It was August 2011 and Natasha Fisher was 17 and traveling from her home in England to the United States for the first time, desperate to spend a summer in New York living out a fantasy she’d only ever seen in TV and film.
Only NYC wasn’t on the cards. Instead she ended up a couple hundred miles west.
“My grandma offered to take me to Pennsylvania, because my aunt lived there,” Natasha tells CNN Travel today. “I was like, ‘it’s not New York City,’ but I’ve got nothing else to do, it was the summer. I’m thinking: ‘It’s Philadelphia, that’s cool; it’s Pittsburgh, that’s cool.’
“Then we went to this tiny little town in rural Pennsylvania, where there was nothing.”
Natasha’s aunt, realizing this countryside experience wasn’t quite what her bored teenage niece was hoping for, suggested Natasha tag along to her partner’s daughter’s band camp for the day.
High school bands aren’t really a thing in the UK, and Natasha didn’t play instruments, but she agreed, intrigued to see a slice of American high school life.
When Natasha arrived at the band camp, her American peers treated her like a celebrity. The campers flocked around her, asking her questions about England, intrigued to meet someone new and different.
Among the crowd of Pennsylvania band kids was Kyrie Huf. Also 17, she was a senior in high school, juggling her studies with working two jobs, practicing trumpet and spending time with her then girlfriend.
And although Kyrie was in a relationship, Natasha piqued her interest right away.
“I could point her out from a mile away, I was like ‘She’s definitely not at this school,’” Kyrie tells CNN Travel today. “I went up to her, and I’m a talker, so I just introduced myself.”
When Kyrie realized Natasha was British, she was even more interested. She harbored dreams of traveling the world when she was older – and in the meantime, figured making friends who lived abroad seemed key to making this a reality.
“But I also just thought she was super cute,” Kyrie admits.
Kyrie asked Natasha if she could add her as a friend on Facebook. Natasha hesitated, explaining she was hard to find there.
Kyrie got out her cellphone and looked up Natasha’s account there and then. She found the page quite easily, and sent through a friend request.
“I won’t be able to add you until I get back to England, I don’t have service,” said Natasha.
Natasha was slightly overwhelmed at the amount of attention she was getting from these American teenagers.
“They were all obsessed with me, because it was high school. People were bringing me ice pops, food and drink,” she recalls, laughing. “So by the time that Kyrie was talking to me, I’d already spoken to so many people.”
Plus, Natasha had never been big on social media. Adding people she’d just met in order to continue a conversation online was a new concept for her.
But later that day, after camp concluded, Kyrie went to work. When she arrived, digging her phone out of her pocket, she saw she had a notification.
Natasha had accepted her friend request.
“I was like, ‘Boy, she got back to England quick…’” says Kyrie today, laughing.
Natasha says she’d sifted through the 50-odd messages she’d received from the band camp attendees, saw Kyrie’s profile and clicked accept.
She’d been intrigued by Kyrie too.
“It’s funny, because that day, actually, after I’d just seen her, barely talked to her, just introduced myself, that was it,” says Kyrie. “I told all my friends I was going to marry her one day. My friends were like, ‘You can’t just marry some girl from England!’”
But for Kyrie, it was a sort of gut instinct.
“I just saw her and knew she was it,” she says. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, because she lived in England and I lived in America. I didn’t know how difficult it was.”
She sends seashells
A week or so after the band camp meeting, Kyrie was on vacation at the beach.
She found herself thinking of Natasha, who’d mentioned she was from the British seaside town of Brighton. She snapped a photo of a shell that caught her eye, and sent it to her.
Natasha responded, and a dialogue started up.
“We talked a little bit, and a little bit – and then it was like we were talking every day, all day – every free moment we had,” says Natasha.
In some ways, their lives were quite similar – they were both finishing up school, both still living at home.
But they realized Natasha had a bit more independence in the UK, where you can go to pubs and bars from the age of 18.
She entertained Kyrie with stories of evenings out with her friends, while Kyrie told Natasha about American high school.
As they swapped experiences, they migrated from messaging to Skype. Before long, they were sending one another letters and tidbits in the post.
It was exciting, but it wasn’t easy. If Kyrie’s parents realized she was talking to Natasha late at night, they’d sometimes switch off the Wi-Fi.
At the time, Kyrie says, her parents weren’t very accepting of the fact she was gay.
On Skype, Natasha was talking to Kyrie about her dream of one day owning a one-bedroom apartment.
She said she wanted them to live in the flat together.
It was the conversation that sealed it. They were determined to be together, somehow, somewhere.
They changed their relationship statuses on Facebook. It was September 23, just over a month since the two had met at band camp.
But Kyrie and Natasha didn’t meet again in person for another two years.
