How We Make Our Relationship Work: “We Saved Our Marriage By Escape The Rat Race In A Boat”

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Amid marital woes, Tom Hill, a 36-year-old IT consultant, and his wife Lauren, 39, who works in telecoms, gave their lives in September 2020 and left the UK to circumnavigate the world with their two children. The Surrey couple learned to sail from scratch and now credit their family’s journey with bringing them closer.

Lauren Hill 39

Life before sailing seemed very different to us. I was home all day looking after two small children and a puppy while Tom worked long hours in IT on fairly intense projects. He came home late and felt exhausted. We didn’t spend time together and of course it caused tension. The hum of everyday life made us frustrated.

Let’s find something we can do together, I said. Sailing struck me as something the whole family could do and introduced a whole new way of life in Britain. We didn’t start with a plan to circumnavigate the world.

We watched videos of YouTubers cruising to and constantly exploring the most amazing countries and came up with an idea that set many benchmarks for us. We’ve been sailing together, enjoying some early retirement years with our kids and can work remotely. The thing is, we’ve always used projects to get close. We do each other well as a couple when we have an end goal to focus on, like planning our honeymoon or renovating our house.

In 2015, shortly after our daughter’s second birthday, we started sailing lessons. By then, we had a five-year plan: We’d learn to sail, save up, buy a boat, sail, and get off the grid for a few years. We have always said that if we actually left England on a boat, we did. It was ambitious, but the planning and preparation were fun. We went step by step.

Covid postponed our plans, but when we left England in September 2020, I remember feeling a great sense of accomplishment together. We made it, we made it together. Then there was the stinging climax and the panicked “what do we do now?”

We bring different skills to the boat. I love navigation and route planning and Tom is really artistic. We have a strong partnership and neither of us can do this without the other.

Of course, there were several malfunctions, but not necessarily with each other. Life on a boat can be incredibly challenging and frustrating. From the engine to the toilet, everything is falling apart all the time. Your limits are constantly being pushed. We always try to see the fun side of things and give each other space.

We talk a lot and we always get along deeply as a couple. Having time and space away from the rat race helped us to question broader issues. Saying “I feel this way and I know why” is a great thing and gives us time to think about things and come to terms with each other’s feelings and needs. The more we get to know each other, the more we realize how much we have as a couple.

Tom Hill, 36

Tom and Lauren Hill with his daughters Megan (right) and Sophie (left) at Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon, Portugal

Sailing definitely allowed us to reconnect as a couple. We can already look at the many shared experiences and feel fully involved in the relationship. We are actively working on building a common story together. If we had a bad day, we could say that we actually managed to weather a storm in Croatia or survived the impact of a jet ski on the boat.

Living in the UK we got to a point where we didn’t have any common experiences to talk about. But when we’re working on a project together, we’re singing from the same note. We’ve reached those milestones, and as a result, our lives together have evolved.

I hadn’t really traveled before I met Lauren. When we got married we did a 3 month trip around Asia and I enjoyed it and sailing was a great way to repeat it over a longer period of time. Now that we’ve done that, we ask ourselves, do we even want to go back to England?

We often agree, let’s do it a little longer and see what opportunities arise. We may end up moving somewhere else. What we do know is that we are in this together.

The couple agreed to homeschooling long before they contracted the coronavirus, and Lauren opted for home births

We made some decisions as a couple that took us in a slightly different direction than usual. We agreed on homeschooling long before COVID and Lauren opted for home births. When this was going well for us, we started to think we didn’t necessarily have to go off the beaten track. We’re okay with being a bit unconventional.

I have definitely gained more confidence over time. There are ups and downs in sailing all the time as you swing between the two. We only take one step at a time. At the moment we are learning Spanish so that we can explore Latin America. Life on a boat is great, but it’s also stressful and you have to get off and see new places every now and then.

We have learned to unleash the steam in a small space and not allow ourselves to build. You always have other people around you and everyone has their own way of being. Lauren has to get off the boat a lot to get her moving. I have noise canceling headphones that silence the entire world. We are very open about our own needs and get along well with each other. On the other hand, you will be sailing with your family on the ship in a beautiful environment.

We beat and achieved a lot like a couple and that makes me feel like a really strong team. I know whatever comes our way in the future, we can deal with it.

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