On a chilly May evening in Cannon Beach, Oregon, as the sun made its yellow, pink, and pastel blue descent below the horizon of the Pacific Ocean, Dan got down on one knee in the wet sand and asked me to marry him.
If you’ve been an Endless Distances reader for a long time, you’ve probably been wondering when this would happen. After all, we’ve been a couple for nine years – just one year longer than this blog has been around – and Dan’s a familiar face on this blog.
He’s my best friend and eternal travel buddy; perpetual blog photographer, model, and companion on gluten free restaurant missions; and (due to his British passport) the deeper motivation behind multiple international moves and of course all the articles I wrote during the years of our international long distance relationship (in many ways, blogging became a way to maintain my identity and work through a lonely time).
So, despite his lack of social media and my dislike of sharing anything “mushy” on my own social media, it seems only right to share our proposal story on the blog – because this blog has been one of just a few constants over the years of our relationships, as both we and the world around us changed so much.
Why We Waited Six Months to Share the News
Before we get to the juicy bit – the proposal story – I want to explain a bit why we waited so long to share this news publicly.
Despite having an entire website with my face plastered all over it, I’m actually quite a private person. Everything I share about our relationship on the blog is designed to help others in our unique bi-national situation. I enjoy writing about long distance relationships because I know how painful it is, and the hundreds of emails I’ve gotten from readers in a similar situation over the years prove to me that, at least in a small way, blogging can be a real and tangible way of helping people.
In many ways, this news has felt very precious. We gradually told family and IRL friends, and had a small engagement party in my home state of Michigan this summer. Other than that, no “announcements” were made.
And in other ways, the proposal and our current engagement has been lovely, but it hasn’t changed our focus from our current longterm travel adventures. Traveling around the world while planning a destination wedding (well, for at least half the guests) is no small feat. So… we just focused on traveling the world instead.
As we near the end of 2022, though, it started to feel more right to write about our engagement. First of all, we’ve finally booked a wedding venue (any guesses where it will be?)! But more importantly, every year I write a few yearly recap type posts; it’s a wonderful and peaceful way for me to look back on the year that was. Writing those posts, or even talking about 2022, without acknowledging this big, big, big part of it didn’t seem right. So… here we are.
The Proposal Story
It was May 19th, and Dan and I were in the midst of our cross-country road trip from California to Michigan. We’d booked a few days in Cannon Beach, Oregon – a coastal town I fell in love with back in 2015, when I visited with my parents the summer before I moved to England (read more about that trip in this post – one of the first I ever wrote on this blog!).
We were staying at Hidden Villa Cottages, a refurbished motel with mini apartments, just a few blocks from the beach. I’d wanted to stay at Grey Whale Inn, another vintagey apartment accommodation where I’d stayed with my parents back in 2015. Unfortunately, they were closed due to renovations (although now that Cannon Beach is even more special, I’m hoping I’ll get a chance to stay there in the future during anniversary trips?!).
We didn’t have a lot of plans in Cannon Beach other than wandering around, eating good food, and enjoying the seaside (it was our final coastal stop during the two-month road trip, and we both love the ocean).
That morning, we woke up and made coffee at our accommodation in my favorite Moka coffee maker, that I’d been carting across the country.
We drove down to Hug Point State Recreation Site, where we spent a couple hours wandering the shoreline, finding waterfalls, and doing my favorite thing – tide pooling!
After a while, the tide started coming in (and we started getting hungry) so we drove back to Cannon Beach proper, where we parked up and walked over to the beach to get a peek at Haystack Rock.
This massive rock is 17 million years old, 235 feet tall, the third tallest intertidal structure worldwide, and in short – stunning. It’s protected (no climbing or touching) because so much wildlife – from migratory seabirds to tidal sea life – call it home.
To me, Haystack Rock just has this beautiful energy to it. You can’t help but feel this ancient, peaceful, yet wistful calm come over you when you stand in its presence.
I fell in love with Haystack Rock back in 2015, and talked to Dan about it over the years. So it was quite special to share it with him seven years later!
After admiring Haystack Rock, and grabbing a quick bite to eat from the nearby Fresh Foods market, we drove over to Ecola State Park. We spent a couple hours photographing the views, walking a coastal hiking trail, and even seeing a few elk!
Of course, I started getting hungry again. But Dan requested we go back to our accommodation to “get ready” before dinner. Honestly, this was the first clue to me that something was up lol. We were just going out to a pub, but Dan suggested I put on my very very very favorite white sweater (bought second-hand, if you balk at the price in the link!), instead of the hot pink Nike workout top and leggings I was wearing.
Wearing Jenni-Kayne-white to a pub dinner? Sounds dangerous haha. But I agreed.
I had a juicy gluten free burger, safe gluten free fries, and we even split an appetizer of gluten free onion rings with BBQ sauce. They didn’t have any gluten free beer, but we did order a seasonal blueberry cider which was incredible.
And… I didn’t even spill anything on my white sweater!
