A Lesson We Learned From Our Honeymoon

Last Saturday (11/2) Mary and I celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary. Recently we were telling someone about our crazy honeymoon and I thought my blog friends might find interesting too.

I suppose to varying degrees all marriages have a mix of the good and the bad; memories you cherish and other times you wish you could forget. Our honeymoon was some of both also.

We bought our first home three months before our wedding and I moved in and began fixing it up. Buying a home and fixing it up turned out to be more expensive than we anticipated so our honeymoon plans had to be drastically scaled back.

I found a good deal for a week at a resort in a popular destination south of the border (for reasons that will become clear, I won’t name the location). The first four days of the trip were great; beautiful weather, great food and fun activities like snorkeling, parasailing and other fun things honeymooning couples do, but then came day five…

After a nice breakfast by the pool, we wandered into the hotel lobby and began browsing through the rack of activity brochures. Most of the local activities were either too expensive for our limited budget or uninteresting to us. But then we saw a brochure that interested both of us; a four hour guided horseback riding trip up a mountain trail along a beautiful flowing creek. The trip even included lunch at a picturesque mountain-top restaurant before turning around for the trip back down the mountain.

We handed the brochure to the concierge and asked him to book us. He made a call and informed us that activity was already sold-out for that day, but he knew of another guide that could take us up the mountain to the same restaurant shown in the brochure. Without asking questions, we told him to call and book us.

We became a little concerned when we arrived at the “stables” and saw that the location was a long way from the scenic mountain trail located behind the large stable featured in the brochure. We became more concerned when our “tour guide” turned out to be a skinny teenager that didn’t speak English. And we became even more concerned when we realized that we were the only people going on the trip with our young guide.

Pushing aside the cautionary voices in our heads, we mounted our docile horses. Our guide’s horse wasn’t as cooperative as our horses were; it moved from side-to-side and bucked as he was trying to get on.

After finally getting on his horse, our guide led us along the shoulder of the busy street, away from the entrance to the mountain trail. After waiting for a lull in the traffic and galloping across the street, we started up a dirt road. It quickly became clear to us that this was not going to be anything like the romantic horseback ride shown in the glossy brochure. The dirt road didn’t lead to a trail, it was the trail; a switchback road weaving by shack after shack. We had never seen such poverty.

About halfway up the mountain, we passed a dead and very bloated cow with a mangy dog chewing on its head (Mary hates when I tell that gruesome part). Our guide pointed to the cow as if his hand was a gun and shouted, “BANDITOS” and began nervously looking around and then picked up the pace.

After finally arriving at the restaurant, we saw a large group of people briskly crossing a footbridge; the footbridge that was strung across the stream we never saw on our way up the mountain. They were all American tourists like us; the horseback riding group we originally wanted to go with. It turns out that it was a good thing we didn’t join them because they were robbed at gunpoint by bandits just minutes before arriving at the restaurant. The robbers took all their jewelry and money; one older man had to be led by the hand because the thieves even stole their glasses.

Through a translator, our tour guide told us that the authorities were sending a truck to pick up the terrified people, but he felt that we’d be safe riding our horses back the same way we came up. When he saw the panicked look on our face, he shouted “Banditos go” and then pointed up at the mountains. The translator told us that our guide thought the bandits were probably hiding out in the mountains so he believed we’d be safe riding back down.

Nervously, but quickly we mounted our horses for the steep descent down the dirty switchback road. The ride up took about two hours, but we were going to make it down a lot faster than that, or so we thought.

We were making good time down the steep and winding road, but about a third of the way down, our tour guide was thrown violently from his temperamental horse. We heard a loud “SNAP” as he hit the ground and screamed out. He was one tough kid because he immediately stood up and began calmly examining his broken arm. It was bad, the bone was sticking out of his forearm and he was bleeding profusely. I quickly got down off of my horse to see if I could help him.

He began motioning for me to grab his hand and yank his arm to reset the broken bone. I didn’t think this was a good idea because the bone was clearly shattered and wasn’t going to simply go back into place. But he insisted so I planted my feet and began pulling as hard as I could on the poor guy’s arm. He screamed louder than I’ve ever heard someone scream and for an instant I wondered if I had misunderstood what he had motioned for me to do. But he insisted we give it another try and this time he screamed even louder. If the banditos were taking a siesta in their mountain hideaway, I was sure our screaming tour guide had woken them up.

