Monday, March 21, 2011

Because It's More Fun Than Tablecloth Colors

Given the number of changes that have occurred since we betrothed, I hesitate to say anything about our nuptials with certainty, but I think we have come to a decision on that most important of topics: the honeymoon.

If you've spent any time around us, you know that we're a little crazy when it comes to travel, a little adventurous, and a lot unconventional. This made the honeymoon decision a mite bit difficult. We pride ourselves on fairly frugal travel and a honeymoon does not lend itself to frugality. So, stepping into the world of imprecise math, we agreed that we would double the budget of our most expensive vacation to date, and that would be our honeymoon budget. Sounds about right, no?

This is, strangely enough, the one topic of conversation that we've had throughout the years. Yes, we were gunshy about getting married, but not at all gunshy about fantasy honeymoon planning. The usual suspects came up: the Maldives, Polynesia, but then when we start having to actually think about it, we realized that while we like the idea of one week at the beach, three weeks is pushing it. We just need more stuff.

When we have been to islands in the past, for a week, there has always come a time when we just had to get in a car and explore. Heck, when we went to St. Thomas for the weekend, we ended up hopping the ferry to St. John for diversion. The simple fact is, we like cars. Driving is relaxing for us. And you can't drive on an atoll. So, exit Maldives and Polynesia, and enter insanity.

We thought about Madagascar until I remembered that, in addition to some political instability, I was certain that I had read in National Geographic about how much of it was impassable. Armed with many positive memories of reading and rereading Redmond O'Hanlon's Into the Heart of Borneo, we started thinking about a trip to Malaysia. It would have stupid driving, lovely beaches, interesting culture, and that wow factor. We were pretty sold on the idea. But wanting options, we considered Myanmar. And, since it had always been my top honeymoon fantasy, safari in Africa followed by some scuba diving somewhere Africanish.

We entered the poorly stocked White Plains Barnes and Noble (remind me that I want to devote another post to the extreme differences between New York and suburban bookstores), grabbed as many books as we could find on our three potential destinations, ordered our fancy pants coffee drinks, and started to read.

At which point we discovered, or rediscovered, that different places have different weather. Since our last international trip to Nicaragua was such a monumental disaster, we were both very concerned about dedicating three expensive weeks to being rained on. And wouldn't you know it, November sees half of Malaysia in a monsoon. [INSERT EXPLETIVES HERE]! And Myanmar, as it turns out, has some issues of it's own, namely fuel rationing. You get 4 gallons of fuel per week and then you're getting the rest on the black market. And the books all said that if you were looking to dive the Myanmar territories, you were going to end up catching your boat in Thailand. [INSERT ADDITIONAL EXPLETIVES]!

Much as we like adventure, we didn't want this trip to be so adventure packed as to have us spending most of it haggling for fuel or avoiding mudslides.

Several years ago I had asked he-who-has-shot-animals-all-over-Africa where we should go and he said that if we only could go on one Safari in Africa, it had to be in South Africa. But devoted partner and I are avid nature documentary nerds, and the lure of Ngorongoro crater and the Serengeti was a powerful one. That was until we learned that the nice people of Tanzania really discourage self-drive safaris. I got some great advice from a former classmate who had honeymooned in Tanzania and looked over some tour companies and then went back to my fuzzy math and realized that there's a big difference between what you CAN afford and what you WANT to afford. We'd be going to Africa to see and do stuff and the organized safaris, even the private ones, put a premium on lodging and food - two things we would, if given the opportunity, choose not to spend on. I'm not saying we want to sleep in a communist-era poorly lit bunker (thanks, Nicaragua), but I don't need five-star accommodation while I'm on Safari. And I certainly don't need to spend for it. Even if it does look nice, I think we're more of a quantity vs. quality couple when it comes to travel.

So I googled DIY safari and found out that the nice people of Kruger National Park will welcome you in your own vehicle. You can stay in the park if you like, and there are many options for that, you can hire guides if you like, you can pretty much do what you like. I like. So then it was a question of where we go after we see our big five. Mauritius was a top choice because South African airlines fly there, but we checked out the diving and it's not brilliant (and, oh yes, it's not cheap). But look at your map and you will notice a little country quite near Kruger National Park that seems to have a lot of coastline. And our 50 Dives to Do Before You Die book mentioned something about Manta Rays. So much as we anticipate he-whose-country-used-to-own-this-country making fun of our choice to vacation in a former colony, we think we'll just take our car over the border to Mozambique, spend up a little on lodging, and dodge bull sharks in the lovely waters of the Indian Ocean.

This sounds like our kind of crazy. That being said, given border crossings, rental cars, and the out-there nature of the trip, I am seriously considering soliciting the assistance of a travel agent, despite the pride I take in planning our trips.

So while we still are iffy on appetizers, we are far less iffy on where we're going afterward. And frankly, the idea that our honeymoon will consist of an orgy of nature on land, in the air, and underwater, is pretty much perfect!


  1. Loved reading your blog, Yelena! You're a fabulous could cover the cost of your honeymoon by writing a great travel feature for pay when you return home!!

  2. Thanks Julie, if wishing made it so. I promise to bore you with all the details of our trip once we take it!