In their everyday lives, Jason Bomgren, a nurse from the US state of Michigan, and Helena Rose, a theatre show-runner from the town of Watford near London, UK, would never have crossed paths. But a decision to join Flash Pack’s solo group trip to Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula drew them together, changing both their lives forever.
As is the way for many Flashpackers, Jason and Helen’s relationship initially took shape as a really good friendship. “We had quite a few big personalities in our group, which was great because it meant that the conversation flowed beautifully – but Jason and I are both a little more shy,” Helena explains. “That, and the fact that we were always pausing to take photos, meant we often found ourselves lagging behind the rest of the pack. And so our friendship was able to develop away from the spotlight.”
Between exploring the vine-clad cenotes and ancient Mayan temples of the spectacular Yucatán region, Helena and Jason bonded over their shared sense of humour, as well as the fact that they are both self-professed “massive nerds”. “There was a point towards the end of the trip when we talked about our favourite movies,” says Jason. “I came up with Lilo & Stitch and Helena named Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s not everyday you meet someone who has the exact same taste in films. That’s when I knew I was going to really miss her come the end of the trip.”
We knew then it wasn’t just a holiday fling
Throughout the course of their 11-day adventure, everyone in the group grew close and many friendships were formed, so parting ways at the end was naturally emotional. “It was worse saying goodbye to Helena, though,” recalls Jason. “There I was, having met this wonderful person and I suddenly realised that she wasn’t going to be around anymore.”
A series of long-distance video calls later, and the couple decided to meet again, making an impromptu trip to New York City just six weeks after Mexico. “We stayed at a hotel in Long Island with gorgeous views of the Manhattan skyline,” Helena says. “The one thing we wanted to do was see Avengers: Endgame together as it had just been released. And that’s when I started to think, ‘I’ve found the one person I want to watch Marvel movies with for the rest of my life.”
Soon romance blossomed. “We knew then it wasn’t just a holiday fling,” says Helena. The duo soon met up again when Jason travelled to London five months after they first met. “Pretty soon into that trip, I told Helena I loved her,” says Jason. “It could have made things incredibly awkward, not least because she responded by just saying ‘thank you’.”
Jason was on the brink of moving to the UK when Covid hit
A few days later, at a friend’s wedding, Helena said “I love you” back, just a day before Jason was due to fly back to the States. Over the next six months they travelled extensively together, keeping their relationship going with trips to Michigan (where Helena met Jason’s family), Niagara Falls, Canada and Paris, France.
Jason was on the brink of moving to the UK through a hospital nursing placement near Helena’s home in Watford, when Covid hit in March 2020 and changed everything. Helena’s role in the wardrobe department backstage in the theatres of London came to an abrupt halt, and she worked to comfort her wider team as they were all put on furlough. Meanwhile, back in Michigan, Jason found himself on the frontline of the pandemic after being assigned a role in a Covid ward.
“I burst into tears when I found out he was doing that, but I would never have asked him not to,” says Helena. “Nurses are the most incredible human beings who sacrifice their lives for others. That’s what Jason did. He gave amazing support to so many families during that time.”
He then quit his job and they spent the summer together
A few months later, the distance between them proved too much. Jason quit his job and travelled to the UK for what he describes as an “extraordinary extended holiday”.
“We ended up spending the summer together,” says Helena. “Neither of us had the pressure of work. For the first time since we’d met, we were able to spend a prolonged period of time together. We ended up hanging out in friends’ gardens as lockdown began to ease. We spent time with my sister’s new baby, and we went to the Isle of Wight together. I was so grateful for the time,” Helena reminisces.
A little later, the move became official when Jason was once again approved for a nursing position in the UK. Meanwhile, Helena went back to her day job, including comforting actors with stage fright and fixing “tears, rips and disasters” backstage.
He popped the question by a waterfall on a glamping trip to Wales
Jason and Helena had been living together for nearly a year when Jason asked Helena’s sister, Christina (the person closest to her) for permission to propose. Soon after, he popped the question by a waterfall on a glamping trip to Wales, picking out a blue gemstone ring. “He chose the ring because it reminds us of the sea,” says Helena. And true to their coastal theme, the pair got married at a seaside ceremony in Ilfracombe, Devon.
“I always wanted to get married by the water so we chose Tunnels Beaches, a tidal pool that dates back to the Victorian era,” says Helena. “It set the stage for a very relaxed day, with a nice bit of history for our visiting US guests. Although it was spring, we had beautiful clear skies.”
For the ceremony, Helena wore an “elegant and whimsical” gown by Suzanne Neville, while Jason wore the grey suit he wore the day he told Helena he loved her. Their floral arrangements featured vibrant oranges and deep pinks to reflect the many beautiful sunsets and sunrises the couple have seen together on their travels.
Three Flashpacker friends were guests
Nods to the initial Mexico adventure included photographs from the trip that decorated the venue and an evening buffet of nachos. Better still, three Flashpacker friends from their original escape – who stayed in touch via a WhatsApp group called “Margarita Reunions” – were guests.
“We had so much happiness and laughter,” says Helena. “My sister gave me away, which drove most people in the congregation to tears. Then when Jason saw me and started crying, it set off the rest.”
For Jason, “It was a joyous, wonderful day and the first of a new adventure with the most perfect partner. Given Helena’s surname, I’m so happy to be married to a literal English Rose.”
Jason Bomgren and Helena Rose live in Watford, UK, and met on a Flash Pack trip to Mexico.
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Images: courtesy of @lunaweddingsanna, @adambealephotography, @annaplusadam and Flash Pack