Lawrence and I are getting married six months from today! How’s wedding planning going, you ask? That’s a great question. Instead, let’s talk about my favorite escape from wedding planning: exhaustively researching improbable honeymoon itineraries. Honeymoon planning, if you want it to sound nice.
Where We’ve Been
When I turned 25, I set a goal of traveling to 30 U.S. states before my 30th birthday. States I’d visited before age 25 counted toward the total, but my goal still involved spending the night in 14 new states. Accordingly, Lawrence and I spent the next five years criss-crossing America, from southern California to the deep south, from the Smoky Mountains to the Grand Canyon. We rolled into state number 30, Louisiana, on a Greyhound bus a month and a half before my 30th birthday.
Because of this, we’ve traveled quite a bit, but almost entirely domestically. Lawrence went to Romania once as a teenager, with a layover in Germany. I’ve been to China a few times (including the first four years of my life), with layovers in Japan. But outside of those two exceptions and Canada, up until just over a year ago, neither of us had really traveled internationally, and never with each other. We took our first trip abroad together to celebrate my 30th birthday in Mexico. Six months later, we got engaged in Canada.
When the question first came up of where to go for our honeymoon, I took it as an opportunity to indulge some of my travel fantasies. My very first idea (I kid you not) was a three-month overland expedition along the Silk Road, from Istanbul to Xi’an. There are a few companies out there offering treks in converted trucks, and the itineraries cover such exotic destinations as Tashkent, Samarkand, and Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan. It was during this period of research that I learned that Turkmenistan, far from being simply “one of the ‘stans,” is actually one of the most repressive countries in the world, and its capital, Ashgabat, is a white marble city full of new age architecture and statues of its late president. Who knew?
Anyway, we decided that maybe it wasn’t the best idea to spend our honeymoon roughing it through Central Asia with a converted truckful of our new best friends, so I set about hatching my next idea: a three-month round-the-world trip. We could start in Europe, I told Lawrence, and spend a month making our way from Edinburgh to Istanbul. From there, we could pop over to China to see my family before heading to southeast Asia. I figured we’d take another month to wend our way from Thailand to Indonesia, from which it would be an easy enough hop over to Australia and New Zealand for month three. And surely a stopover in Hawaii would be the only sensible way home.
It turns out that seeing three continents in three months is not a very practical itinerary even for the most ambitious of honeymooners. (You don’t say!) Taking three months away wasn’t feasible anyway, so we made the very grown-up decision to visit only one continent. Since we had by this point planned a separate trip to China to introduce him to my family (next week, for those playing along at home), Europe was the obvious choice for our honeymoon. We didn’t fancy two transpacific trips in six months, and it’ll make for a nice parity that, this year, we’ll each visit the only continent the other has been to outside of North America.
Weighing the Options
Naturally, my initial inclination for a European honeymoon was to follow the first month of that round-the-world itinerary, from Edinburgh to Istanbul. For reference, that plan, if you can call it that, included stops in 19 cities. But Lawrence was worried about instability in Turkey and interested in seeing Ireland, so I started researching. Before long, I realized that even a week and a half in Ireland alone might feel rushed, if we stayed a few days each in Dublin, Killarney, and Galway. Meanwhile, I also started looking into Scotland, since our hypothetical trip started in Edinburgh, and soon became obsessed with the dramatic landscape of the Scottish Highlands, particularly Glencoe. And that’s not to even mention England, which we’re both very keen on visiting! We could easily fill a month without ever leaving the British Isles and still have to make plenty of tradeoffs about where we spend our time.
At the same time, we’re still very much enchanted by the idea of backpacking across Europe for a month. It makes sense for my first trip to be a survey trip, I find myself rationalizing; we can go to one region at a time when we return in the future and travel more slowly then. And every time I research a new place, I find myself pining to go there: from Paris to Prague, from Gimmelwald to Hallstatt. I’ve already trimmed that initial 19-city list down to a more reasonable 10. It would like an incredible adventure. But it’s hard to guess whether we would be too exhausted by the end to be able to enjoy any of it and each other.
I’m sure we’ll decide soon, one way or the other. In the meantime, it’s been revelatory to observe my nascent interest in mindfulness battling against my ingrained urge to see as much as I possibly can whenever I travel. Even if travel were free, which of course it isn’t, I will never have enough years in my life to see all of the beautiful diversity of planet Earth, from cultures to landscapes. No amount of minimizing has yet managed to make me feel that anything less than squeezing every destination possible into every trip possible would be taking full advantage of these opportunities I’m so grateful to have: the opportunity to be alive and the opportunity to see the world I live in.