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  • Writer's pictureLindsay Allen

20 Years Later. What's better now?

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

Here we sit at Couples Swept Away, Negril. We are on the same pristine Jamaican beach we visited exactly 20 years ago as newlyweds and honeymooners. Two decades of marriage have passed, and we have taken some time this week to reflect on the differences between then and now. We have identified 20 things that are better now than they were in 2003 when we honeymooned here.

1. Sunscreen

Sunscreen face sticks and spray sunscreen have forever changed our beach experience, and we can’t go back. It’s amazing.

2. Picture taking

2003 might have been the pinnacle year for disposable cameras. On our first trip, we brought a few of those, and we even had an underwater disposable camera. We also brought a regular camera with film inside, a number on top letting us know how many pictures we had taken, and one of those thumb wheels used to advance the film. Remember those? If you do, then you remember sending the film off and waiting days before getting to enjoy the pictures--red eye included! In fact, we recently found one of the disposable cameras we brought on our honeymoon but never had developed. The stamp on top says develop by 9/2004. Oops. Picture taking in 2023 could not be more different than in was back in the olden days of 2003. On our trip this week, we took dozens of pictures, and they are much clearer (except the ones taken through a ziplock bag). We even recreated some moments from our 2003 pictures and took some new creative shots that would not have been possible with the cameras we had back then. Here are a few favorites from this week…

3. Laptops with long battery life

As we were typing away in our beach front, thatched roof office, a man approached us and said, “No work allowed on vacation.” You might feel the same way, but we both agreed to set aside some on this trip to work on writing projects that are enjoyable to us. I mean, what better place to write than with sand in your toes, a salty ocean breeze on your face, a tiki hut above your head, and the soothing sound of waves filling your ears? We took plenty of swim breaks.

We couldn’t have done this 20 years ago. We didn't even own laptops, but even if did, they would have lasted all of about 2 minutes unplugged. There are no power outlets on the palm trees. Twenty years later, we benefit from so many wonderful innovations in technology. Even the devices we sometimes view as a nuisance have allowed us to have the opportunity to write in such a beautiful setting.

4. Snorkeling

Night snorkeling. With flashlights. Sting rays, lobsters, puffer fish, eel, coral, endless fish, and... sea turtles! This adventure was the best snorkeling we can remember. It was incredible how much of the ocean life came alive at night compared to the daytime. We went out with a guided group, and at one point, our guide gently tapped a pufferfish with his flashlight, and we were all able to watch it puff up. Then he gently nudged it through the water for a moment like he was playing an underwater balloon relay game. It was amazing, and we highly recommend night snorkeling.

5. The Coffee

20 years ago, neither of us were coffee drinkers. I’m still not, but Derek loves a good cup of coffee (No cream. No sugar. Just coffee). He has really enjoyed the local coffee here. He has even found a place on the resort where it is available at 4:30 am for early morning studying. We can’t confidently say it is better than the coffee they might have made 20 years ago since we didn’t drink it, but chances are high. Either way, the coffee made this trip a little better for Derek.

6. The steel drum band

20 years ago, the only entertainment at the resort was a mediocre Jamaican band that played on the beach from time to time. Don’t get me wrong, we have referenced their whimsical songs over the years, and it has always given us a good laugh. This trip was different. There was a small marching band, acoustic beach performers, and dinner bands. To top them all, Wednesday night’s performance was a steel drum “orchestra” called “Silver Birds”. The music was fantastic, and their stage presence was just as entertaining. When they opened the show with a steel drum version of "Eye of the Tiger," they had our attention. The show continued as the group played bits and pieces of popular music including one very impressive Michael Jackson montage. If you can imagine moon walking drummers, then you're getting the picture. We need to give a disclaimer--the show took a strange twist at the end. Each member demonstrated their unique dancing and gymnastic style talents. If you look up the band, this is where we would encourage you to end the viewing. Some of the dances were definitely not tasteful. And then their was the drummer who turned his neck almost completely around his shoulders. As he looked at the crowd with his body still facing the back the back of the stage, we all cringed. It hurt us just to look at it. That was all in the second half of the show. We give the first half, as the Jamaicans say, "Much respect, mon."

