The couple who met on a aircraft on Christmas Day

(CNN) — For Catalina Bernal Andrade, Christmas 2009 was uncommon — in additional methods than one.

That 12 months, Catalina’s father had been recognized with colon most cancers. Catalina, then 31, had moved again into her dad and mom’ residence in Bogotá, Colombia, to assist them by his remedy.

Christmas rolled round, and Catalina and her household celebrated as finest they may, regardless of the robust circumstances. In Colombia, the primary festive celebrations happen on December 24, and staying up all night time is fairly frequent. Catalina and her household loved a Christmas Eve crammed with ingesting, eating and festivities.

After just a few hours of sleep, Catalina and her mom awoke on Christmas Day to move to El Dorado Worldwide Airport.

Catalina’s father had inspired his spouse and daughter to go on trip between Christmas and the New Yr.

“He was present process chemo and a really, very harsh remedy. So he wished us — my mother and I — to take some vacation,” Catalina tells CNN Journey at this time. “We each determined that we had been going to Disney World, that it was a enjoyable place to be for every week.”

Catalina and her mom boarded their JetBlue flight to Orlando, Florida, and settled into their seats — Catalina within the center, her mother within the aisle and a stranger within the window.

Over the intercom, the captain wished the passengers “Merry Christmas.” Catalina glanced round and guessed that a lot of the vacationers had been en route to go to household in america.

“I do bear in mind folks with plenty of carry-ons, with baggage filled with presents,” says Catalina.

There have been a number of household teams, however Catalina’s window seat neighbor gave the impression to be touring alone. He was a person, in all probability in his 30s, sitting quietly studying and carrying headphones. Catalina was grateful he was holding to himself.

“I used to be simply chatting with my mother about how exhausting these earlier months had been, and the way we would have liked to take a while off to calm down earlier than the upcoming surgical procedures that my dad was going to bear,” she remembers.

The flight took off, and earlier than lengthy, Catalina’s mom fell asleep. In reality, most individuals on the airplane had been napping, seemingly sleep disadvantaged from the day before today’s celebrations.

Catalina Bernal Andrade and Mauricio García Marulanda met on a JetBlue airplane flying from Bogotá, Colombia, to Orlando, Florida.

Reed Saxon/AP

A few hours into the journey, the flight attendant handed Catalina a US immigration kind to finish. Again in 2009, these kinds had but to be digitized.

“I used to be all on my own filling out these kinds, and I did not know the flight quantity. So I rotated to this random man who was sitting subsequent to me,” remembers Catalina.

A bit awkwardly, conscious she was interrupting him, Catalina caught his consideration.

“He was plugged into his iPod. So I used to be like, ‘Hello, I am sorry, are you able to give me the flight quantity?’ “

The stranger within the window seat pulled a single headphone out his ear.

“123,” he replied, and put his headphone again in, abruptly, turning again to his guide.

Catalina crammed out the kinds — one for her, one for her mom. However afterward, studying over them, she realized she’d made a mistake.

Ripping them up, she requested the flight attendant for a brand new set and began over.

Now fairly flustered, she’d already forgotten the flight quantity. She turned as soon as once more to the person sat subsequent to her.

“Hey, I am so sorry to hassle you. Please are you able to remind me of the flight quantity once more?” she requested.

This time, to Catalina’s shock, the stranger was extra pleasant.

“Yeah, in fact,” he mentioned, taking each his headphones out this time.

The stranger had his ticket on his lap, and Catalina learn the title printed on the high: “Mauricio García Marulanda.”

By coincidence, Catalina knew somebody with the very same title, and she or he commented this, aloud. From there, Catalina and Mauricio launched themselves correctly and began chatting.

Mauricio, it turned out, wasn’t touring alone. He was flying with a number of relations, together with his mom, to go to his sister, who lived in Nashville, Tennessee.

Mauricio informed Catalina he was keen about music and had labored as a musician for a lot of his grownup life, however he’d not too long ago gone again to varsity to review psychology.

Catalina had additionally returned to school somewhat later in life, switching in her late 20s from a profession as an entrepreneur to working in training.

Once they realized this frequent floor, Catalina and Mauricio’s dialog shifted from small discuss into one thing deeper. Mauricio admitted to Catalina that his profession change was partly prompted by a rethink of his complete life.

“We began speaking about very profound issues,” he says at this time. “I informed her I might been in rehab, I had these issues with medication and alcohol, and she or he informed me about her life.”

Catalina spoke about her father’s sickness, and the way tough the previous 12 months had been for her household.

It turned out each Mauricio and Catalina had not too long ago moved again in with their dad and mom — Mauricio after reckoning with dependancy points, and Catalina following her father’s prognosis.

“We opened up completely, that is form of the way it began. Not solely as a friendship, however a complete sincerity for the reason that first second,” says Mauricio.

“I informed her, ‘I haven’t got something, I do not personal something — I solely personal a Volkswagen Beetle beat up that my grandmother left me and three guitars.’ We had been completely upfront with one another.”

