Words by Emily
We’re Emily & Robyn, Aa songwriter/musician and chef from the USA. We met in Orlando, Florida in 2015, at a fundraiser that Robyn was hosting. She was on her way to a volunteer trip to Ethiopia, and when the band who was supposed to play cancelled, a mutual friend asked if I could cover the gig. So, I did!
It wasn’t long before we were dating, and deeply in love. The first (and last) woman I’ve had in my life.
Robyn had a big chef position at the time, and I was touring with my band quite a bit. After six months of being together, and a lot of long talks about passion, purpose, and aspirations, we decided that long-term world travel was something we had always dreamt of (Yes… six months into our relationship. haha). A casual conversation turned into a real decision to take a sabbatical, and we began to plan for our trip. How? Short version: We ripped out the months from a desk calendar, hung them up on a wall in our house, and covered it with individual goals, deadlines, and pertinent information (like, “cancel car insurance”). Soon, we were on the most eye-opening, life-changing adventure ever.
We began in Hawaii, then flew to New Zealand for two months before exploring Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Israel, and Argentina. From highs playing Auckland, NZ Pride’s “Big Gay Out” on the main stage (Robyn was my merchandise girl), and living in a camper van for a month exploring NZ’s magical South Island, to getting food poisoning in a Chiangmai, Thailand hostel with no aircon, the experience was profound.
Long-term travel can test one to the core. It can test your stamina, your patience, your ability to be flexible, and sometimes uncomfortable. However, it has the same power and ability to shift the mindset, completely altering the way you’ve always thought about things, build empathy, and fulfil the heart and soul in a way that is overwhelming.
Now, the experience of feeling all of those things alongside the person you’re deeply in love with – is incomparable.
I knew Robyn was my “forever” during our 2nd month in New Zealand, while living in the camper. We had experienced a few speed bumps (no pun intended) getting used to being in a small space 24 hours a day together, but we adjusted and found our groove. We had no choice but to work through things. She would cook, I would help do laundry (wash clothes in whatever body of water we were closest too). I was getting better at disconnecting from work (I was still keeping things going remotely), and learning to be present.
Living in a van for a month, with little to no wifi, tv, or other distractions, gave us time to connect in the purest way. We would bundle up in the van at night, hang our flashlight from the ceiling, drink Sauvignon Blanc, play cards, and then talk one another to sleep every night. I still look back at that month as one of the best in my life. I started a journal during that year. One page of the journal was titled “2016: Moments I Knew I Wanted To Marry Her”, and I would jot things down as they happened. Sometimes, it was when she was kind to a stranger, nurtured a stray dog, told me how she cared for my family, etc.
We moved to Nashville, TN at the end of that 11-month journey, and a few months later I proposed. Up until then, “marriage” in the traditional sense, never appealed to me. One person asking the other and spending a lot of money on a big showy wedding, full of acquaintances and extended family members your grandma wants you to invite. I wanted to avoid an experience like that. So did she. It seemed more precious to me for the two people to come to a decision together, and have a small intimate ceremony. Like, “hey, we know we’re going to be together forever, so, let’s make this thing legal”. Although, I do realise how unromantic that is, haha!
So, I bought a ring, and let it sit in my music studio closet for a month or so, just waiting for “the right” moment. One day, she came home from work, smelling like a kitchen (as chefs do), and hopped in the shower. Afterwards, she came into the studio, and I asked her to sit on the floor and listen to music with me. The rest is a bit of a blur, but nothing felt more perfect than the simple beauty of our life in that moment. PJ’s, in our first home after travelling for a year, sitting on the floor together, talking about our day and listening to music.
I’d tied that list I had written throughout our trip abroad, onto our dog’s collar… when I called Gypsy in the room, Robyn took off the note, and began to read “2016: Moments I Knew I Wanted To Marry Her).
She cried, or did I cry? I don’t know. It’s all a blur.
All I know is I asked her to marry me, and she said yes. On October 15th, 2017, we got married in a small garden in Nashville, TN. It was all DIY. For us, it was important that the wedding was about creating a symbol for our love, our commitment, and partnership; and we’re lucky to say that we didn’t allow external factors to change or shake that. Ultimately, it’s one day, out of hopefully many more magical days together. So, flower decor, a big cake, linen colours. None of that mattered to us, so we just didn’t even entertain it. One of our best friends ordained, and our immediate family and best friends came together to help celebrate and support our love.
Our other friend played “When U Love Somebody” (Fruit Bats), as we walked from opposite ends of the garden towards one another. Another friend did our hair. Another friend took photos. Another friend set up for the party. We had spent months making dream catchers that we hung up inside the gazebo where we held the ceremony. We put little bamboo plants in glass jars. Ordered some tye dye looking balloons on Amazon. Hung up Tibetan flags. The party space was full of colour and life. Every decision was intentional. From the food, to the incense burning in the garden at the ceremony, to the small number of people we asked to share the day with, to the vows we wrote and spoke to each other. It was intimate, intentional, and so us.
Photography Emiley Jones