7. Bus ride

The 2003 2-hour bus ride was in an old mini-bus with struggling (if any) AC filled with already drunk people ready to party. The bus did provide some entertainment for Derek and me when the passengers all tried to sing Bon Jovi's “Livin’ on a Prayer.” As you can imagine, they only knew the one part, "Woah, we're halfway there. Woah, we're livin' on a prayer." The rest of the time they just mumbled. This year, the ride was just as long, but the bus was new, well cooled, and quiet. We enjoyed the smooth ride along the coast, and I saw much more of the local life than I remembered seeing 20 years ago.

8. Cell Phone service and FaceTime

This one doesn’t need much explanation. We were grateful for the opportunity to check in on the kiddos with a quick call and share a little of the experience with them.

9. Resort property

The resort has expanded and greatly improved since we were here last. They have added a full spa, several more villas, lush landscaping, ambient lighting, and updated decor throughout. The beach is the hands down one of our favorite. It has that perfect combo of soft white sand and crystal clear Caribbean water. Also, as a side note of our maturity, we did not lock ourselves out of our room. This means Derek did not have to climb up any balconies this time.

10. The storm

Yesterday, we were able to sit on our balcony and watch and listen to the most amazing thunderstorm. The rain was steadily pouring, cascading down on all the tropical plants that were in the area behind our building. The thunder was sporadically commanding our attention with its echoing booms which had layers of loud crackles before each burst. We were safe and dry on the balcony, and we sat for about an hour just enjoying the power of God’s amazing creation.

11. No cliff diving

On our honeymoon, we took a boat ride to a unique spot where we were invited to swim into a cave. Our guide led us to a ladder carved inside the cave which led to a cliff above. Anyone brave enough to jump off the cliff was allowed to climb the hole in the cave, but we were warned that the only way back down was to make the 30 foot jump. Somehow, I thought I would be ok with it. When it was my turn, I was terrified. The Jamaican man at the top told me if I was scared, I should just close my eyes. So I did. Eyes closed, I jumped. Because my eyes were closed, I didn’t notice that I shifted my body angle as I fell. With the full force of 30 feet of gravitational pull, I sat on the water. The splat was heard throughout the Caribbean Islands. The crowd on our boat responded with a loud collective "ooooooooooooh." A Jamaican man, who we nicknamed Scuba Steve, had to rescue me. He swam over to me with fins, a mask, and a snorkel and helped me get back to the boat. My bottom was seriously bruised just in time for the plane ride home. They don’t let people cliff-jump anymore on that cruise, and to that I say, good move.

12. Christian influence on the island

We first noticed this on our bus ride from the airport. The CD our driver had on shuffle was reggae style songs and a few of them were about God. We also noticed a few “Jesus fish” and Christian window decals. We passed several churches and what appeared to be a semi-permanent tent revival. We were pleasantly surprised that our resort itinerary listed a shuttle to church on Sundays as an option for guests. One evening, we even caught one of the live beach entertainers playing the popular worship song, “Oceans.” It is a beautiful thing to see even small bits of evidence that the Gospel is impacting this piece of Earth.

13. Ministry

We have shared over two decades of life together, and by God’s grace, our reach in ministry is much broader than it could have ever been alone. We have been given so many amazing experiences to serve God and His people, and it has shaped us to be more effective image bearers of Him. Even on a getaway trip like this, we have been able to serve others in the name of Jesus along the way.

14. Gospel conversations

We had the opportunity to have several Gospel conversations with people on our trip. It is one of our favorite things to do together. I am the more outgoing one, so I often jump in and start the conversations. Derek is not necessarily one for starting conversations with strangers. He is the deeper thinker between the two of us, but he likes to jump into the conversation once its going and find a way to work in the gospel. We make a great team!