For all we knew this kid was in shock and wasn’t thinking straight so I decided to take charge of the situation. We had to get him down off of the mountain and to a doctor right away. I wrapped his arm with a cloth and helped him get on the back of Mary’s horse. I pulled his unpredictable horse behind me.

After a long slow trek down the mountain we finally arrived back at the busy street. We tried repeatedly to flag down a car to take him to a doctor, but there were no Good Samaritans on the road that day. He finally motioned for us to bring him back to the stable, which we did. I insisted on giving him some cash to help pay his medical expenses, but he refused to take my money.

We were hot, exhausted and extremely thirsty when we finally arrived back to our hotel room. Because the cost was so outrageous, we had agreed not to eat or drink anything from the mini fridge in our room, but we decided to make this one exception. I quickly grabbed a bottle of Sprite and we took several large gulps. When the bottle was almost gone, Mary stopped me as I went to take another drink – the bottle was full of tiny bugs, hundreds of them. Obviously the bottle washing machine was broken the day this bottle was filled.

We decided to put our crazy morning and afternoon behind us and make the most of that night. We made reservations at a casual restaurant that the concierge, the same concierge, had recommended.

After a shower and a short nap, we were surprisingly rested and refreshed when the cab picked us up to take us to the restaurant. The drive up to the oceanfront restaurant was beautiful with the tree-lined mountains on one side and the sun setting over the ocean on the other side. Finally something that qualified as romantic on our honeymoon, but it was short-lived…

honeymoon pic 2We forgot to bring Mary’s good camera on the trip, but even with the cheap camera we picked up at a drug store, you can see from the picture that the view from the restaurant was spectacular. The food was as good as the view, but taste and appearances can be deceptive…

By the time Mary and I arrived at our hotel room, we were violently ill; it was obviously a severe case of food poisoning. From then on out, the only contact we had with each other was brushing by one another as we exchanged places in the bathroom. It was horrible; we were like Protestants visiting a Catholic Church – we didn’t know whether to kneel or sit.

I was somewhat better the following morning, but Mary was getting worse. I booked us on the next flight home and took Mary straight to the hospital. After a 24 hours in the hospital on an IV and antibiotics, she was finally well enough to go home.

Our honeymoon turned out to be a kind of a metaphor for the years that followed; there have been good times, but also some difficult mountain climbs.

Life is so unpredictable; it’s like a switchback road, you never know what will greet you around the next turn. But, if Christ is our guide, He’ll give us the grace we need to deal with any and everything that awaits us.

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:35-37)


About Bill Sweeney

In 1996, Bill was diagnosed with ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) and the doctors told him he had 3-5 years to live. He is now completely paralyzed and unable to speak, but by God’s grace, he’s still alive and through his blog shares a message of hope in Christ - Unshakable Hope!

Posted on November 6, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 186 Comments.

  1. in sickness and in health….This is the most hair-raising honeymoon story I’ve ever read! Thanks for sharing it. Many points to ponder. The photo is lovely.

    • Thank you, Elouise. Yeah, I’m sure my wife didn’t know what she was signing up for when she agreed to that “In sickness and in health” part. But she claims she’d do it all over again 🙂

  2. This gave me a much needed laugh and a good shaking of my head in disbelief! WHAT a story! Congrats on the many years of marriage and I hope you have many more.

  3. WOW that is the craziest honeymoon stories I’ve read. Congratulations on staying together for so many years though, great writing.

  4. You are a God-gifted writer. My fiancee and I are getting married this week. We don’t have a lot of vacation time or money, so we’re going to stay a couple nights in Branson near where we live. I hope not to share a crazy experience like that one! God is so good, and you’re right to point out the ups and downs. I said a prayer for your tour guide. I hope his arm was fully healed. I went on a mission trip to Paraguay this past summer and someone was describing a local hospital the poor went to that was a horror. We are so blessed in the U.S.

