While Morocco had long been the primary destination for this anniversary adventure, Spain certainly held its own when it came to beautiful scenery and amazing adventures. And what began as an exotic engagement request led to a turning point in our relationship.
Angela and I consciously, overtly constructed our early relationship around travel. We recognized the wanderlust in each other and knew we wanted to see the world together. So we planned and saved, taking short domestic trips and biding our time until we could afford the exotic destinations.
And while Spain and Gibraltar were both beautiful and spectacular, it still felt like we hadn’t strayed far from the accustomed path. We wanted to get lost in a country and a culture that felt deliciously, uncomfortably foreign. We wanted to see what we were like in such a place, where the only familiar faces were our own.
To be just over 2.5 square miles (6.7 km²) in size, Gibraltar is an especially well-known piece of land. Towering over the Mediterranean at the southern tip of Europe, the Rock of Gibraltar helps, of course, but Gibraltar’s geographic location is its real claim to fame.
During World War II, the British Royal Navy used Gibraltar to control entrance and exit to the Mediterranean Sea. At only eight miles (13 km) wide, the Strait of Gibraltar was a naval “choke point,” and its one over which England and Spain argue ownership to this day.
As significant as all that is, it wasn’t really that big a deal to me. I wanted to climb to the top of the rock and see the apes. I like a checklist, you know.
And the Barbary apes like their snacks.
When Mike and I were engaged, I told him I wanted an exotic adventure to look forward to for our fifth wedding anniversary. I’d traveled quite a bit, but it was all what I considered to be “domestic” travel — lots of trips around the United States, Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean. Yes, there were other countries involved, but it’s all so easy for Americans to access. At the time, it didn’t even require a passport. The most exotic place I could imagine was Morocco. Kasbahs and camels. It was Africa, for heaven’s sake! He happily promised to take me there, and we spend the next half decade saving our money and dreaming of the desert. And I was terrified.