On Thursday, October 8, 2015, Northern Ireland qualified for the Euros. With that, they sealed my honeymoon fate.
My Northern Irish fiancé’s face swelled with emotion as the final whistle blew.
By the following morning, my Facebook timeline swelled with posts from would-be wedding guests: “That’s the honeymoon sorted, so!” “See you in France for some wine and anthems!!!!”
Our wedding was taking place a couple of short weeks before the Euros. The timeline didn’t lie. In the years since we met, I would sometimes find myself chatting to my husband in intimate surrounds, perhaps over a bottle of wine. During these times I have attempted to delve into that soul by looking deep into his eyes and asking, “Tell me, my love, what is your one true dream in life that could make you happier than anything else imaginable?”
He would look back at my expectant, rosy face, take my hand, and in a heavy Portadown drawl would reply, “Bay-bay, only one thing could bring me such joy: following my wee country to a major tournament”.
His glassed-over eyes would then stare into the abyss as he took a moment to imagine the scene, to dare to dream, if you will.
So this qualification was indeed momentous. There was never any question that he would support the team in France.
The question lay in whether this new wife, who had never even been to a Republic of Ireland soccer match, would join the party.
As the plans were made and the travel mates confirmed, it was clear the vibe was more The Inbetweeners than Amour. As it happened, I didn’t have to declare my exit from any perceived involvement, he just stopped pretending I was invited.
Delighted, I called my oldest friend asking how she might feel about me taking my honeymoon-for-one over to her relatively new Canadian life in Toronto.
Equally thrilled with our choices, my husband-to-be and I planned with glee our respective post-wedding trips.
Raised eyebrows aside, our honeymoon choices were flawless. I arrived at the apartment of my best friend to be greeted by bubbles, a Canadian welcome pack (complete with hangover paraphernalia and maps to the best vintage shops) and a bed covered in rose petals.
He arrived with (tipsy) old school mates to a dingy hostel, more Northern Ireland kit than the soccer team, and swiftly developed a taste for warm Rosé, from the bottle.
I spent my Toronto days buzzing around the city discovering the quirky neighbourhoods, hipster cocktails, award-winning brunches and unique boutiques.
We took road-trips to Niagara and flights to Montreal, Instagramming the escapades as we went.
His medium of choice was Whatsapp: every morning I would wake up to a new shaky video showing another sea of Northern Ireland supporters doing ‘The Bouncy’, so united in celebration it was as if one oversized green and white caterpillar were dancing through the squares of Nice.
This wasn’t a compromise honeymoon, this was a perfect honeymoon, 4,000 miles apart.
Granted, most couples would rather honeymoon together, but when it comes to the aspirations of newlyweds, tastes are changing.
The original honeymoon involved a month of mead and mating; today, however, the priorities are less prescriptive.
With the post-wedding holiday somewhat of an anomaly in terms of allocated time and budget, newlyweds are choosing to pursue passions that they may never experience otherwise, ones that would be unlikely to appear in the traditional honeymoon guidebook.
Adventure, it seems, is key.
asey Mead of G Adventures says the industry is observing a huge shift in desires.
“Honeymoons used to mean white sands and blue seas. Now people are looking for something less obvious - hiking to Machu Picchu, Antarctica or Arctic expeditions, they are seeking bucket list experiences. Many honeymooners have been living together before they get married so don’t need that romantic getaway. They are interested in joining small group tours, in meeting and travelling with like-minded people outside of their own relationship.”
Casey notes that sustainability is another huge consideration, with increased numbers questioning where their money is going. “As a travel company, the planet is our product. Its social and environmental welfare is fundamentally important to us.”
G Adventures National Geographic Journeys partnership is case and point. A collection of tours designed to take travellers deeper into the cultures and habitats of the places they explore, they offer “adventure with a softer landing”.
Some of these trips include encounters with National Geographic scholars and grantees, the takeaway being greater hands-on exploration, interactions with local experts, and freedom to roam, all within the structure and security of travelling in a group.
It seems that these same rules apply when travel experts plan their honeymoon. John McGuirk is Business Development Manager for Intrepid Group; his wife Jo also works in the travel industry.
“Adventure can sound off-putting as most people think it needs to be extreme, like jumping out of a plane. Really adventure means trying something new for the first time. Adventure holidaying is simply something away from your norm.”
With the couple in the enviable position of having travelled to nu
merous exotic destinations as part of their jobs, how do they choose a honeymoon that will stand out?
“After much consideration, we decided to combine our travel loves: city breaks, luxury and adventure. After two days exploring Kuala Lumpur, we had a six-night stay at the Pangkor Laut Resort where we were able to reflect on our wedding. Here we opened our cards for the first time together over a cocktail. We had always thought we’d love an overseas wedding so we also brought our wedding attire for a mini island photo shoot there too.”
However, it was their ten day Vietnam Express Southbound Intrepid trip that stands out in terms of adventure.
They each cite their overnight stay on a junk boat on Hanoi Bay (pictured) as the highlight.
“With limestone rocks jutting out of the water, and only surrounding junk boats’ lights as illumination, we ate meals with fellow travellers, sat around tables sharing stories, playing cards and drinking beer, all with this spectacular backdrop. It was like nothing either of us had ever experienced. Having a great group of people around us made it all the more magical.”
Intrepid trips are designed to suit individual requirements.
Offering Basic, Original, and Comfort, each option brings guests on a locally guided adventure. “The idea is to take you out of your comfort zone but also to remove any hassle. It offers security in your personal adventure.”
And then there are those that commit to continuing their adventure for life.
When choosing their honeymoon, Brittany Rouille and Drew Neumann (aka Mr. And Mrs. Adventure) considered everything from relaxing on the islands of Bora Bora to backpacking in Southeast Asia.
“Instead we opted for one of the most challenging and unforgettable experiences of our lifetime. We were seeking a sense of limitlessness that is only offered by life on the road. That’s when we discovered Hector.”
In a former life, Hector was a removals van.
Quirky Campers describe him as a “spacious camper… with a sense of humour”.
“He’s a magical converted box truck with a wood-burning stove and adorable blue door. We just knew a honeymoon in a camper was exactly what our adventure needed to be.”
Just five days after getting married in Florida, Brittany and Drew flew to England where they met their “beloved honeymoon mobile”.
“We explored incredible places like Stonehenge, Windsor, The Lakes District, Bath and even saw a soccer game in Manchester.
We loved having the total freedom of choosing when and where we wanted to go, being able to stay longer in places we adored.
We honeymooned in Hector for three weeks, not only as a method of enjoyment and exploration but as a means of transportation as we travelled across England in search of a camper to purchase and call home.
It has been over a year and a half since we began our unforgettable honeymoon in Hector and we are still living life on the road.
Just two newlyweds from America and their camper, roaming all over the roads of Europe, and beyond.”
A honeymoon adventure that never ends?
I might think about bringing the husband for that one.
Padraic Keogh Travel is an Irish agent for both G Adventures and Intrepid Travel, call +353 46 9431933 For further information on Quirky Campers visit quirkycampers.co.uk Follow Brittany and Drew’s travels at mrandmrsadventure.com