    • Thank you very much. Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. I think you’ll be safe in Branson. We wish that we had just went somewhere in the U.S. for our honeymoon; there are so many nice resorts that would have been about the same cost as our exotic adventure. Oh well, live and learn:-)

  5. Gosh … sounds worse than our honey moon!
    We were systematically robbed by the staff at the hotel … but no food poisoning, bandits or crazy horse rides 🙂
    Thank you again for taking the time to read.
    God is Good!

    • I am amazed by all the crazy honeymoon stories I’ve heard since posting this. It’s funny, our only concern before leaving for our honeymoon was having items stolen from our hotel room. We left all valuable jewelry at home. Turns out that was the only thing that didn’t go wrong:-)

      • well that’s a blessing! 🙂
        WE had our last $200 stolen … which we were using to pay the final night of our stay with, and the hotel demanded payment after holding us for statements with the police … suffice to say we didn’t pay … we couldn’t … but the sad thing was we never received an apology for the theft or the lack of care … the good part is … for our 10th anniversary we went back to the same area and stayed in a beautiful hotel with our then 7 month old first baby … and next May we will go back for our 20th anniversary and stay in a beautiful hotel with our 10 year old daughter and 7 year old son … God is Good! LOL!

        • Wow. I would think the hotel would have gladly given you a free night to make up for their poor security and your inconvenience…
          I don’t know about taking kids on anniversary trips:-)

          • Agreed about children.
            First trip … No one to take her … And she was only seven months … I was still feeding …
            This one coming … We are doing something really special together so the children can be a part of the ceremony … They are very excited.
            We have two nights away each january on our own for us.

          • Okay. I was just looking out for your husband:-)

          • He would appreciate that … And arranges his parents to occasionally have the children overnight so we can go out and insists on our January time 🙂 …
            Time together like that … Very important!

  6. What an awesome and inspiring blog! Keep on writing…

  7. Wow Bill. I mean wow. Reading this reminded me of some made for T.V. movie that you’d think would never happen in real life! Praise God that you made it home in one piece, and what a metaphor for life indeed! I know I’m late on this, but blessings and prayers for your happiest year yet! Btw, I did Lol at the Protestants in a Catholic Church analogy. 😉 Brilliant story-telling. God bless!

  8. I loved this! I mean, I felt so awful for you guys…but the way this is written, I felt like I was along on the journey. As soon as you posted this I tried to reply on my phone, but I couldn’t for some reason. Sorry for the late reply.

    Thanks again for sharing.


    • Thank you, Dabney. I am glad that we can laugh about it now – it was definitely not a laughing matter then:-) Mary and I are looking forward to reading your next book so get to work!

  9. wow! i’m so glad you can laugh about it now, how utterly terrifying & awful! ..and I thought my honeymoon was bad haha

  10. I love how you end this story, and you are so right about marriage being a difficult mountain climb.
    Blessings, congrats, and may you have many more wonderful years together.

  11. Thanks so much for this story and the wise words weaved throughout. Ups and downs definitely exist in marriage and I need this encouragement, especially in this season of our lives.

  12. Just discovered your blog… thank you. This story was inspirational, and for me, very relatable. My life philosophy also focuses on “unshakeable hope” (great description!) as I have found that the one things no one can take away from me is my Hope. I can’t change my deteriorating physical body but I can change how I react to it. Just as you are… your bravery and tenacity have deeply touched me.
    With grace, light & HOPE, Tamara

  13. “like Protestants visiting a Catholic Church – we didn’t know whether to kneel or sit.” This brought back memories of my first visit to a Catholic church. I laughed out loud at this. What a honeymoon! At least you can say it was memorable.

  14. Fantastic metaphor “protestant in a catholic church”! I knew exactly what you meant 🙂 Thanks for the laugh. It seems you and your wife put the whole “for better, for worse, in sickness and in health” into practice very quickly and passed the test! Well done you!

  15. God’s hands protected you all! If that wasn’t the Lord’s doing, then I don’t know what it was. Cynics can say all sorts of things but God is good all the time and very protective of His children. Happy Anniversary and may our Heavenly Father bless you with more years together. A romantic honeymoon would also be nice, lol

  16. We’ll be having our twentieth on Dec. 4. Happy Anniversary!

  17. Love the story, grateful for your willingness to share the whole of being human.
    I suspect most of our honeymoons had a mix that pretty well represent our lives.
    would be interesting to know.

