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He thought the guy he met on vacation was just a fling. He turned out to be the love of his life

By Francesca Street, CNN

(CNN) — Guillermo Barrantes relationship with Larry Mock was supposed to begin and end in Palm Springs.

It was a “casual, brief encounter.” A vacation dalliance that only lasted half a day.

“It was just so casual, so easily nothing could have happened from it,” Guillermo tells CNN Travel. “We could have walked away and just had our lives separate. But of course that didn’t happen, because it wasn’t meant to be that way. It was meant to be the way that it was. That it is.”

It all started in summer 2013. Guillermo – then in his early 40s – was on vacation in the California resort city of Palm Springs. He was in a phase of life where, he says, he was prioritizing himself, and wasn’t interested in long term romance.

“I thrived in being by myself, in traveling by myself, in having dinner by myself – I loved all of that so much,” says Guillermo, who lived in Boston, Massachusetts at the time.

“I wanted no commitment, I wanted no emotional entanglement of any kind. I wanted to have fun, get to know myself. And it was in that mode that I met Larry, when I wasn’t really looking.”

During the vacation in Palm Springs, Guillermo was staying at a friend’s apartment, and while the friend worked during the day, Guillermo passed his time at a “run-down, no-frills” resort a couple of blocks away.

“You could just pay for a day pass, they’d give you a towel, and you could be in the pool and use their bar,” he recalls.

One day, as he was walking the palm tree-lined streets to the resort, Guillermo swiped right on a guy on a dating app – Larry Mock, mid-40s, friendly smile. The two men exchanged a few messages back and forth. Larry said he was also on vacation in Palm Springs, staying in the resort Guillermo kept frequenting.

They arranged to meet there for a drink by the pool. Guillermo was looking forward to meeting Larry, expecting “some casual fun.”

Then, when Guillermo and Larry met, there was “chemistry” right away. Guillermo calls their connection “magnetic.”

“My impression of Larry: sexy, handsome and warm,” he recalls.

Larry was a Texas-based American Airlines flight attendant who’d booked the vacation to Palm Springs at the last minute. He’d recently broken up with a long-term partner but due to lease and budget reasons the two were still living together – awkwardly – in Dallas, Texas.

Larry’s workdays were spent traveling the world. But during his downtime, he struggled to relax in the apartment with his ex, and this sentiment motivated the spontaneous vacation.

“I needed to get out of town for the weekend, because we were just butting heads badly at that time,” Larry tells CNN Travel today.

Larry searched his airline’s database, looking at destinations he could visit using the last minute, standby flight tickets available for flight attendants.

“Palm Springs had seats, so I booked my standby flight, got to Palm Springs, checked into this resort. And that’s where Guillermo came into the picture,” says Larry.

Larry was instantly attracted to Guillermo. He thought he was “just the most handsome guy” he’d ever seen.

And as they got chatting, and Guillermo kept making Larry laugh, Larry sketched out his first impression to include two more adjectives: “so funny, and so kind.”

In passing, as the two flirted over pool-side cocktails, Larry mentioned that he was a flight attendant.

Guillermo lit up. In fact, his response was “giddy,” as Larry recalls it.

“He started asking me tons of questions about planes, and flight attendants, and the routes and all of that kind of stuff.”

“I’m a huge aviation geek,” explains Guillermo. As a kid growing up in Costa Rica, he’d wanted to be a pilot. Instead, he ended up working as an IT consultant. And while he says he was good at that job, liked it well enough and made good money – he still dreamed about working in aviation. Meeting a flight attendant was fascinating.

“I was immediately drawn to his career,” says Guillermo.

Larry found Guillermo’s enthusiasm for aviation charming, and happily answered his questions.

Later that evening, Larry and Guillermo said their goodbyes, with no plans to meet again.

“I was glad to meet him,” says Larry. “But I was like, ‘There’s no way I am going to pursue dating somebody that lived in Boston.’ And I still was dealing with what I was dealing with in Dallas.”

“We just really enjoyed the time that we had together,” says Guillermo. “But we went our separate ways.”

Unexpected moments

Almost without realizing – and certainly without intending to – Guillermo and Larry stayed in touch.

“We kept chatting, we kept texting,” says Guillermo.

Then, a few days after meeting Larry, Guillermo got an unexpected phone call from his mother in Costa Rica. He was still in Palm Springs at the time.

“She said, ‘I don’t want you to freak out, but I just got diagnosed with breast cancer. I don’t want you to change the trip.’”

Guillermo tried to protest, but his mother insisted he should enjoy the rest of his vacation. She reassured him that her sisters and Guillermo’s father were taking care of her, and she’d see Guillermo later in the month – he already had a trip to Costa Rica scheduled for that summer.

Not wanting to go against his mother’s wishes, Guillermo stayed put in the desert. He tried to “compartmentalize” the news, but he was really close to his mom, and it was cataclysmic.

Later, back home in Boston, Guillermo found himself sharing his mother’s news with Larry, and confiding in him about his fears and worries. He added that his mother lived in Costa Rica, so he’d likely be flying back and forth for the rest of the year.

Larry was supportive, empathetic – and he told Guillermo that he should use the discounted flights Larry got through work.

Guillermo was taken aback – it was “such a sweet gesture” from someone who was basically a stranger. But then, somehow, Larry already felt much more than that.

“Very early on, he and I had just beautiful interactions, and it revealed the kind of person that he was,” he says.

And so, rather than dwindling, Larry and Guillermo’s communication increased as the days rolled on.

“Within just a few weeks, we just knew – without much discussion, without talking about it – we just knew that there was a very, very strong connection there,” says Guillermo.

“We always had something to talk about,” says Larry.

Larry was still hesitant about jumping into something new, following the breakdown of his previous relationship. But the messages back and forth with Guillermo became a highlight of his day. And as time passed, he found himself opening up to Guillermo, confiding in him.

“After a few months, I was like, ‘Yes, this is exactly what I was looking for my whole life. Someone that I can be my authentic self with,’” says Larry.

Long-distance dating

In September 2013, two months after their Palm Springs meeting, Larry arranged to visit Guillermo in Boston.

At Logan Airport, Larry came down the escalator and spotted Guillermo’s face in the crowd. He was beaming, and started running towards Larry.

Then, Guillermo “hugged me so hard,” recalls Larry.

He remembers thinking, “Oh my god, this is the one.”

Then Guillermo and Larry went to Boston’s seaport district together, and found a sundrenched rooftop bar where they sat drinking beers.

“We could see the planes approaching Logan, and it was just a sunny and perfect Boston day,” recalls Guillermo. “I remember that, like a picture, sitting by the edge – I remember the beer and I remember the planes.”

It was “magical,” says Guillermo, but also slightly “surreal.”

The Palm Springs encounter was so brief. He never thought he’d see Larry again. And now here Larry was, sitting opposite him, in Guillermo’s city.

From there, Guillermo and Larry started dating cross-country.

They took advantage of Larry’s discounted flights. Sometimes Larry traveled to Boston, but usually Guillermo visited Larry in Dallas. Guillermo’s love of flying meant that, for him, the four-hour journey across the country was part of the fun.

“I was in heaven,” he says. “Just the fact that I was getting to do something that I have always just loved – which is being on an airplane and going somewhere.”

Each Friday, as he packed his bag and headed to the airport, Guillermo would also be struck with “excitement” at the thought of seeing Larry.

And during these weekend visits, Guillermo and Larry grew accustomed to each other’s habits, how they moved through their days, how they liked to spend their time. Guillermo got to know Larry’s friends and got to know Dallas as a city. They spoke about their hopes, dreams, ambitions and families.

Guillermo says it was obvious that they were “very aligned on the important aspects of life: how we view finances, closeness with families, politically and world views and enjoyment of the small things in life.”

