By EF Group Leader Thomas Sakole
The snow began falling at a rapid rate and many of the other tourists began to scurry for shelter. Rebecca and I, however, lingered at the edge of the wall overlooking the city streets below. “There could not be a more perfect setting,” I thought, as my heart began to race. I rummaged through my backpack mumbling something about grabbing the camera. Standing atop Edinburgh Castle, with a view of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, as a background, I dropped to one knee and asked her if she would be MY princess for the rest of our lives.
Now, you’re probably asking yourself what does any of this have to do with EF Educational Tours? Well, actually quite a bit. As far back as I can remember, I have loved to travel. When I chose to become a teacher, I worried that my less than stellar salary might prevent me from those opportunities. However, after a few years teaching at my high school, I came across a brochure for EF tours. Within a year, I was off on my first trip with students to see London and Paris. Chaperoning 25 high school students seemed like it would be an impossible task, but amazingly I ended up having a great time. By the time we returned home, the students were asking when and where the next trip would be. My second trip to Italy and Greece almost doubled in size! Four tours later, with a fifth going back to Italy and Greece this summer and a sixth headed to Costa Rica next year, I still love the experience of traveling with students and getting to see places all over the world.
But again, you ask, what does my engagement story have to do with EF? Well, I would never have had the opportunity to ask my fiancée to marry me in the romantic and beautiful city of Edinburgh had it not been for EF. If you’ve ever led a tour with EF, you are familiar with their Global Points system. With my tours I had accumulated points, but never really knew what to do with them. During one of my conversations with my tour consultant, she asked if I had ever considered using my points to go on an EF Teacher Convention Tour. My first thought was, “Why would I want to go to a convention about traveling… I already know how to lead students on tour.” But after she explained that an EF Teacher Convention was a tour for adults where you also learned from other group leaders, I started thinking differently. I took a look at the tours being offered that year and saw a great opportunity—a tour that would spend New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh, Scotland. It sounded absolutely amazing, and after making sure our schedule was free, I booked two places for the tour.
Now, let me give you a little background on our story. My fiancée’s name is Dr. Rebecca Hayes. She is a professor of history and I also teach history, so we should have known we were a perfect match when we met. A few years ago we met in Fort Collins, Colorado while grading AP World History essay exams for the CollegeBoard. At the time, she taught at Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi, and I lived far away in Northern Virginia. We became good friends, talking on the phone, texting, and emailing often, and I offered to show her around Richmond when she was visiting for a conference. After that weekend, we both realized we were in love. After more than a year of long-distance dating, she moved to Northern Virginia, taking a job teaching history at Northern Virginia Community College.
As the trip grew closer, I began to see it as a golden opportunity. First, as avid travelers, we both love to explore the world—a proposal while overseas would be the perfect start to our many world-wide adventures together. Second, Rebecca’s Ph.D. is in Early Modern British History and she had done some of her doctoral research in Edinburgh. She had told me that Edinburgh Castle was her favorite castle in all of Europe—if you’ve never seen it, the castle is located on an old volcano and the castle rises high above the city below, perched on jagged cliffs. What could be more romantic than proposing at her favorite castle? Finally, as I often refer to her as my princess, the castle was the perfect place to propose to make her feel like the princess she really is.
As we boarded the plane to fly to Scotland, Rebecca had no idea how special our trip would turn out to be. She also had no idea why I was being so protective and watchful over my carry-on backpack—the only place I could hide the ring for the trip! On our second day in Scotland, we made our way to the castle. Later she told me that I seemed oddly uninterested and distracted during the tour. I told her that I was growing more nervous with each step up toward the castle! In the end, I could not have asked for a more perfect moment.
Thank you EF for helping to make our dreams come true! Without EF Educational Tours, I never would have had the opportunity to propose to the perfect girl in the perfect place.