Stuck in a dead-end job, with her relationship in tatters and her milestone 30th birthday looming, Samantha Mitchell was in a bad way.
‘I wasn’t where I expected to be in my life,’ she tells New Idea. ‘I thought I’d be settled by 30 like my mum was.’
But the reality for Sam, who still lived with her parents in the UK, was very different – and so she made a spur-of-the-moment decision to pack her bags and head off to Australia for a year.
Having not travelled much before – and with nobody in her family having flown long haul – it wasn’t a decision Sam made lightly.
But she vowed it was time for the ultimate adventure, and so her whirlwind began.
Landing in Melbourne in October 2015, she ended up in Margaret River, WA, a few months later for work.
‘I had a wheelie case and my hair straighteners, so I was more flashpacker than backpacker,’ she says, laughing.
‘I rented a horrible room, which stank of cigarettes, and the owner’s dog kept getting into my stuff. I started using Tinder to get a few dates so I could be out more.’
Her first date in ages came five months later, in March, with 29-year-old Shaun.
With his bushy beard and 193cm frame, he was exactly Sam’s type.
‘People always say when you meet The One, you just know and I’d never understood that until I met Shaun,’ Sam smiles.
‘I felt comfortable with him straight away and when he asked me back to his, of course I went.’
And from that moment she didn’t really leave. A night of Tinder passion turned into a lifetime of love!
‘I was due to move into a youth hostel that week, but Shaun told me to move in with him for now,’ Sam says.
‘I thought he was just being nice, so I didn’t unpack my car for the first week. But then he cleared half his wardrobe and got me a key cut.’
Six weeks on, and it was Shaun who started wondering if Sam was pregnant.
‘I’d always had irregular periods, so it wasn’t unusual for me, but he literally dragged me to Coles to get a pregnancy test,’ she remembers.
‘When I did it, the blue line came up straight away. There was no doubt. I just cried. How could I tell my parents? They still thought I was coming home.’
Shaun was over the moon, despite his mates thinking it was hilarious he’d knocked up his Tinder date. And Sam quickly started getting excited too.
‘It took me a week to call Mum and Dad,’ she says. ‘Mum just said: “Oh wow.” I didn’t realise until later, but she said she cried the entire day. She felt she’d lost me forever.’
After the dust settled, everyone came around to the idea and Sam travelled back to the UK for a hasty baby shower... and hen’s party.
‘Shaun asked me to marry him before the baby was born. We’d been together a few months, but we already knew we wanted to be with each other forever,’ Sam says.
The pair eloped at the Perth marriage office on August 27, 2016, when Sam was five months pregnant.
The pair had most likely conceived on the night they met, so they had also known each other just five months.
‘I bought a white dress from ASOS and two friends, Gary and Elody, were witnesses. My family couldn’t afford to come over,’ Sam says. ‘Hopefully we’ll have a bigger party for everyone in future.’
Skipping straight from marriage to maternity ward, Sam and Shaun’s little boy, Theodore, was born four months later on December 19, 2016.
Sam had literally met, married and become a mum in just nine months – and all before that milestone 30th birthday she’d been worrying about!
‘It happened so fast. It was weird having a baby with someone who I’d never even celebrated his birthday with!’ Sam says, laughing.
Now Theodore has just turned one, and Sam and Shaun have moved into a house together near Shaun’s parents.
‘I took Theodore home to meet my mum and dad. It’s hard being so far from them, but I’m in Australia with Shaun for good now,’ Sam says.
‘We’d love to have another baby soon.’
She goes on. ‘I’m never embarrassed telling people my story. It’s so normal to meet someone on Tinder, but I know I got lucky.
‘I wasn’t looking for The One and it just happened. I don’t think it’s usually the place you find a husband!’