Amelia Showalter
Amelia Showalter and Lucas Demaria crossed paths at a whisky bar in Edinburgh on vacation. Next thing they knew, they were embarking on a ghost tour together, kickstarting a series of unexpected events.
CNN  — 

Amelia Showalter was debating whether asking a stranger to join her on a ghost tour was a mad idea.

She was sitting in a crowded bar in Edinburgh’s Old Town, the last dregs of a glass of Scottish whisky in front of her.

Also in front of her: Lucas Demaria. An Argentinian DJ she’d just met. He was a fellow Edinburgh tourist and a self-confessed “big nerd.” And he was someone Amelia was “very much liking talking with”

Amelia swallowed the last of her whisky, and in turn swallowed her reservations. She wanted to carry on her conversation with Lucas. And she was in a city she’d never visited before. If he said no, it didn’t matter. What did she have to lose?

“I’m heading on this ghost tour soon,” Amelia said. “Do you want to come? It’s supposed to be spooky.”

Lucas raised his eyebrow.

“Not that I actually believe in ghosts,” Amelia added quickly.

“Sure,” said Lucas, laughing. “Why not.”

The next thing they knew, Amelia and Lucas were walking, shoulder to shoulder, down Edinburgh’s cobbled streets. Dusk was falling and the city, with its stone spired buildings and hills and crags in the distance, had a dreamy atmosphere.

The ghost tour focused on the city’s bloody history, with the guide recounting the chilling tale of grave robbers Burke and Hare, stories of plague and taking the group into Edinburgh’s eerie Blair Street underground vaults, a series of abandoned chambers beneath the city’s South Bridge.

“You’d think it wouldn’t be very romantic,” Amelia tells CNN Travel today. “But it was, because you’re kind of pretending to be scared.”

Amelia and Lucas stood closer and closer as the tour progressed. Their hands brushed against each other, but didn’t quite touch.

And then, tour over, the two ducked into a bar. They sat together, drinking and chatting into the night.

“And at some point I was like, ‘We should make out,’” says Amelia.

“And I was like, ‘Yes,’” says Lucas, laughing.

“I feel like at that point we were both like, ‘Come on, we’re going to kiss,’” says Amelia.

“It was going that way for sure,” says Lucas.

One day in Edinburgh

StephenBridger/iStockphoto/Getty Images
Amelia and Lucas embarked on an Edinburgh ghost tour together, around the city's atmospheric Old Town. Pictured here: the city's gothic St Giles' Cathedral on the Royal Mile, photographed in the fog.

Amelia and Lucas went on the spontaneous ghost tour on June 4, 2018, which just so happened to be Amelia’s 35th birthday.

Back then, Amelia lived and worked in Washington D.C., running a political data consultancy. She’d previously worked on President Barack Obama’s campaign in 2012.

From time to time, Amelia’s work led to interesting travel opportunities – and that’s how she ended up visiting the UK in June 2018. She got invited to speak at a conference in London, and decided to tack on some extra days exploring the UK.

“I was like, ‘Well, if I’m going to be sort of traveling on my own, when I turn 35, I should do something fun – I should go celebrate somehow,’” says Amelia.

Amelia decided to attend a “Game of Thrones” convention in Manchester in the north of England (“I love sci-fi, fantasy, all that stuff,” she says). Then she headed up to Scotland to squeeze in a day of solo travel in Edinburgh.

“I just had the one day there,” recalls Amelia. “So I went to the National Museum of Scotland. I ate some haggis. And then I wanted to have some Scotch.”

Amelia figured it would be fitting to sample a 35-year-old Scottish whisky on the day of her 35th birthday. She Googled Edinburgh’s best whisky bars and the internet suggested Edinburgh institution Bow Bar, situated on the city’s colorful, winding Victoria Street. Amelia headed in that direction, pushed open the blue door and grabbed a seat at the bar.

She’d just started sipping her drink when she spotted Lucas. He caught her eye because he was – unlike almost everyone else inside Bow Bar– drinking a beer.

“I just thought it was so strange that this person was drinking a beer in a whisky bar,” says Amelia. “I really wanted to know, ‘What beer is so good that you’re doing that instead of drinking some whisky?’”

Without really thinking twice, Amelia turned to the stranger and asked the question.

Connecting over whisky

In June 2018, Lucas Demaria was 36 and starting to “give up on trying to find the one,” as he puts it.