Catalina talked about her 20s and the way again then she’d solely been centered solely on creating wealth. She informed Mauricio about how she’d packed all of it in, lived in India for a bit after which gone again to varsity.

“It was like, ‘I do not know, this man. I haven’t got something to cover, as a result of he does not know me. I do not know him. I simply might be myself for the following two hours,'” says Catalina.

When the plane ready to land in Orlando, Catalina bought out a US SIM card from her bag and switched out the Colombian one in her mobile phone.

Mauricio took this chance to ask for Catalina’s quantity. She mentioned sure, giving him her short-term US quantity, her Colombian cell and her e-mail handle. Mauricio scribbled the small print down in a small pocket book.

Earlier of their dialog, Maurico had talked about his music, and one tune particularly he’d written known as “Libre” (“Freedom”).

“Ship me that tune when you possibly can,” mentioned Catalina, because the plane began to descend.

At baggage declare, Mauricio and Catalina stood on reverse sides of the baggage carousel. Catalina’s mom pointed Mauricio out.

“What do you discuss for 2 hours? I could not sleep,” she mentioned to her daughter. “Who was the man?”

“He will be the daddy of my kids,” mentioned Catalina. She’d meant it to be a joke, however she realized as she mentioned the phrases aloud that she meant them significantly.

“Nicely, if he’ll be the daddy of your kids, you higher go and say a correct goodbye,” mentioned Catalina’s mom.

By then, Mauricio was surrounded by the household who’d been sitting elsewhere on the aircraft.

“No, that is so embarrassing,” mentioned Catalina. “He is together with his mother, all people.”

However as a result of her mom insisted, Catalina ultimately relented. She made her manner by the crowds to the opposite facet of the carousel. As soon as there, she launched herself to Mauricio’s household and gave him a kiss on the cheek to say farewell.

“I feel that her mom gave her superb recommendation,” says Mauricio at this time. “That was just like the deal maker, you realize, when she got here by and mentioned goodbye.”

In that second, he turned sure their connection hadn’t simply been a fleeting, transitory factor.

“I assumed, ‘It is a particular particular person,’ ” he says. “I bear in mind my household, they had been joking round, ‘Who’s that?’ You already know, making enjoyable of me. However that was a key second for our relationship, I feel, when she got here by.”

New Yr’s needs

After touchdown in america, Mauricio and his household drove to Tennessee, stopping off in Georgia in a single day. Throughout the stopover, he wrote Catalina an e-mail, linking to his tune on MySpace.

The following day, Catalina picked up the e-mail and responded straight away, sending Mauricio a hyperlink to a weblog she’d stored up whereas residing in India. These first two emails changed into common textual content messages over the following a number of days.

Catalina was having fun with her time in Orlando and the much-needed escapism supplied by Disney World.

However she was nonetheless apprehensive about her father and fascinated about him on a regular basis.

“I used to be going through this actually heartbreaking scenario with my dad. I am an solely little one, and I am very near my father, and he was very, very sick,” she remembers.

Mauricio was a salve, responding with considerate emails.

“I do not forget that he despatched me the hyperlink to a Coldplay tune, ‘Repair You,’ ” Catalina says. “He mentioned, ‘I do know you are having a tough time, let me repair you.’ And he despatched me the hyperlink to that tune.’ That turned our tune.”

“It is a ravishing tune,” says Mauricio.

On New Yr’s Eve, Mauricio known as Catalina simply earlier than midnight, providing his finest needs for the New Yr.

Catalina was in the course of Disney World when she picked up the decision.

“I am in Epcot Middle, the fireworks present is about to happen, so any minute now I will not have the ability to hear you anymore,” she informed Mauricio.

“Nicely, I simply wished to say, Comfortable New Yr, and let’s chat tomorrow,” he mentioned.

When Catalina hung up, her mom requested who’d known as.

“The man from the aircraft,” mentioned Catalina.

“That is very significant,” mentioned her mom.

On New Yr’s Day 2010, Catalina and Mauricio spoke on Skype for a number of hours. Catalina was in her Disney lodge room, her mom barely out of earshot. Mauricio was at his sister’s home, surrounded by his nieces. Sometimes, a member of the family would pop on the decision and need Catalina “Comfortable New Yr.”

On the decision, Mauricio went into extra element on his rehab journey. Catalina listened. On the finish of the decision, the 2 made plans to satisfy up once they had been each again in Colombia.

Falling in love

Catalina and Mauricio, pictured at the Taj Mahal in India together in 2011, say they never dated in the conventional sense. They just grew closer after they met on the airplane.

Catalina and Mauricio, pictured on the Taj Mahal in India collectively in 2011, say they by no means dated within the typical sense. They simply grew nearer after they met on the airplane.

Mauricio García Marulanda and Catalina Bernal Andrade

The night time Mauricio returned to Bogotá, he went straight to Catalina’s residence.

He was nervous.

“The aircraft was like a impartial place, however Bogotá is our metropolis — the town the place we had been born and grew up,” he says.

