Last August, as I crossed the finish line of my first-ever half-marathon, my then-boyfriend got on one knee and asked me to marry him. In a moment I was elated, overwhelmed and completely in shock (yet somehow I managed a ‘yes!’ before even taking off my head phones).  I had dreamt of that moment, wondering what it would feel like, and never did I imagine that my never-wanting-to-be-the-center-of-attention other half would plan such a public proposal.

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Once the excitement of sharing the news with friends and family subsided, it was time to get down to business: pick a date, a venue, and a destination for our honeymoon. Both my fiancé and I are avid travelers, having ventured through countries and across continents solo and together. We each dreamed of having a long post-wedding trip that would allow for a bit of adventure and a lot of relaxation. I had forever had my heart set on Morocco; he was torn between Greece and Argentina. Truth be told, we would have been happy anywhere; the pleasure for us is in experiencing new smells and sounds and flavors, regardless of destination, and knowing that we have all the time in the world to explore.

And so you can imagine our disappointment when we realized that taking time off for both a wedding and a honeymoon was not as feasible nor as realistic as we had hoped.

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And so you can imagine our disappointment when we realized that taking time off for both a wedding and a honeymoon was not as feasible nor as realistic as we had hoped.

After our engagement, I was offered a new job – my dream job. I was excited and grateful, but couldn’t help but think that I would have to accrue vacation time all over again. Then, my fiancé was offered a new job too, starting just two months before our impending nuptials.  We both knew that we couldn’t jeopardize our work by asking for too much time away, but we also knew that our marriage and the trip that followed were once-in-a-lifetime experiences that we’d never have the opportunity to recreate. How could we balance the desire to maintain responsibility in our ‘grown up’ lives with our yearning for an extra-long, extra-special post-wedding adventure?

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For a while, as we navigated our new work environments, we put our honeymoon planning on hold. I was heartbroken. I would devise plots to escape the real world, but my fiancé always brought me back down to earth. He reminded me that we were lucky to have great jobs and suggested that maybe we’d just have to wait. But I’ve always been impatient. Waiting couldn’t possibly be the answer. And so, one day, it finally hit me: just because we couldn’t take weeks or months away, that didn’t mean that we had to sacrifice having a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. We could balance our dreams with our day-to-day. It just had to look different.

I started researching destinations closer to home: islands in the Caribbean; short flights across the Atlantic. I strategically thought through each country: Mexico? We’d both been there a handful of times. Ireland? Couldn’t guarantee beach weather. St. Lucia? Beautiful, but not quite the intercultural experience we were hoping for. Then my fiancé came up with the winning plan: six days in Guatemala.

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I was sold. Guatemala would offer history and culture, mountains and lakes, new foods, and a new language to navigate in. We had both wanted to travel there in the past but never had, so it would be a place that we could explore for the first time together. And it would be easy to get there: flying from Asheville, North Carolina, where we were getting married, to Guatemala City was a quick flight with just a brief stop in Atlanta. We even used PayPal Credit to book the travel, which made things so easy. We could leave bright and early in the morning and arrive before lunchtime. It was perfect – the best of all worlds; a balance, indeed.

Guatemala honeymoon dock on the water

When planning travel, I always find it most helpful to ask others for advice before scouring books and websites on my own. I decided to email Zach (founder of Passion Passport) who had spent ample time in Guatemala before. He told me just what we had to do given the amount of time we had: spend two days in Antigua to get a taste of the city, and then travel to Lake Atitlan for the final four to enjoy the majestic scenery. I conferred with two other people who confirmed the itinerary, and just like that, it was set. We were even able to book some activities ahead of time with PayPal so we wouldn’t need to worry about carrying a lot of cash with us.

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We’d start in an incredible, perhaps unlikely, spot: a modern-day-treehouse on the periphery of Antigua. There, we’d decompress from the energy of the wedding by lazing in hammocks that look out toward the mountains and down to the villages below. We’d venture into the city to explore the architecture and sample the foods, knowing that at the end of each day we’d be able to retreat back to our private room in the trees. From there, we’d travel an hour and a half to Panajachel and hop on a boat to an eco-lodge built right on Atitlan. Perhaps we’d decide to climb the San Pedro volcano as so many visitors to the area often do, or maybe we’d just swim and boat and play in the blue waters of the lake. Regardless, we knew we were in for a treat: 6 days of bliss that allowed us time to balance both movement and rest, and the newness of our surroundings with the familiarity and comfort of one another. We were grateful that we could handle all of our travel costs in advance via PayPal, too; it left us nothing to worry about but each other.

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I suppose that’s the beauty and magic of travel, isn’t it: it’s all about savoring each moment and each interaction, with ease and without expectation. We have to remember that we are so fortunate to have the resources that allow us to journey to new corners of the world. Why fuss when a dream or a plan doesn’t quite come true, even if it feels like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? There are always new opportunities, and we must be flexible and seek balance – in those, in ourselves, and in each of our experiences.

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Jessica is Passion Passport's Lead Editor, responsible for curating and editing the website's content. Growing up, Jessica’s family called her a tornado because she could never sit still. In her early 20s, she gained momentum and began to gust overseas, first landing on the shores of New Zealand. Since then she has been consistently in motion, touching down in over 20 countries on 6 continents. On the occasion that her feet are firmly planted, Jessica works as a program coordinator for a non-profit agency. She currently resides in Chicago and enjoys eating, running and planning adventures (her own or other people’s) in her spare time.

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