Disillusioned with romance, Lucas decided to focus on exploring the world.

“I started traveling late in my life,” Lucas tells CNN Travel. “And it just blew my mind.”

He arrived in Edinburgh for the first time on the morning of June 4, 2018. He’d heard the city was scenic, but he couldn’t quite believe how spectacular it really was.

“I made it there and was like, ‘Oh my God, this is a beautiful city,’” recalls Lucas. “I had in my mind eating haggis, so I dropped the bag in the hostel, started walking, ate haggis, and then I told myself, ‘Okay, I need to drink some scotch’ But I’m very into beer. And I know really nothing about scotch.”

Lucas stumbled across the Bow Bar while wandering around on foot. It looked like the place to go to satisfy his whisky quest. But once inside, the range of options was pretty intimidating. Lucas stared at the bottles, mystified. In the end he ordered a beer to enjoy while he mulled over the whisky options.

When Amelia struck up conversation, questioning his drink choice, Lucas told her a truncated version of this explanation. He’d actually been debating how to strike up conversation with Amelia before she got in there first – he’d noticed her almost right away: “Sitting at the end of the bar, a beautiful lady,” as he recalls it.

Drink orders explained, the conversation moved on. Lucas was wearing a “Star Wars” T-shirt, and Amelia commented on it, saying she was also a fan.

“I showed her my ‘Star Wars’ tattoos,” says Lucas.

At the time, Amelia was into cosplay – recreating and wearing the costumes of fictional characters. So after she’d admired the tattoos, she got out her phone, and showed Lucas some photos of her hand-sewn “Star Wars” costumes.

“It was a nerd meeting,” says Lucas, laughing.

From there, the two talked a bit about their impressions of the UK, realizing along the way that they shared the same favorite British band: The Beatles.

The conversation flowed in a way that surprised them both – neither Lucas or Amelia usually spoke to strangers in bars.

“It’s not in my nature,” says Lucas. “But I would do that while traveling.”

“Yeah, I would never just go start talking to a random person in a bar in D.C., which is where I lived at the time,” agrees Amelia. “But when I travel, I’m just a much more open-minded person.”

It was this outlook that prompted Amelia to invite Lucas to join her on the ghost tour – and prompted Lucas to say yes.

After the evening of whisky drinking, ghost stories and growing closer, Amelia and Lucas had to say their goodbyes. Amelia was heading down to London for her conference, while Lucas still had a few more days exploring Edinburgh. The two exchanged contact details, and started communicating via messaging app WhatsApp.

“First it was just text, for a couple of weeks, with some photos,” recalls Amelia.

And then, one day when she was back home in Washington D.C., Amelia saw a voice recording from Lucas pop up on her phone.

Voice notes are pretty commonplace in the US now, but in 2018, Amelia had never come across the concept. In contrast, Lucas regularly sent voice notes to his friends in Argentina.

Amelia clicked play, and Lucas’ voice echoed around her bedroom. Her heart started racing.

“To hear his voice and everything, I was just so excited,” she recalls. “And it made me realize, ‘Oh, I really like this guy.’ Because when I was hearing his voice again, it was just so wonderful.”

Before long, Amelia and Lucas were video calling regularly.

“We’d be talking for an hour, a couple of hours,” recalls Amelia.

“Several times a week,” says Lucas.

Statistics of love

Amelia Showalter
Amelia is a data scientist and she found herself thinking through her burgeoning relationship with Lucas through a data-driven lens.

Amelia’s a data scientist by trade, and even while caught up in the heady emotions of falling for Lucas, she tried to think things through logically.

“When we met, I started making a little spreadsheet of how certain I felt that he was the love of my life,” recalls Amelia.

“I wasn’t being overly romantic – the first entry was 10% – a 10% chance Lucas was the love of my life. Which is actually really high if you think about it, just because what are the odds that any person is the love of your life?”

As she spent more and more time WhatsApping Lucas, Amelia added more data to the spreadsheet.

“It went up to 20%,” she says. “I kept plotting it out.”

But Amelia knew the only way of securing a higher score would be to see Lucas again. The prospect had been raised on their video calls – but they had to figure out the logistics.

Lucas’ DJ job was always busier during his Argentinian summer months, starting November through to January. If he was going to embark on another vacation, it needed to be before then.

Amelia considered visiting Lucas, and Lucas debated visiting Amelia, but ultimately the two decided meeting in a third country was the best plan.

