When Lindz McLeod stepped off the airplane at John F. Kennedy Airport, she felt an immediate jolt of excitement and anticipation.
“I had never been to America before at all,” Lindz tells CNN Travel today. “It was really interesting to uproot myself and go to a new continent entirely on my own, I was really looking forward to it, I saw this as a new adventure.”
It was June 2019. Lindz, then 33, had traveled to New York City from her home in Edinburgh, Scotland to attend a writers’ conference.
After a spate of disappointing dates in Scotland, Lindz viewed the US conference as the start of a new chapter, focused exclusively on career and the writing opportunities she hoped would come her way. Her love life was officially taking a back seat.
“Maybe now is the time to really focus on me, and not worry about anything like that,” she recalls thinking.
“Of course, the universe had other plans.”
Everyone else in Lindz’s life thought their friend spending a week alone in the Big Apple was the perfect premise for romance.
“You’re going to meet someone amazing in New York!” they insisted.
Lindz dismissed these clamorings.
“I was determined that wouldn’t be true. And I was very wrong.”
Lindz was still at the airport when her phone buzzed with a notification: she had a match on the dating app Bumble. Although Lindz had sworn off dating, she hadn’t bothered to delete the apps – and unbeknown to her, when Lindz’s flight landed and she turned her phone off airplane mode, her profile’s listed location automatically switched from Edinburgh to New York.
As she walked through the airport towards passport control, Lindz absentmindedly scrolled through the profile of her Bumble match: a New York City-based woman called Z, aged 30.
“She was very pretty,” says Lindz.
But other than the five striking photos, there was not much information on Z – no list of likes, no description of an ideal first date, no favorite movie.
“You expect the bio to have some information in it – and all it said was, ‘Write me a poem.’”
As a writer, Lindz was intrigued – even if she also considered it a little presumptuous to include no identifying information on your dating profile.
“I thought, ‘Well, that’s a little maybe entitled, but also interesting. I will keep that for later.”
The rest of the day was a whirlwind of excitement as Lindz was introduced to a host of welcoming, like-minded writers at the conference.
That evening, after several drinks, Lindz returned to the Bumble match.
“I got a bit drunk with some of my new colleagues, and I thought, ‘Yeah, I will write you a poem. It’ll be great. It’ll be the best poem you’ve ever received on Bumble.’”
Without thinking too much about the contents, Lindz typed out several lines (“It was a tolerable ABAB rhyming scheme, not necessarily my best work”) Then she hit send.
Z.K. Abraham was sitting in her apartment on the Upper East Side when Lindz’s reply popped up on her phone.
Z, a psychiatrist who’d spent most of her twenties in medical school, had received a few poems, of varying quality, since a friend set up her Bumble profile and included that prompt.
Lindz’s poem stood out right away.
“I read Lindz’s poem and felt a brilliant spark,” Z tells CNN Travel today. “It was very exciting.”
Z excitedly showed the poem and Lindz’s profile to her roommate. Then she typed out a response, and Lindz fired back a reply. The two started messaging back and forth via the app.
Right away, Z was taken with Lindz, who she found “really delightful and funny.”
After a few messages, Z realized Lindz didn’t actually live in New York, or even in the US.
“That was quite a surprise that I just went with – because I had been to Scotland and spent time there, and I thought that was really cool,” says Z.
They spent the next few days messaging.
“Lindz was a writer, and we’re just clicking on many levels. She was so cute and pretty. I definitely wanted to meet her, just to see.”
The two agreed to meet in a bar in Chelsea, near where Lindz was staying. Lindz was excited, despite herself. Yes, she was leaving New York the following day. Yes, she’d sworn off dating, but she figured it was worth meeting Z all the same. Why not?
Lindz got to the bar early, setting herself up with a drink. While she waited, she started reading a blog post recommended to her by one of her new conference friends about a bad date. Lindz figured it would be entertaining – and potentially reassuring if she didn’t hit it off with Z after all.
The blog post made Lindz laugh out loud, so much so that when Z entered and approached the table, Lindz was wiping away happy tears.
Z thought this was charming. She smiled, sat down and the two introduced themselves.
“I have to say, photographs did not do Z justice,” says Lindz. “So I was expecting someone quite pretty. And then she walked in, and she was model gorgeous. And I was not prepared for that.”
