I met my first crush on a family vacation in Turks and Caicos when I was 12. We reunited 8 years later — and now we're engaged.

Alyx and Liam as kids and during their engagement shoot
Alyxandra Hodges met Liam Karam when she was on a family vacation in the Turks and Caicos. Eight years later, they got engaged. Alyxandra Hodges/Renise Olisa
  • Alyxandra Hodges met Liam Karam during a family trip to Turks and Caicos when she was 12.

  • He was her first kiss, but they lost touch when she went back to the US.

  • Eight years later, she saw Liam in Turks and Caicos again, and they fell in love. Now they're engaged.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Alyxandra Hodges, a content creator who lives in Turks and Caicos and runs the popular TikTok account @alyxandraofficial. She is also co-owner of the boat charter company Moana Charters, which she runs with her fiancé Liam Karam. This essay has been edited for length and clarity.

When I first met Liam, I was visiting Provo — short for Providenciales — for summer vacation with my family and childhood best friend in July 2012. My family started visiting Turks and Caicos in 2005 when I was 5 years old, and our favorite beach became Grace Bay, which is located on the island of Providenciales.

After dinner one evening, we were walking back to our room when my best friend Marissa and I spotted a group of boys playing on the croquet lawn. We were excited that there were younger kids around to possibly hang out with — especially cute boys. I was a shy kid and way too nervous to even think about going up to them, but my best friend insisted.

Liam and I had an instant connection

We spent that evening running around the resort, playing capture the flag, and learning about each other. There was a moment when we were all sitting on the croquet lawn, and I remember Liam and I just locked eyes with each other. He would look at me and smile, and I would giggle and just stare back. I had never felt that drawn to someone before. From then on, until the end of the vacation, we hung out with them just about every day.

A lot of people wonder where my parents were at the time, but they did know about the boys. We were only allowed to spend a certain amount of time with them during the day, and it was only allowed to be on the property.

Alyx and Liam in Turks and Caicos when they were kids
Alyxandra Hodges and Liam Karam when they first met. Alyxandra Hodges

Liam was my first kiss because of a game of "truth or dare" that we decided to play one evening during that vacation. The whole group already knew that Liam and I were crushing on each other, so my best friend, being the confident one that she was, dared me to kiss him. It was so special being my first kiss, although I distinctly remember my braces getting in the way and not knowing what the heck I was doing.

When I finally had to leave, it was one of the saddest days I'd ever had. I remember hugging Liam and not wanting to let go, and him promising he'd see me again one day. My best friend and I sobbed the entire flight home.

Liam and I kept in contact for a few months over Skype and Facebook, but with both of us being so young and living in different countries, it was just never going to happen. We stayed friends, chatting here and there, but slowly faded away from each other.

When I would go back to Turks and Caicos through the years, I would always message Liam to see if he was on the island. But when he and his brother were about 15, they started school at a traveling kiteboarding academy. We both carried on with our lives, had other relationships, graduated high school, and went to college.

Alyxandra and Liam hugging goodbye when they were kids
Alyxandra Hodges and Liam Karam saying goodbye.Alyxandra Hodges

I knew I wanted to see Liam again

Before I went back to Turks and Caicos during spring break in 2020, I thought about Liam. As I had done in the past, I messaged him on Snapchat and told him the dates I was going and that we should meet up. When he replied, he seemed really excited and told me that he'd be there and would love to hang out. We kept on texting as the day went on, and those texts ended up going into the next day, and the days after that. I could feel that spark coming back that we used to have.

At the time, Liam was living in Miami, and one night while talking on the phone, I made a flirty joke that he should just come up to Charleston and visit me so we could hang out sooner. He booked a flight that night.

I was scared that we might be moving fast, but I didn't care because I felt like I had been waiting so long to see him again. I picked him up at the airport and we spent the whole weekend together. I showed him around my school and where I lived, and we started falling for each other even more. When he had to leave, I knew I was going to see him again in two weeks and was over the moon. I had no idea how this "relationship" would end, but I just decided to go for it because I had nothing to lose.

When we were together in Turks and Caicos for the second time, it felt like we were kids again. We explored the island all week long, and he took me to spots that I hadn't seen before. When my family and I had a few days of vacation left, Liam asked if I would stay with him for another week or two so that we could spend more time together. After Liam's parents chatted with mine, they decided that it was OK.

We fell in love during lockdown

While I was staying with Liam's family, we got news that COVID was turning into a pandemic, and that Turks and Caicos was going into full lockdown. I knew that I was going to be stuck on the island for a while, but I didn't know how long — especially because it was so early at the time. I ended up being in Turks and Caicos for almost three months, and Liam and I made the most of our time together.

It was hard coming back to the US after being in the Turks and Caicos for so long. When summer ended and I was going into my sophomore year, it was still strictly online, and I was finding it really hard to keep up with my work. I had gone to college because I had no other plan when I graduated high school, and I was still trying to figure out if it was something I wanted to continue.

As the year came to an end, I had countless discussions with my parents and Liam about what I wanted to do and decided I wasn't going to pursue college anymore. My parents have always been fully supportive, and I'm so grateful for that. They also knew how serious Liam and I had become, and when I mentioned the possibility of moving to Turks, they weren't super surprised.

Alyxandra and Liam engagement photos
Alyxandra Hodges and Liam Karam during their engagement photo shoot.Renise Olisa

Liam and I live together now, and we're working on growing our business. Boating was an activity that I grew up doing, and Liam grew up on the island doing all kinds of water sports and had been driving boats, so it was only right that we started a business together chartering boats. Our company is called Moana Charters, and we offer private, luxury day charters that include island hopping, water activities, snorkeling, and cliff jumping.

Liam proposed to me on August 26, 2021, which was also my 21st birthday. He sat me down on the same couch where we took our farewell pictures eight years ago. He took out a ring box and asked me to marry him. I immediately said yes. It was such an intimate, full-circle moment that I'll never forget. Even some of the employees who remembered us from when we were kids came up to us and wished us blessings for our marriage.

I cried the whole way home, and this time, it was because I could finally spend forever with my person.

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