This is a post about our Honeymoon (part 1)

Posted on 12.05.2017


I’ve been meaning to write about it. I WANT to write about it. I just don’t know where to start, or how to talk about it. There is literally too much to write about.

At first I thought I might write 14 posts for 14 days. But some days weren’t that amazing, and I don’t think I need to share everything. I also thought about writing an actual travel post, highlighting all of the places we visited and stayed at. I think I’ll mention SOME of the places, but not all of them.

I have so many photos from the honeymoon. But I don’t want to share all 200+ of the good ones we’ll be printing here. If you’d like to see all of the shots, you can find them on my Flickr page. They’re clearly labeled.

I think it’s best if I share how WE like to travel, the highlights, and the best photos. It’s still going to be long. I might have to break it up. But we’ll try to get through it together.

I’ll start at the beginning.

At first, we were supposed to get married in November 2016, on Naoshima island. I actually had all of it planned by about March, 2016. In January 2016, we found out that we had to go to the UK AGAIN that October. We couldn’t say ‘no’ to that, so we booked our tickets. From there, there was no way we could take off two months in a row. Not that we can’t, but not for that amount of time. We can actually do whatever we want with our schedules (to a certain degree), but this was a monetary concern: traveling to the UK twice in a year wasn’t cheap, and the wedding wasn’t going to be, either.

And I should be clear: there wasn’t going to be an actual wedding by American standards. It was going to be just Mark and I, in a beautiful location, with an officiant and a photographer. That was it. As we would already be legally married beforehand at our local Ward Office (this is the way it works in Japan), we could basically do whatever, wherever, and call it a wedding.

I really wanted to go to Naoshima. When we realized we weren’t going to be able to do it, I made Mark promise me that we would go there before we left Japan for good. It’s that important to me to see this place.

So he floated the idea that we could just do the entire wedding in New Zealand one cold day while we were walking through a park that was yet to bloom. I was furious, because at that point, I still had my heart set on Naoshima. But as we’d already discussed having our honeymoon in New Zealand and making it a BIG THING, then it made sense (at the time) to tie that onto it. Just do a wedding (not-wedding) somewhere and then go off on our great adventure.

But as we planned the trip, it became clear that we were going to be doing a LOT of traveling. Did we really want to take a day or two somewhere to do this thing, take more photos, and have to carry all of the wedding stuff like the dress, suit and flower bouquet around with us?

In short, we are lazy. To add to this, it would have required an extra suitcase. On top of all of that, we got AMAZING photos done in the UK when we went to visit, so it all felt a bit unnecessary after that.

In the end, we gave up on the idea of having a ceremony altogether and went ahead and did things our way: just a courthouse (as I’ve always said I was going to do), nice photos with family, more photos with other family TBA. Done, dusted, that was easy enough.

With that decision, we were free to just pack for a honeymoon and not have to really plan much of anything.

Although, we did actually plan. But it took a while, more than a few weeks, and multiple passes.

Mark went to some sites and researched cool things to do in different parts of the South Island. I went to some websites and found the most scenic places and drives.

We went into the planning knowing that a lot of the trip would be the actual journey, rather than specific destinations. Sure, there were things to see and excursions to take, but a lot of the ones we found were focused on helicopter rides or bungee jumping, that kind of thing. We just wanted hikes, the be out in ze Natur, as the Germans say, and of course, amazing photos of amazing places.

We chose the airport, we reserved the camper van, and we planned. Kind of. Something we learned from Australia in 2015 was that we really didn’t have to plan as much as we thought we did. I was pretty antsy about spending so much time away and being in a different place (thanks, meds), so I reserved all of our campsites before we even knew what we wanted to do. This set us on a bit of a schedule and meant we couldn’t stay longer in some places when we wanted to.

So with New Zealand, we already knew that it would be somewhat similar, albeit slightly more crowded, due to it being in the middle of their summer holidays. Mark was in charge of campsites, and he got the Department of Conservation (DOC) campsites list for us to reference. We didn’t know how much we’d drive each day, and this publication (along with a map we got at the rental company) gave us all of the sites we’d need. Sure, some places didn’t have so many and we’d need to go private. But we had the Lonely Planet New Zealand guide to help us with that. So we weren’t to stressed.

This actually turned out to be a great idea. The only sites we reserved in advance were the first night (near Akaroa) and then one night at a very popular site up north. The rest we got to check out beforehand.

Milford Sound (is not actually a Sound, it’s a Fjord).

As it turned out, we drove A LOT farther each day than we initially expected to, since the South Island is gigantic and only has about 1.5 million people on it. This meant that we drove through a lot of open, uninhabited spaces. It also meant that the towns and places of interest on the map had about 500 residents in them, each, and not many things to do. That’s not a bad thing! There were things we definitely wanted to see, like Milford Sound and Kaikoura. We saw them, we bought souvenirs, we drove to the next place.

On some days we clocked almost 500km, going from A to B. We stopped along the way and hung out, took photos, hiked, ate vegan sausages. But if there wasn’t much to do, we didn’t have to linger. And this was fine.

I think overall, while Australia was most shocking to us (all of that open space and amazing scenery), we did better in New Zealand and saw more. We were able to, as we weren’t tied to reservations. And this meant we could actually stop into a campsite and check it out first, then decide if we wanted to stay there or not.

This actually happened a lot because of the Sandflies, which didn’t really get much mention at all in the guidebook. Not nearly enough. No warning! Seriously, I should buy stock in Insect repellent sold in New Zealand. It was that bad. Our waiter brought us insect repellent with our drinks at an early site, and we literally left two sites later on (consecutively) because the flies were so bad. To quote the linked article: It’s only the females that bite and there are three main species that bite humans. One of the species is throughout New Zealand, the other two species are only in the South Island, the ones that really bite.

So, yeah. We drove around, found great places to camp, and went out walking around. We went everywhere and did all the things. And we ate as many vegan sausages and blocks of cheese as we could. And it was good. And everyone should visit New Zealand, and actually take the time to see it. I still feel like 2 weeks wasn’t long enough.

Here’s a gallery of some of our favorite places and things: