For Chris, a January 2022 trip to Wrexham, Wales had started out as just another flying visit home. He’d left Wales more than 20 years prior, seeking adventure overseas. Chris eventually settled in Colorado, where he set up a towing business that saw him travel hundreds of miles each week through the state’s most dangerous passes and beautiful ravines.
Still, he made regular trips to his hometown of Wrexham to see family. This particular visit was to be with his ailing mum. Dating was the last thing on his mind, but a few days before he was due to return to the U.S., he decided to open his Bumble app. Helen’s profile was one of the first that popped up. Finding her to be quite glamorous, Chris swiped right.
Though Chris hadn’t swiped with much intention, in the back of his mind he knew that he wanted to move back to Wales one day. His experiences dating in Colorado had been sometimes challenging: the cultural difference meant Chris often found himself having to explain his Welsh jokes or slang. He was searching for a partner who was down-to-earth, had a passion for the outdoors, and shared his sense of humour.
For Helen, a healthcare worker, Wales had always been home. Since the death of her husband of 20 years, she’d had two relationships with men she met Bumble, “so I knew the app worked,” Helen says. But, this time, she had a new criteria for a partner: he had to have children. She chalks this up to a “horrific” experience in the past. “I have a child with special needs, and this one chap was horrible to him—it was just awful,” she says. “So I swore that that was it: I wanted to date somebody who had children, and who had that empathy and understanding.”
One night, Chris’s Bumble profile appeared on her screen. Helen was surprised to recognise a familiar face. Decades ago, before Chris had left for the U.S., they’d frequented the same pubs in Wrexham. Chris’s friend had been dating one of Helen’s friends at the time, and they were still in touch with many of the same people.
When Chris and Helen matched, they chatted about their uncanny connection, all these years later. Instantly, Helen says, they felt at ease around each other. Even though Chris was meant to leave in less than a week, he suggested they meet. “Why not?” he figured. They met for dinner at a pub on a Friday night. Helen arrived first. “I remember Chris coming towards me with this big grin on his face,” she says. “Then we spoke all night. I loved how he constantly smiled and made me laugh.” They stayed talking at the pub until close, and when they still had more to say, they agreed to meet for breakfast the next day.
That Saturday morning, Chris and Helen met in Wrexham for coffee and a walk around the town, running errands together. For Chris, dating on home turf was a refreshing change. “When I went on dates in America, we often didn’t have a lot in common—and Helen and I are practically from the same town,” he says. The following day, Chris visited Helen at home in Holt, a village about 15 minutes away. The day after that, he returned to Colorado. “It was a shame,” says Helen. “I’d just found this great guy, and then he was gone.”
They both felt confident that there was a connection between them, which they wanted to explore. The only question was how, when they were on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Helen was hesitant: She’d been in long-distance relationships in the past, and didn’t want to repeat the experience. But Chris was able to reassure her that he visited the U.K. frequently, and eventually intended to move back to Wales.
So they kept in touch via daily calls, sometimes talking for up to three hours at a time. For weeks, “Every single night, he was the last person I spoke to,” says Helen. Though Chris didn’t have children of his own, Helen saw how close he was with his friends’ kids. “I could see that he just loved children,” she says. In February, Helen and her son had a week-long holiday booked to the Canary Islands, so Chris flew in from America for a long weekend to get to know Helen better. He bonded quickly with Helen’s son, then all three of them flew back to the U.K. to spend more time together.
Despite the distance between them, it soon felt like a serious relationship. “What endeared him to me was how honest and open he was,” says Helen. “I don’t think I was used to that. And he made me laugh.” The turning point came in late March, when Helen flew to Colorado for what was supposed to be a two-week holiday. After catching COVID-19 on the journey there, she was forced to stay for a month, sharing in Chris’ daily life in Colorado. “That’s really when we decided: ‘this is what we want,’” she says.
They both knew that they couldn’t cope with the distance indefinitely, but the timing wasn’t right for Chris, with his business, to return to the U.K., so they started exploring routes for Helen to move to the U.S. “We decided to roll the dice and get married,” says Chris. “It was a massive gamble.” But the alternative of breaking up seemed unthinkable, he adds: “I felt that it would be crazy to let this go.”
In May, when Chris was visiting Helen, they took a trip together to the tidal island of Llanddwyn off the northwest coast of Wales. It’s known as the island of love thanks to its association with the patron saint of lovers, Dwynwen—the Welsh equivalent of St. Valentine. They packed a picnic, but the weather was not on their side. “It was blowing a tornado through the island,” laughs Chris; Helen’s ice cream somehow ended up in her hair. On the peninsula, Chris asked a stranger to take a photo of the two of them. As they posed together, windswept but smiling, Chris dropped down to one knee.
A few weeks later, in late June, they threw a party to celebrate their engagement—and to bid Helen and her son farewell, as they’d soon depart for the U.S. In September, weeks after Helen’s move to Colorado, she and Chris were married in a church, followed by a party that went on all night. They ended the evening at a dive bar, where their loved ones danced on tables and had a cake fight.
After their whirlwind, transatlantic romance, married life was almost as hectic. Within six months of their wedding, Helen and Chris renovated and sold a house, moved, and travelled back and forth to Britain for births and bereavements. Helen accompanied Chris on his trips into the wilderness in his tow truck, and took up mountain biking. “I’ll give anything a go,” she says. That attitude is what Chris loves most about Helen, he says.
They’re already onto their next chapter. After Helen’s son turned 18, they were devastated to find that he could no longer stay with them in the U.S.. They packed up 20-plus years of Chris’s life in Colorado. While their return happened sooner than they had imagined, says Chris, the timing felt right: “It was in my heart to go home.”
The married couple sees their move not as the end of an adventure but the beginning of their next, with plans afoot to travel widely across the U.K. and Europe. Says Helen: “I don’t think we’ll ever get bored!”