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The Best-Laid Plans, Or Honeymoons

When the once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon, isn't.

I was so excited about our post-wedding getaway. So excited. Right after our September wedding clambake, we’d headed upstate to a little red farmhouse, and had a magical, quiet few days away. But this was the big, once-in-a-lifetime trip—two weeks on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast! I had a countdown on my phone that I looked at every day, and spent one entire night debating whether I should order aqua socks or waterproof sneakers for our hybrid land/sea adventures. (I went with the waterproof sneakers, because of pride.) When I got a cold a few days before our trip, I told myself it was fine; I’d recuperate on the beach and delay some of the more adventurous expeditions a few days. I had a sinus infection by the time we left, and the flight felt a bit like my head was in a waffle iron. But beach!

After a long, tense ride through foggy mountains, we knew we were getting close when we started glimpsing the ocean. We kept grinning at each other, imagining the little cottage that promised it was a five-minute walk to the beachy town. And then the van driver made a right turn off the winding main road, and started driving into the jungle, and kept driving, and then we hefted our suitcases to our shoulders and walked a long winding path until we arrived at our little cottage. Which was very cute, but very remote, very middle-of-the-jungle-feeling, and not a five-minute walk to town (or anywhere really). We rented sparkly pink beach cruisers, and that helped, but we couldn’t do anything about the 5:30pm sunsets, so we learned to hustle back in the afternoon and wind through the jungle before total darkness descended. Not exactly the long lazy oceanside evenings that we’d imagined, but K unearthed a tortilla press in the house, and I figured out that we could stream back episodes of Scandal with Spanish subtitles, and we both refrained from saying, “Um, we could have done this at home,” too many times.

And then my cold turned into double ear infections, and I realized that lying on the beach with throbbing ears isn’t much fun. Meanwhile, K was forced to play tour guide, since I don’t speak any Spanish (duolingo, I am coming for you in 2014), and handled all the money and conversations and most of the decisions—a power dynamic irritating to both of us. One afternoon, she looked a little peaked through her tan, and spiked a bad fever, shocking both of us since she generally has the health of Gaston. On the bright side, she did seem a little better when she woke up in the middle of the night, panicked that her eyes wouldn’t open. “K,” I said, in my best public health voice while I dumped Purell on my hands, “you have pink eye.”

The next morning we grimly headed to town to track down some pink eye ointment, and I glanced over and saw her miserably squinting while wobbling around on her sparkly pink beach cruiser, and that’s when we called it. Miraculously we were able to change our tickets without paying a huge fine, and headed back to New York early, where we had a few quiet days at home recovering from our getaway.

Was it completely terrible? No. We were just waxing romantic yesterday about the spicy crustacean stew we had at a funny little open air café right off a great beach, so good that we kept biking back multiple days in a row. We found a shallow eddy nearby where K practiced her recently-acquired swimming skills next to half a dozen tiny delighted swimmers doing the same thing, and I stood on the shore and cheered them all on.

But was it a romantic, memorable, once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon? No, and I think that’s the kind of thinking that doomed it to begin with. I felt so disappointed, both in the trip for being disappointing, and in myself for being disappointed, an utter Mobius strip of misery. I felt guilty that we’d spent all this money, guilty that we were privileged to have the luxury of a getaway at all yet couldn’t get out from behind the sickness ball in order to roll with the punches and appreciate it, even if it was not what we’d anticipated. I put such pressure on this trip to be The Trip, and in doing so, forgot key tenets of my personality: I am not a very good adventure traveler and I’m a little scared of the dark. So maybe a remote cottage in a pitch-black unfamiliar jungle wasn’t the best place to challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone? Plus, it was draining and ludicrous to travel as companions instead of romantic partners, to police ourselves and be careful not to hold hands or kiss during the very time meant to celebrate our new union. (But to be fair, it wasn’t ALL homophobia’s fault. PINK EYE.)

Ultimately, I should have remembered the mantra I repeated to myself during wedding planning: “It’s something, but it’s not everything.” I said it when K didn’t love the first go-round of her tailored suit, and I said it when my hair didn’t look quite how I anticipated, and I said it when I lost my first engagement ring. This was one trip in a long line of vacations that we’ll be lucky enough to take together, and we learned that we are great at facing adversity and pediatric ailments together in unfamiliar lands, and are each other’s best cheerleader during meltdowns.

Even though it wasn’t what we hoped for, I still believe that our timing was right. Delaying our getaway was absolutely right for us. We wouldn’t have been in the headspace to manage this particular trip just after our wedding, and it might have been even more of a letdown. (In fact, maybe we should have delayed even further, now that it’s snowing every 2.2 days in NYC. Winter was barely here in December, and no one felt quite so defeated by weather then.) But I feel even more grateful that we headed out right away to spend those first few days after the wedding decompressing at an upstate farmhouse (convinced in no small part by the APW book).

What are you doing, and when, if you’re doing something honeymoon-ish at all? Did you find the right balance between something new and exciting, and something that didn’t feel too overwhelming? And if you have any suggestions for where a semi-unadventurous traveler should go, once we save up enough to call a do-over—leave ’em here.

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