“So in October of 2018, we scheduled a 10-day trip to Peru together,” recalls Amelia. “Our second date.”

View this interactive content on

On their respective flights to Peru, Amelia and Lucas played back their months of video conversations in their head. They were both excited, but also apprehensive.

“I think my biggest fear, going to Peru, was, ‘What if I get there, and all of a sudden, it just feels wrong? Like I’ve built this whole thing up in my head,’” recalls Amelia. “Because you can kind of do that with long distance.”

But as soon as Amelia saw Lucas, her fears dissolved.

“Immediately, I was like, ‘Oh, no, this is great,’” Amelia says. “Within the first two days, when we were walking around Lima, it was like, ‘This feels really serious.’ And it felt good.”

In between hiking the Inca Trail, marveling at Machu Picchu and eating mountains of delicious Peruvian food, Amelia and Lucas started talking about marriage.

“By the end of the trip, we were not exactly engaged. But we were sort of engaged to be engaged,” says Amelia.

She updated her spreadsheet: the percentage was steadily climbing.

Amelia Showalter
Lucas and Amelia reunited in Peru for their "second date." Here they are at Machu Picchu.

The idea of marrying someone you’d only met twice seemed bizarre, but both Amelia and Lucas felt calm and excited when they considered their future together – with just a dash of surprise at the whole thing. After all, their lives were taking a direction neither of them had anticipated – it was a happy shift, but a shift all the same.

“I never thought about getting married either until I met her, basically,” says Lucas.

Amelia echoes this.

“I had really gotten fine with the idea of being single,” she says. “I was like, ‘Well, maybe I’m just going to be one of those people that doesn’t meet anybody. And that’s okay. I’m just going to have a life on my own.’”

The future suddenly looked very different for both of them.

In February 2019, Lucas came to D.C. to visit Amelia. He met her parents, friends and loved ones. Not long after, Amelia visited Lucas in Argentina.

It was during that trip that the couple officially got engaged. They picked out the ring together, making official something both of them knew was on the cards from pretty much day one.

Explaining this feeling to loved ones was sometimes a little “strange,” says Amelia. She recalls saying: “I met this guy in Scotland, but he’s from Argentina. And I think we might get married” and fielding disbelieving responses, and some concerns.

“It was just definitely a strange thing to explain to people,” Amelia reflects today. “But I think also, it’s such a different thing when you’re in your 30s – because you know yourself better. I think it would be ill advised to do that when you’re 20, because you don’t really know yourself and it’s easy to get kind of caught up. But I think after 15, 20 years of dating, you know yourself – and you have had enough other relationships to know what doesn’t work.”

Getting married

Amelia Showalter
Lucas moved to the US to be with Amelia. Here's the couple in Seattle, Washington.

Amelia and Lucas were married at a small courthouse ceremony in Washington D.C. in the summer of 2019. Then, four months later, the couple threw a big D.C. celebration for family and friends.

As a DJ, Lucas had worked hundreds of weddings. He’d seen stuff he liked, stuff he didn’t like – and all in all, knew what added up to a great evening. Amelia was on the same page. The couple wanted the evening to feel like, “a night at the bar with all your friends,” as Amelia puts it.

Amelia and Lucas rented a cafe-bar called Emissary in D.C. for the evening.

“We had endless appetizers,” recalls Amelia. “So there wasn’t a sit down dinner. It was just food whenever you want, open bar, with all the usual stuff that’s on the menu, and espresso when you want because it was also a cafe.”

Lucas mixed the music in advance, while Amelia made her own wedding dress using the sewing skills she’d perfected from her years of cosplay.

And when she was planning her speech and considering what to say, Amelia dug out the spreadsheets she’d compiled when she first met Lucas.

“I printed signs with the graphs I made,” she says. “Everyone thought it was very funny.”

View this interactive content on

Meanwhile Lucas’ best friend from Argentina made a speech in which he recounted the moment Lucas first told him he’d met Amelia – and how he’d known she was someone special based on the excited, heartfelt tone of Lucas’ voice.

The wedding also nodded to Amelia and Lucas’ first conversation in Bow Bar about their shared love of “Star Wars.” Midway through their first dance – to The Beatles’ “In My Life” – the couple interrupted proceedings to have a mini lightsaber battle.

“Secretly, we had hidden some lightsabers with a couple of our friends,” explains Amelia, laughing. “So halfway through the dance. We did a little lightsaber action, little tiny dance fight, and then back to dancing.”

