The LFI Blog
No. 27 - May 25, 2017
“…the pleasure we derive from a journey may be dependent more on the mind-set we travel with than on the destination we travel to.”- Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel
“We’re on our honeymoon” is a phrase we often hear on our travels. It’s a phrase typically used at that point right after you tie the knot and you’re still riding high from the dramatics of your wedding. It’s a phrase used for trying to score free upgrades on flights and hotels, and complimentary bottles of bubbly. A congratulations is in order and expectations are high, because you have supposedly hit the most exhilarating point in your relationship where you’re infatuated with each other, receptive to fresh ideas, and all is perfect.
Like a journey to unfamiliar lands, everything is new and the uncertain world lies ahead.
In my case however, we didn’t go on our “official” honeymoon until two and a half years after our wedding. Stating, “we’re on our honeymoon” felt like it came with an asterisk and my better judgement felt the need to preface that. I mean, is “congratulations” allowed that far into a marriage? It’s like saying, “Happy New Year" to someone on Groundhog Day.
Perhaps we were beating the system, finding a way to drag out that proverbial phrase that had an expiration date. Doesn’t the honeymoon stage last longer when you wait thirty-six months to go on it? But no, that wasn’t our intention. We chalked the delay up to being deep into our late twenties, and as they say, “countless weddings got in the way” (they don’t say that). Extended travel to celebrate our marriage was placed on hold so we could travel to experience others we love so dearly follow in our tracks.
It’s not like we didn’t take any trips during that time period. There were multiple two night getaways and four day weekends. Us Millennials love our mini-moons. We just hadn’t taken the official one. So finally, on New Year’s Eve 2016, the phases of our honeymoon trip began as my wife and I started planning our two plus week European excursion to take place the following spring.
With everyone we know getting pregnant instead of married, it was perfect timing.
Phase One: Leading Up
The art of the perfect honeymoon starts at home mapping it out with your significant other, watching dorky Rick Steves share his expertise from all the places he’s been, texting friends to hear about their favorite wineries and tours, and finding out what’s the signature dish to eat in a particular region.
It begins with enjoying quiet nights in, baking and BBQs, and smothering the pets with love.
Ahh the anticipatory phase. They say we get more work done the week we leave for vacation. The visions of sun, fun, and romance fuels our energy. We’re excited. We’re focused. We have something to look forward to.
After months of detailed preparation, learning how to say “thank you” in Dutch, sourcing out gluten free restaurants, and determining the currency used in Geneva, my wife and I set out to trade the Rockies for the Alps in hopes of celebration, restoration, and rejuvenation.
Phase Two: The Trip
The honeymoon began like any other trip, dealing with the stifling airplane process in exchange for the freedom we’d gain upon arrival. When the plane took off on that 5,000 mile journey, the moment the wheels left American soil, I already felt I was in foreign land.
Upon touchdown the sound of crying children in different accents made it suddenly real - we were a long way from home.
Why do we travel for our honeymoon? I believe to awaken. Because the Burgundian air tastes better on a bike and the beer halls smell better in Munich. Van Gogh is best enjoyed alone in the quiet early morning hours at the Rijksmuseum, before the crowds rush in. The sounds of European police sirens make you feel you’re in a Bourne movie and the childlike excitement from seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time is savored most when witnessed through your wife’s eyes from the Ritz balcony.
We travel to appreciate similarities and connect places. In most regions you’ll find pizzerias, street performers, Yankee hats, construction, crowded subways, and graffiti. You’ll pass farms, markets, old churches, and soccer fields. You’ll sit next to a woman filing her nails on a bus and overhear parents struggling to get their children to eat. You’ll see a little girl cover a train window with her fingerprints as she points out all the cows and sheep in the distance. You’ll drink too much with old friends, not comprehend what they’re saying, but understand them through expression. And when the train is delayed as you migrate across the French countryside, you just may be reminded of your days on the Long Island Railroad.