The two quickly settled into a conversation about writing – while Z was a psychiatrist, she spent her spare time working on creative nonfiction.
“Our first date was the best first date I had ever had or heard of. It was just instant connection,” recalled Lindz. “We were chatting away, like we’d known each other for ages.”
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At one point, Lindz took her jacket off, revealing a tattoo on her forearm.
“It’s my favorite lines from a Robert Frost poem, but it’s written in Jane Austen’s handwriting,” she explained to Z.
“I have Whitman on my back,” said Z, referring to American poet Walt Whitman.
For Lindz, knowing she and Z had both had literary tattoos only reinforced the feeling that this was a meeting of minds.
“I thought to myself, ‘Oh my god, am I in love?’” recalls Lindz today, laughing.
Their conversations about writing were engaging, exciting and stimulating, and they bounced ideas back and forth. At one point, Lindz went to the bathroom, leaving her cell phone with Z, so her date could read some of her work.
Only afterward did Lindz consider that this was a bit of a gamble.
“But I just trusted you so instinctively,” she tells Z today. “I never would have left my phone with a stranger ordinarily.”
As for Z, she says she would “one hundred million perfect agree” that it was “the best first date ever.” The two of them, she says, were both “in the moment.” They were soaking up each other’s company, excited to make such a connection, not thinking about what any of this could mean long-term.
“We just sort of compartmentalized that, because I think that would have actually held us back from trying to connect in those initial few hours of getting to know each other,” Z says.
Still, later in the evening, once they were hanging out back at Z’s apartment, Z said, aloud, that it was a shame Lindz was leaving the next day.
“Well I am leaving,” said Lindz. “But not in the direction that you think.”
One of Lindz’s closest friends lived in Colorado and Lindz was visiting her before heading back to the UK.
“I’m actually going to Denver, rather than going back home. I’m going to be there for two weeks,” Lindz explained to Z.
Then she paused, and took a deep breath.
“Why don’t you come?” she asked.
Back then, Lindz didn’t really have any concept of how far Denver was from New York City (“in fairness to me, I’m not very geographical,” she says). It was her first time in the US, and she was still getting used to just how big the country is compared to the UK.
She just figured: I like Z. Why cut this short when we don’t have to?
The next morning, Lindz and Z didn’t revisit the Denver conversation.
“I thought, ‘Oh my god, she’s done with me already. Okay, fine. I’m never going to see her again,’” says Lindz.
But they kissed goodbye when Lindz headed to the airport. Lindz couldn’t text on her UK cell phone while she was in the US, so the two exchanged emails.
A couple of days later, Lindz received an email from Z.
“Were you serious when you invited me to Denver?” Z wrote.
“Of course,” replied Lindz. “I don’t say things if I don’t mean them.”
By then, Lindz had spent two days in Denver regaling her friend with stories of her wonderful New York date. She’d also explained she’d invited Z to Colorado.
Lindz’s friend, who was pretty laid back, agreed Z was welcome to come and stay if she fancied it, but cautioned Lindz the visit was unlikely to happen.
“She’s like, ‘Nobody is gonna fly from New York to Denver on the basis of one date,’” recalls Lindz.
“I proved her wrong.”
Z arrived in Colorado that weekend, and she and Lindz picked up where they’d left off in New York.
“We drove around the mountains all weekend, and we hung out and we had fun – we baked and we watched movies and stuff,” recalls Lindz. “We were never more than about a foot away from each other at all times, we were holding hands. It was as if we were dating already.”
Z says she knew flying across the country for a second date was a gamble. Before she left New York, she told her brother and her roommate about her plans, and both of them said she was crazy.
But Z figured that worst case scenario she could just book another flight out of Colorado. Wasn’t it better to jump in head first than regret not trying?
“I kind of had been in this phase where I wanted to take more risks,” Z recalls. “It just felt right, so I just sort of went with my judgment in my gut.”
At one point during Z’s visit, Lindz’s friend took her to one side.
“Okay, I admit it,” she said. “Z’s perfect for you. You are perfect for each other, but you live on different continents.”
Lindz’s friend wanted to prepare Lindz for the likely reality that once Lindz was back in Scotland, she and Z would go their separate ways.
