A Love Story

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Words by Dalene Heck

It was in the fall of 1998 we first met. Pete: a cocky punk in business school wearing a tacky Hawaiian shirt. Me: corporate workaholic by day, loud and obnoxious party girl by night. Through a mutual friend, we were introduced (while myself and several others were visiting said friend in Pete’s hometown of Edmonton). It was to be a fun weekend of golfing and testing the local watering holes, and Pete and I ended up paired on the golf course.

Thankfully, he did not hold my obscene lack of skills in that area against me; we hit it off and all had a great time. Within a few hours, a friend approached me and said: “Umm, I think Pete likes you”. To which I responded: “Umm, YEAH. He is laying it on super thick.”

The golfing turned into dinner, turned into an evening at a club. Drinks flowed, and dancing commenced. Hands were held, and there might have even been a smooch or two. The rest of the night was spent talking about Pearl Jam, the Edmonton Oilers, and whatever other loves we had in common (which was a lot).

I returned to Calgary the following day, exhausted and kinda indifferent to where our relationship stood. We hit it off, but I wasn’t looking for anything serious, especially at a distance.

He, on the other hand, told his mom that he had met the woman he was going to marry.

Two months later, he moved to Calgary.

In just over a year from that, we were engaged. And in October of 2001, we were married at the very young age of 25 (me) and 24 (Pete).

Our marriage started out like any other. We worked hard, bought our first house. Worked harder and bought another. We talked about kids. We travelled as much as our scheduled vacations would allow: Mexico, Cuba, Costa Rica and a whirlwind tour through a few European countries. We were happy(ish). We weren’t unhappy, but our marriage was definitely on auto-pilot. Outside of a few weeks spent abroad, our most significant “quality time” was the one-hour commute to and from the office daily.

But that was all normal, right?  We believed that our life was as good as it gets, even if it always felt like something was missing.

Then, the unimaginable happened.

A barrage of tragedies brought us to our knees.

Such events have the capacity to tear a marriage apart, but instead, they brought us infinitely closer. While I clung desperately to Pete as the one good and stable thing in my life, his profoundly compassionate side emerged in full force. And I never could have bounced off the bottom of that black hole if it wasn’t for him.  He never once complained when he repeatedly came home to me in pyjamas, to a blubbering mess who felt worthless and unwilling to engage.

Instead, he patiently and gently supported me. When I went to bed earlier than him (most every night), he would stop what he was doing to briefly come to my side, kiss me lightly on the forehead and say: “Goodnight, my love”. Then he would leave me in peace, to hopefully find sleep in my restless, depressed state.

His love knows no bounds.

He later supported my decision to quit the well-paying job that no longer appealed to me, and his rubber arm was easy to twist into throwing it all away for this life of travel. (This from the man who once said: “Why do we need to go anywhere? Let’s just go camping every weekend!”) Thankfully he was enthusiastic because, in all honesty, the pull to travel was so strong for me that I’m not sure what would have happened if he said no.

Is there anything that this man won’t do for me? I’m not sure how I’ve gotten so lucky.

But as it turns out, the decision to travel was the best thing that ever happened to our marriage.

It didn’t start out that way – the first few months were rough. We went from spending a couple of waking hours a day together to a round-the-clock relationship. Traditional roles were tossed and new ones were being tested – we struggled to make the lifestyle work.

But we found our groove and soon were assured that THIS was the best thing for us. THIS was what would bring us closer than we thought humanly possible. THIS would transform us such that any time spent apart would be with a desperate desire to be back together.

THIS…we now cannot imagine life any other way.

We have now been married for over 20 years, and spent over one-third of our marriage on the road. Romance could certainly be tough when travelling – some destinations do not exactly ignite sparks, and the combination of travel and work was often overwhelming. Never mind that we were also fully exposed to the other’s most cantankerous of moods, twenty-four-seven.

But he endures my episodes of hangriness, and I calm his rapid-fire cursing when he’s frustrated. We know when to get out of each other’s way and when to help. Pete has learned that it’s not about the nail.

We use the phrase “I’m inside your head” often as we constantly know what the other is thinking. We have our own language (mostly filled with quotes from The Office) that few others can follow closely. I think we could even take this mission to Mars and survive intact. The only fault I see in being so in tune with each other is that some of our own independence is lost, entirely out of our total devotion and yearning to always be together.

