Can you really find true love on reality TV? If you ask Astrid Loch and Kevin Wendt, the answer is a resounding yes — they’ve been going strong ever since the Bachelor in Paradise finale aired in September, traveling the world together.
“Even after we left Mexico, I know more about her than any of my exes combined,” Wendt, 34, tells PEOPLE. “I think it works. If you take away your phone and everything and just replace it with an ocean and a person, where you’re just 24 hours a day … you’re gonna have a good chance of knowing in depth who they are.”
Viewers immediately identified with the sheer normalcy of the romance blossoming between the strapping firefighter and stunning plastic surgery office manager.
“I think the difference with us from the other couples, was all we did was laugh together. We laughed for a month straight,” Wendt says. “Everyone called us Mom and Dad.”
Even their most dramatic moment felt relatable. Wendt broke up with Loch because he panicked when faced with the decision to enter the Fantasy Suite — and then, whether to propose — after only a few short weeks of dating.
“I had just done that on the Winter Games, and it was something I wish I didn’t do,” he said of his time courting Ashley Iaconetti, who proceeded to get engaged to Jared Haibon in front of him in Paradise. (Loch, 28, admits to PEOPLE that the experience was a bit “awkward.”)
“So I didn’t even look at her,” Wendt continues of Loch. “It was very selfish of me. It was like, what do I want to do? I just wanted to go home. I was like, ‘I just need to leave. I don’t want to be talking about rings. I don’t want to be looking at rings.'”
“On TV, it looks dramatic,” Loch adds of their brief split. “But as we were leaving, I’m like, ‘Surely this isn’t the last conversation I’m gonna have with him.’ Like, this is not how we can end all of that.”
Sure enough, they reconciled shortly after, and have been inseparable ever since. The couple is now apart for the first time since meeting on the beach in Mexico, but before going their separate ways for a few weeks, they visited New York City and chatted with PEOPLE about their romance.
When they’re reunited, Wendt — who’s from Toronto, Canada — will get introduced to Loch’s parents. Then, they’ll fly to his hometown for a charity event he’s throwing to benefit SickKids (click here to make a donation). Bachelor Nation alumni like Vanessa Grimaldi, Bibiana Julian, Blake Horstmann, Jason Tartick and Jordan Kimball are expected to attend.
Male model Kimball, of course, is still reeling from his BiP scandal: He canceled his wedding to Jenna Cooper after allegations that she was dating another man throughout their engagement surfaced. (She denies cheating and has accused Kimball of fabricating text messages to frame her, which he in turn denies.)
“We’re kind of out-of-the-loop on it, because we’ve been out of the country, and like doing our own thing and just trying to focus on that,” Loch says.
Kimball, Wendt says, is “just a genuinely really sweet guy. And really nice. And Jenna, honestly, I just never had a conversation with her. I never had one sit-down talk with her all through paradise. Except for when she asked my advice about Benoit. But we never had a conversation, so I’ve always been like, Team Jordan. Like, he’s my friend. So I just support him.”
Both say that in Paradise, Kimball seemed “obsessed” with Cooper and “wanted to take care of her.”
Still, Loch acknowledges that if Cooper really did fake her feelings for Kimball, that could hurt the franchise’s credibility.
“It just makes us all look less genuine, too,” she says. “It kind of ruins it for the people who are actually doing it for the real deal.”
But there’s no doubting Wendt and Loch’s commitment as they prepare to move in together in Toronto.
“We just kind of have a bunch of trips until like January or February,” Loch says, “and then I’ll probably start moving most of my clothes, and then we’ll have to get a bigger place — “
“Why are you mentioning the clothes first?” Wendt teases with a laugh.
“Because,” she jokes, “it’s the most important part!”