine going back to a cubicle. I have no idea what the details of my life will look like a year, or five years, from now, and that’s ok.
I’ve also learned that you have to make your own path. There are certain things everyone expects you to do, certain milestones everyone expects you to hit, but you don’t have to do those things. If it doesn’t fit with you, don’t do it.
This was not the traditional way of meeting a guy or the normal path of starting a life together, but it worked for us. I’m learning to accept that I don’t always fit in, and that I’m happier being the weirdo instead of the person who does what’s considered normal.
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Ali! Have any of you guys met your partner in a non-traditional way?
P.S. Other relationship interviews: My marriage was arranged by the unification church, My husband cheated, I stayed + we worked through it, My boyfriend is quadriplegic.