How long was your honeymoon? A week? Ten days? A month, if you were lucky and your job had killer vacation benefits? Well, journalist Jo Piazza and her husband Nick one-upped most newlyweds and took a year off for their honeymoon. Yes, you read that correctly. A whole. Year. They traveled the globe not just to see with world had to offer, but with the intention of figuring out exactly what it means to be married.
"Nick and I could spend the first year of our marriage binge-watching Netflix, or we could take a journey into the unknown, getting into and out of uncomfortable situations together while we figured out how to be married," says Piazza, who was a travel editor at Yahoo! when she started this adventure.
Eschewing the notion that a honeymoon has to be one big, fancy vacation, the couple instead decided to take many (less costly) adventures. "We aren't celebrities or rich people, we just wanted to travel together as much as possible during our first year of marriage. We took on average two good trips a month, but we had to be thrifty in how we did it," she said. "We Airbnb-ed our house while we were gone and even rented out our car on Getaround when we weren't using it."
Over the course of their year-long honeymoon, Piazza and her husband Nick went to Mexico, France, Chile, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Tanzania, Kenya, and across America. And their adventures ran the gamut - they climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, skied in the Andes, slept in a tree in the bush of northern Kenya, and more. In turn, they learned a hell of a lot aboutwhat constitutes a good marriage.
"We learned about teamwork during a wife-carrying race in Sunday River, Maine. We learned the importance of gratitude in India," she says. "I figured out that self-care if crucial to being a good partner in Israel. We figured out the importance of having a strong community from the polygamist tribes in Kenya and the importance of equality from stay-at-home dads in Sweden. The Danes taught me how to create a cozy and happy home by schooling me in hygge and the French women taught me how crucial it is to have sexy lingerie and to behave like your husband's mistress."
Not that everything was perfect. "Some of our trips were downright awful," Piazza says. "We went to Tulum in Mexico right after our wedding and it was the most off part of the off season. I got food poisoning, a colony of sand fleas took up residence in my foot. The sewers in the town hadn't been emptied in a week and it literally smelled like shit, and a feral stinky seaweed had taken over the usually gorgeous blue ocean. But that trip, more than any other showed me how much my new husband really wanted to take care of me."
She took her and her husband's misadventures - and the things she learned from interviewing couples across the country about marriage - and wrote a book about it, called How to Be Married: What I Learned from Real Women On 5 Continents About Surviving My First (Really Hard) Year of Marriage.
"I wanted to show the things that aren't as pretty in addition to the really pretty things we all post on social media," Piazza says. "Traveling together is wonderful and hard. Growing pains grow faster on the road and hard conversations can't be avoided, your buttons get pushed, you're out of your comfort zone. Sometimes we hated each other on the road. But we liked each other better at the end of it, which is what I think you hope for in a marriage."
But one thing she's sure of? "Traveling together is the one secret to a happy marriage that I have discovered," she says. "I don't know of any other one thing that brings equal levels of joy, passion and intensity while forcing you to grow as a couple."
How to Be Married is available on April 18.
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