Nema & Ben

The story of Ben and Nema, the couple, began with a ride to the airport -- a fitting start for two people who love few things more than traveling the world and collecting passport stamps.

Back in the summer of 2012, Ben asked his then-friend and new Folsom neighbor Nema if she could drive him to SMF, where he was taking off for an extended trip. Nema readily agreed -- even though there was the small problem of “Little Hyundai,” her manual car at the time, no longer going into fifth gear. This vehicular deficiency meant she no longer drove it on the highway, a necessary part of the route to get to Sacramento’s airport.

That date was the first of many that led Ben and Nema headed to the airport again—but for trips they took together.

He asked no questions about the car but did ask her to dinner in what he framed as payback for the ride. In reality, he had engineered his own plan to co-opt a thank you meal as a date and made a reservation at one of the nicest restaurants in town.

No good deed goes unpunished.

That date was the first of many that led Ben and Nema headed to the airport again—but for trips they took together.

First was Mexico, a place they have visited many more times since. On this initial trip, the two stayed up so long talking that they watched the sunrise on the beach.   

Next was Germany for Ben’s favorite way to honor his heritage: Oktoberfest, an annual festival that brings millions of people from all over the world under one tent to eat, drink and be merry. Nema commemorated her own culture by donning a dirndl she had made with African fabrics woven into the dress.

Later, Spain and France, when Nema reunited with Ben during his sabbatical in Europe after a while apart. There, they compared the French wines to the ones back home in Napa, and Nema discovered what she calls the correct shade of pink for a rosé. 

Finally, Monaco for Ben’s 30th birthday, a trip Nema claims is the one that best matched his personality, and Japan to celebrate her turning the 3-0.  

They got engaged a few weeks before they left for Tokyo in, of all places, a hotel room in Monterey, California, at the end of a weekend holiday. As they gathered their things together just minutes before needing to check out, Ben proposed. Nema accepted. Then they finished packing up for their next adventure: marriage.

Amanda Westrich