I blame Hollywood, I thought as I spontaneously booked a flight from Amsterdam to London. After years of watching movies about grand romantic gestures and unexpected love affairs, I found myself as the leading lady. I hadn’t expected it to make me feel so nauseous.
It was 2015, and I was three months into my study abroad experience in the Netherlands. Everything was just beginning to feel normal — I had my favorite cafes and bars picked out, my Australian roommates had become my best friends, and my European law class grew less daunting by the day.
My equal parts ridiculous and beautiful love story began at a music festival called Amsterdam Dance Event. The smoky, overcrowded venue seemed like some sort of dream. It was my first real EDM show, and I was slightly overwhelmed, but loving it. After navigating my way through the crowd and finding an open spot to dance, I saw him. Not the DJ, not the hot guy standing to my right, but the cameraman filming the act.
It was as if the music and crowd faded away, and I was looking at only him and he was looking at only me. Well, at least I hoped he was. I quickly did a 360-degree scan to make sure he wasn’t smiling at someone else behind me. It was me. All good. Back to the romance.
It didn’t take long for the cameraman to make his way into the crowd and end up right next to me. We went through the usual first meeting pleasantries. His name was Aiden Ross*. He was British and had flown in just to film the event. His long hair was tied into a man bun, and he was covered in tattoos. He seemed far too cool for me, but at the same time, I detected a look in his eyes like he was thinking the same thing about me.
During our smiley, nervous meeting, he told me that he was working till the show closed at 5 a.m. and flying back to England the same day. Damn. What kind of cruel twist of fate is that?
We decided to exchange numbers, something I’ve surely done with plenty of potential suitors whose names I eventually forgot. You know what I’m talking about —“Jake from the pub” or “hot guy in UberPool” contacts.
I suspected this beautiful cameraman was set to face a similar fate, until he asked, “Have you been to London?” When I smiled and said I hadn’t, he extended an invitation for a personal guided tour, pizza included.
Of course, London was on my travel bucket list, and I even had a friend who was studying abroad there at the time. But I almost certainly wouldn’t have ended up boarding a red double-decker bus the following weekend if it weren’t for this offer.
It felt like absolute madness. Was I really going to fly to another country to meet up with some guy I didn’t even know? This is the kind of over-dramatized plot climax I rolled my eyes at in movies. My parents definitely would have a problem with this. Actually, I think most people would. My roommates, however, were utterly supportive — but that doesn’t really mean much, because they also supported me getting bangs.
The true test came when I consulted my friend in London, telling her the whole story without sparing any complimentary adjective or detail. She screamed, “book a flight!” and offered me half of her dorm-room bed for the weekend. So that was it: I was traveling to another country for a first date.
Aiden basically had, in my 20-year-old opinion, the coolest job in the entire world. As a cinematographer and camera operator, he shot music videos, live acts, and short films. When I told him I was going to be in town staying with a friend, he excitedly responded by offering to get us both backstage passes for a Flight Facilities show.
Meet at a music festival; have a first date at a concert? How was this happening? I repeat, I am not cool enough for this. Regardless, this was not a dream or a script I had written; it was really happening.
When I arrived at the venue, Aiden texted me, saying we could meet in the front row. I pushed past hoards of concertgoers, my heart racing with excitement until finally I got to the front gate. There he was. Huge camera rig in hand, hair down, backward hat. Aiden was, and always will be, perfect in my eyes. He came over and kissed me straight on the lips, saying I looked “bloody brilliant.” Yes, he actually is that British.
After the show, we met up at the venue bar. We may have been drinking pints out of plastic cups, but we were so infatuated with each other, it might as well been a romantic candlelit dinner. Aiden was so much more than just the beautiful cameraman I had locked eyes with in Amsterdam a few weeks before. He was hilarious, cynical, and weird in the best ways.
We spent the remainder of my two days in London attached at the hip. We walked through beautiful London Fields Park, he introduced me to the delicious wonders of sourdough pizza, and we bonded over a shared love of stand-up comedy. It was, as terribly cliché as it sounds, picture perfect.
The best part was, for all the time I spent freaking out about the possibilities of him — would he be interesting, or was he just handsome? Would we get along? Would this just be a hookup, or would it be something more? — he had done the same for me. We talked about the ridiculousness that is having a first date in another country, but we also gushed about how rare and beautiful our experience was.
The next morning, I caught a flight back to Amsterdam. I (sort of) stopped obsessing over this gorgeous British man and returned to stressing over my classes. Not long after, when it came time to plan our second date, he was the one who booked a flight.
*Names have been changed to protect to the privacy of innocent daters.