That is a “problem” we are both all too happy to live with. We know we’ve got the goods.

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  1. Your story had me all smiling as soon as I’m done reading it 🙂 Congratulations to you and Pete for your anniversary. Wishing you many, many more to come!

  2. This is insanely romantic & that is one of the cutest pictures ever. I wish I would get my bf to travel with me forever, but I know exactly what you mean when you talk about your relationship, unconditional love and being together 24/7 (and oh, yeah HANGRY. I know that one all too well – as does my boyfriend). Happy anniversary!

  3. This is really sweet. My husband and I also met 14 years ago and have been married 12. It’s so interesting to see how the relationship changes over time. Congrats on not only building a beautiful relationship but making a life that brings you both happiness.

  4. Fantastic story, beautifully told. Congratulations galore on your 12th anniversary and hope you keep on traveling with the same adventurous spirit. Truly inspiring, kudos!

  5. Oh my God!! I’m a blubbering mess after reading this post. My hat goes off to you and Pete for working through a very difficult time when so many couples these days would just give up on. Love this post, I’m such a sucker for a great love story 🙂

  6. Ugh. You two are just amazing, I love your story SO much. I see a lot of Matt and I in what you reveal of your relationship and it’s inspiring. Thanks a lot for sharing you beautiful story!

  7. Love you guys! So happy I could stand up with you guys that day 12 years ago. You have come so far in that time and I love reading about your current adventures!

    PS – I totally remember you coming back from that Edmonton Roadtrip after you met! xo

  8. I’m all too familiar with the state of hangriness, and I am also lucky to have a partner who can tolerate/manage me when I enter it! Happy anniversary, you guys. So sweet!

  9. How fabulous to have met and married your soul mate. I’m so happy for you and like the other comments posted I was moved to tears. You of all people know how easy that is. 🙂

    Enjoy the journey. Ain’t love grand?

  10. I love you both so much!!!!! Your marriage reminds me of my own (with different details). It isn’t often I meet people so happily married (as I am, as you both are) and when I do, I love it. I get it. I am thrilled for you both every day.

    Also, I accidentally stepped on Oz’s tail tonight. Man…I cannot do right by this cat lately.

  11. That is such a nice story! I’ve got a little tear in my eye now. (Coming from someone who also met her partner on the road, and moved to the other side of the world to be with him!)

  12. Being the ADD adult I am and there being so many travel blogs I follow I never actually read the “why we are traveling” entries before.

    Tough times, but ultimately with good result.

    I was amused at the “married very young at 25” line. My folks were married at 19 & 16, and that wasn’t so unusual in 1950s Toronto.

    I do have to say, though, as a guy and an engineer it’s almost always about the nail.

    1. Yes, my folks were married quite young too (19 and 20), but nowadays, I think 24 and 25 is SUPER young.

      Haha, it is almost NEVER about the nail!! 🙂

  13. Awww you guys! I loved reading this. Like many others, I’m teary eyed. I know that Pete was there for you at your most vulnerable and you would do the same for him. 12 years! Happy years. Heart all melty. (Nice work on the surprise, Pete!) You two are inspiring in many ways and defintely in love. Real love. Looking forward to spending time with you both & spring rolls this winter! 😉 Love to you both xo

  14. Life wasn’t easy, but you made it work. I love that. Happy Anniversary and with any luck I hope to meet you guys somewhere on this beautiful planet one day.

  15. You GUU-UUYYYYYS. Like I needed those tears today.

    Congrats. And a big sigh of romantic awesomeness. I don’t know many people who can hold hands like this while running through the marathon of life. You are inspiring. Cause that’s hard work, yo.

    HeckticTravels: inspiring romance on four continents and counting 😉


  16. I’m in tears. You guys are awesome. I’mnot gonna say a lot because it doesn’t seem to adequately express how much respect and admiration I have for you. xx

  17. Very sweet story, even through the hard times. I understand how it feels to think that the only time you really have each day is connecting during your commute. Looking forward to the day we leave for our own travels.