Larry supported Guillermo as he cared for his mother through her cancer, and celebrated with him when she recovered.

“For us, it was a gradual process of falling in love,” says Guillermo. “But a theme for us in our life together is that everything felt right and natural.”

“We can’t pinpoint the moment, but we simply knew very deep in our hearts that we found the life partner.”

“That made me so happy,” says Larry.

For Guillermo, moving to Dallas two years later, in late 2015, was “just as the easiest decision.”

Larry was thrilled. His Dallas-based friendship group had already welcomed Guillermo into the fold, and his parents were happy for him too.

“I introduced Guillermo to everybody,” says Larry. “My family’s always been very accepting of me.”

Guillermo’s family situation was more complicated. He’s always been very close with his parents and siblings, but for the first two decades of his adult life, he didn’t talk to his family about relationships.

“My personal life was not necessarily an open book,” Guillermo says. “Love has never been the question – my parents love me, I love my parents and my sisters, we all get along great. But there was always that invisible barrier, which was: I don’t talk about my personal relationships.”

But Guillermo didn’t want to hide Larry from anyone – he felt he owed that to himself, and to Larry.

“I wasn’t going to edit myself, I wasn’t going to filter. I just knew deep in my heart that it was my chance to be able to truly be myself,” he says.

So Guillermo started peppering his phone calls home with mentions of Larry. He uploaded cute photos of the two of them to social media.

“I’m fearless,” he told himself. “Nothing bad can happen here.”

A monumental year

Cut to 2018, which was a monumental year for Guillermo and Larry for a couple of reasons. For one, it was the year Guillermo followed in Larry’s footsteps and became a flight attendant.

It was a mutual friend who suggested Guillermo should give it a shot, and Larry – who’d spent years listening to Guillermo wax lyrical about airplanes – was wholeheartedly encouraging.

Guillermo applied to Larry’s airline, American Airlines, but wasn’t accepted. But then he applied to Delta, and was accepted on the spot.

While Guillermo and Larry loved the idea of working together, flying with different airlines also “worked out great,” says Guillermo. For one, there were two different sets of airline benefits to enjoy.

And working in the air was everything Guillermo hoped it would be and more.

“I was doing my dream job, my childhood dream job,” he says. “I still have to pinch myself that actually, I am a flight attendant.”

2018 was also the year Guillermo and Larry got married.

Guillermo proposed to Larry on an airplane. The couple were flying back to Dallas after visiting San Francisco, where they’d attended an Adele concert. As they were descending, the Dallas lights glistening out the airplane window, Guillermo suddenly felt the time was right. He turned to Larry and asked him to marry him. Larry smiled, and said yes.

“Despite it being impromptu, as an aviation geek, I love that I proposed on a flight,” says Guillermo.

The couple started planning their nuptials. Guillermo was excited, but he was unsure what role – if any – his family would play on the wedding day. While Guillermo had mentioned Larry to his parents, they still hadn’t met him. This was partly because Guillermo’s family were in Costa Rica, and partly because Guillermo wasn’t sure how that meeting would play out.

“The person that I had the most trouble with was my father – because he was the one that had the hardest time really accepting me,” says Guillermo.

As plans for the wedding started to take shape, Guillermo composed a long email to his father.

“I said something to the effect of, ‘Hey Dad, I know I really haven’t really talked much about any of my personal life. But I met this person, Larry, who is the love of my life. We are going to get married. Come, don’t come, no problem. But I just need to tell you because this is probably one of the most important days and times of my life.’”

Guillermo’s father didn’t attend the wedding. “For those reasons and also because he was towards the end of his life, his mobility was a problem,” Guillermo says.

“But my mom, my sisters, my niece and my nephew came, which was far more than I ever imagined or dreamed. That was such a great moment.”

Guillermo introduced his mother and sisters to Larry a couple of days before the wedding. They all gathered at a rooftop bar in Dallas, along with Guillermo and Larry’s close friends.

