I am floating on a black sea, beneath a dark sky. My hand is on the tiller but I don’t know where to set my course. I consider the possibility that I may die a lonely death, adrift and not knowing where my home lies.
Just for a moment.
Then I sail forward into the dark.
When I last wrote of my decision to retire and move to Thailand, the future looked certain and bright. Dan and I were working together to plan our new Thailand-centered life. We flew here a few times, and decided that Bangkok would be an interesting place to live. It was vibrant, with easy access to the world via Suvarnabhumi Airport1. This was important for Dan with his world-wide consulting business, and important to me as a travel writer.
But then it all went to shit.
My husband Dan was never terribly excited about moving to Thailand. He agreed to try living there because he knew it was important to me. The closer we got to actually making the move, the more unhappy Dan became. He hated the idea of living in a monarchy, even a constitutional one. He hated the restrictions on the freedom of speech that Thailand imposed… in Thailand it’s against the law to criticize the monarchy.2 Thailand, he grumbled, was a country without intellectuals. Restrictions on speech were incompatible with critical thought. It was where his PhD would go to whither and die.
I saw Thailand as a milestone in my life. Since college I’d wanted to live somewhere as an expatriate. Thailand seemed like a wonderful choice. The language was difficult, but the cost of living was low and a large portion of the world was just a short plane flight away.
Dan was very worried that he wouldn’t be able to find consulting work from a base in Thailand. On our second visit to Thailand in 2015, he tried to find some in-country contacts and hadn’t had much luck.
On the very last night of the second visit to Thailand I met a man named Birdie. During the next two months he and I chatted daily, and by the time I returned to Thailand, I was falling in love with him. I didn’t intend or expect this to happen. It slipped in through the mundanity of conversations like this…
(Confiding to an Australian friend Ross, I told him that I had unfortunately fallen in love with a Thai guy. “Yes, as you do.” he said matter-of-factly.)
Of course I told Dan that I had these feelings. I didn’t know how to deal with the complexity that I’d brought into our family.3 Sadly my new infatuation left Dan feeling justified in his opposition to Thailand. He decided that he could never move there, and also told me that he resented the amount of vacation we had taken over the last year. While he enjoyed the vacations, he felt that our leisure time was damaging his career … and now it was damaging our relationship.
Dan and I had developed disparate visions of what we wanted for the second half of our lives. His focus was on work and his contributions towards society. I wanted to explore the world. I didn’t want to give up my dream of living in Thailand, and I was completely clueless of how to deal with my feelings for Birdie. I could have walked away from him, but frankly I didn’t want to.
Our therapist suggested that I go out for a few weeks to see if this Thai infatuation was real and lasting. Dan suggested that I go for three months. I left on November 4th with a return flight on 4 February.
I was in my first month that Dan filed divorce paperwork with the State of California.
This wasn’t a fait accompli, he assured me. We could easily reverse it, but California has a 6-month cooling off period. If we decided it wasn’t a good idea, we can stop it anytime.
At about the same time, an old ankle injury flared up leaving me unable to walk on some days. A visit to the hospital confirmed that my right talus4 was missing cartilage in a 1.5″x2.5″ patch. An operation had mostly-repaired this 15 years ago, but the repair had failed. And to make things worse, I had developed a couple of bone spurs on the front of the same ankle.
Without the ability to walk, my dreams of being a travel writer were fading. And Bangkok with its mangled sidewalks is not a great place to be mobility-constrained. Suddenly my Great Adventure had become a trap. I had gone from fifth gear directly into reverse, and I was left wondering whether I was sidelined for good.
I spent a week or two feeling sorry for myself. I asked if Birdie still wanted to be with me, and he replied “If you are in a wheelchair, I will push it for you.” And then he assured me that I can get my ankle fixed, and that he will be by my side the whole time.
I am missing Dan terribly. Dan continues to be my friend, and I depend on his advice and stability. But we are complex individuals. Over our time together we’ve grown and changed in ways that are orthogonal to one another. Neither of us are at fault for this. I wouldn’t want Dan to give up his dreams, just as he wouldn’t want me to give up mine. Falling in love with someone else didn’t make for the easiest transition, but it was the trigger forcing us to address an issue that had been grinding at our relationship for well over a decade. And we both feel like separating is the right thing to do.
Now I’m starting a new journey. It isn’t going to be easy, but I believe that it is the right journey for me. And I believe that it is a journey that I would always regret not taking.
I hope that some day Dan will travel with Birdie and I, and that we will have wonderful adventures once again. I know that the amazing men in my life would enjoy one another’s company. They’re adventurers, scuba divers, artists, and strong, fearless travelers.
But I also understand that a lot of healing has to occur before that can come to pass.
I am living in the place known as “City of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Vishvakarman at Indra’s behest”5, aka “Bangkok”. It’s the most exotic place I’ve ever lived, a city of many cultures, of amazing food and amazing people. Every day that I walk the streets of Krung Thep6 I feel blessed, even if my ankle is painful and I’m walking with a cane.
I have a man here who loves me, and who can navigate the strange (and sometimes dangerous) sea that I have chosen to sail. When I feel lost or on the rocks, he is there to assure me that together we’ll make things right.
I can see a warm glow on the horizon. My hand finds the warm wood of the tiller, and I set course towards the new day.
Note: Bobby prefers to be left out of this account, but offered that readers can contact him directly at (email hidden in RSS feeds).
AKA Bangkok International Airport↩
At one point Dan rolled his eyes while saying “Oh Ron Lussier, you are such a trial.”↩
กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยา มหาดิลกภพ นพรัตนราชธานีบูรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์↩
Krung Thep Maha Nakhon is the Thai name for Bangkok, the City of Angels.↩