The first signs of cold started to emerge in early October. The leaves of Ginkgo trees blanketed city sidewalks, and a misguided trip out of the house without a jacket drew immediate regret. Brrrr! Sam and I are self-proclaimed wusses when it comes to the cold and we were mourning the fact that another summer was undeniably over.
But then, we had a flash of inspiration. Maybe winter wouldn’t be so miserable if we had a sun-filled vacation on the horizon; a date we could mark on the calendar in red Sharpie and stare at each cold winter morning as we ate our breakfast in flannel pajamas.
We decided on a 10-day trip to Belize -- a country we literally plucked from one of those “50 places you must see before you die” books they have in the bargain section at Barnes and Noble. I was entranced by the promise of toucans, Mayan ruins and turquoise waters. Sam was focused on the average monthly temperature for March: 83 degrees.
In the back of my mind I remember thinking, “Maybe he’ll propose on this trip” which only added to my surprise when he popped the question a month later in November.
In some ways, our engagement turned this from an ordinary trip into something more significant. It was likely our last major trip as a couple before we take on the world as husband and wife. I started calling the trip our “rehearsal honeymoon,” but what it turned out to be was a great opportunity to take a break from wedding planning and focus solely on each other.
Though we’re diligent about having regular date nights, there is something rejuvenating about getting a long stretch of time together. Conversations drift away from work and weekend plans, and toward the more philosophical – the kind of talks that truly make you feel connected to another person.
It also gave us time to celebrate our upcoming commitment to each other, while also allowing us to feel young and adventurous in the face of all the grown up decisions we’ve been making recently.
“Marriage might be a very grown up thing to do, but we’ve still got it,” we told ourselves as we waded chin-deep in water through the Actun Tunichil Muknal cave. Then, on our first SCUBA trip, there was a strange comfort in knowing my backup air source was attached to someone I trust so completely. Even as we lounged silently in hammocks, engrossed in separate books, I pictured how we might look 40 years from now doing the exact same thing. It seemed as if everything we did had a little extra meaning because our future is now a shared one.
A few times, friendly locals would hear we were engaged and offer to marry us on the spot.
We almost took them up on it.
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