  18. Oh man, even though we’ve only been traveling for a little over 6 weeks, I can just relate SO much to this post. I just love it and hope that we will continue to find strength in each other and our travels, even during the stressful/not-so-fun times. I know we have so many more hurdles to jump over and challenges ahead, but that’s life. Life is a series of challenges that will hopefully help us grow and highs and lows…and so far, I’m sooooo grateful to have Shawn by my side, as you and Pete have each other. I just love it. As it was just our anniversary and I’ve had my own similar tragedy in life. It’s really inspiring to hear how beautiful and worthwhile you’ve made your lives.

  19. Beautiful. I’ve always thought of travel as an important test in any relationship and it sounds like you guys passed! Here’s to many more happy years!

  20. Love like that is beautiful and rare. You are both very lucky to have each other, and I wish you an eternity of continued happiness together 🙂

  21. I’ve heard about such love stories on TV, read about it in magazines but until 1,5 years ago I never actually met someone who was as much in love with his/partner as you two are with each other. And it’s not just the love, it’s the kind of way you two treat each other and how you manage to spend 24/7 together, that just amazes me. You and Pete are a true inspiration to every couple out there. Should you ever write a book on How to keep the love life sparkle – it’ll be a bestseller! 🙂

  22. It was very similar to reading our own story – desperately in love, travel besties, he is my yin and i am his yang, (don’t know the difference) – I am happy for you guys. It is a rare occurrence that it just is ‘meant to be’. I think that travelling together is the biggest test of a relationship.

  23. What a lovely touching story… I’m glad that your relationship has bloomed so nicely and that travel plays a major role in it.Here in India we believe that If you have someone that you think is the one, take that person and travel around the world. Buy a plane ticket for the two of you to travel all around the world and go to places that are hard to go to and hard to get out of. And if when you come back home, when you land at your country, and you’re still in love with that person, get married at the airport. May you have many more years of love together… 🙂

  24. This is such a sweet story and touching to hear from a couple still in love after so long. I’m glad that you were both able to make the changes that you needed in your life when you needed them. I watched my parents really struggle to move forward when they hit a rock in the road, and change is daunting, it is scary, but sometimes it’s necessary.

  25. This is my first time reading your blog, and I’m already obsessed. I love how you don’t just give the top places to eat in whateverland, but truly tell a story. Your love story is touching and real! Thanks for sharing something so personal. Can’t wait to keep reading!

  26. I love this story and you wrote it beautifully. I have to laugh at the hangriness part. We use the same word and I try to give Matt a heads up that I am in the “danger zone” before the hangriness really kicks in! Hope you guys have another awesome year!

  27. This is one of the sweetest things I’ve ever read. Your relationship is beautiful. Also, hangry is definitely a thing! I’ve been enjoying the blog so much, and wish you all the best in your future adventures together!

  28. This is so beautifully written! I love the part about finding your groove on the road, dynamics are totally different when you spend 24/7 with each other but once you find your groove, it can be pretty magical! We often joke about what we’ll do when/if we return to a more conventional lifestyle and we have to spend days apart. LOL.
    My husband and I also met while I was living in Edmonton, him in Calgary…and 3 months later I moved to Calgary! 🙂

    Love reading your blog and following along with your adventures!

  29. This is a sweet, sweet story! Too bad I stopped believing in love, or meeting the “right” person that would fit me like a jigsaw puzzle. You are really lucky! He is, too! 🙂

  30. Rad story you guys! We just started our own travel adventure and came here after reading your writeup about housesitting. We’re getting things dialed now, but might want to experiment with that down the road somewhere. Thabks for the great tips- keep on keeping on!

  31. We love following you two, such an inspiration! My wife Erica and I just finished our first 6 months away from Canada! …our 7th Anniversary was just spent in Paris also, an amazing city no doubt! 🙂

    1. Well, I think depends on each individual. I have ever travel alone, with friends, and also with a partner. We can not say travel alone is good or travel with a partner better. I used to travel alone then after having a partner like to travel with a partner. But after breaking up I like to travel with friends or alone. So I think it depends on our individual and situation. ; D

  32. What a beautiful story, I love every second of it. We are actually working on ours and happy to see other traveling couples are writing about how they met. Our story began in Oklahoma where I was travelling on business and my Jimmy was away on holiday. Long distance doesn’t begin to explain as I am from the US and he is from the UK. Your story is inspirational and I love to hear about how people meet, everyone has their own unique story! Thanks for sharing!

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