Warning: We had an AWESOME engagement experience, so this story is a bit long.
We had been talking about going back to Baja since we started dating three years ago. Luke and I often reminisced about our first experience there, when we were in college. Of course our memories are a little different. Luke had been going nearly every year since he was 6 months old, so many of his memories blurred together with other trips. I vividly recall our night in Mulleje. It had started raining, so most of the group went to bed, but Luke and I stayed under a tree by the campfire talking for another couple hours… yes, I got sick the next day. Luke doesn’t recall any of this. He remembers the moment in the field station when many of us stayed up chatting and he was particularly loopy. I gave him a back rub (to get him to settle down) and he remembers it to this day as the first of many back rubs that have been—as he describes them—’a series of sublimeness’. There were many other great memories, like waking up on the beach to God’s glorious sunrise almost every morning and one of the best camping spots I’ve ever been to. Eleven years later, after a few different attempts to organize a return trip, it was high time we got back to Bahia De Los Angeles.
Now, we’d been talking about marriage for some time and I’d been waiting for a proposal for months (maybe a year). I fretted before every special activity and every date night, trying to make sure I was ALWAYS done up with hair and makeup and distressing about what I was wearing. Like most girls—I assume—I wanted the proposal to be picturesque perfection, filled with romance and surprise. We want to look the second best we ever will in our lives, don’t we? (Only second to the actual wedding day.) I hoped that he had pictures and maybe even video planned—we’re both professional photographers—how could he miss that part?! So, I enjoyed many dates on the edge of my seat. We did wine tasting and hot air balloons, and enjoyed holidays and birthdays together, but still no proposal. However, Luke was pretty insistent about going to back to Baja in the summer. We kept pushing it off, trying to coordinate schedules, because he wanted as many of our friends to come as possible (mostly because it is an awesome and fun time no matter what). Needless to say, I had a pretty good idea that the proposal was going to happen sometime during the trip. And if it didn’t… oh, I would be upset. We had to cancel our original plans to go in June, but finally got dates set for the end of August.
At 6:00am, the cars were loaded, and six of us and a dog held six coffees and a frisbee in hand and mouth, and we began the 12-hour drive to Bahia. Our friends Scott and Natalie were the only ones able to get the week off to join us, but it worked out wonderfully. It was the first time down for Scott and Natalie, and we couldn’t wait for them to experience it. We had a great time sharing memories and stories along the trip down. Despite the incredible heat and humidity, we enjoyed almost every minute of it. We spent most of our days in the ocean, since that was the only way to stay cool (and the prime summer Baja activity regardless of the heat). But I had no complaints over kayaking, chasing dolphins, floating, exploring islands, boating, whale searching (no watching), riding reversing rapids (they run from the ocean into a lagoon), and snorkeling with a massive pod of sea lions. Meanwhile, I spent almost every moment thinking, “Is it going to happen today?” “Is this it?” “This is a good setting, is it coming?” “Oh, but I look horrible.” “It’s hot, we’re sunburnt, there’s no shower, and I’m wearing this big floppy hat.” “I should take off this big floppy hat, but it’s so hot, and I’ll burn even more… oh, but this is so cool and fun.”
On our last full day there, we hopped in the boat one more time. We were in search of whale sharks. I’ve heard stories of Luke riding a whale shark, but I admit I have a bit of thalassophobia—the fear of being in large bodies of water, or of encountering large sea creatures. The day before we had seen 2 small whale sharks near the boat dock, and all of the little children from town were jumping in and chasing after them. Cruising along in the boat, I spotted some potential animal movement. As we approached, we spotted not just 1 whale shark, but counted at least 7 of them surfaced at once, and there may still have been more submerged out of sight. Even Rafe and Luke had never seen more than 1 or 2 at a one time in their 30+ years of being there. Of course, Luke didn’t waste any time jumping in, GoPro in hand, as I sat in the boat trying to muster up the courage to get in. “If the little 8-year old mexican children can do this, you can too Jen!” In went Scott. Then Natalie took the plunge. They’re getting close enough to touch and swim with the sharks. I can do this. Oh, and did I mention that this was not only the most whale sharks they had ever seen in one spot, but one of them was the largest they had ever seen. We estimated that it was over 35 feet long. In my head I heard a chorus of “They don’t have teeth. They only eat plankton. You’re not going to die.” echoing over and over. I eased my way into the water and made sure I stayed near Luke at all times. My heart was pounding, but I was trying to get the courage to grab a fin and ride along. We approached one from behind. It’s a perfect opportunity, “Swim Jen!” Then, out of the corner of my eye—as Luke was pointing and maneuvering to catch a ride—I glimpsed another larger one coming straight at me. Que the underwater scream, ensuing panic, and frantic swimming for the boat! I was done. But I was proud of myself for even getting in.
Afterwards, we headed toward a beach that Rafe and Jan had named Coyote Cove. We spotted some more dolphins along the way and chased them for a bit, but they wanted us to have time to enjoy the more special moment that was upcoming, so they didn’t stick around long. Coyote Cove is a beautiful, secluded, white sand beach that is only accessible by boat. It has a small lagoon that fills up with the tide and rocks perfect for jumping off of into the water. As always, Luke and I had cameras in hand and set off to take some pictures. Half way down the beach, Luke stopped to sit and get a few shots. I thought this was odd, because it wasn’t a good angle and he would know that! I saw him setting the GoPro in the sand positioned straight towards the ocean. Again, odd—not the right angle or anything. He stood up and continued toward me, commenting that he was done for now (he’s never ‘done for now’) and suggesting that we should wait for some better light, and go enjoy snorkeling with Scott and Natalie until then. That’s when I knew! “This was it! It was happening now! What do I do?!!” I had spent every moment anxiously waiting for this moment and preparing to look nice, but what do I actually do in the moment?! There it was, a small antique treasure box sitting in the white, glistening (almost blinding) sand. We walked right past it. I thought, “Play dumb… Just keep walking. What do I do?” Luke called me back to little box (as if he’d just discovered it), reached down for it and stayed on one knee. I tried to make sure I was listening to every word he said. “Oh, my hat! I should take it off for the video.” “No, pay attention, he’s finally proposing!!” How should I respond? “It’s about time!” No, that’s kinda mean. Aren’t I supposed to cry? Just say yes! “YES, I’ll marry you!” And for some reason, “Thank you” seemed the most appropriate, so I said that a lot too. Lots of smiles and kisses. It had finally happened—we were engaged!
After the blur of the proposal, I finally started to notice our surroundings. Rafe had been taking pictures from afar. Scott and Natalie were approaching from the water like a scene from a Bond movie wearing life jackets with cameras in hand. Of course they knew it was all about to happen. We all enjoyed the moment for a while. There were lots of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ over the gorgeous ring that Luke designed. Then we made our way back into the water and over to jump off the rocks before getting back in the boat to say ‘goodbye’ to Coyote Cove and head back to town. When we got back, we had nothing to do but celebrate and enjoy the moment. It was rather nice being in Baja with no phone service, no internet service, and no ability to jump right into announcements and planning. Luke and I did make sure to drive into town to call my parents on the town’s only international phone booth. But the rest of the evening and next day was spent with the 6 of us still relaxing and enjoying engagement bliss. We went out to a nice dinner on the beach, toasted with some champagne, and watched the moon rise over the bay. Of course wedding talk began, but there was no pressure to start planning immediately. It was a perfect setting and a perfect proposal, and we were perfectly happy!
Watch our engagement video to get the full feel of a week in Bahia. You’ll be begging to join us next time!