  18. Thank you so much for posting this!

  19. Awesome post!
    Some you gladly remember, others you don’t even want to think about. But sometime looking back on past horrible experiences can do a good thing in us. We gain Perspective, learn important life lessons and interestingly, laugh at some of those experiences.

  20. Congratulations to a beautiful couple. May the memories of the good times be beacons that shine more brightly as the years pass, and may the bad times dim and fade. Enjoy the present, of now, and remember the best is yet to come!

  21. Samantha Johnson

    I have heard parts of your honeymoon story before but WOW! Such troopers! Love reading your blog Bill!

  22. I used to lament that my honeymoon was a disaster. We went to the Skyline Drive and found the hotel closed. But after reading about your honeymoon, I’m grateful for the lack of adventure in mine.

  23. Where did the 28 years go? Ours now 27! Bill you are wonderful. I enjoy your blog very much! Thank you for your words, your spirit, your friendship, your insight; I thank My Father God for you! Blessings to you, Mary and the family. Love you all much. Thank you for prayers and support as well. Believing. All is well.

  24. The title of your blog just about sums your honeymoon. Glad you were both alright after the food poisoning but this is definitely a story that will last – like your love through time.

  25. Wow! You and Mary deserve an award for running the marriage race so well despite such an ‘eventful start’. Happy anniversary, Bill, to you both. By the way – you are a wonderful story teller. 🙂

    Blessings ~ Wendy

  26. Reblogged this on A Guitar with no Strings and commented:
    An amazing parallel to life and love….Thank you for sharing!

  27. Quite the story indeed, I just had to read it through. It is exciting, funny, sad, scary.. Loved this part: “It was horrible; we were like Protestants visiting a Catholic Church – we didn’t know whether to kneel or sit.” I am not religious but I wish you and your wife all the best. Looking forward to reading more from you!

  28. Wonderful story, great application 🙂

  29. First of all let me say, I like the title for your blog…unshakeable hope. After reading this story of your honeymoon I was wishing I had the money to send you and your lovely wife on another honeymoon. Hard to believe so much to happen to one couple and they are still married. Great read and encouragement to pray for unshakeable hope.

  30. Read the post just before this one, too. You two have been through so much together. In the future:

    food poisoning remedy – 1 T of quality vinegar (not white. Apple or Rice.) every hr.
    Will clean you out and turn you around.

  31. While your honeymoon..or at least part of it was indeed a disaster… it definitely is a memory and a story to retell for many years… Life is indeed unpredictable .. we too have had many challenges and blessings in the 50 years we have just celebrated…. God has been with us each step of the way…. Diane

  32. So good to hear this, Bill! Dipping into memories is like opening a treasure chest of lessons, isn’t it? I enjoyed reading this.

  33. Oh how my stomach ached when I read of the ‘revenge’ illness. I agree that life is a ‘switch back road’ and we never know what awaits around the next curve. God bless.

  34. And I thought hail during the ceremony and toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches for dinner in a hotel we didn’t book (they had double booked the nice one) was bad enough :-). What an amazing story … happy 28th wedding anniversary … you were married the same year as us … so beautiful that you can share the love that held you together through those trials of yesterday … after all the ups and downs of life!

  35. Thanks for sharing. This is a great post! Its fun to look back and appreciate the beauty that lies in our past. Praise God for His grace, all things work together for our own good. Happy Anniversary to you and you beautiful wife! May God bless more your marriage…:)

    • Thank you so much, Sophya. You’re right, for those of us that are “in Christ,” all things do work out for the good (eventually:-)
      BTW: My wife was looking over my shoulder the other day when I was on your blog and she said, “That girl is beautiful.” She’s right – inside and outside!

  36. Wow! For a minute there I felt like I was reading a book. What an adventure. Thanks for sharing and for the encouraging words.

  37. Wow – that was a memorable honeymoon! Thanks for sharing your story. What a crazy experience!

  38. That is one crazy story! It is funny from our perspective but I’m sure it was pretty intense while it happened. haha. Happy anniversary and may this day be better than your honeymoon 😉

  39. Happy Anniversary, Bill and Mary! What an “adventure” you two experienced! It reads like fiction, with so many problems, one right after the other. But I know you wouldn’t make up details just to improve the story. You’re right: your honeymoon did turn out to be a great metaphor for life. Praise God, he is our Guide!

