Chelsea Anais Wilson was on her way to meet her cousins at a magic show at Illusions Bar & Theater in downtown Baltimore in May 2019 when her phone ran out of juice.
“I was using my phone as a GPS,” said Ms. Wilson, 31, who walked through a bustling Preakness Stakes Week event with dozens of booths, hoping to charge her phone at one and get her bearings.
She struck out with two vendors — but on the third try she encountered Austin Wayne Brown, 36, a drone instructor. His booth was a 20-by-10-foot flight cage set up with six drones and several wooden horse obstacles; he was able to connect her phone to his laptop.
“She was a nice, attractive lady, and I was single,” said Mr. Brown, a founder of Global Air Media, a drone services provider in Baltimore, and the Global Air Drone Academy, a nonprofit that teaches drone technology to underserved youth in hopes of encouraging STEM careers. He graduated from Salisbury University in Salisbury, Md., and received a master’s degree in political management from George Washington University.
As her phone lay charging, he whisked her to the front of the line, and taught her to fly a drone. But dating was far from her mind — even when she offered him some of her pizza.
“I was on a man fast,” said Ms. Wilson, who was gearing up for a job in the Foreign Service that summer. The six-month fast, coincidentally, ended that day.
“I just wanted to start fresh mentally, spiritually and physically,” she said.
Ms. Wilson, now a public diplomacy officer at the United States Department of State, finished her first tour in Rio de Janeiro last December, and is to begin another in El Salvador this summer.
She runs the blog Hey Ms. Traveler, which educates women and underrepresented youth about travel and careers in international affairs. She graduated cum laude from Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., and received a master’s degree in international and intercultural communication from American University.
Mr. Brown later gave her his card, which she inadvertently misplaced.
No matter. A couple of days later, clear across town, in a Giant supermarket parking lot, Ms. Wilson stopped a shopping cart from careening into a silver BMW.
“Aren’t you Chelsea?” asked Mr. Brown, who was carrying a 32-pack carton of water to the car, which happened to be his mother’s. “I was hoping to hear from you,” he said. When she explained she lost his card, he dug up another — his last. She emailed him two days later.
A couple of weeks later, in June 2019, the two, who both grew up in Baltimore, met for lunch at Ryleigh’s Oyster to vet each other before setting up a real date — fishing in Lake Roland Park.
They spent over three hours on that date along a secluded sandy spot, quite happily, even without a catch, talking over the charcuterie he had prepared.
Their next date, at her suggestion, was roller skating, and Mr. Brown made a valiant effort to stay upright. “He was a trouper, and still is a trouper,” she said, and later that evening they had their first kiss.
Before the month was up, she moved to Washington for her Foreign Service training, and to his own amazement, he began making the drive there, often an hour and a half in traffic, several times a week.
“If a woman lived more than 20 minutes from me, it was a deal breaker,” Mr. Brown said of his previous approach.
In July, she found out she was posted to Rio de Janeiro. “One doesn’t have to wait more than two years to know they want to get married,” she told him around that time.
But after Covid-19 hit, her two-year deployment was delayed until the end of 2020.
“I’ll be right behind you,” said Mr. Brown, who boarded a nearly empty plane in 2021 to visit her just in time for Valentine’s Day. In July of that year, when she visited Baltimore, he proposed close to the spot of their first date along Lake Roland.
On Feb. 11, the Rev. Gemechu Y. Raga, a Roman Catholic priest, performed the ceremony at Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore, where the couple, who now lives in Washington, jumped the broom before 150 guests, and then celebrated nearby at the Vollmer Center, an events space inside the Cylburn Arboretum.
“I travel for work overseas,” she said. “I wanted to come home to Baltimore for my wedding. I wanted my grandmother to be there.”