Susie Wood had been living in Japan for 18 months when she went on holiday to Thailand in August 2000. “I was travelling with my cousin, who was keen to try a diving course in Koh Tao, so I thought I’d give it a go.” She caught Steve’s eye on the first day. He says: “I was on a sabbatical from my job at a London prop-making company, and I was working as a divemaster. I was responsible for getting guests fitted with wetsuits. I definitely liked Susie as soon as I saw her.”
She noticed his blond hair and tan. “We were out for three days on the open-water course,” says Susie. “In the end, I offered to make him a cup of tea as an excuse to speak to him.” They got chatting about their experiences of travelling and realised they had lots in common. “He has such a positive attitude to life. It was contagious.”
As soon as she had completed the diving course, Susie signed up for the next level so she could spend more time with Steve. Before the course began, they went for dinner in the dive school with the rest of class. “We had our first kiss at this tropical beach bar,” Steve says. After 10 days, Susie returned to her teaching job in Japan. “I suggested he come to visit on his way back to England,” she says. “It’s definitely not on the way,” laughs Steve. “But in September I thought, why not go?”
Steve flew into Tokyo and travelled to Hirosaki to see Susie. “It was hard to get around Japan 20 years ago,” he says. “It involved so many trains and night buses.” After Steve returned to England, they stayed in touch and Susie invited him to stay with her family in Devon for Christmas. “I didn’t know him well, but it was a bit of a test to see how he’d get on with my family.”
In 2001, Susie returned to Japan and they continued their long-distance relationship. “I would go to the office early so I could call her, and we sent each other handwritten letters,” says Steve. When Susie’s contract finished that May, the couple spent three months travelling around Asia. They moved to London after their trip, where Susie found work with a charity.
At the end of the year, they purchased a flat in Stoke Newington in north London. “By 2005, I was feeling claustrophobic and suggested we think about putting the house on the market. It was up for sale the next day,” says Susie. They went to Brighton to view a house and put in an offer on the spot.
Not long after the move, Susie fell pregnant. Their first daughter, Aiya, was born in the summer of 2006, and the couple married a year later. In 2008, they had a second daughter, Lola. It wasn’t long before Steve and Susie became restless, so the following year, they sold their home and embarked on a round-the-world trip before the children started school.
“I think people thought we were a bit strange, but it was incredible,” she says. “We spent a few months in different places. Having a teething baby was a bit of a challenge while we were camping in New Zealand.” At the end of the trip, they returned to Devon and now live opposite Susie’s family. Steve set up a bespoke furniture and interior fittings company and Susie went back to teaching.
“We’re both so silly together and we hardly ever argue,” says Steve. “We enjoy doing all the same things we did when we met – experiencing things and meeting people.” Susie loves her husband’s humour and his zest for life. “We have always had so much fun. Even when I first saw him, I think I knew he’d be the man I would marry.”