Fred here. When Heather and I started planning this trip, we knew we wanted to finish it off in a beautiful, relaxing environment. After two months of Nepal and India we knew we’d need to decompress. We tossed around lots of tropical beach locations – Bali, Fiji, etc. But as we began doing some research, one place really grabbed our attention. So it was decided – The Maldives. If you look at a map of the world, you pretty much can’t get any farther away from where our home is. But given its proximity to southern India where we would travel from, it couldn’t have been more convenient.
The Maldives is a country comprised of roughly 1,200 small islands southwest of the southern tip of India. These islands are ultimately dots of coral and sand gently rising out of the most aqua colored water you’ve ever seen. Male, the capital, is one of the most densely populate cities in the world with roughly 80,000 people packed on to an island of 2 square kilometers. But that’s not why we came to the Maldives. We came in search of the quiet island life. And we found it.
We arrived at Male Airport after a 90-minute flight from Trivandrum, India. Sixty minutes into the flight this unique chain of atolls started to come into view.
Neither Heather nor I had ever seen anything like it. I quickly reached for my camera and started shooting like mad. Seemingly every shade of blue and green that Mother Nature had at her disposal was in view. After arriving, we were met by our local travel agent, Tho. He runs a small travel agency in the Maldives called Elysian Maldives. He took care of us to say the least. As we walked out of the airport, we were in awe of the surroundings. Across the street from the terminal was the airport harbor.
Even the harbor had this electric blue water! The airport actually sits on its own island. To get anywhere, including Male itself, you have to get on a boat (or a seaplane). We boarded a speed boat for a 30-minute ride to our island – Hudhuranfushi.
Arriving at Hudhuranfushi we knew we made the right choice. Our home for the next week would be this great bungalow situated 10 meters from the water. Palm trees, banyan trees, and crystal-clear water surrounded us.
We did a quick loop of the island which doesn’t take much time – about 30 minutes and you’ve seen it all. On one side of the island you’ve got a pretty impressive surf break full of surfers from all over the globe – Australia, Brazil, Spain, etc.
The remainder of the island was pretty much beach. Sweet, magical beach with amazing coral reef pockets and a colorful array of marine life. We set up shop on the eastern end of the island and didn’t leave it for the 8 days we were there, except for meals, happy hour, and sleep. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect setting to end 6.5 months of globetrotting.
And that perfect setting was about to be the scene of one of the most memorable moments of both of our lives. As we watched the sun dip below the horizon on our final night, I asked Heather to marry me! That’s right! It was the surprise of a lifetime for Heather as she screamed with excitement, while at the same time asking me if I was serious. Of course I was serious! If this woman could put up with me for 24 hours a day non-stop for 201 straight days, I knew I needed to get a ring on that finger. It was an epic moment.
You may be asking yourself, “Did he really travel around the world with an engagement ring in his backpack for that entire time?” I’ll answer that question with a “hell no!” Not a chance. I knew I wanted to propose to Heather soon but I had not planned to do it abroad. But a couple of weeks prior when we were in Fort Kochi, Heather walked into a jewelry shop. She clearly loved most of what the shopkeeper was selling, so much so that she bought 5 different rings from this guy. But there was one ring that really stood out for her. It was a silver and gold ring with a beautiful sapphire in it. Unfortunately for Heather it was more money than she was willing to part with at that moment.
So as she sadly declined the final offer from the shopkeeper, a lightbulb went off in my head. Buy this ring as a stand-in engagement ring and propose to her before we fly back to the US. I’ll get her a proper engagement ring when we get home. But how could I do this without Heather knowing? Then as if there was some kind of divine intervention, Heather realized there was a dog outside the shop with her litter of puppies that needed photographing (Heather LOVES puppies). She wandered outside, and that was my window to do this. Within 60 seconds I told the guy how much I would give him for the ring, gave him my credit card, signed the receipt, got my card back, put the ring in a ring box and tossed it in my pocket, just a few seconds before she walked back into the shop. Now it was just a matter of hiding it from her for the next two weeks until the last night of our trip. As I said, she was surprised beyond words. She never saw it coming.
The rest of the night we marveled at all of the amazing moments we’d had since we started this adventure back in February. Now we’d be going home engaged, about to embark on another amazing adventure – planning a wedding. We couldn’t be more excited for what’s ahead. But our travels were not done yet. The Great American Roadtrip awaited us back home. More to come!