“You wouldn’t think that lightsabers would work with the Beatles in my life. When I say it out loud, it sounds like a really weird combination, but it was really fun.”

A month or so later, Lucas and Amelia relocated from D.C. to Seattle, Washington, where Amelia had grown up and where her parents still lived.

She was ready to leave the US capital, and figured if she and Lucas might have a kid, it’d be nice to be closer to family.

As for Lucas, serendipitously, Seattle happened to be a perfect fit. He loved grunge music (“I was a kid in the ‘90s,” he shrugs), IPA beers and black coffee. He was instantly “so happy” there.

Life in Seattle

Amelia Showalter
Lucas and Amelia now have a young son, Jude. Here's the family photographed last fall.

Cut to today and Lucas and Amelia still live in Seattle. Lucas set up his own successful Seattle-based DJ business, while Amelia’s still working in political data analysis. The couple are also kept busy by their three-year-old son Jude.

He’s named – of course – for The Beatles song, “Hey Jude.” The name seemed appropriate, given Lucas and Amelia both love The Beatles and talked about the band that first night in Edinburgh.

“It’s so funny because those things – the fact that we both love ‘Star Wars’ and The Beatles – it mattered a lot at the beginning because it was like, ‘Oh, we have these things in common,’” reflects Amelia. “And now I don’t think about them so much, because we just have a whole life together.”

“I think shared values are, in the end, way more important than a shared taste for movies,” agrees Lucas.

It’s their similar  approach to life, Lucas suggests, that’s led him and Amelia to the happiness they continue to enjoy today.

Plus, while they still enjoy watching the same TV and movies, Amelia and Lucas’ tastes do occasionally diverge. Amelia loves a Broadway musical, for example, which isn’t Lucas’ vibe. Meanwhile Amelia’s never quite got her head around Lucas’ passion for heavy metal.

The pandemic, and then the birth of Jude, put a pause on Lucas and Amelia’s desire to travel the world together post-wedding. But in 2023, the couple embarked on a long-awaited “amazing” Honeymoon to Japan, leaving Jude in the care of his grandparents.

Also on the travel agenda is one day returning to Edinburgh, this time with Jude in tow. Amelia and Lucas want to show their son where they met, and retrace the steps of their first evening together.

“We’re going to take Jude to the bar,” says Lucas.

“Put him on the bar,” adds Amelia, laughing. “And say, ‘This is your fault.’”

“Free drinks for us,” jokes Lucas.

In reality, they’ll probably hold off on returning to Edinburgh until Jude’s old enough to enjoy the trip in his own right.

“Maybe on our 10 year anniversary, or something,” says Amelia. “There’s so much of Scotland I’ve never seen, so we definitely want to go back there someday.”

Amelia Showalter
Lucas and Amelia are so grateful to have found each other so unexpectedly.

Something Lucas and Amelia still marvel at is the idea that they’re so compatible, despite the fact they grew up thousands of miles from each other – and only happened to be in the same bar, in the same city, in the same country by happenstance.

“It’s so weird, he’s just a random guy in a bar,” says Amelia.

“From a different country,” adds Lucas.

Neither are who the other envisaged when they imagined a prospective life partner.

Lucas – who recalls breaking up with an ex who lived 15 minutes away from him because he felt like they were from “different worlds” – finds it incongruous yet incredible that he ended up marrying someone he met on vacation.

As for Amelia, she always figured she’d end up with a fellow Ivy League graduate, who also worked in the D.C. politics world.

“It wasn’t like, ‘Oh I must be with that kind of person,’” she says. “But you just get an idea of, ‘This is probably who I will end up with.’ I never would have assumed it would be a DJ from Argentina.”

All this suggests, says Amelia and Lucas, that compatibility has little to do with shared backgrounds. It goes back to that shared values thing and being on the same wavelength, they say – and the idea of being open, of willingly embarking on adventures.

“I mean, it doesn’t mean you’re going to absolutely find the love of your life from traveling,” says Lucas.

“You could find the love of one night, and that can be fun too,” says Amelia.

Amelia and Lucas are also grateful that their relationship continues to develop as they grow together.

“We were in love,” says Lucas of their 2018 selves. “But we didn’t know each other 100% as we do know.”

“I always felt certain about you,” says Amelia to Lucas. “But I’m more in love with you all the time. It’s wonderful.”