How Travel Saved Our Marriage


Running with the bulls (Photo: Deb Corbeil)

In 2000 my husband, Dave, and I took a five-week trip to Thailand that transformed our lives. We didn’t know that our marriage was in trouble, but looking back, had that trip not happened, we would have divorced.

It was nearly 10 years into our relationship, and we were stuck in a rut. We rarely saw each other due to our hectic work schedules, and when we did, we didn’t have a lot to talk about. There was no passion in our lives. We were simply going through the motions of being married. Our biggest excitement on the weekend was deciding what movie to see.

It was while asking for suggestions on where to take our next vacation that a colleague suggested we go to Thailand. We hadn’t considered anywhere outside the Caribbean or Mexico before, and this sounded a little too “foreign” for us. But the next day she brought a photo album into work filled with pictures of bamboo bungalows on sandy beaches, monks walking through exotic temples, and monkeys posing for shots on jungle paths. We decided that this looked like a great place to escape the cold Canadian winter.

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Dave and Deb in Thailand (Photo: Deb Corbeil)

We arrived in the middle of the night and caught a taxi to the popular backpacking ghetto of Khao San Road in Bangkok. That’s when everything went wrong. We overpaid for our taxi, walked in the wrong direction once the driver let us off, and wandered the streets of Bangkok for two hours trying to find our guesthouse. When we finally did find it, it was disgusting. We were exhausted, upset, and blaming each other for all the mistakes we made. Suddenly all our years of indifference and silence had come to a head. We were filled with anger that we didn’t even know we had.

But being stuck in a place that is completely foreign where you’ve never traveled before forces you to communicate with each other. We couldn’t speak the language, we didn’t understand the culture, and we had only each other to rely on. We could no longer ignore our problems. We could either work things out, or we could turn around and fly back home.

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The next day, we decided to hightail it out of Bangkok and get a fresh start in the south of Thailand at Railay Beach. Railay is famous for its striking limestone cliffs that attract rock climbers from around the world. We had never tried rock climbing before, but everyone was doing it, so we signed up for a three-day course.

During our course, we helped each other through problems on the wall, encouraged and supported one another, and at the end of each day, we were invigorated. Instead of sitting in silence during our dinner, we talked about all the amazing moments we had.


Rock climbing in Thailand. (Photo: Deb Corbeil)

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We had buried our dreams for so long that we had forgotten to have fun. At home, we had commitments and responsibilities. Because we were overworked, we didn’t have the energy to try something new. We didn’t have time to do something frivolous like enjoy a massage. We didn’t have the budget or motivation to take up a new hobby or sport. It was all about paying our bills and being responsible.

When we took ourselves away from all that, we felt as if we were reborn, and we rediscovered the reasons we fell in love in the first place. We were interesting and passionate people, and we had forgotten that. We had fun together again. Travel allowed us to do anything. We could reinvent ourselves and start over. We could go deep inside and remember who we were and what we wanted out of life.

When we came home from Thailand, we didn’t stop working on our relationship, and we made sure to keep our lives exciting. We signed up for a membership at a rock climbing gym, we took scuba diving lessons, and we bought mountain bikes to go away on our own weekend escapes.


Today, the couple stays active with sports like biking and kayaking. (Photo: Deb Corbeil)

Our lives were now filled with excitement. Instead of having to watch people have adventures in movies, we were living our own adventure.

It was travel that sparked our love for adventure and reignited our love for each other. It’s been 14 years since our first trip to Thailand, and our marriage has never been stronger. We still have ups and downs, and we will always continue to work on our relationship, but we now know that we need to follow our dreams, communicate our feelings, and keep our lives and our marriage filled with passion.

And whenever we feel in doubt, a little travel doesn’t hurt either.

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