But Lindz didn’t want to hear it. Not only that, she didn’t believe it. She really felt like this was the beginning of something, not the end.
Still, Lindz and Z didn’t address the reality of their situation that weekend, and the two said goodbye without really addressing where things could go.
“We didn’t want to break the spell of whatever was happening,” says Lindz.
It wasn’t until Lindz was waiting at the airport to head back to the Scotland, standing in the security line, that her phone buzzed with an email from Z.
“I had a really great time,” the message said. “I don’t want this to end. What do you think about maybe seeing where this goes?”
Back in Edinburgh and New York, Lindz and Z stayed in contact.
A couple of weeks after she’d returned to Scotland, Lindz turned 34. Z insisted on staying up with Lindz on video call as the clock ticked over from midnight. She wanted to be the first person to wish Lindz a happy birthday.
“I thought that was very cute,” says Lindz.
The weeks rolled on, and Lindz and Z’s video calls became more and more frequent.
“The more we talked, the more interesting I found you – I felt like it wasn’t just you were someone I wanted to date, you were becoming my best friend very quickly as well,” Lindz tells Z today.
At the time, Lindz was busy completing a masters degree in creative writing, while Z was studying for her final psychiatry board exams.
“There were times when we would get on video with each other, and then just sit in silence for six hours studying, and not even speak, but just be there,” says Lindz.
Both Z and Lindz told their loved ones about their burgeoning transatlantic romance.
“My friends and such were very encouraging,” says Z. “I was definitely blabbering a lot.”
“My mother had always said I should find myself an attractive doctor. And then I had, and I was very annoyed that I had made her happy in such a way,” says Lindz, laughing. “I was like, I really went my whole life trying to not fulfill parental expectations, and being a rebel. And then I’ve just done exactly what she wanted.”
A consequence of the long distance was Z and Lindz’s intellectual connection, apparent from the first date, became a cornerstone of their relationship.
“When you’re not there in person, you can’t just rely on making out constantly or something. You have to get to know the person,” says Lindz. “And there was a real hunger there to know each other in a proper deep way.”
The two continued to share their writing with one another.
“I think I fell in love with you as a person over time, but part of that was I fell in love with you as a writer as well,” Lindz tells Z today. “For me, it deepens it, because I got to know you through your writing as well.”
Around two months after they’d said goodbye in Colorado, Z and Lindz reunited. Z traveled to visit Lindz in Edinburgh. Z says it was a whirlwind trip, but it felt “totally natural and romantic to be together again.” Then a couple of months later, Lindz returned to New York.
“We did always have our eyes set on the next visit, which I think is important if you’re not in the same country, you have to know if you’re going to see other,” says Z.
This long distance became tougher with the onset of the pandemic. In 2020, the couple spent seven months apart when borders shut.
“We would stay on video overnight, so she could see me fall asleep, and I could wake up to her,” says Lindz.
During this period, the two tried to practice what they’d done on the first date – stay in the moment, enjoy now for what it is. But they also started discussing the future. Would they try to live in the same country? Was marriage on the cards?
And as the pandemic rumbled on, Z started reconsidering her career.
“I was at a stage where I wanted to take a break from psychiatry and pursue writing even further,” she says.
Inspired by Lindz, Z decided to pursue a masters in creative writing. She applied to and was accepted at a program at the University of Edinburgh.
With that, Z moved to Scotland, and moved in with Lindz. It was exciting, but almost a bit overwhelming – they hadn’t been on the same continent for the best part of a year. Now they shared a home.
But Lindz and Z soon settled into a routine, delighting in the new things they learned about one another, and enjoying exploring Edinburgh, with its vast literary heritage, together.
Building a home together also included fusing Scottish, American and Eritrean traditions – Z’s family is from Eritrea in East Africa.
“That hugely influenced my cultural background,” says Z, who says Eritrean influence is evident in her cooking.
The two also enjoyed many laughs about how Z’s naturally sunny, more American disposition is more unusual in Scotland.
She’s bemused many a Scottish cashier by peppering an interaction with smiles and friendly questions.
“They’re always confused and slightly dire about it,” says Lindz, laughing.
When it came to marriage, Z and Lindz were on the same page. They saw a future together, and both agreed, “a proposal shouldn’t be a surprise” but “the manner of it should be,” as Lindz puts it.
In January 2022, Z had just returned from visiting family in the US. While she was there, she’d discovered a beloved childhood snow globe in the garage, damaged. She was upset, the snow globe had meant a lot to her growing up.
Back home in Scotland, Lindz listened to her partner share her disappointment over the phone. In between comforting Z, Lindz peppered Z with questions.
“So what exactly was this snow globe like?” she asked. “Could you describe it a bit more?”
Then Lindz spent hours searching on eBay, hoping to find a perfect match.
She couldn’t find the same globe, but she decided to buy Z a new one.
“It’s not perfect, but it’s close enough,” Lindz concluded.
Z and Lindz have a cat, and to stop him from tearing open their real Christmas gifts, they’d placed several decoy wrapped boxes under their Christmas tree. Lindz hid the snowglobe in one of the decoy boxes. When Z returned from the US, Lindz suggested it was time to take the tree down and remove the boxes.
As they began this task, Z unwittingly picked up the box with the snow globe inside it, remarking that it was surprisingly heavy.
“Open it,” said Lindz. Z was confused, but complied. Then, as she removed the tissue paper, she saw the new snowglobe.
“I was like, ‘Look, I can’t fix the one that was broken. But this can be yours. It can live in our house and we can promise to take great care of it. And we can make new memories with this one. And it won’t replace what you had. But maybe it’ll be some consolation,’” recalls Lindz.
“She got teary, I got teary and I got down on one knee and proposed.”
Z, as she puts it, “counter proposed” a few months later, planning a surprise weekend away to the Scottish Borders. Z treated Lindz to a night in a country house hotel and then took her to the home of famous Scottish writer Walter Scott.
“His home was amazing, majestic,” says Z.
When Z and Lindz entered the room that was once Walter Scott’s study, surrounded by floor to ceiling bookcases, Z waited until the other visitors left. Then she got down on one knee, and asked Lindz to marry her.
Fast forward to today, and Lindz and Z remain happily living in Edinburgh. A wedding is on the cards, but it won’t happen anytime soon. For now, the couple are concentrating their efforts on renovating their home and pushing forward with their writing careers. They’re both published writers, and Lindz is now studying for a PhD in creative writing, and also works as a freelance editor.
They’re the first to read one another’s work and push each other to take risks and strive forward.
“It’s not just about having a partner. We’ve encouraged each other’s creative work,” says Z.
While the wedding’s on the backburner for now, the couple have given their future nuptials a few thoughts.
“I think we would like a smaller wedding,” says Lindz. “But I’d love to wear a pretty dress.”
“Me too,” agrees Z.
“So wear a pretty dress, have a little dance, and be surrounded by people we love and we cherish,” says Lindz.
It’s not just writing and reading that Lindz and Z have in common, they’re also huge movie buffs and go to the cinema several times a week.
“Z is the only person I’ve ever met who’s seen more movies than me,” says Lindz.
Their cinema taste is eclectic and far reaching, one of the first movies they remember watching together was “Magic Mike XXL” – “the best of the Magic Mikes, the most feminist of the Magic Mikes,” as Lindz puts it.
“A beautiful movie,” agrees Z.
Whatever they watch, the two always enjoy in-depth conversations afterward.
“I think we’re people who like to really deconstruct something, we want to kind of get in there and Tetris it all,” says Lindz. “I like that, it’s fun.”
Speaking of movies, last year, Lindz Tweeted about her meet-cute with Z. The thread went unexpectedly viral, and Lindz was flooded with messages saying their story should be a film.
“Maybe it will be someday. There’s lots of different ridiculous little things that made it feel very cinematic at the time,” says Lindz.
Z agrees. When Lindz suggested she come to Denver after that first date, she recalls thinking: “What would the character in the movie do? They would go with them.”
There were times, Z says, when the whole experience almost felt “transcendent.” She could imagine the soundtrack playing out over her life.
“It did have that sort of magical sheen to it,” agrees Lindz. “It felt unreal, surreal. Because it was just wonderful. You don’t expect something like that to happen. You don’t expect it to last, you expect a little limerence, not for it to develop into love.”
“I don’t know, if I was watching that as a movie, I would think it was a little unbelievable.”