There’s nothing quite like travel to build a budding romance. When planning a honeymoon, couples dream of tropical beaches, luxury suites, and relaxing spa services. But, despite the glossy ads and sexy destinations, things sometimes don’t go as planned. Iconic romantic travel experiences don’t always match reality. With that said, if you survive these travel challenges, your relationship will grow stronger than ever.
A relaxing couples massage
Ah, what could be more romantic and relaxing than a nice couples massage? (Photo: Getty Images)
The romantic ideal: During an intimate retreat of luxurious pampering, you and your partner lie hand in hand next to each other on soft towels as oils are rubbed into your backs and you relax all of your tensed muscles. Soothing music and delicious aromas surround you as you gather yourselves in fluffy white terry cloth robes for the short walk back to your resort cottage.
The romantic fail: You’re both naked, covered only slightly by towels, and two heavy-breathing strangers with Popeye-like forearms are kneading you and your partner, who are laid out on slabs like two gutted fish on a countertop. The stinking scent of patchouli clogs your nostrils and the droning New Age music makes you want to euthanize yourself. The other masseuse may have just whispered an offer to your spouse for a “happy ending.”
Skinny-dipping at a nude beach
Nothing could be more freeing and sexy than being naked in the warm sun and cool sea just like mother nature intended! (Photo: DV8OR/Stocksy)
The romantic ideal: Shedding your clothes and your inhibitions, you run hand in hand across gleaming white sand into azure waters, floating in each other’s embrace, caressing bare skin warmed by the rays of the sun and the tropical currents.
The romantic fail: Imagine an urban bus terminal during rush hour, but everybody around you is nude. A family of six, including grandparents, is sitting naked on a bench at the snack bar chewing on hot dogs. You try to stay in the middle of your towel, but sand is still getting in everything. You suddenly wish you had been born Amish and stayed on the farm. You run to the sea over hot, jagged rocks, hiding yourselves in the cold water that makes goose bumps rise and everything else shrink. As you uncomfortably bob in the ocean gazing at the horizon to avoid the freak show on shore, some dude comes along and steals your wallet and purse — along with all of your clothes.
Sailing together on the open water
Just the two of you and miles of open water all around – what could possibly go wrong? (Photo: Laura Doss/Corbis)
The romantic ideal: Blue skies, emerald seas, white sails, and wind quietly whisking your boat into the sunset as you sip cocktails on the deck and slip below for romance.
The romantic fail: Crammed into tight quarters like tuna in the hold of a storm-battered freighter, there’s no escape from the tropical heat, the nausea, or each other. You run to the head, but the sweat causes you to hydroplane off the toilet seat, and you vainly try to hand-pump the flush valve on your knees before the basin overflows. As the high seas rock the boat, you rush on deck to vomit into the wind, the return spray yet another thing you and your partner are forced to share on this voyage of the damned.
The ski trip
How could any trip that includes matching ski sweaters possibly be anything less than swoonworthy? (Photo: Tim Pannell/Corbis)
The romantic ideal: Schussing through soft, powdery snow under blue skies, your love reflects off each other like sun in mirrored goggles. You gaze at your partner’s beautiful form as you carve interlocking curves in the fresh snow. After some mulled wine in front of the fire at the lodge, you warm up further in the outdoor hot tub under lightly falling flakes that melt as they hit the bubbling water. You wrap each other in soft furs as you tiptoe through the snow back to your snug chalet.
The romantic fail: After paying twice the price for a room half the size you’ve been promised, you schlep rented gear through dirt-blackened slush in a motel parking lot to the mountain, where you spend 100 bucks to wait 30 minutes in line to get on a ski lift. As you ascend, the temperature drops and the wind increases. You try to talk, but your mouth and jaw feel numbed like you’ve just had a root canal, and frozen snot cakes your nose. Your toes hurt so much from the cold that you think you may have impaled them with a ski pole. Your partner tears her ACL on your first ski run, and you spend the rest of the trip in your hotel room watching TV.
Camping and roasting s’mores over a romantic fire
The romantic ideal: Around the heat and crackling scent of a mesquite campfire, you cuddle with your honey and chat about the day’s walk through wildflower-filled alpine meadows as you sip hot cocoa and gaze up at the Milky Way. An owl softly hoots in the pristine forest behind you.
The romantic fail: Campfires have been banned because of forest fire risk in a drought-stricken landscape. You huddle under thin ponchos in the bitter cold as your butane burner vainly tries to heat some nasty instant coffee. You’ve lost so much blood during the day from biting flies and mosquitos that when the thorns scrape your flesh as you try to set up your tent, you don’t even bleed. Inside the tent, you zip together your sleeping bags for warmth, but as you toss and turn to escape the rocks you forgot to remove from under the groundsheet, you get “accidentally” kneed in the groin by your mate.
Going on an exotic safari
There’s nothing like cute furry animals to bring couples closer together, right? (Photo: 2/John Rowley/Ocean/Corbis)
The romantic ideal: With freshly pressed linens and a couple of gin and tonics, you and your partner gaze at the staggeringly beautiful scenery, cute, furry animals, and each other like a young Robert Redford and Meryl Streep in Out of Africa. The gentle breeze cools the evening air as you retire to your room in a cute colonial lodge to the faint sound of tribal drumming and cooing doves.
The romantic fail: Still suffering the aftereffects of a barrage of inoculations so extensive that Jenny McCarthy’s head explodes, you fly 35 hours on six flights to arrive in country still hallucinating from your antimalarial meds. Whisked through post-apocalyptic townships in a nation that may or may not still have a functioning government, you hole up in a “luxury” camp with mosquitos the size of elk inside your tent, while just outside the canvas flaps, a steaming patty dropped by a 2-ton hippo flavors the air. Dragged out of bed before sunrise for your game drive, the Land Rover bumps your body into realizing the ice in last night’s welcome cocktail probably wasn’t purified, and there’s not a bathroom in sight. From the Jeep, you watch as a pack of jackals eviscerates a baby zebra in front of its helpless mother and vultures swoop in to fight over its steaming, bloody intestines. Your wife doesn’t laugh when you say, “Yep, that’s the circle of life,” then you suddenly remember Hemingway’s The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber and you shudder.
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