  40. This story still makes me laugh, I have told it to so many people over the years. You are a very gifted writer Bill. Happy Anniversary to the best people I know.

    • Thank you, Ellen. It wasn’t funny at the time, but viewing the comedy of errors in the rear-view mirror is funny now. I hope those terrified tourists and our tour guide are now able to laugh:-)

  41. Happy anniversary to both of you. Great post! Sometimes reality does not seem to measure up to our dreams. Thank God He is faithful in supplying many good times as well. To know he is present no matter the situation is indeed a stabilizing force.

  42. You are a gifted story teller, my friend, and had me laughing out loud. What a trip! The beginning of an adventurous life for you and your bride. God bless you both and Happy Anniversary!

  43. What a story Bill, wow, a real adventure! So glad that you and your wife were kept safe from the bandits but so sorry about the food poisoning, that must have been awful. I did love the photo of you both, ahh, the wonderful honeymoon memories despite the calamaties! Thanks so much for sharing this.
    BTW, love what you wrote about the Protestants and the Catholics in church, very funny 🙂

    • Thank you, Sherri. I am glad we weren’t robbed, but we felt terrible for the people that were robbed. We also felt bad for our poor guide that broke his arm. It was just a bad day all around:-)

      • Yes, that sounded so painful for your guide, poor guy. I was clenching my teeth just reading how you were trying to pull on his arm!! Also really scary for those poor people who were robbed. Quite a story for all concerned and one heck of a day!

  44. Happy 28th Anniversary to both you and Mary!

    A wonderful story of adventure enjoyed and endured in the peaks and valleys, just like life.

    Together, the Lord has allowed your joys to be doubled and your burdens halved as He has held the both of you ever so close to His heart.

    God bless you!

  45. Wow–what a story for the generations to follow, eh? I have to admit, I did laugh out loud. In a sort of horrified way. 🙂 Congratulations on 28 years married!!

  46. Bill, congratulations on first making it through the honeymoon and second for the years that have followed! Little did you know how those first steps together were preparing you for the future. Your bank of love was being filled early on. I love it! That was some story! Thanks for sharing it. Take care! – Amy 😀

  47. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  48. Happy Anniversary! Thank you for sharing your honeymoon story, I laughed so hard I cried.

  49. Loved the story, Bill. Remind me of our honeymoon in Mexico, when we had to throw shoes at the lizards that were climbing up the walls at night and we experienced big time food poisoning on our plane ride home! We also got so sunburned, we couldn’t sleep in the same bed together and to top it off, one afternoon as we took a romantic stroll along the beach, I fell into a huge sewage hole!
    What memories!

    Thanks for the great post! It’s so good to laugh!

    • Sorry that I laughed at your equally disastrous honeymoon story, Diane, but that’s funny! Especially the part about being so sunburned that you couldn’t “honeymoon.”:-)
      Thanks for the laugh!

  50. Happy Anniversary! Thanks for sharing your adventurous honeymoon with us! Definitely unforgettable! I kept going back and forth from feeling bad for the two of you to laughing at the comedy of errors. Guess we all need to have a few misadventures that we can laugh at in our older years! 🙂

  51. Wow!! What an experience! I’m glad you weren’t mugged by any banditos.

  52. What an incredible story … Thanks for sharing it! I wasn’t sure if I was suppose to laugh or cry … well, I did a little of both 🙂

  53. Thank you!!! I needed that and WHAT a story!!!! Nothing can take you from Christ but you and even then He’s waiting patiently for you. 🙂

  54. I did laugh out loud. Thanks for sharing. Glad you recovered. And yes, it is quite a metaphor.

  55. Wow Bill, that was a honeymoon one could not forget. I am glad you had the wisdom to get Mary out of there. My daughter was in Asia and got sick like that. It continued for days until she could get to a good hospital. By then she was severely dehydrated and totally out of sorts.
    I like the way you tied it together with life. It is very true, there is no shortage of ups and downs. Happy Anniversary to you and Mary. May God richly bless you in the coming year.

