“It looks like we bear right at the traffic circle coming up, then take a left onto – get this! – Franklin D. Rooseveltweg,” I beamed with a shy but growing confidence.
Despite the fact that I spent my childhood thinking I had to drive “up to LA” and “down to San Francisco,” and having only recently mastered the perfectly directional grid that is Manhattan after two-and-a-half years in the city, here I was in Curacao – paper map in hand and without a street sign in sight – directing my more (typically) directionally-proficient wife to the northernmost point of the island.
Absent the technology and signage to which most are accustomed, I was forced to trust my own intuition to get us to our destination, learning much about myself and us as a couple in the process.
Sarah and I picked Curacao as your honeymoon destination for myriad reasons: we wanted a bit of culture and history (Curacao’s capital of Willemstead is a UNESCO world heritage site and boasts the western world’s oldest surviving synagogue – the sand-floored Mikvé Israel-Emanuel.
We also desired a mix of adventure (ATV’s and stand-up-paddleboarding), beachside relaxing (over 30 local beaches to choose from), and unapologetic pampering (poolside cabanas after early morning massages), to contrast our bustling lives in NYC.
Additionally, and importantly for us two, we wanted to travel somewhere where we would be received as the honeymooning couple we were (who doesn’t want champagne and rose petals upon arrival?). Having begun dating while serving as Peace Corps Volunteers in Jordan, Sarah and I were intimately familiar with the idea that in many parts of the world, cultural sensitivity obliged that we mask our romantic relationship so as to show respect for local cultural values. With its national motto of “Live and Let Live,” however, Curacao quickly rose to the top of many “LGBT friendly” destination lists. Our choice was easy.
Sarah and I planned our honeymoon for almost six months after the wedding. As a school-based speech-language pathologist and a hospital clinic director, neither of us felt particularly comfortable taking off extra time surrounding our wedding week. That said, by the time my school’s February break rolled around, we were SO READY to trade in our snow boots and parkas for sandals and beachwear.
Our decision to use Traveler’s Joy was among the easiest we made in the months leading up to our wedding. We loved how easy it was to set up, and I really appreciated how integrated the content was. I enjoyed planning little details of the trip as I set up our page, and felt confident by the end that I understood the breadth of activities Curacao had to offer.
Moreover, using Traveler’s Joy afforded Sarah and I several experiences we would have skipped if traveling solely on our own dime.
A charter boat-ride to the uninhabited Klein Curacao, for example, boasting a solitary lighthouse and shipwrecks dotting its shore, is something we may not have prioritized if not for the generosity of our friends and family. However, atching my wife try (i.e., fail) to snorkel, swimming with giant sea turtles, and relaxing on the island’s white sand beach, however, ended up being a highlight of the trip.
Similarly, our $6000 budget helped us embrace Curacao’s international gastronomy scene, which is expanding outward from the Pietermaii district in Punda. From our home base at the Bij Blauw – an ocean side boutique hotel at the heart of Curacao’s trendiest neighborhood – we spoiled ourselves with (gluten free!) gourmet cuisine prepared by Michelin-trained chefs nightly as we spoke late into the night.
Throughout the week, we truly fell in love with Curacao. We enjoyed wandering the city together, meandering into local markets, sampling local cuisine (flash-fried fish, rice, beans and plantains served from open kitchen stalls in the city’s Old Market!), and appreciating the city’s bright architecture – fascinated by the juxtaposition of cheery renovations and pops of street art alongside decomposing edifices that never recovered from a hurricane that had hit the island several decades ago.
For how idyllic our morning walks were, each night, the entire island pulsed with the energy of upcoming Carnival, and on several occasions, especially during “Punda Vibes” when the entire downtown area bustles with art walks and street vendors, jubilant Caribbean music and cheers lured us out of restaurant courtyards and into bright, spontaneous parades making their way down narrow streets.
Sarah and I also loved simply (and decadently) relaxing in each other’s company. I know a honeymoon allows you to see new and exciting parts of the world, but it also allows you time to enjoy the quiet moments that don’t exist in “real life.” We made watching the sun-set a nightly ritual, tucking into beachside wine-bars or lounging on our balcony at the Santa Barbara Resort watching for the “green flash” as the sun dipped under the horizon (we each caught one, but on different nights!).
We also pampered ourselves and each other, guiltlessly enjoying couples’ massages and a romantic firelit beach picnic at the luxury Baoase Resort. Who knew that my saddle-shoed-and-suited wife secretly wanted to live out some “Bachelorette” dreams?
Touring the northern coast and western beach towns by car definitely ranked among our favorite days. As we navigated to each of six distinctly-unique turquoise-colored coves, I felt empowered navigating the city streets, detouring around road closures, and making impromptu stops at several of the Landhaus estates – old plantations that pay quiet homage to Curacao’s dark past.
Pulled further and further up the coast one decision at a time (“we’re already so close, what’s one more stop”), we ended our day at the breathtaking Shete Boca (Seven Mouths) at Curacao’s northernmost shore, watching powerful waves explode against underground caves and plateaus jutting out into the ocean.
On this day especially, outside of our navigational comfort zone and disconnected from everything and everyone but each other, I don’t think either of us had ever felt so completely in the moment and in it together.
Just like in life, there were no wrong turns, just different routes to explore and a few unexpected additions to our initial plan.