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November 18, 2009

The Honeymoon from Hell

girl and man kissing with flowers

Photo Credit: Henrik Weis/Getty Images

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At my new hostel in B.A., I quickly met a cute South African playwright, and we partnered up to see the city. But he was nervous about taking the right train, unsure of our surroundings, and prone to getting lost on the slanted city streets, so I ditched him, relieved to realize that I wanted to be alone, not just apart from David. I settled into the rhythm of the city, moving into a hostel in Palermo Hollywood, finding a yoga class, and going out with friends of friends. Just as my weeks in B.A. started to feel less like travel and more like unemployment, David arrived.

We jumped all over each other when his taxi pulled up, and spent the night catching up in a little bar off the cobblestoned streets of San Telmo. But a day later, we were at odds again. We had been grossly overcharged to eat bad pizza, drink watery beer, and watch a junior soccer game. I thought the day was awful; he thought I was awful for complaining. Sitting in a dark pub that night, we had nothing to say even though we had weeks' worth of stories stored up. I cautiously broached whether we'd made a mistake in getting married. We'd been drawn so strongly to each other for the three years before we got married, but since the start of the trip, we hadn't been our best selves together. I was barely hiding my tears from the bartender. "It'll work itself out," I said.

"It won't work itself out," David replied flatly.

With a week left until our return flight, we decided to get one last country under our belts. We headed up the coast to Uruguay and settled in a sleepy fishing village, checking into a perfect little cabana a few steps from the beach. We walked miles of undeveloped beach, past fishing shacks decorated with old buoys, cooked meals with seafood straight off the boats, and didn't encounter another English speaker for the entire week. After months of crossing borders on packed buses, sleeping in crowded dorm rooms, and trying to figure out where we fit in among our inevitably single fellow backpackers, we were truly alone for the first time. And for the first time, we felt like a married couple.

When we returned home to Chicago with all of those memories from our months abroad, my favorite one was this: the day on the beach when we learned that if you can weather a rough patch, you will come out closer than ever. Since then, we've set a perfect daily routine for ourselves: I have a 9-to-5 publishing job and writing projects that let me sit quietly and get absorbed in a subject; David has a classroom full of students grateful for his energy and vocabulary. Two years into our marriage, I'm looking forward to a lifetime of living with him. And traveling with my sister.

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