My husband and I are firm believers in spending money on experiences, not things.
For our honeymoon, we chose to travel to Iceland. We knew we wanted to do the entire Ring Road, a picturesque road trip around the island nation, but we only had five days. Most blogs we read suggested a taking a relaxed seven to 10 days to complete the journey. Regardless, we pinned all the major sites in Iceland on our Google Maps in hopes of experiencing the entire country.
By the second day, we were exhausted. We made our way along the southern stretch of the island, transferring destinations from our “Starred places” list to the “Want to go” list in order to make it to our Airbnb that night — the downgrade was upsetting: upsetting to have come all the way just to drive right past stops not far off the Ring Road, upsetting to give up certain stop for others, upsetting to dwell on the places we might never get to see.
While grudgingly trying to accept these disappointments, the Glacier Lagoon appeared along the road seemingly out of nowhere. Though we were pretty beat down by this point, we decided to stop and explore.
Jökulsárlón was breathtaking. We walked right up to the edge of the water, struggling to wrap our heads around the fact that the chunks of ice glistening only a few meters away had broken off a glacier and were making their way to the ocean. Though the wind was blowing straight through our clothes and we were freezing, we were deeply content that we’d decided to stop here over anywhere else.
By the time Justin and I got married, we’d already traveled to 24 countries together. When we first met, he was based in Lebanon and I in Cambodia. At first, we traveled to keep our relationship alive. Now, travel is our livelihoods.
From the outside, this may seem like a series of trips to awesome places such as Myanmar, India, and Vietnam … but it’s also months of living out of suitcases, eating ramen on the floor of a hotel room, trying to sleep on planes, and constantly finding your bearings in a new place, only to pack up and leave again.
We weren’t dying to go somewhere for our honeymoon, but we still wanted to spend time together and experience a new place. We booked a trip to Iceland because it was the cheapest flight to a place outside of the U.S.
Iceland was dramatic in every sense of the word.
Our trip there was dramatic: the first day of our honeymoon was spent mostly in airports: O’Hare because our flight was cancelled, and Keflavik because our bag got lost on the way there.
The weather was dramatic: the cold, rainy, and very windy morning we arrived was followed by (still cold) clear and sunny skies.
The landscape was dramatic: at every corner we discovered a giant waterfall or wild valley carved by glaciers. The landscapes changed constantly from neverending fields of purple flowers to desolate volcanic wastelands.
But mostly, we were dramatic. Emotions are always heightened during travel, and that increases tenfold during your honeymoon, not to mention the disappointment from the rocky start of the trip.
We spent most of our time in Iceland in the car driving from point A to point B, eating ham and cheese sandwiches, and reflecting on our relationship — where we’d come from, where we are now, and where we’re heading.
We took turns comparing the views that flew past our window to places we’d been together: how the volcanic wastelands vaguely reminded us of the drive from Petra to the Dead Sea when we had just started falling in love. How the waterfalls and winding roads reminded us of New Zealand and why we love it, but wouldn’t want to live there.
How Iceland was unlike anywhere we’d been before and how we couldn’t imagine experiencing it with anyone else.
Traveling isn’t always easy, and neither are relationships.
Each often rely on compromises: sacrificing certain stops for others, sacrificing your own interests for your significant other, or vice versa.
Each rely on grace, on letting some things go because holding on can ruin something good.
And each rely on eliminating expectations — of a place, of yourself, of a person — because you can never really know what you’ll experience once you get there.