I knew inside of the first month of dating Stephanie that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. After our third date I wrote a song about how we were going to make babies and turn our parents in to grandparents.
I bought a diamond. I had it put on a ring. Then I had to figure out how I was going to ask her the big question.
I was walking on the treadmill at the gym in early January listening to "Beast of Burden" by The Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger was singing,
I've walked for miles my feet are hurting
All I want is you to make love to me
And it hit me: I'd walk to her.
We'd been in a long distance relationship for about a year, and the thought of travelling on foot to propose seemed like a beautiful gesture to me: a way to show how inconsequential any distance between us was, and that I would do anything to make it back to her.
Then, what really drove the idea home was when I tallied up how many kilometers it was from where I stood in Halifax, NS to where she was in Corner Brook, NL: 805 kilometers. Not striking you as a particularly magic number? Well, turns out that's exactly 500.2 miles. Somebody please cue The Proclaimers.
So I trained.
I woke up early every morning and walked. I started off easy with hour-long walks, and ramped up to 3-4 hour treks with a backpack full of gear on. I bought special bandages for blisters and padded hiking socks. I planned out multiple route options depending on weather and highway conditions, and most importantly, I believed I could do it.
It was to take me 10 days to hike to the ferry in North Sydney, and another 4 days to hike from Port-aux-Basques to Corner Brook.
I started my trek on Thursday April 5th at 8:30 a.m. I made it from my house on North Street to the Dartmouth bridge about 15 minutes away before I realized I had forgotten my wallet. My roommate Clare drove it down to the bridge and saved me.
It was a sunny, but chilly, day. I walked mostly on secondary highways on the way to the Halifax Airport (my first destination - 35 kilometers away). Some roads had little to no shoulder, but the passing cars gave me a wide berth when they could.
I was five-and-a-half hours in to my walk, and four kilometers away from my destination when the paved road ended and turned in to an old woods road. Google Maps showed that the woods road lasted about 3 kilometers before it joined on to the street that I'd walk to my hotel for the night.
I didn't think much of a short hike through the woods. I've done plenty of hiking in unfamiliar terrain, and knowing it was a 20-30 minute walk at best seemed doable.
About ten minutes in to the woods I started to notice paw prints in the mud. They were about the size of a dog's, but there were no boot prints around to indicate that someone might have been out walking a dog. I was certain these were coyote tracks, and I was certain that I was going to be eaten. I picked up a big rock in my right hand, and picked up the pace.
When I finally made it out of the woods, I was overcome with relief. As the adrenaline started to pass from my body, I noticed a new pain in my feet. It wasn't until I took my shoes and socks off sitting down on the bed in my hotel room that I figured out the source of the pain: I had gigantic blood blisters on each of my heels that stuck out about an inch and covered the entire back of each heel.
I couldn't lie down on my back because it hurt my heels too much, and after lying down on my front for about 15 minutes I could hardly move at all because my body had become so stiff.
I had to reevaluate.
After some serious self-reflection, I accepted that my plan was dangerous and stemmed from a desire to prove myself with some grand gesture. But you don't prove yourself with some big gesture at the front-end of a relationship. You love, and support, and respect, and comfort your person each and every day until you're dead.
I cancelled my hotel bookings. I cancelled the ferry trip, and the next morning I took the airport bus home to Halifax.
Three days later I was on a plane to Newfoundland.
The first thing I did was drive out to Stephanie's parents' place to fill them in on my plan. Ten months in to dating this person I met on Tinder, and there I was, telling her parents that I loved her and was going to ask her to marry me. They were very nice about it.
I dug a path through the snow in the field next to my parents' home, and strung lights through the woods down to the brook to a secret place I often went when I was younger.
I sent Stephanie a video message on Instagram of the trail to where the lights started, and waited the longest 20 minutes of my life for her to get there.
When she did arrive, I told her the same story you've just read, and then I asked her to marry me. She said yes. We 100% cried.
Both of our families were waiting back at the house for us (probably the only part of this that was definitely a surprise for Stephanie - I'm bad at keeping secrets). We drank champagne, and everyone laughed at my blisters, and it was wonderful.
The moral of this story is: sometimes Tinder works.