There are no words that can adequately describe the feeling after your wedding when you are no longer “planning” anything. Your brain hangs in list-making limbo while you polish off the reception wine that you bought a case too much of. I felt so content in those days afterward but also desperately needed to hibernate. We planned our honeymoon 2 weeks later and I can’t fathom having left a day sooner. Our apartment was inundated with boxes, cards, poorly packed suitcases, and all the laundry and dishes we neglected in the days leading up to it. By the time we got on that airplane, I only just barely felt like a person with a normal routine again.
People tell you to go somewhere relaxing for your honeymoon and “chill”. I’ve never been much of a lay-on-the-beach person. I get antsy easily. I don’t care much for the heat. I can’t think of anything worse than being trapped on a cruise ship drinking weak sugary cocktails and eating the same buffet food every day.
But of course, I may be entirely misjudging things. I travel because it’s not a routine or predictable, and some do it for the opposite reasons. For our honeymoon, we compromised on some of our usual vacation morals while staying true to who we are. We would spend the first four days in Fiji and then a week and a half driving the Great Ocean Road in Australia. Maybe a few days of slow-going is the only thing to get me to stop making lists.
We’ve grown used to 24-hour travel days. This is the third year in a row that we’ve gone on a trip this far, but with 5 hours to LA, 14 hours to Sydney, and 4 final hours to Nadi all one-after-the-other…this is definitely our lengthiest trip by air. On our first flight, when we were still feeling perky (wearing matching “wifey” t-shirts that Katie got me to agree to in a state of delirium one night), we made friends with a man named Eric. He was unusually intuitive, and after a brief conversation he asked, “which one of us would be writing the book”. Hopefully that was a prophetic comment.
By the time we landed in Fiji, I barely knew my own name. We spent one night on the mainland in a room we got for free from Hotels.com, and it was so big it had a washer/dryer (washing our disgusting airplane clothes…check). We force-fed ourselves some poolside drinks on principal before crashing into a pile of sleep.
The next day, we were bound for Malolo Island by boat. I couldn’t decide if I wanted champagne or coffee at 8:30am, so I had both. Because honeymooning means no judgement.
Before long, the bustle of the town of Nadi faded into ocean. We watched tiny islands crop up one by one until our chosen resort emerged. Fiji is a collection of several hundred islands and most of the ones that tourists stay on have just a single resort. It makes for an intimate experience unique from the sprawling resorts of similarly tropical locations. Instead of docking, the larger boat we came on paused in the middle of the water while a tiny speedboat manned by a staff member pulled up alongside it. We were soon loaded into the little boat with half a dozen other guests and all our suitcases, zipping off to the dock while the big boat cruised onward to the next island. A different kind of door-to-door service.
Rooms were housed inside one-story, semi-attached wooden houses. The ocean was just steps away and the water was calm and shimmering with light waves. All the mania of the past few weeks was slipping away, and I resigned myself to be a “beach person” for a short moment in time. That night, the sun set into the most shockingly beautiful shades of orange I’d ever seen. Everybody stopped what they were doing to stare out in awe as it blanketed the wooden handrails along the jetty. We ate dinner outdoors on the top deck of the restaurant, with trees rustling beside us and tangy coconut milk fish soup on our table. Peace fell upon us, and we could finally just drift.
The next day, we woke up early to join an island-hopping tour that left at 7am. The early morning there was so serene and secret-like. The air was creamy and soft and everything felt completely undisturbed. We joined a woman with two children and her friend for the morning trip that was set to visit a handful of nearby islands, including the one from the movie Castaway. I realized quickly why so many excursions left at the crack of dawn. The air was mild with minimal wind and the water tepid. After cruising around a bit on the same speedboat we came in on, we stopped beside a rocky cliff for a chance to jump into water so blue you couldn’t believe it was real. We sat in our towels after, eating breakfast to the gentle rock of the boat beside those beautiful cliffs. We arrived on the island where Castaway was filmed and immediately went by foot onto a forest path surrounded by lush plants and coconuts without being warned to take our shoes. My bare feet pressed into a combination of sand and shiny leaves as I sipped coconut water from a newly cracked shell. The sky in the distance was faintly stormy and I felt hidden away in the quiet.
Our final stop was supposed to be snorkeling. Having seen guests swimming gently alongside the shore back by the resort, I didn’t expect to do it mid-ocean and with no land in sight. That naïve outlook probably had more to do with my lack of tropical vacation experience than the expectations set by our guide. Sans life jacket, I dropped into the sea. Being a weak swimmer with no experience using flippers, I immediately panicked and deduced that I couldn’t tread water long enough to swim to the reef in the distance. I was boat-bound with 3-year-old Sammy (also apprehensive about snorkeling), so we sat together making towel piles and sticking the go-pro into the water in an attempt to photograph fish. When the group returned, I was convinced to give it another try. One of the older women on our trip “mom-ed” me into getting back into the water by having me climb onto her back like a baby monkey while she swam us both to the reef. My curiosity overshadowed my pride. Sammy remained unconvinced.
The reef was mesmerizing in a way I didn’t expect. With my goggles I could see every twisted piece of coral, bright blue starfish, and neon-colored fish as they swirled around one another. But the moment I saw how vast and dark the open water was just beyond the reef, it grounded me. Five minutes of open ocean was enough.
That night, we enjoyed dinner number two on the same restaurant deck. I was less perturbed by a “routine” than I expected. Staff at the resort were extremely personable, getting to know you by name and planned activities. It made everything feel easy but not stuffy, like being a part of a team rather than being catered to. Several men played guitars and sang by the poolside while we ate our way through plates of fish and homemade ice cream. I started to grow used to hearing the squeak and rustle of bats (yes, bats) in the trees above us. It was a subtle reminder that even at a beach resort, we were still some place a little bit wild.