Rebecca and Douglas Loved Being an International Couple Until COVID Forced Them Apart

By Ali Francis

When Rebecca and Douglas said goodbye to each other in February this year, they didn’t know it was the last time they’d see each other for eight months. Their plan was to get married on the cliffs at Big Sur on the Pacific coast this summer, but they were forced apart suddenly by the pandemic. With Rebecca in California, Douglas in his homeland Brazil, and travel bans enacted for both countries, they now have no idea when that can happen. 

While the uncertainty is challenging, the pair is used to the distance: they’ve lived apart for most of their relationship. They first matched on Bumble in 2018 while Douglas, a computer engineer for the Brazilian military, was finishing his masters degree in the Monterey Bay, Calif. area. He downloaded the app only days before Rebecca, a local surgery nurse, reached out. “She just said, ‘good morning,’ with a little smiley face,” Douglas remembers. “I was like, ‘whoa, okay.’ She is really beautiful.” 

They clicked right away and started dating. “When we were together it felt like time just stopped,” says Rebecca. But it wasn’t until right before Douglas moved home to Brazil, only three months after meeting, that a spontaneous skydiving date changed everything. Jumping out of a plane was one of Rebecca’s greatest fears, but with Douglas there to support her, she went for it. “He wasn’t pushing me, he was just like, ‘you got this,’” she says. “I felt safe with him.” 

After that, Douglas left for Brazil knowing Rebecca was the one. “She is just so loving, and I like that we always try to grow together,” he says. He returned to the U.S. to spend that Christmas and New Year’s Eve with Rebecca’s family, and three months later they met up again on the Hawaiian island Maui, where Rebecca used to live. There, at one of her favorite resorts and under a sky full of stars, Douglas proposed. 

Because Douglas was committed to the Brazilian military for a little while longer, they both went back to their respective homes—Rebecca to Monterey Bay and Douglas to São José Dos Campos—after getting engaged. They spent the rest of the year meeting up every two to three months in Brazil, Costa Rica, London, and Scotland, all while planning their wedding. 

A love for travel was one of the shared interests that first connected Rebecca and Douglas, but it also brought them closer in other ways. Visiting new countries together so early on in their relationship allowed the couple to venture out of their comfort zones and navigate new experiences together. They had to rely on each other in these settings, which, Rebecca says, “helped us learn so much about each other.” 

But then in May the couple realized that both the U.S. and Brazil had closed their borders due to the coronavirus pandemic and “everything went on hold,” Rebecca says. They had to postpone wedding plans as “there was physically no way we could see each other.” 

While the months apart have been painful for the couple, they’ve kept it together with constant communication and trust. “We message all day long,” says Douglas. “Usually I send her a message as soon as I wake up, and every night we FaceTime. We also have family FaceTimes on Sundays, with her two nieces, sister, and mother. Although we’re really far away, we try to bring each other into our families and daily routines.” 

Unable to travel, they spend time together virtually, coordinating regular date nights that consist of reading the same book or watching movies and TV shows together. On the day they were supposed to get married, Douglas sent Rebecca a specially-preserved red rose that will look and smell beautiful for the next three years. “He would usually send me flowers that die in a week,” Rebecca says. “But this time he wanted to send something more everlasting.”  

Finally, after seven long months, Brazil has opened its borders, and Rebecca and Douglas have reunited to spend October together in São José dos Campos. It was tough for Rebecca to get a whole month off from work to see him, but for now, Douglas still can’t come to America. They applied for what is commonly known as a Fiancé Visa, and are hoping that by next year he can travel to visit Rebecca in California. 

They’re still looking forward to an intimate wedding ceremony back in the U.S., but in the meantime these globetrotters are ready for the quiet life while they wait for the outcome of their visa application. “We’re just excited to do normal stuff,” Rebecca says. “You know, like chill and watch Netflix.”