You've walked down the aisle towards him and exchanged rings. But what if that's not enough? One writer tells her story...
Last June, after eight years together, my boyfriend Ben and I tied the knot. I’d like to say it was all rose petals, fluffy kittens and outdoor sex on cloud nine after that but it wasn’t. The rings were on, but problems in our relationship we’d been ignoring in favour of wedding planning hadn’t disappeared overnight. We were bickering every day, using our phones too much, not having enough sex and definitely not sharing enough in each other’s passions. Our relationship needed resuscitating.
London was a problem. So too were our demanding careers and the fast-paced lifestyle we’d become accustomed to. Work, dinner, bed etc. There had to be more to life than that. So, we packed in our jobs, threw out half the stuff in our flat and left England for six months to travel around Latin America.
A MONTH OF FIRSTS
Before hitting Latin America, we took a detour to Orlando. Not the most romantic place, but we had some ticking off to do. Neither of us had been to Disney before, or Universal, or the abundant water slide parks either. It was a week of regressing twenty years and being snapped with our mouths wide open A LOT. I’m sure Ben thought he’d be going on the really hairy rides alone, but this was a month of firsts and I pushed myself to go on everything. He was dead proud. His words.
We then took a road trip along the southern states, staying in a couple of gobsmacking honeymoon suites along the way. Sleeping in a different bed to the one at home was a welcomed change and definitely made us more affectionate towards each other. Our time at the stunning Wentworth Mansion in South Carolina won’t go forgotten after Ben sleepwalked, naked, around the grounds in the middle of the night. The southern belle chambermaids did chuckle the next morning. There and the brand new South Congress Hotel in Austin provided us with two of the jolliest bubble baths we’ve ever had together.
Spending intimate time like this together, in the car for hours, talking, listening to our favourite podcasts really helped us switch off and reconnect.
REDISCOVERING EACH OTHER IN MEXICO
Ben and I met at 23 when nothing mattered but Glastonbury tickets. But when you spend eight years with someone, you’re both going to change – for better and worse. We needed to find out who we were at 31.
By the time we got to Mexico City, we’d been living out of backpacks for a month and it really helped bring that into focus. Turned out, I was a roll-up-every-item, get-excited-in-foreign-supermarkets kind of traveler and Ben was a stuff-it-all-in and carry-all-the-chargers-on-his-person-at-all-times type.
We were a simple unit, with eight t shirts, two electric toothbrushes and 18 pairs of pants between us. Our phones didn’t work, so we talked loads. The only thing we bickered about were the lyrics of songs. In fact, our main preoccupation was our bag re-packing skills – less than seven minutes on a good day. We felt pretty rejuvenated from living the simple life. The books were right, decluttering does make you happier.
In your thirties you can afford to splash out a bit on accommodation to soften the blow of arriving somewhere a million miles from home. Our saviour in Mexico City was La Valise, a luxury hotel in the Zona Rosa district. It was plush and made us feel like trendy Mexican locals. We spent an hour giddily switching gadgets on and off before heading out hand-in-hand for some street food.
After a visit to the foodie capital, Oaxaca, we headed to the coast in Tulum – on the Yucutan peninsular. Lots of celebs go here because the beach is one of the best in the world and it attracts enough tourists to inhabit Wales – BUT you can avoid all that by staying on the far end at beach chic hotel La Zebra, home of the best guacamole in Latin America.
By the time we left Mexico, we were tanned, finishing each other’s sentences again, making up ditties (something we used to do all the time) and laughing, yes LAUGHING a lot.
LOVE ON THE LAKE IN GUATEMALA
In our third month we addressed the topic of sex which had been a growing issue at home. Like so many long term couples, we were both either too tired, too stressed or too preoccupied on our phones to get the slightest hint of a boner for each other. I’m not saying we never did it – we just didn’t do it as much as we used to.
But when we got to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala we actually started talking about it. Stuff we’d like each other to do, things we weren’t so keen on, and how we could make sure we do it more regularly. We spent a few nights at Laguna Lodge, a stunning Eco hotel built on the lake by a friendly kiwi couple whose love affair with Guatemala lives in every brick. It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. I dare any couple trying to revive their sex life not to be successful in a hotel room overlooking a volcano.
GETTING SOME BALLS IN NICARAGUA
Before we left England, I promised Ben I would grow some balls. In Nicaragua I surprised both of us by volcano boarding, then bungee jumping off a steep cliff under the instruction of a man named Paolo. This was undoubtedly one of the best moments of my life, but sadly Ben missed it because he was talking to some Spanish women about inflation in Costa Rica.
To apologise, he treated me to one night in Granada at brand new, super romantic boutique hotel, Hotel Bubu. I don’t like to see my husband grovel but over dinner he said – “I appreciate how brave you’re being and I hope you’re enjoying this new side of you as much as I am,” which was nice to hear.
I guess this spurred me to keep on going. By the time we got to Patagonia I was getting up at 5am to do 20 mile hikes across glaciers and up mountains. And you know what? I was enjoying this new side of me too. We stayed at two magical hotels which were an absolute dream to return to after hard days on our feet. Aguas Ariba – the absolute ideal for hiking honeymooners and Scandi-inspired Pampa Lodge where you get a free pisco sour every afternoon. Lush.
FINISHING AS WE MEAN TO GO ON IN PERU
By the time we arrived in Peru for our final month, everything that seemed misaligned in our relationship back in November felt markedly improved. “We haven’t argued in months,” I said, holding Ben’s hand on an overnight bus to Lima. “I was thinking that” he said.
To celebrate our year anniversary (a couple months early) we swapped seafood for malaria tablets and booked ourselves on a last minute 3 day cruise down the Amazon with Aqua Expeditions, with a three-night Discovery cruise on the Aria Amazon starting from £2,337 per person. If, like me, the thought of staying in a mosquito infested tent sounds like hell, or, if, like Ben, you’re allergic to most animals, then a few days on this luxury boat is the answer. It’s expensive, but you get to see everything the Amazon is about without the fuss. The bedrooms have floor to ceiling windows too so you wake up to the sights and sounds of monkeys and birds. It was absolute heaven.
Traveling is a lot like marriage. It can be hard; new places aren’t always nice, illness gets one of you, then the other, and you have to look after each other. You chose to do this together and communicating is the only way to make it work. Now we’re back, I’m going to do my darnedest to make sure we don’t fall into a rut of bad habits again.
But the second I feel like we are, I’m booking us both on a flight out of here.
SOME AMAZING (AND ROMANTIC) HOTELS TO CHECK OUT ON THE ROAD:
– Supertramp Hostel in Cusco (comfy, hipster chic and great for couples)
– House of Jasmines in Argentina (in the wine region, perfect honeymoon spot)
– Grace Cafayate in Argentina (in the wine region, wonderful spa)
– Surfing Turtle Lodge in Nicaragua (super cheap hostel on the beach, great place to celebrate New Year’s Eve, yummy restaurant)
– Mamallena Hostel in Cartagena, Colombia. (Spacious rooms, great party atmosphere and cheap as chips)
– The BETSY in Miami (Art deco family run hotel on South Beach with a sensational restaurant)
– Casa Morada in Islamorada, Florida (A secluded small hotel with yoga, a swimming pool and amazing restaurants nearby serving
– Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel in Cusco (bet you didn’t think Cusco was a place Olivia Newton John would holiday. Well she does and this is where she stays when she does. This is five star luxury with possibly the best breakfast in Peru and most high-spec bathroom man has ever known. Special mention to Romy the Hotel Manager who is an encyclopedia on the hottest places to eat and party.