After dinner, happily and cozily full, we meandered back through town to our accommodation. Along the way Dan saw this sign for an ice cream shop. We were both suddenly craving ice cream so figured we’d go check it out.
Typically, I can’t eat ice cream because there is just too much cross contact with gluten. So usually I ask my gluten-questions and then leave empty-handed and a bit sad. But when we arrived it was completely empty and Suzy, the owner of Suzy’s Scoops, just went above and beyond helping me out. Not only did she scoop me ice cream from fresh, unopened tubs, but she even had gluten free ice cream cones.
Honestly, this was suuuuch a special treat. Being able to just pop into an ice cream shop on a summer night is one of those things I really miss from my childhood, and here – without any pre-planning – we just had this spontaneous experience. It was really special!
After I crunched the last bit of gluten free cone, Dan and I stopped back at Hidden Villa Cottages. Dan said he wanted to “freshen up” a bit before going to see Haystack Rock at sunset.
While we were there, I contemplated whether to bring my camera with me or not. Dan immediately told me not to bring my camera – another thing that seemed off to me! I thought that was weird, but also thought whatever, I’ll actually listen to him and leave my camera here haha.
We arrived to the beach as the sun was near the horizon. Instead of sitting on a log and watching the sunset, Dan wanted us to walk down the beach all the way to Haystack Rock. I’m always up for a walk so I said sure.
As we made our way toward the rock I snapped a few photos on my phone. I remember that I was complaining that the sunset was not very colorful and a bit disappointing. I kept comparing it to the sunset I’d seen in 2015, when there were wildfires on the west coast so the whole sky lit up this other-wordly bright orange color.
Dan kept walking really far ahead of me and I was not keeping up haha. He seemed to be in this really weird rush to get to the rock for sunset and honestly, I did start to have some more significant suspicions at this point and decided to shut up about how disappointing the sunset colors were, LOL!
When we arrived to Haystack Rock, Dan took my phone and told me to go walk away toward Haystack Rock and he’d take a photo of me. Honestly, I thought he was being super weird (he was quite pushy about taking my photo this way when usually I have to ask him to take photos). So basically, I was having major suspicions at this point and started feeling soo nervous.
I walked toward Haystack Rock, and stared up at it. The sun had finally set, and there were hundreds of birds circling around the top of the rock. I got that strange feeling of wistful calm that I always get when I look at this landmark.
I guess I spent too long staring at the rock, because Dan had to call out my name so I would turn back around! When I turned around, he was down on one knee in the sand holding a red ring box.
Honestly, I can’t quite remember the details at this point haha, but Dan says I turned very “shy” lol. I think I was a bit overwhelmed to be honest, but I looked around and there was hardly anyone else on the beach! Of course I said YES and hugged him. He gave me the beautiful ring to put on, and I said no and made him put it on me himself haha.
We were both a bit giddy at this point, staring up at the giant rock and staring at my ring. Then, we saw this guy with a tripod on the other side of Haystack Rock. I told Dan we needed to get a photo to memorialize this, so we went up to him (I think I blurted “we just got engaged!!”) and asked him to take our photo.
It turns out that the photographer is local to Cannon Beach. He told us he’d taken thousands of photos of Haystack Rock over the decades, but we were his first proposal 😉
The photos below were just taken on Dan’s android phone, but I think you can tell that a Haystack Rock photographer took them… and obviously we will cherish them forever!
Besides little moments, a lot is a blur. I remember us sitting on a log as the sky turned black and the stars came out, deciding to wait to tell our families until the next day and just keep the news to ourselves for one night. We talked a bit about the future, and our past, and spent a lot of time staring at the ring.
I told Dan that I’d had premonitions all day, which he said “was not possible” haha. Apparently, he’d originally wanted to propose at Durdle Door in England, which is a very special place to us. But he also wanted to propose before we began our longterm travels. We weren’t going to be back in England so he said he decided to settle for a different “large rock in the ocean.” It doesn’t hurt that now Cannon Beach is immortalized as a landmark memory for us, and hopefully a special place to return to over the years.
The following morning was our last in Cannon Beach. We took a walk to Sleepy Monk Coffee, where we got some delicious specialty coffee drinks that we took to the beach.
During one last walk along the beach, admiring Haystack Rock the whole way, we called our parents and let them know the news.
Dan snapped a few photos of me with Haystack Rock and… my rock (sorry for the pun but I literally can’t help it hahah).
Looking back, the whole thing really feels surreal!
But soon enough, it was time to pack up Madge, my trusty 10-year-old Chevy Malibu, and venture off to Portland (the next stop on our cross-country road trip).
And later, came some wedding venue tours, a British-American themed lakeside engagement party, a dream venue that fell through, a new dream venue (that we booked! eeeek!), and I’m sure much more to come… and yes, I’ll blog about the wedding planning steps!
But of course, the most special part of all of this isn’t the beautiful ring, the proposal story, or even the future wedding… it’s getting to be with my best friend forever.
Want to know what else we got up to in 2022? Check out my annual 2022 travel favorites (…and least favorites) post.