A nomadic couple who met on a plane and fell in love now travel the world together.
Krystina Burton and Gabriel Solberg document their travels on Instagram and plan to marry abroad.
"We had already picked out a wedding venue before we were even engaged," Burton told Insider.
Travel has played a central role in engaged couple Krystina Burton and Gabriel Solberg's almost four-year relationship.
Burton, 33, and Solberg, 38, travel the world together and post Instagram content for their surplus of 16,000 followers on their @swirlthroughtheworld account. They're now planning a destination wedding in St. Lucia, they told Insider.
But long before their worldwide adventures, the couple said they encountered each other in a JFK airport terminal in 2018, unaware that they'd sit next to each other on a flight from New York to Los Angeles and fall in love before landing.
When asked how they met, Solberg, a nomadic digital-marketing professional now working from New York, said there were "two sides of the story." Burton, a dancer in Germany, jokingly added: "Mine is the most accurate side. I know you think yours is — it's not."
Solberg said he was unaware of Burton when he sat next to her in the terminal on his way to a family wedding. Burton maintained that her now fiancé deliberately invaded her space in a quiet waiting area to talk to her as she headed home to Los Angeles after an audition callback.
After seeing Solberg's ticket, Burton said, she noticed he was in her boarding group, but he got on the plane long before. "Wow, no spatial awareness, and he doesn't follow the rules? Who does he think he is?" she said she thought of Solberg.
All this melted away when the couple realized they were sitting together on the Alaska Airlines aircraft. "We were stuck on the tarmac for like an hour, and I got excited talking to her," said Burton of the six-hour flight, which took eight hours with delays.
Further conversations about spirituality — Solberg is Jewish, and Burton was raised Catholic — family, work, and travel allowed them to quickly establish common ground, they said, as well as how their differences complemented each other.
As soon as they got off the plane, the pair exchanged numbers and a kiss on the cheek from Solberg, who said he texted his brother saying, "I just met the girl of my dreams."
A few days later, the pair had a three-hour call that Burton said she'd ordinarily hate, and Solberg visited Los Angeles and stayed in a cabin in Topanga Canyon. The couple said they had a "marathon of dates" from there, including a trip to Malibu beach, dinner at the cabin, and brunches.
When it was time for Solberg to fly back to New York, they spontaneously decided Burton should come back with him if there was a seat available on the flight. As fate would have it, the seat next to his was free.
"We hung out in New York for a couple of weeks, and then she was like, 'Career before men,'" Solberg said, adding that Burton then left to audition for Paula Abdul.
The couple said they didn't put much consideration into making long-distance work. "I think we must have known somehow this isn't going to be long-distance forever," Burton said.
Solberg and Burton have since traveled the world together
Aside from visiting each other, they've been to many places together, including Mexico, Saint Thomas, Greece, Florida, and Las Vegas. In August 2019, the couple began documenting their experiences of traveling as an interracial couple on Instagram and YouTube.
"There's a lot of uncomfortable conversations and situations that you need to address," Solberg said of his privilege abroad, adding that he would notice "ignorant" microaggressions, such as officers on trains checking Burton's identification but not his.
In October 2019, the couple traveled from Las Vegas to Italy, where they got engaged. The proposal didn't exactly come as a surprise, but Burton didn't know when to expect it, she said. "We had already picked out a wedding venue before we were even engaged. We even looked at rings," Burton added.
Burton said yes to Solberg's Italian rooftop proposal with a custom diamond ring, and the pair quickly agreed on a destination wedding. They decided early on to get married in St. Lucia on July 25, their anniversary, but because of COVID-19, they've been experiencing delays to the 40-person intimate ceremony they planned to have at Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort.
While their wedding date remains uncertain, the couple knows one thing for sure — their honeymoon will involve more sun and will be split between Indonesia and Hawaii.
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