Sometimes love happens at the most unexpected times. When Rachel Décoste decided to visit The Republic of Benin in West Africa in 2018, she did not have romance on her mind. She intended the journey to be one of self-discovery and learning.
That all changed when she was a little lost and asked Honoré Orogbo for directions.
Upworthy reports it was toward the end of this trip that Décoste arrived in Benin. “Honestly, I don’t know if I could find Benin Republic on a map before this,” she admitted. After a couple of days settling in, Décoste set out to visit Ouidah, which was once one of the most active slave trading ports in Africa. “I’m sure that one of my ancestors passed by there, just because of my DNA test,” she said. The first person she spotted when she stepped out of her bed and breakfast was a man who was about to get on a motorcycle that was parked just outside. Rachel greeted the stranger and politely asked him how to get to Ouidah.
“You have to go to a certain intersection downtown, where all the bush taxis are,” the stranger explained. “You find the taxi going to your destination, you pay for your seat, and then you’ll get there.” However, as he started passing on directions to the intersection, he realized they were a bit complicated for someone new to Benin and changed his tune. “If you want. I can bring you there, it’s about 10 minutes away,” he offered, gesturing to his bike. Although Décoste was wary of trusting someone she didn’t know, she decided she was unlikely to come to harm in broad daylight and accepted his offer. “I take a chance, hop on the back of his motorcycle, no helmet,” she recalled.
Décoste soon learned that the motorbike-riding stranger was Honoré Orogbo, a single father and business owner in his 30s who’d lived in Cotonou all his life. When they arrived at the taxi rank, they realized it would be some time before the one heading to Ouidah left as the driver wouldn’t leave until the taxi was full. Since Décoste didn’t have time to wait around, Orogbo offered to take her to Ouidah where he had a friend he’d been hoping to visit. “I’m like ‘Cool. I’ll pay for gas. Let’s go,'” Décoste recalled. They arrived in Ouidah in just over an hour. “He shows me how to get back—where the bush taxes are that I can get back that afternoon—and he shows me where the Slave Museum is. And I’m like, ‘Okay, good to go. Thanks, sir,'” she added. However, before they parted, Décoste asked Orogbo if he wanted to get brunch with her. Over that meal, he agreed to take her around Benin over the coming days as she figured that might be easier than relying on taxis.
Over the course of their travels, the pair got to know each other better. “We were very open and very candid, because we were strangers and we’ll never see each other again,” Décoste recalled, adding that she was touched when Orogbo explained that he didn’t have a newer model of motorcycle because he prioritized his son’s education. “He says ‘I’d rather have my kid have those opportunities than drive a fancy motorcycle.’ And I thought, ‘Wow, those are the values of my parents.’ I saw myself in those values,” she said. Soon, Décoste sensed things shift between them. She felt comfortable around him in a way she’d never felt before. “We get along great. He laughs at my jokes,” she recalled thinking.
They became engaged soon after and were married in 2020. Today, Honoré, Rachel, and their son live in Ottawa, Canada, where she works at a clothing company and he’s going to school.
CNN got a chance to catch up with the happy couple to see how they’re doing. The news channel wrote, “Reflecting on their journey together, Honoré says their story makes him consider that “sometimes you shouldn’t force fate.”
Honoré sees meeting Rachel as “destiny” but considers moving across the world to be with her as proof of the importance of trusting your gut.
‘Just follow your heart,’ he says. “Follow your heart with reckless abandon.”
As for Rachel, she says their love story is a reminder to her that ‘it’s never too late…You’re not too old to just travel alone by yourself, in a country that you don’t know, where you don’t know anybody. You’re never too old to find love. You’re never too old to become a mother. There is no expiration date on opportunity. And grab life by both hands. If I can do it. You can.'”