Don’t Call It a Second Honeymoon

Yep. Planet Hollywood.

Yep. Planet Hollywood.

I hate answering the “where did you go on your honeymoon?” question. I’ a travel writer. I’ll take a taxi eight hours and set out into the Sahara on camelback to spend the night under 50 pounds of blankets on a below-freezing night. I’ll eat fried worms on a curb in Hanoi. I’ll learn Muay Thai in a steamy back alley in Bangkok. And I’ll gleefully regale all comers with these tales. But when the inevitable honeymoon question comes up I’ll mumble something about Cancun and how we were but babies when we wed, and change the subject to something more fun, like riding motorbikes in the Mekong Delta.

But it’s time to come clean. I, Dana Bowling McMahan, went to a resort in Cancun on a pre-packaged vacation. I ate at Planet Hollywood and went on a “booze cruise.” I lazed on the beach with my handsome new husband. I did. In 1997 (did I mention we were babies?) not far removed from spring break shenanigans, it didn’t occur to me to do anything but.

Four years later we set out through Europe with backpacks, a trip meant be a grand adventure before settling down and acting like grown-ups. That didn’t really work like we planned – our lives have revolved around travel ever since. From those early days when the London tube stymied us we’ve ranged ever further in search of the excitement and surprise and exotic that permeated our first big trip. But we’ve never returned to Mexico.

It’s so close, and it’s so intertwined with our own culture, it just never surfaced on my radar. Then, in the happenstance way things transpire sometimes, I read a book called Giant that’s set in Texas but delves into south of the border culture, and I interviewed a travel writer who recently went to Mexico City; he referred to it as exotic. When my husband and I decided apropos of nothing to take a quick trip this summer I blurted out: Mexico! Let’s redo our honeymoon. He thought I was kidding. I was not.

We didn’t see Mexico in 1997; we didn’t see anything approaching Mexico. I’m not knocking resorts. Plenty of folks are looking for relaxation on vacation, and they find it on beaches. It’s just that I’d rather relax at home. Away – now that’s for adventure. Away is for things that puzzle me and make me uncomfortable and make me think and make me wonder. Away is for inspiration and perspective and introspection. I didn’t find any of that in the tiny swathe of Mexico my groom and I flew to after our wedding. But all that and more is sure to be there.

So we’re going to travel like it’s 1997 – no devices(!). Other than that though, this will be a total re-do of our honeymoon. We’re plunging in with a flight to Mexico City, perhaps the furthest we can get in spirit from a beach resort, then traveling on to Morelia and Guadalajara.

I want to romanticize the trip and imagine the two of us holding hands, our rings a bit duller than they were 17 years ago but our faces still shining with giddy joy that we have the rest of our lives together. Mariachi bands will strum, strings of lights will twinkle, and mezcal will flow. The part about being happy to be together is true, but we’ve traveled long enough to know there will be frustrations, cross discussions when we get lost (are we really doing this without google maps?!), aching feet, altitude headaches, and unexpected obstacles to much of what we want to do. But if we couldn’t handle all of that and remain smitten with one another we’d just head back to that resort and be bored for a week.

Honeymoon V2 is about celebrating the miles we’ve traversed and the years we’ve lived together and learned one another. It’s about setting the pace for the next few decades. It’s about expanding our boundaries and discovering how much there is still to learn about each other and our big, amazing world.

¡Viva México!

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