He got here baring presents — a rubber duck, a candle and a few good cleaning soap, the thought being that it was a “leisure equipment,” for Catalina to alleviate stress amid the household well being disaster.

“I assumed it was somewhat bit suggestive,” says Catalina, laughing.

“However it was not a date,” she provides. “I used to be not carrying something particular. And he simply mentioned, ‘Hey, how are you? I introduced you this.’ And we chatted in my room for some time. It was not a date. It was, once more, one other dialog.”

Their subsequent meet-up was at Mauricio’s mom’s home. Mauricio cooked Catalina dinner, they usually continued chatting.

From there, they turned critical shortly and naturally.

“Let’s skip all this BS, let’s simply be ourselves,'” is how Mauricio describes their courtship.

It turned out Mauricio and Catalina had mates in frequent, all of whom mentioned they might have by no means have paired the 2 collectively.

“He was an artist, he performs the drums, he was like a hipster — and I used to be this enterprise girl at all times carrying heels,” says Catalina.

“If we had met in Bogotá, we would not have even spoken to one another. As a result of we had been from so totally different backgrounds, it needed to be on a aircraft, as I mentioned, it is a impartial place,” says Mauricio.

Here's Mauricio and Catalina having fun on their wedding day in 2011.

This is Mauricio and Catalina having enjoyable on their wedding ceremony day in 2011.

Julie Bayona

Mauricio’s household had been actually happy for him, they usually liked Catalina.

Catalina’s father took longer to come back spherical. This was partly as a result of he was very in poor health and did not meet Mauricio for a number of months.

But in addition, Catalina had been engaged twice in her 20s. When she informed her dad and mom Mauricio was “the one,” her father particularly was skeptical.

The stakes additionally felt excessive as a result of Catalina’s father was so sick. He wished Catalina to be surrounded by supportive folks.

“He did not know if he was going to get better, or if he was going to die,” says Catalina. “I feel that he felt that, if he was passing, that he wanted to go away me with an excellent particular person.”

Over time, nonetheless, Mauricio proved he was there for Catalina wholeheartedly and completely.

And in opposition to the percentages, Catalina’s father recovered from his most cancers, ultimately receiving the all clear.

As Catalina’s father regained power, he turned near his daughter’s boyfriend. And when Catalina and Mauricio determined to get married in 2011, Catalina’s dad and mom gave them some cash towards the celebrations.

The couple determined to maintain the celebrations easy, and put the funds in direction of a three-month-long backpacking honeymoon.

Over the course of this journey, Catalina and Mauricio explored america, India, Kenya, Tanzania, Thailand and Cambodia collectively.

13 years later

Mauricio and Catalina still love to travel together. Here's the couple in Mexico earlier in 2022.

Mauricio and Catalina nonetheless like to journey collectively. This is the couple in Mexico earlier in 2022.

Mauricio García Marulanda and Catalina Bernal Andrade

In the present day, some 13 years since they met on a aircraft Mauricio and Catalina are nonetheless based mostly in Bogotá, the place they will normally be discovered planning their subsequent massive journey.

The most important distinction is that, now, once they board a flight, it is with their 7-year-old daughter, Luna, in tow.

“We attempt to instill in our daughter that touring is an enormous a part of residing life, and figuring out the actual world,” says Mauricio. “Not getting comfy with the place you reside and your tradition and your society, however going to different locations and have a look at different folks and eat different meals. That is what we love.”

Mauricio and Catalina nonetheless suppose they’d have by no means have fallen in love in the event that they hadn’t had their first dialog on an airplane.

“If you journey, your thoughts is extra open than while you’re in your comfy place,” says Mauricio. “I feel that additionally helped us to be so clear and open to one another.”

Nowadays Catalina and Mauricio travel with their daughter Luna too. Here's the family in in Chicago in 2022.

These days Catalina and Mauricio journey with their daughter Luna too. This is the household in in Chicago in 2022.

Mauricio García Marulanda and Catalina Bernal Andrade

Every Christmas, Catalina and Mauricio replicate on how they met on December 25.

The date, says Catalina, is “extra necessary than our wedding ceremony anniversary.”

In Colombia, presents are historically exchanged on Christmas Eve.

“However Mauricio and I normally give one another presents on Christmas Day, within the morning, on the twenty fifth,” says Catalina. “We at all times recall that was the day our relationship began.”

Whereas their love of journey is one in all their massive unifiers and has been a driving power all through their relationship, Mauricio and Catalina say they’re nonetheless forging particular person paths, too.

“We’re nonetheless very totally different,” says Catalina. “We’ve got very totally different social circles.”

She likes to go for drinks with mates, whereas Mauricio would relatively keep in — except he is heading out to play music.

“We attempt to be very respectful of who we had been,” says Catalina. “We’re nonetheless the individuals we had been earlier than we bought married, in fact. However we’ve constructed a life wherein we are able to share an important ideas of life collectively.”

Author: ZeroToHero

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