    • Thank you, Leslie. Your poor daughter; food poisoning is horrible! Mary did not want to get medical treatment in that country. Fortunately, unlike your daughter, we did not have a long flight home. We are so thankful for America’s health-care system!
      I hope you’re doing well.

  56. Wow, that was some honeymoon. Yet, you both found a way to find the good in it.

    I hope you and your wife have many more happy years together!


  57. Oh my!! Bill, that was one amazing story! You had me riveted! What a great analogy, too. Happy anniversary to you both! (we celebrated 28 this year as well 😉 )

  58. Thanks for sharing your story!!

  59. Sounds like one if those experiences you never want to repeat. Congrats to you both on your anniversary. We had one if those ‘episodes to remember’ on a European vacation years ago. Perhaps I will write about it!

  60. Bill, you must publish a book about your life experiences. It would be a best seller! You are such a good writer and your life experiences would touch many people. We love you and Mary! Happy #28!!!

  61. You tell this story as good as you did 20-some years ago! Where have all the years gone? … and gone by so fast. May God abundantly bless and surround you, Mary and the girls way past year 29 (and counting).

  62. Of course, I’ve heard the story many times, but never the full details…I’ve never heard the expression “we were like Protestants visiting a Catholic Church – we didn’t know whether to kneel or sit”, but it made me LOL! Love the recounting of the story, and 28 years hence, I’m sure it still evokes powerful memories for you both, but the analogy to the ‘switchbacks’ of live and marriage is spot-on. Well written bro.

    • Thanks Ed. I’ve never heard that expression either – it just came to me when I was trying to describe a the scene without going into detail. Everyone that’s experienced food poisoning knew what I meant:-)

  63. That was just crazy! I’m glad you didn’t get home and decide maybe this was a sign that God was trying to send and run from each other.lol If you could go through all that on your “honeymoon” you guys could do anything!! Blessings friend and Happy Anniversary!!

  64. WOWWWW … this is one hetic honeymoon!! But your rigth, we need to let the lord lead the way, we may not like where He’s taking us but in the end, its for our good:) thank you for sharing 🙂

  65. What a great story! Makes everybody else’s honeymoon boring! 😀

  66. I can relate: I always get the horse that bucks. But overall, marriages are much better than trail rides 🙂 God bless you both!

  67. Happy 28th Anniversary to you both! I love how you showed your honeymoon’s ups and downs. What a blessing that you are both still here to laugh and to cry together forever…your lives together have been memorable and blessed as you are still here together. How amazing is that! I love that you don’t ever give up! ♥

  68. What an incredible story!! I can’t believe some of the things you endured on your trip. I truly admire your outlook on it all and your choice to see what God was teaching you through the joys and pains of your honeymoon. Happy 28th Anniversary! On November 3rd, my husband and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary. We experienced a bad storm throughout our honeymoon in Jamaica. It was so bad that the restaurant right outside our room was destroyed. Thank you for reminding me that Christ is our guide and He’ll give us the grace we need to deal with any and everything that awaits us!

  69. This is very interesting and depicts life with its ups and downs. But God is well able to leads us. Happy anniversary!!

  70. I like the lesson learned and the scriptures too!

  71. Wow, what a story! Happy Anniversary!

  72. That is so funny to re-think about mom telling me the story in only how she could. A great lesson to thank god for life each and every day and how overcoming adversity is a daily lesson as well. XO

  73. Reblogged this on Catholic Glasses and commented:
    Laughed as I read how your honeymoon went. Happy Anniversary! May God bless you and your wife with many more years of His abiding Love/Graces.

  74. Happy 28th Anniversary! Through it all, you have made it! Thank you for sharing quite the memorable honeymoon. You both lived to tell about it!

  75. That is quite the story, thank you for sharing. You’re right too, life is full of ups and downs…got to take the good with the bad, make the most of the life you’re given….remember to cherish the good and appreciate it….and get through the rough times with your head held as high as you can and to cherish those who are there when it is rough, not just wonderful. 🙂 Happy Anniversary by the way! 🙂

  76. Thank you so much for your post, Amy!

  77. Thank you for the re-blog, Tristan!

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