Eat, Walk, Love: Our Italian Honeymoon (Part III)

Part Three: Love

Upon digging into the origins of what we know as a “honeymoon,” I learned some fairly surprising things. First, the custom of a honeymoon originated in Britain where newlyweds would travel together to visit family members and friends who weren’t able to attend the wedding ceremony. Second, there are several theories behind the actual term, one of them dating back to the 5th century. Back then, calendar time was represented with moon cycles so a person’s “honey moon” was the time when a couple would drink a honey fermented drink (known as mead) after the first moon cycle of being together. 

The etymology stems from Old English “hony moone” – essentially describing the construct that the newness of marriage is tender and sweet, but that it will inevitably wane and last for a finite amount of time. Real good positive thinking, eh?

My curiosity around the idea of a honeymoon stems from the fact that at nearly every stage of wedding planning, Chelsea and I have been intentional to think critically, reconsider, reformulate, and re-examine traditions and experiences that we do (or do not) want to incorporate into our experience. The honeymoon was no exception – if we were going to commit our lives to one another, well, what did we want the “honeymoon” to be like?

Together, we decided that we did want to go on a trip, and we wanted to go to a place that we’d been looking to visit for a long time. Ideally, this place would be romantic, beautiful, and have delicious food (and wine).  We wanted to take a longer amount of time to recoup; the time leading up to our wedding was beyond busy. We hoped for a trip where we could explore and also rest, reflecting on the journey leading up to (and after) our wedding. When we saw a screaming Cyber Monday deal for plane tickets to Italy (a year prior to the trip), we took the leap and purchased them. From there, we planned some key elements of the honeymoon (selecting our Airbnbs, booking tickets for popular attractions, and pre-booking some of our train tickets). We intentionally left gaps and space in our trip so that we could add in some spontaneity along the way.

Turns out, for me, the most love-filled moments on our honeymoon were the ones that were small, intimate, and could otherwise go unnoticed. Love was most felt when Chelsea deciphered the complicated train station maps and navigated where we needed to go. Love was found in picking out the most perfect scoop of gelato. It was sitting in the sun, playing bananagrams, and sipping delicious Italian wine. Love was present when we could just sit in silence and be. Love, I keep learning, is often less about doing and more about being. I think that is the beauty of honeymoons – you get to practice being together – which is especially important to bring back to the real world of work, bills, workouts, and responsibilities.

I do think it is important to note that honeymoons carry a lot of pressure, too. We (ahem, me) have a tendency to romanticize these sorts of trips as absolute perfection. It turns out, as with any other human experience, it is far from perfect, and at times, really hard. Chelsea and I had to have some really difficult discussions during our trip. We got into arguments. We were stubborn and grouchy. We acknowledged that even in this absolutely magical trip, there would be moments and times that were less than stellar. We had to be honest with each other about these sorts of things, and ultimately, I think that is what made our honeymoon even better – it was real.

Another complicating factor of our journey was the fact that we were in a foreign country that does not legally allow same-sex marriages. Sure, a person can legally be involved in “same-sex activity” but only civil unions are recognized. Because of this, we both felt a subversive undertone of awareness and vigilance when walking around, exploring, and dining out. We felt somewhat comfortable holding hands in certain places – but not all of them. When you have to be concerned with safety on your honeymoon, it becomes quite difficult to relax and fully settle in. One night, Chelsea shared with me that she had been disappointed that we hadn’t been able to fully celebrate the fact that we were on our honeymoon with the people we encountered. With waiters, Airbnb hosts, and other people we met along the way, we were largely silent about why we had come to Italy in the first place. We also chose to leave our wedding rings at home, to minimize the chance of appearing as “rich American pick-pocket targets,” which furthered the disconnect of being on a trip solely to commemorate our recent marriage.

There was one very uplifting exception. On our wine tour with eight Australians, we spent the day tasting wine and sampling delicious Italian food. Towards the end of the afternoon, one of the women in the group asked how long we would be traveling in Italy. Nervously (and shakily), I shared that we planned to tour the country for two weeks, and that we were on our honeymoon. Almost immediately, the crowd reacted in an uproar of joy. Another lady shouted, “We must toast to this!” and proceeded to clink glasses of wine together in celebration. I was taken aback by their kindness, and it made me wish we could have been this open at other points in the trip, too.

As our vacation came to a close, I felt amazed at all that we had been able to see, taste, and experience. More so, I felt a rush of gratitude that I could travel like this with my now wife. The trip was not without challenges, but it was absolutely infused with love. We were able to strengthen our bond, continue to learn more about each other, and reflect on all that had happened to get us to this point.

I highly recommend honeymoons. And, I think couples should make them what they want them to be. Maybe that means traveling with another couple or taking a smaller trip or simply having a staycation. Maybe it’s sitting on a beach for a week straight, or maybe it’s traveling to over six cities in fourteen days. Whatever it looks like, I think having time to be together as the marriage journey begins is a lovely rite of passage into the next season of life.

Here’s to marriage and celebrating love.

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