How we met: ‘I had gone straight from the bar to the airport – then I sat next to her on the plane’

Laurens, 45, met Alona, 33, on a flight and offered her ‘the cheesiest opening line’. Soon afterwards, she agreed to accompany him to his cousin’s wedding. They now live together in Tanzania

When Laurens boarded a flight from Phuket to Bali in April 2011, the only thing on his mind was sleeping. “I’d gone straight from the bar to the airport and I was so hungover,” he says. “It was not my most glorious moment.” He had recently completed his medical training in anaesthesiology in Brussels and was taking a well-deserved break. “I’d been travelling in Fiji and Asia and was making my way to Bali for my cousin’s wedding.” Due to exhaustion, he barely noticed Alona sitting next to him until they were about to land. “I was on a gap year working in Thailand and was taking a trip to Bali,” she says. “We both went to sleep but when we woke up we started talking.” Laurens asked her if she was travelling for business or pleasure, admitting “it was the cheesiest opening line”. They clicked straight away and continued chatting until they had picked up their luggage.

“My uncle came to get me from the airport and suggested we offer Alona a lift,” says Laurens. During the journey, the pair exchanged contact details and he asked her to join him the next day for a party with his cousins. They got on so well that, afterwards, he invited her to the wedding, too. “I ended up ditching my friends,” says Alona. “It was a Muslim wedding and I only had beach clothes, so I made myself an appropriate outfit from a scarf that I turned into a dress,” she says. “My family were definitely gossiping about me because I brought a girl I met on the plane,” laughs Laurens. They spent the next few days in Bali, driving around on scooters and talking about their lives. “He told me his dream was to move to Africa, where he was born,” says Alona. “At the time, it seemed like a holiday romance, so I didn’t take it seriously.”

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