The moment I knew: after our first kiss, the night felt like Before Sunrise | Australian lifestyle


In 2022, I booked a six-month backpacking trip across Europe and Africa. I was 26, single and ready to grab every exciting experience I could. When an Australian girl at a hostel in Lagos suggested we travel to Morocco together, I couldn’t say no.

The first time I met Sam, he was standing outside my hostel dorm in Chefchaouen, chatting to my friend and a few other travellers. I had sopping wet hair and was wearing my pyjamas; he was noticeably tall, with tousled brown hair peeking out from under a backwards white cap. I thought he had an extremely sweet face and a kind energy.

After a brief conversation, we all decided to meet on the rooftop to drink wine and trade the usual backpacker banter: “Where next?” and “Where are you from?”

Sam was travelling with his best friend and an Irish guy they’d met on their travels, and while the conversations were engaging, there was no romance that night. When they left early the next morning, I assumed they’d become another fleeting memory of fellow travellers.

For some reason, I felt compelled to message Sam that evening. What started as a casual message about a waterfall quickly led to daily texting. By coincidence, we were travelling solo in the same week, so I suggested he ditch his planned Spain trip and join me in Budapest. To my surprise, he didn’t take much convincing.

In Budapest, we were both nervous when we met at our hostel. After the initial “Uh, hi”, we headed to one of Budapest’s famous ruin bars, where the walls are covered with messages scribbled by previous visitors. Craft beers loosened our tongues and conversation flowed effortlessly. I was relieved – this week with a man I’d known for a few short hours wasn’t going to be a complete disaster.

As the buzz took hold, giddy with the anticipation of our first kiss, he scrawled on the wall: “A.B + S.D, two people giving it a shot”. And then, it happened. It sounds cliched but the chemistry and connection was instant.

The rest of the night felt like Before Sunrise, my favourite film. We wandered the rainy streets hand in hand. We kissed in discreet corners. We rode a ferris wheel, the glowing city sprawling before us.

In Slovenia, on our last night together, we sipped rosé as the sun set over Lake Bled. We agreed the past few days had been the best week of our lives, but a sad truth settled in: he was heading back to America and I would eventually return to Australia.

‘Sam has been my life raft on my darkest days and the sunshine on my brightest’: Alisa Bittner with Sam in the Blue Mountains in 2023. Photograph: Alisa Bittner

I figured it would be years until I saw him again. But that evening, he called me just as he was about to board his flight home and invited me to visit him in the States. And while I couldn’t due to logistics, he ended up booking a trip to Australia to spend six weeks with me. A month after that, I travelled to the States, where I met his family; shortly after, he made the permanent move to Australia.

Nearly two years in, we share the keys to the same apartment, cook sub-par meals for each other and are regular players – and losers – at the local pub trivia.

We’ve shared some incredible moments and some incredibly challenging ones, like the loss of my dad. Through it all, Sam has been a life raft on my darkest days and the sunshine on my brightest. Like that Budapest graffiti he scrawled on that fateful night, we are two people giving it a shot – and so much more.


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