15. The C2 Life

A recent part of our life that has brought us so much joy is The Christ-Centered Life. This is a broad umbrella that includes a podcast, articles, books, marriage retreats, and any other opportunities that might come along. We are so grateful for all the people God has used to invest in us over the years, and we love having the opportunity to do the same others through The C2 Life. We use these platforms to share with others what has been entrusted to us. We hope that it will help others just as it has us. We carved out a little time on our trip to record a special anniversary episode of The C2 Life podcast.

16. Eating and exercise habits

As a 19-year old honeymooner, I ate mostly foods I was familiar with and took full advantage of my teenage metabolism. I ate endless fried and fatty foods and chugged as much sugary Coke or Sprite as I could. The only reason we visited the sports complex across the street was to get a massage. I am glad to say that as I approach 40 this year, I am much more disciplined with my eating, drinking, and exercising. I have tried some new foods on this trip including bok choy, breadfruit, and callaloo. Some I liked. Some I did not. We took a jog together on the running track, and my drink of choice has been sparkling water with lime. Yay for growth!

17. Having kids

Twenty years ago our new family was just the two of us. While it was very

sweet to have a good five years of marriage getting to know one another before

becoming parents, our life is absolutely more rich, more full, and more

meaningful because of our children. Our children are not on this trip--we are big advocates for the importance of couples taking time away from kids to invest in one another--but we think of them often and it brings us joy. When we hear the male musicians singing, we sometimes think of our son, Jackson, who loves to sing. When we taste all the desserts, we can’t help but compare them to the desserts our daughter, Meredith, creates (and for the record, we prefer her's). When we watch the resort staff struggle to light the bonfire and keep it burning, we think of our son, Sawyer. He could have easily jumped in and created a roaring fire for the crowd. When we see the beautiful flowers, we think of our daughter, Elizabeth, who loves to stop and smell every flower she passes. When we see all the boats sailing by, we think of our son, Marshall, who loves boats of all shapes and sizes. Our children add so much fulfillment and joy to our life that even when we are not with them, they are a part of us, and we are better for it.

18. Our conversations

This one is pretty simple. We now have 20 years worth of shared experiences and interests to discuss when we have alone time together. It is so nice to have conversations without having to pause to address one (or two, three, four, or five) of our kids. We have been intentional over the years to find common interests and learn about the other person’s interests so we can enrich our conversations. It doesn’t always come naturally, but it’s worth the effort to learn. It has been delightful to be able to complete our train of thought and even enjoy a few pauses in the conversation!

19. Question game

We started this question game on our first anniversary. Each year we love to take turns asking one another questions like, “What was a time this year that made you laugh?” or “What is something you didn’t expect this year?” We also ask questions like, “What is your favorite movie we’ve watched together” or “What is something I wear that you really love?” Now that it has been several years, we like to set limits like, "in the first decade of marriage" or "when we lived in this house" or "before we had kids" or "in the last year." We also ask questions about the future. “What is one thing you hope to do this next year?” or “What can I do this year to help you feel more loved?” It is a fun game that helps us be intentional about looking back, savoring the moments, and also looking ahead to what could be.

20. Intimacy (that means sex)

We can’t not mention this. We were thinking it. You were probably thinking it. Let’s just address it. Our alone time with one another is absolutely better now than it was 20 years ago. This doesn’t happen without intentionality. This is a result of twenty years of learning one another, adoring one another, serving one another, and being gracious to one another. Simply put, we now know so much more about one another, and that enhances our physical intimacy 100%! We've also grown in our emotional and spiritual intimacy as we have walked through life together. Facing challenges, excitement, grief, and change together builds deeper emotional and stronger spiritual intimacy. As a result, physical intimacy is just better.

We hope this article encourages you to take time to stop and think about the good things that are in your life now. Give God glory and thanks for those things. After all, anything good we have is a gift from Him.

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