Across the pond
Over that period, Kyrie and Natasha turned 18, then 19, moved out of their parents’ homes and started their adult lives.
A big part of their imagined future was being together, but it wasn’t easy to envisage how they’d get there.
“We started looking into how we can make this real,” recalls Natasha.
They realized they’d have to save up for a plane ticket, and that was going to take some time.
Kyrie made slightly more money in her job, so they decided she’d visit Natasha in the UK when she had the funds.
In August 2013, Kyrie booked a plane ticket for that Thanksgiving. For the next three months, every day was a countdown, and then finally she was on the flight.
As she was crossing the Atlantic, Kyrie felt occasional pangs of worry – what if Natasha wasn’t going to be at the airport waiting for her? What if the relationship wasn’t what she thought it was?
When she arrived at London’s Heathrow airport, she glanced around nervously and couldn’t see Natasha anywhere.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to be stranded in this country, and I don’t know anyone,’” recalls Kyrie.
Then amid the crowds, she spotted a guy who looked familiar. Kyrie had met Natasha’s parents on Skype, and she thought this man might be Natasha’s father.
“But I wasn’t really sure. I mean, you can only see so much over Skype in 2013 when everything was pixelated.”
Kyrie looked at him, and he looked at her. I can’t go over there, she thought, what if I’ve got it wrong?
Then suddenly Natasha appeared, pushing through the crowds, waving, explaining she’d picked the wrong moment to duck into the bathroom.
After this inauspicious start, the trip was a brilliant success. Natasha and Kyrie had booked a vacation rental in the countryside, they also spent time together in London. Kyrie fit right in with Natasha’s friends and family. They say it just felt right.
When the trip came to an end and Kyrie was getting ready to leave, the two vowed not to leave it so long until their next reunion.
“From then onwards, we did go backwards and forwards,” says Natasha.
Romance on ice
The following year, on Valentine’s Day 2014, she met Kyrie at Niagara Falls, where the cascading waters were unexpectedly frozen, rendered even more spectacular.
When they traveled from Canada back to the US, the border patrol officer asked how they met. When the couple explained it was at band camp, he asked them what instruments they played.
“I said ‘trumpet’ and she said ‘I don’t play anything,’ and for a moment I didn’t think they were going to let her back in with me because it definitely didn’t seem genuine,” says Kyrie.
It wasn’t the first time someone had raised an eyebrow about the unlikeliness of an American and an English girl meeting at band camp.
That summer, Kyrie visited the UK for a month.
“By this time, I’d bought a house – I’d bought that flat I was talking about,” says Natasha.
The two stayed there together. One weekend they went on a trip to Paris, wandering around the Louvre, spending afternoons at the museum and soaking up the city’s ambiance.
In front of the Eiffel Tower, they sat on the grass, gazing at the view.
That’s when Natasha produced two rings, and asked Kyrie to marry her.
It was three years since they’d met at band camp, and thousands of messages later. Kyrie said yes, and they were both delighted.
But back home, when the two started looking into how visas could work, the reality of the situation sunk in.
The goal was that Kyrie would move to the UK after they were married, but they hadn’t realized just how costly the visa process was.
“It was so depressing,” says Kyrie.
The couple started saving. Two years passed, during which time they refrained from buying costly plane tickets and didn’t see one another in person.
Instead, their relationship reverted back to non-stop messaging and video calls. They’d eat together on video call, or sync up their screens and watch TV and film together.
By the end of 2016, they had the funds. Kyrie traveled to the UK that Christmas.
They made their wedding arrangements, deciding they wanted to get married in the US, at Niagara Falls, which held a special place in their hearts.
Then they’d travel back to the UK and settle there permanently.
On August 17, 2017, Kyrie and Natasha got married in Niagara Falls, with Kyrie’s parents there as witnesses. The couple had a big celebratory party a couple days later, with Natasha’s family in attendance too. Kyrie took Natasha’s last name, also becoming a Fisher.
They’d decided in advance they weren’t going to get new wedding rings, but would use their engagement rings to save money.
But Kyrie had something up her sleeve.
“I thought ‘you only get married once, so I’m going to buy the wedding bands as a surprise,’” says Kyrie.
They were in a bag that had belonged to Kyrie’s mom, which served as the “something borrowed” for the occasion.
Natasha only realized what Kyrie had done when the rings were pulled out of the bag during the ceremony.
“It was such a perfect moment,” says Kyrie.
Kyrie and Natasha were thrilled to start the next chapter of their life together, and the next step would be Natasha heading back to the UK for a bit, before Kyrie joined her.
But in the afterglow of the wedding, the thought of separating again, even for a short while, felt impossible.
