The week Isabel arrived in New Orleans, she downloaded Bumble for the first time. Having just graduated college and ended a long-term relationship, she had no experience with online dating, but she was drawn to Bumble’s women-first ethos—and, soon after, to Kevin, a tall, athletic Californian who’d arrived in the city a year before.
Meanwhile, Kevin recalls coming across Isabel’s profile and thinking, “She’s way out of my league.” They matched, and quickly connected over their commonalities as recent New Orleans arrivals, teachers, and former college athletes.
The night they’d first planned to meet, Kevin was working a shift for Uber, his side gig, and Isabel was out with some friends. Kevin decided to pick up one last ride before meeting up with Isabel, but that ride turned out to be a very drunk young woman who lived over an hour outside of town. When the woman threw up in his car, he was just about ready to call it a night and go home. But the entire time, Isabel had been messaging him on Bumble, commiserating and cheering him up. So Kevin decided to turn a miserable night into one that would eventually change his whole life. “In a moment of delirium,” he says, “I figured, What do I have to lose?”
At nearly 3:00 in the morning, Kevin found Isabel on the dance floor at a music venue on Frenchman Street, a part of New Orleans famed for its live music scene. “She was right in the middle of everyone. Not on the outskirts. She was just in her zone having a great time,” says Kevin. They danced and talked into the early hours of the morning. That unconventional first date would set the tone for a relationship that was all about rolling with the punches. Over the course of the next few months, Kevin and Isabel fell in love to the sound of Big Easy brass bands, dancing and exploring and, as they put it, “marching to the beat of our own tuba.”
As much as they had in common, they were excited to learn from their differences. She was from Connecticut. He was from Palm Springs, Calif. He taught at a private school. She taught at an overcrowded, underfunded public school. As their relationship deepened, Kevin says, “We began to challenge each other, to push each other to be the best we could be and to live outside our comfort zones.”
Soon enough, the couple grew hungry for their next adventure. While visiting Isabel’s grandparents in Hawaii, they imagined starting their own life on an island. They began exploring options, and eventually got in touch with a family friend who worked for a school on St. John, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. The school eagerly offered to fly them both out for job interviews, and before the trip was through, they’d both accepted new positions.
The move wasn’t without its risks. Two Category 5 hurricanes, Irma and Maria, had recently devastated the tiny island—including the house the couple was looking at, which came without a second-floor roof. But instead of being spooked by the intense renovations the fixer-upper would require, Kevin and Isabel saw it as just another “part of the adventure.”
Besides, the backdrop to that home would be beaches full of soft sand and crystal blue waters. Breaks from work could mean snorkeling with sea turtles or taking sunset strolls under the palms. Even mundane trips to the grocery store would entail a scenic ferry ride or a run-in with one of the island’s friendly wandering donkeys. Every day, Isabel says, “we bask in the craziness that this is the life we’ve created for ourselves.”
Over the course of two years, they learned to paint, plaster, tile, and build, eventually putting their teaching jobs on hold to create not only a home for themselves but also a rental unit through which they can share their little slice of paradise. In the middle of it all, they found time for a small beach wedding. The only hiccup? Thanks to a mix-up about their friend’s status as an ordained minister, Isabel explains “we forgot to [officially] get married!” Getting their paperwork in order back on the mainland U.S. is on their post-COVID to-do list.
Isabel was five months pregnant when the pandemic started, which made it difficult to return to Connecticut where she’d planned to give birth. Undaunted by the lack of a hospital on the island, the couple calmly hopped a ferry to the nearest one after Isabel’s water broke. This August they welcomed baby Finn, who shares both his parents’ love of the beach.
After the pandemic, Isabel and Kevin dream of traveling the world just as much as they look forward to welcoming visitors to their own island home. The couple long ago gave up on trying to predict what twists and turns the universe will throw at them next. But as long as they have each other, says Isabel, one thing is certain: “It’s gonna be fun.”
(Main photo credit: Lindsay Vann)