Last week, I married the Man in the Hat, and we took a honeymoon. Figuring out that portion of the event was my job. I’m the tour director in this relationship, the one with the knowledge of the places and seasons for nature travel. For weeks leading up to the date, I struggled with the planning. I couldn’t decide where I wanted to go, and discarded one idea after another for various reasons.
I knew I didn’t want anything particularly epic. This wasn’t the time for a huge bucket-list trip, because those require effort and extensive planning. I was tired of planning; one thing I learned was that even microscopic weddings like ours still require planning and decision-making. For the same reasons, I dismissed the idea of getting on a plane and going somewhere. Which left us with one option: throw the backpacks in the car and figure it out later. When I would tell people this, they would often look at me with an expression of concern and then, a second later, recognition: Oh yeah, this is you guys.
I always feel vaguely irresponsible when turning over to the fates an event as important as this. So as the wedding approached, I kept feeling unsettled about the undecided honeymoon destination. Then, ten days or so before the wedding our friend Fred, who was officiating, sent us a draft of the marriage address he had written. The entire thing was lovely, but this piece stuck out to me at the time:
Being together means Jen and Travis help one another become more of who they want to become. Like many of their trips, this relationship is an ambiguous adventure. They do not seek predictability; it is the promise of the unknown that is exciting.
When I read it, the feeling of being deeply understood – perhaps even more so than we understood ourselves – settled into my soul. I even teared up a little. I hadn’t discussed my trip-planning angst with Fred, but he had named exactly what was underneath my failure to come to a decision on a location for our honeymoon: I didn’t want one – yet. I was craving the ambiguous adventure. I wanted to see how it would all unfold. This is the beauty of a good friend: his words made me stop negatively judging one of the traits that’s made my life interesting. And as it turns out, everyone else understands that about us as well – when Fred actually gave the address at the wedding, a ripple of laughter went through the small group of guests when he noted that we do not “seek predictability.” “No kidding!” someone else exclaimed through the chuckles.
It’s not that I did no planning at all for our trip. After many discussions, we had the destination narrowed down to a region: southeastern United States. Travis wanted to be warm. About ten days out, I started checking the weather, which we realized might be the deciding factor. I had a yen for springtime in the southern Appalachians. Travis was leaning more toward kayaking in Florida, but was happy with my idea if it was warm enough. We decided that we would drive to Chattanooga, Tennessee, and then decide where to go from there, with only one directive: we would do what we felt like doing, and go where we felt like going. In the end, the weather carved out our itinerary with remarkable specificity.
It’s not always a good idea to travel this way, even for us. Intentionality has its place. But it was right this time, and I believe I’ve gotten pretty good at the ambiguous adventure. I’ve learned to place myself in precisely the right amount of geographic space with a few good ideas, and let the adventure unspool. We did things and went places we might not otherwise go. We kicked around small southern mountain towns, spent a day at an aquarium, and whiled away long stretches of time eating and drinking amid gorgeous scenery. We hiked to waterfalls, and breathed in the fragrance of the springtime woods. We had our first – and hopefully not last – experience at a backcountry inn. We had several bear sightings. Ideas for future – and less relaxed – trips burst open the overstuffed seed pod that is my brain.
We did all this while settling into a marriage, which seems like it should not feel different from the previous six years of committed life-partnership, but inexplicably does. We spent many moments this last week grabbing each other’s hands and marveling at the rings that live on our fingers now; at the 72-hour mark, joking that we’d outlasted Britney Spears’ first marriage; and chuckling when someone referred to me in conversation with Travis as “your wife” and he almost corrected her before remembering.
Above all, it may be that we learned what it is to rest – at least a little, anyway, and as our good friend predicted, became a little more of who we want to be.