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“She Was Always In The Back Of My Mind.” Couple Who Met On The Banks Of The Loch Ness Reconnect Years Later In Touching Love Story.

A two-photo collage. The first shows a recent image of Gabriella Vagnoli and Dan Watling smiling as they take a selfie together while eating outdoors at a crowded restaurant. The second photo shows a young Gabriella and Dan smiling as he has an arm around her.

Every couple’s love story is special. But the story of Gabriella Vagnoli and Dan Watling is so unique, you’d expect to see it as the plot of a hit movie. The two of them first met in 2002 during a trip to Scotland, and they hit it off right away. But like many of the best romantic comedies, there’s always a moment where the couple briefly separates — sometimes, though, they don’t reconnect for many years.

But before that happened to Gabriella and Dan, they enjoyed a 3-day bus tour together. With each stop they’d make, this adorable couple found themselves staying behind the group to better focus on each other.

View of a castle in the distance next to the bank of Loch Ness in Scotland.
Ramon Vloon / Unsplash

Their very first stop was the banks of Loch Ness, the location known as the home of the mythical Loch Ness monster. They didn’t have much time to get to know one another, but the connection they felt was real.

Still, the trip had to end eventually. Gabriella needed to go back to Italy where she would finish college. Dan had a life back in the States. They tried to stay in touch via email for a while but, eventually, Gabriella made the tough decision to cut him out of her life.

“I had no desire to move to America,” Gabriella explains. “I had a different life and I was like, ‘You know this is not going anywhere. It’s better that we don’t keep this thing going.'”

Dan and Gabriella Go Separate Ways

The shadow of a couple resting their heads on each other as they hold hands. The sun is setting, and it seems they're on a mountainside.

When Dan learned that Gabriella blocked his email, he was devastated. He moved on the best he could, but it seemed he’d never forget her.

Over the years, Gabriella came to learn that she felt the same way. Finally, in 2006, she caved and searched Dan’s name on Google. A part of her was scared she’d learn he was married. Instead, she learned that Dan regularly travels now, something he didn’t start doing until after their shared trip.

In spite of the four years that passed, Gabriella took a chance and emailed Dan — and it paid off more than she could have ever hoped.

“She was always in the back of my mind,” Dan shares. “I always hoped that we could reconnect somehow.”

“It’s just so crazy that he hadn’t forgotten about me, because as I said, it was a short trip,” she adds. “But he’d been thinking about me.”

Couple Reconnects Over Email After 4 Years Apart

Just like that, the two of them picked things up where they left off. Except, this time, they worked hard to make their distant relationship work. They’d visit each other as much as they could, with Gabriella taking a three-month stop in the U.S. at one point.

Then, a year into dating, Dan proposed — in Italian, her first language. He continued this thoughtful trend by saying his vows in Italian as well.

They eventually had a big, second wedding in Italy, but their first took place in the U.S. in 2008. Here, the friends who were with them on their trip to Scotland were there to celebrate with them. What better folks to surround themselves with to give a special announcement: Gabriella was pregnant!

“It was cute for us to announce it at the wedding,” Gabriella says.

Gabriella and Dan Live Happily Ever After

Gabriella Vagnoli and Dan Watling smile as they take a selfie together while eating outdoors at a crowded restaurant.

Now, the happy couple lives in Seattle with their two teenage kiddos, and they couldn’t be happier. Although they haven’t had the chance to travel back to where they met just yet, Seattle reminds them of Scotland, making it their perfect home.

“I feel incredibly lucky to have met Gabi back in 2002 and incredibly lucky that we reconnected again years later,” Dan shares. “I would not be who I am today without having had her by my side.”

“I also feel like we were incredibly lucky,” Gabriella adds. “I look at my kids and think about all the incredible coincidences that had to happen just for them to be here now and it blows my mind. I can’t believe how lucky we have been, but also I think that when you know you know. I’m glad I followed my heart.”

You can find the sources of this story’s featured image here and here!

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