When Guillermo’s mother saw Larry for the first time, she enveloped Larry in her arms. The two hit it off right away. Guillermo was overwhelmed with happiness.

“For me, to see Larry and mom interact – they just love each other so much,” says Guillermo. “And my sisters just cannot get enough of him – I just sit back, and just enjoy.”

A magical wedding day

Guillermo and Larry’s wedding took place at the Dallas Arboretum, a botanical garden.

It was an outdoor wedding, and the couple woke up to the rain pouring and concerned texts from guests worried how the wedding would play out in a downpour.

“But then, sure enough, out came the sun at the right time,” recalls Guillermo.

Larry and Guillermo wrote their own vows and read them to each other during the ceremony. Guillermo told Larry that he inspired him to be a better son, sibling, friend and person.

“You want a partner that is going to challenge you to be better,” says Guillermo. “I always feel that I want to be a better human being just in general, because he is such a figure in my life and everyone’s life – he is the center of everybody’s life.”

In turn, Larry promised Guillermo their married life would be “exciting, adventurous and full of passion.”

“I’m proud to take you as my husband. I promise to fly with you to the ends of the earth,” Larry said. “I can’t wait to grow old together and look back at this beautiful moment.”

He ended the vows telling Guillermo: “Te amo” – Spanish for “I love you.”

The reception was held at a local winery. During the celebrations, Guillermo and Larry danced to Rihanna’s hit “We Found Love,” which includes the lyric: “We found love in a hopeless place.”

The couple felt it was fitting – the resort they met at did seem a bit of a “hopeless place.” And they never expected that brief meeting would lead to a lasting love.

“We made sure that song was played, because we did find love in a hopeless place,” says Larry.

“And I love Rihanna, too,” says Guillermo.

At one point, Guillermo and Larry walked through the reception doors holding hands, spontaneously lifting their arms in the air, a “victorious” pose, as Guillermo put it.

“It was just an electric effect,” he says.

The last piece of the puzzle

A few years into their marriage, Guillermo and Larry visited Costa Rica together for the first time. Larry was excited to see Guillermo’s home country, and Guillermo was excited to show his husband where he grew up – and the visit was also an opportunity for Larry to finally meet Guillermo’s father.

Guillermo was nervous about how the meeting would play out, but when he arrived at his parents’ house with Larry in tow, Guillermo’s father opened his arms and hugged Larry tightly.

“He said, ‘Welcome home,’” says Guillermo.

It was a cathartic, emotional moment for everyone.

“I was so nervous that day, meeting the father-in-law,” says Larry. “And when he just said ‘welcome home,’ and hugged me, every bit of nerves went away. I felt comfortable, I felt welcomed, I felt loved.”

Larry says the moment felt like the “last piece” of a puzzle slotting into place. Guillermo was overjoyed.

“That evening, which we got to spend – me, mom, dad, and Larry – was just a highlight,” says Guillermo.

The family played old records on a turntable. Guillermo and his mother danced in the living room, while Larry and Guillermo’s father sipped cocktails and watched, laughing.

“I had to just step back, because you have to look at those moments and just kind of create a little mini movie of them,” says Guillermo.

Guillermo’s father has since passed away, which makes Guillermo and Larry all the more grateful for that time together in Costa Rica.

In general, a feeling of gratitude defines Guillermo and Larry’s relationship – gratitude for each other and what they’ve brought to one another’s lives, and gratitude that their paths crossed over ten years ago.

On their anniversary, the couple usually return to Palm Springs to celebrate the day they met.

“Not only is Palm Springs beautiful with a great vibe, but we love to go back and celebrate our meeting place,” says Larry. “We weren’t looking, neither one of us – but it did happen, and it’s definitely for life.”

“What a gift,” says Guillermo, who says his life today is what he dreamed of “as a little gay boy in Costa Rica, always loving the US, always loving airplanes, always envisioning that I would have a relationship where we are completely free to show our love.”

“And we do, we do,” he says. “Who could ask for anything more?”

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