By Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner
In 2017, when Natalie decided that she was ready to date women for the first time, she realized she had a bit of a conundrum: How would she be able to tell which women she met at parties or through friends were also interested in women? So the Sydney, Australia-based childcare worker decided that the best way forward would be to download Bumble and adjust her settings so that she only saw other women looking to date women. Connecting this way, she says, was much more comfortable than approaching a potentially straight stranger in public.
As Natalie began swiping, she quickly came across Amanda’s profile and was drawn to her smile. The two matched and began chatting. When it came time for their first date—drinks at a cocktail lounge—they were both nervous for very different reasons. For Natalie, it was because it would be her first date with a woman she met online. For Amanda, it was because English wasn’t her first language. The Brazilian native worried that her English may not be strong enough for first date banter.
But none of that mattered once they met up. “There was no awkwardness,” says Natalie. The women talked about their passion for traveling and their favorite music. Amanda told Natalie all about growing up in Brazil, while Natalie recounted stories of her childhood in Australia. Being from different sides of the world suddenly didn’t feel so distant, and the night ended with a kiss.
At the time, Natalie was midway through a project: converting a camper van into a mobile home, which she planned on driving across Australia for two months. On that first date, she’d jokingly invited Amanda on her long-anticipated solo trip. Amanda didn’t decline. Two dates later, Amanda and Natalie became “inseparable.” However, as their relationship progressed, Natalie began preparing for her months-long trip in earnest. She started selling her belongings and moved out of her apartment. Three weeks before starting her journey, she moved into Amanda’s place.
As Natalie’s departure loomed, Amanda had to make a decision: Stay put or go on an adventure with the woman she was falling for. The answer, by then, seemed obvious: Go. So they spent almost two months journeying along the coast of Australia together, enjoying camping trips, swimming in the ocean, venturing into an unforgettable petrified forest, and—despite their cramped living space and lack of a functional bathroom or shower—getting along and falling deeply in love.
After those two months, Amanda had to fly back to Sydney to renew her visa to enable her to stay in Australia. As planned, Natalie kept driving all the way north, where she was staying in a national park with no mobile service. The time apart wasn’t easy for either of them, especially because their reunion date wasn’t quite clear.
Natalie hadn’t told anyone in her family about dating Amanda, but after realizing that she was madly in love, she decided to come out to her mother and ask for advice: Should she continue traveling or return to her girlfriend? “My mom was amazing,” says Natalie. “I almost thought she didn’t understand what I was telling her.” She encouraged Natalie to follow her heart, take a break from her travels, and return to Sydney to be with Amanda.
So that’s how, after eight weeks of communicating via FaceTime alone, Natalie surprised Amanda by showing up at her apartment. “She stood still for, no joke, two minutes with her hands over her mouth!” Natalie recalls. “She couldn’t believe that I had come back.” From there on out, the two decided to make a sustainable, financially-sound plan to travel together.
While they loved the van, it wasn’t fully functional due to the tight space and absence of a bathroom. So the couple found a bus to renovate into a comfortable traveling home—a big job that took nine months of working on weekends, plus the help of Natalie’s dad, to complete. And in order to ensure that Amanda could stay in Australia, they decided to become legally partnered, a move that was yet another way to solidify their relationship and strengthen their bond.
In November 2019, the couple got back on the road to explore Australia’s East Coast together and make “unforgettable” memories (which you can follow at @brisathebus). The duo parked their bus and moved in with friends during the early part of the pandemic, but after that brief hiatus, they’re back on their bus again, chasing the sun and living their dreams.
Main image credit: Natalia D’Angelo Photography.