“We decided, ‘Actually, I don’t think we can be apart for a month, that’s going to be too hard,’” says Kyrie. “Then we’re like, ‘Can we stay in America, is that realistic?’”
All their plans so far had been about settling in the UK. They had to switch tack entirely, get a different lawyer, figure out if this was doable, and something they wanted.
It was. Natasha stayed in the US. She’d only packed for the wedding, but she left everything else behind in the UK. Kyrie had also moved a bunch of stuff to England in preparation for living there full time. She left that behind too.
“I think my mum shipped over some sentimental stuff, but not really anything,” says Natasha.
The two didn’t care – they were just so relieved to be together and settle into this new stage.
They’d also adopted a dog, Max.
It was a whirlwind, they admit now, and it was tough for Natasha, who is very close to her parents.
“My parents have always been super-supportive, but I don’t think they ever thought that it would be something that would actually work out,” she says, referring to the earlier years of long-distance messaging with Kyrie.
Her friends too, had been supportive, but they also weren’t sure how this online relationship would pan out.
“I think everyone did think it was just a pipe dream,” she says. “No one ever thought I’d move here, because I always said she’d moved to England with me.”
Kyrie’s parents, meanwhile, had come round to the relationship. Kyrie thinks it was the possibility of their daughter potentially moving to England that changed their mind. They were so happy when she decided to stay in the US, and they welcomed Natasha too.
Settling into their new life together, the couple ended up buying Kyrie’s grandmother’s house. It was a fixer-upper, and they spent time renovating it together.
Despite taking these big steps, it still took a while for it to sink in that this was their real life.
“I think at the beginning it was just like I was on vacation. Everything was so exciting, everything was so new,” said Natasha. “And we lived in that middle-of-nowhere area in Pennsylvania where I’d originally gone, and it seemed great because we were together.”
As they adjusted to living together full time, they realized, with surprise, how different some elements of US and UK culture are – whether it was food choices, or how American towns are built for cars, not pedestrians.
But none of it really mattered to them. They’d finally achieved their long-fought-for goal – they were together at last.
Starting their family
About a month or so after the wedding, Kyrie and Natasha were eating dinner together when Natasha said she thought they should have a kid.
Having children had long been Kyrie’s goal, but Natasha had been less sure, but now she knew she wanted this too.
At the end of 2018, Kyrie and Natasha’s son Jackson was born. It was a celebratory time, but also a tough period.
Jackson was originally a twin, and his twin passed away.
The couple supported one another through this devastating loss. They got into a routine of Kyrie going to work and Natasha staying home with the baby.
And as time went on, they decided they wanted to move out of Pennsylvania.
It just so happened that they went on a family trip to Disney World in Florida in February 2019, when Jackson was four months old.
It was a special, healing trip and the family fell in love with Florida’s sunshine.
Within a few months, they’d packed up two cars and relocated south.
After the difficulties of the year before, 2019 was a year of renewal, filled with special memories for the growing family.
“We were doing loads of things, and that was great,” says Natasha. “My parents came over and they loved being here at the pool. We went over there twice. We went to all the Fall Festivals over here, all the Christmas things, that was amazing.
“And then Covid happened.”
Coping with the pandemic
Natasha says she still remembers watching the news announcement in March 2020, her heart sinking as she heard about the travel ban on flights from Europe and the UK.
She couldn’t believe it. Her mum had visited only a couple of weeks before.
Months passed, countries locked down and borders remained closed.
In summer 2020, Kyrie and Natasha decided that since flying anywhere was out of the question, this might be the right time to have another child.
Their son Alfie was born earlier in 2021, and Natasha’s family still haven’t met him in person, as British people still can’t travel to the US.
While Americans can now visit the UK, Natasha is currently waiting for her Green Card to be renewed, so they can’t go anywhere for a while. Plus, traveling with young children during the pandemic is a worry.
It’s been a tough time, but Kyrie and Natasha are also relieved they’d started their life together before Covid hit.
“I’m part of the Love is Not Tourism page on Facebook, and there’s so many people on there who are couples who can’t see each other because they’re not married,” says Natasha.
“We’ve had to support each other, talk to my parents and support them and vice versa, because they’re desperate to meet their new grandson.”
The family are hoping to visit the UK in October if circumstances allow.
Spontaneity and commitment
Natasha and Kyrie have navigated their relationship through a decade of ups and downs, from being teenagers messaging across the Atlantic from their family homes, to being parents coping with loss and raising children together.
They think their connection works because they’re both passionate and spontaneous, and support one another through their wildest dreams and ambitions.
“We both aim for the impossible and then try and work out how we can get there,” says Natasha.
“There’s nobody else who I’ve ever met where I could just move countries with two suitcases and just be like, ‘OK, we can do this.’”