By Sara Gaynes Levy
Back in June 2017, while Julie was in school to become a physical therapist, she stumbled upon the Bumble profile of Sean, a fellow physical therapist who she thought was cute and was holding a cute dog. That was enough for Julie to swipe right. (“I don’t even have a dog,” Sean laughs. “It’s my brother’s dog!”) She reached out about a reference to karaoke in Sean’s profile—another red herring, as Julie says she’s still waiting to do karaoke with him. Their mutual career paths and joint enthusiasm for their local upstate New York brewery scene kept the conversation going. After about a week of chatting, they decided to meet up at one of those breweries. “To be honest, there were only so many times I could sneak away to the bathroom to keep messaging Julie at work,” says Sean. “I had to meet her!”
In person at the brewery, the connection sparked, as they bonded over their career paths and love of fitness (Julie had a 15K race coming up and both are avid hikers). “She was so easy to talk to, and so authentic,” says Sean. “She left me wanting more.” Julie loved that Sean made her laugh, and that talking to him felt like talking to someone she’d known for years. “After he left, I was giddy to get to know him more,” she says.
And that’s exactly what they did, meeting up often for dates all that summer after the first smashing success. But as the fall neared, Sean had some news: While Julie was in her final year of school and would be staying put in upstate New York, Sean was studying for board certification, and planned to become a traveling physical therapist. That meant he’d be taking on short-term work contracts and moving around a lot to be staffed wherever he was most needed. His first assignment was coming up in September, taking him to Baltimore, Md. Julie and Sean had to make a decision: Would they keep seeing each other long-distance after just a couple of months of dating?
“I was really into the relationship,” says Julie, who says both she and Sean had been single for a while before connecting and were ready for something serious when they met. “I had a vibe that he was really into it, too, but we’d been tip-toeing around the conversation of if we were actually going to get serious.” They knew that if they wanted to make it through Sean’s temporary move to Maryland, they’d have to be more than casually seeing each other. With the deadline for Sean’s move looming, they decided to make things official.
It was the right decision. The two visited each other as often as they could; Sean’s time in Baltimore passed quickly. When Sean got his next assignment—a four-month stint in Phoenix, Ariz.—Julie used her school break for a 35-hour-long road trip with him out to his new apartment. “I was like, if I can tolerate being with someone in a car for this long, that’s a good sign!” she says with a laugh. She stayed with him for the first week and saw the appeal of the travel PT lifestyle. “I always thought I might want to do travel physical therapy, but when he started doing it, it gave me the itch that much more,” she says. Over the next four months, while Sean was in Arizona, Julie finished school and started studying for her exams. She and Sean decided when she was done, they’d plan to begin working as travel PTs together.
When the time for Julie’s first assignment arrived, they’d been dating just about a year, and they were both placed in Clemson, S.C. It just seemed logical to move in together. “I think for both of us it was sooner than we would’ve expected to move in together, but it didn’t make sense to rent two apartments,” says Sean. Even though it was earlier than planned, moving in together made their relationship stronger. “I think it was a good barometer, in a way,” says Sean. “It showed us that things were going to work long-term.” Julie agrees. “Our living styles matched up really well.“ Sean was neat, a big perk for the organized Julie. Living with him also gave her insight into his kindness and compassion. “This sounds clichéd, but he’s just a good person,” she says. “He’s got a really big heart.”
As their South Carolina assignment wrapped up, Julie and Sean committed to the travel life, living together in three more states. (They even started a joint Instagram account, @PT_Journeys, to share what it’s like to be a travel PT and to mentor new physical therapists). Sean was impressed with how Julie pushed herself out of her comfort zone as they traveled. “I could tell that those situations, like being so far from her family, were sometimes stressful for her, but she composed herself and handled herself really well,” he says. “We were always a team through the stress.” One example: While on an assignment in California, Sean’s birthday rolled around, and they were thousands of miles from their family and friends. Julie surprised Sean with a video of all the important people in his life wishing him a happy birthday. “A lot of them were people that she’d never met!,” says Sean. “It was a lightbulb moment for me, seeing how much time and effort she put into trying to make my birthday special, especially when we were far away from family.” The lightbulb? He wanted to marry her.
And while Julie did love seeing the country and sharing new experiences with Sean, when it came time to settle down, she wanted to live near her family in New York state. “It wasn’t even like he compromised,” says Julie of the conversation. “He was just like, ‘Yes. I’ll definitely do that.’” Comments like these showed Julie what a great partner Sean would be.
With both of them sure that marriage was the next step, Sean proposed on a hike in June 2020 with a ring that serves as a testament to his thoughtfulness and their compatibility. The construction of the ring itself is meaningful: the prongs contain part of the fence from outside the apartment where Julie presented Sean with his birthday video. The engravings are symbolic of the course of their relationship: the exterior of the band features the plane from their @PT_Journeys logo engraved on it on one side, and their dog’s paw prints on the other. (While the original profile picture dog may have been misleading, Sean and Julie did get a pet together, a Golden Retriever named Gulliver.). The interior of the band has their initials just as they carved them into a tree on hike in the Adirondacks early in their relationship. Finally, the pavé stones surrounding the diamond include gemstones representing their parents’ wedding anniversaries and the month of June, when they first met. (Julie said yes.)
Just as they agreed, the two moved back to Rochester in 2020, and—thanks to some delays due to COVID—got married in September 2022. Despite all they have in common, they’re both sure they wouldn’t have been able to travel, work, and start a life together without Bumble. “I’m not really the type of person to say everything happens for a reason, but it is a little curious, isn’t it?” says Sean with a smile. Julie sure thinks so. When she thinks back on their relationship, she ticks off a highlight reel: a concert they went to she calls “the time of her life,” a family game night where she realized how well Sean fit in, and the comfort she feels when she’s with him. “At some point I knew: I’m gonna marry this guy,” she says. “It just became a matter of when.”