We travel to embrace differences from distant cultures where coffee, wine, and cigarettes are more available than water and there is no speed limit on the highway. The waiters are in no rush to bring you the check (when you’ve clearly finished eating) and the parks are less manicured. You’ll act shocked when you get denied trying to use your credit card. (Lousy debt-ridden Americans)
We travel to test our limitations, so when your wife gets badly sick from gluten contamination in Germany, you do what you have to do just like at home, take care of her and let time heal. Be grateful she’s in a five star hotel bed and you don't have twenty things on the itinerary that particular day. Struggle to find that only pharmacy open in town, because it just so happens to be a public holiday and everything else is closed. And fight through the fact that you decided to get some food poisoning so now both of you are down for the count.
When overseas they say, “get comfortable with being uncomfortable”, but the honeymoon travel brochures don’t prepare you for that!
We travel to our etch into our minds visions of beauty we can carry with us for a lifetime, like the sight of Amsterdam’s bridges and canals at sunset, the colorful stained glass windows of ancient Parisian cathedrals, the ridged peaks of Zugspitze, the passion in a soccer fan’s eyes, and da Vinci’s detailed paint strokes.
We travel to be stimulated and to indulge in the overwhelming amount of stunning art, deep historical connections to the past, and ridiculous quantity of flakey croissants and buttery baguettes (because someone has to eat the gluten in the family).
We successfully navigated through sixteen days in Europe like many others have before us. We dragged luggage across old cobblestoned towns, avoided getting hit by hundreds of cyclists, took cover from the rain in museums, and walked many miles with the crisp spring air on our backs simply exploring.
But most importantly, we found time to put the stress aside from the workload that awaited us at home, the struggle to communicate in another language, the act of trying to see it all, the crowds who take too many photos, and from the physical act of traveling itself. It was put aside so we could practice being truly present - the most difficult task of any traveler.
As I sat across from my wife on that train ride from Burgundy to Paris (our final destination), and we gazed out the window in opposite directions, it was clear she had a better view of where we were headed, what lies in front of us, while my focus was on the lands we were leaving behind. It was in that moment I began to understand the significance that is the space in between both views, and just how quickly it passes us by.
Phase Three: Coming Home
Every great journey ends in mental and physical exhaustion, hence the importance of giving yourself that extra buffer day in between arriving home and heading back to work. As we opened the windows to let fresh air back into the house, piled up the large collection of laundry and souvenirs, and enjoyed the privilege of drinkable water direct from the tap, I spent that time in deep reflection. The expedition had brought us back to familiar streets, reminded us what it’s like to be followed by our pets from room to room, and made us feel ‘settled’ once again.
Does that mark the end of the honeymoon phase? Do the comforts of our rooted lives indicate a surrender to our adventurous traveling selves? I don’t think so, for as long as we desire to travel, to spend time with loved ones or to take a break from our jobs, to see new places, experience exotic cultures, and discover something different about ourselves, the honeymoon phase shall forever continue on.
We’ll all experience bad days in our relationships, just like we’ll visit cities that underwhelm us and get sick from eating the wrong food, but there is way too much beauty in the world and far too many good days ahead to dwell on the few hiccups.
The honeymoon phase to me is not a temporary period in a relationship. It is not simply a two week trip. The phase can endure when approached the right way. Maybe the next trip won’t be as long or commemorate something as life-changing as getting married, but the process will be the same or quite similar.
The honeymoon phase is a perpetual sequence that consists of the enthusiastic anticipatory period, the romantic vision of a distant land and a foreign language, and the thrill of a new adventure - with a hint of discomfort and spontaneity.
It’s the appreciation for those you love and what you call home, and the desire to get back out there to explore some more.
“If our lives are dominated by a search for happiness, then perhapsfew activities reveal as much about the dynamics of this quest - in all its ardour and paradoxes - than our travels.They express, however inarticulately, an understanding of what life might be about,outside of the constraints of work and of the struggle for survival.Yet rarely are they considered to present philosophical problems - that is, issues requiring thought beyond the practical.We are inundated with advice on where to travel to, but we hear little of why and how we should go…”- Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel