Somewhere in the Bay of Fundy, in heavy fog and rain, our electric horn went out. Our 40-foot sailboat had no radar, so my husband, Ben, and I were out on the open water, invisible to the large ships that could crush us in the seconds it would take for them to see us. The whales that we’d found majestic just days earlier were now perilous, as we could see just feet off our bow. As I scurried below to grab our air horns to signal our location to other boats, I thought, “This could be it. If we die out here today, at least it will be doing what we love, together.”
The stormy seas in the Bay of Fundy. (Photo: Erin Duggan Kramer)
It sounds overly dramatic today, safe on land and more than a year into our marriage. But back then, it was real. The first weeks after my husband and I tied the knot, I didn’t sip piña coladas and don the lingerie my friends had showered me with. Instead, we boarded our sailboat the morning after our big bash in Rockport, Maine, waved goodbye to our friends and family who gathered to send us off, and headed north, bound for Canada. Just us, the wind, a few charts, and plenty of provisions.
The love boat. (Photo: Erin Duggan Kramer)
Bali sounded beautiful, Tahiti tempting. My husband and I are both experienced sailors; we’d met on a sailing trip a few years earlier in St. Thomas. While we could have traveled halfway around the world with the hopes of getting in a few days of sailing, there seemed no finer start to the adventure of marriage than to take a trip without crowds or planes, alone on a boat we love and exploring parts unknown to us.
Clearly, we aren’t alone.
As weddings are becoming more personalized, so are honeymoons. Today 77 percent of couples take honeymoons, and many are using their registries as a way to plan their dream vacation without breaking the bank, according to Jamie Miles, editor of TheKnot.com. She says the top destinations are the Caribbean (29 percent), the U.S. (23 percent), and then more exotic locales: 12 percent of couples head to Hawaii, 11 percent to Europe, 6 percent to Central or South America, 3 percent to Asia, and 3 percent to the South Pacific.
Miles said adventurous honeymoons like ours are popular with couples whose perfect break isn’t sitting on a beach. “Extreme honeymoons are popular,” she said. “Having an idea for a fun adventure to tackle as a couple, like four-wheeling or rock climbing, will be something you always remember. You can find a mix of relaxation and adventure.”
The adventure not only provides fun times for the newlyweds, but also can strengthen their bond after the big day.
Erin and Ben pausing on shore for a quick #honeymoonselfie. (Photo: Erin Duggan Kramer)
“It’s not as much about the adrenaline rush as it is about sharing the experience with someone else,” said Matthew Walker, author of Adventure in Everything: How the Five Elements of Adventure Create a Life of Authenticity, Purpose, and Inspiration. He explains that the five elements for adventure — high endeavor, total commitment, uncertain outcome, tolerance for adversity, and great companionship — not only bring “radiance and vitality to our lives,” but also apply to relationships.
Related: Meet the Couple Who Is Taking a Honeymoon to All 50 States
So how exactly do you plan your own adventure honeymoon to ensure that you get the adventure effect? Here are four guidelines for honeymooning off the beaten path:
1. Do something you’re vaguely familiar with. After the stress of a wedding, your honeymoon isn’t the time to find out if you get seasick on a boat or if rock climbing is for you. Know yourselves, and your rhythm as a couple. Choose an adventure you have a pretty good idea you’ll love.
2. Be flexible. Even the most well-planned travel itineraries almost always change, and flexibility is key to keeping this special trip stress-free. It might rain, or the destination might be a bust, so keep an open mind and adventurous spirit, and avoid micromanaging your adventure. “Because we have so much information available to us, we have a tendency to overplan and remove any uncertainty or unknown from our experiences,” says Walker.
3. Mix relaxation with adventure. During our two-week honeymoon (and during every sailing trip we take), we made sure to include at least one “layover day,” where we could sleep late, explore our surroundings, and not worry about charting a course. Miles also suggests mixing some pampering in with the sweat. During our layover, we spent a night at a beautiful bed and breakfast in Canada, with a great view and a Jacuzzi. It fell in the middle of the trip, exactly when we needed a hot soak and a big bed.
4. Get off the grid. I accidentally left my never-silent BlackBerry in the airport on the way to our wedding, and considered it a sign. There are few times in modern life when you can truly unplug. Your honeymoon is one of them. While the occasional check-ins are good to let your family know you’re not trapped on a mountain, Facebook and email can wait. Stay in the moment with your beloved.
Adventure honeymoons aren’t just a boon for your relationship — they can also be a boon for your wallet on occasion. For Adam and Laurel Cellemme, planning their own climbing trip had several monetary advantages. By choosing inexpensive sports like rock climbing and camping, they were able to stretch their honeymoon budget into a six-week trip to Switzerland rather than putting it all toward pricey hotels.
“There’s a market for preplanned trips,” said Adam Cellemme, “but there is always the ability to go out and plan it yourself, and that really brings down the cost.”
Related: Holy Matrimony! The Top Honeymoon Destinations Pinned on Pinterest
The trip took them to spots even more beautiful than they imagined, and the challenges they encountered solidified their belief that whatever situation they climbed into, they could — quite literally — climb out of together. When dense fog rolled in during one significant descent, good judgment and teamwork got them to the bottom.
“You really have to rely on yourselves,” said Cellemme.
Off-the-beaten-path trips may also lead to more epic, life-changing moments, a statement Cody Ensanian and Jackie Lovecchio can get behind. They had a church wedding in Pennsylvania with a country club reception for 150 of their friends and family. But they wanted a nontraditional honeymoon.
“We didn’t want the typical beach vacation or Caribbean cruise,” said Ensanian, whose home in Savannah was already close to the beach.
An avid outdoorsman, he and his wife-to-be agreed on a trip that would allow them to take an adventure-centered vacation without being “in the middle of nowhere.”
Cody and Jackie in their future backyard. (Photo: Cody Ensanian)
Colorado Springs proved the perfect honeymoon spot. They spent a week rock climbing, hiking, and fly-fishing, and fell in love with Colorado. Within months of their honeymoon, they made Colorado Springs their new home.
“It was an awesome adventure,” said Ensanian. “And it moved us out here for the next chapter of our lives.”
Related: How I Turned a Romantic Honeymoon Cruise Into a “Familymoon”
For Ben and me, affixing the Canada sticker to the mast of our boat was an incredible rush. As were the aforementioned whales, which breached off our bow as we approached Grand Manan, the lone boat on the open water, with the world around us silent but for the waves lapping against our boat as the wind pushed us toward Canada. We alternated our nightly stops between small ports with amenities and deserted islands with just the occasional boat or two for company.
They put a sticker on it. (Photo: Erin Duggan Kramer)
There were a few traditional touches. Our friends and family surprised us by decorating the boat with streamers, balloons, and “Just Married” signs before we left. We had wedding cake for dessert during the first week, and plenty of good wine and food.
Hey, you only get married and sail off into the sunset once! (Photo: Erin Duggan Kramer)
But in a departure for us, we stored our cellphones, breaking them out only for the occasional message to let our families know we were safe. We also lived by our natural clocks: up early with the sun and to bed early, too, snuggled in our boat’s V-berth. In the morning we would cook breakfast, chart our course, and sail. At sunset, we would toast the day’s adventure, sometimes with new friends on land, but often just the two of us. In two proud moments for us, we made it to Canada in record time (three days as opposed to the six we had planned for) and used fewer than 40 gallons of fuel during the two-week trip. How’s that for cheap travel?!
By the end of two weeks, when we returned to our home port of Bayside, Maine, I was sad to leave the ship, and the time alone with Ben. The fact that I was ready to climb back aboard and stay with him for a month, a year, a lifetime on the boat was exactly the feeling you hope for at the start of your life together.
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