At about stair number 1,082—the one that brought us uncomfortably close to a pack of snarling pit bulls—I started to question the wisdom of our mystery honeymoon.

It was the fifth day of a spontaneous trip that started in Singapore and led us to Penang, Malaysia. We had woken at 5 a.m. to watch the sunrise—a classic play from the honeymoon book—at the top of Penang Hill. But after paying for the bus trip from George Town, we were five ringgit short of affording two round-trip rides on the old funicular. “How much to just go up?” my now-husband Kevin asked.

The train was not scheduled to leave for another 45 minutes. As bursts of pink and orange lit up what little sky was visible from the station platform, we cursed ourselves for not checking the funicular schedule. When we finally reached the summit, we learned that David Brown’s teahouse, the restaurant at which we planned to have breakfast atop the hill, didn’t open for another hour. Which is why we struggled down thousands of stone steps, hungry—or rather, “hangry”—straight toward a pack of wild dogs.

It wasn’t the perfect morning, or the perfect honeymoon. But we were on a “mysterymoon,” and researching details like prices and hours didn’t fit into our decide-at-the-last-minute motto. In the weeks spent planning a small marriage celebration in our current home of Sydney, Australia, the last thing we wanted to do was agonize over a honeymoon. So we enlisted our travel agent friend Trish to book flights in and out of an undisclosed location and secure accommodation for the first night. We exchanged a flight budget and dates for a white envelope that we vowed not to open until we arrived at the Sydney Airport.

(Read the full story on, or on Yahoo Travel, where it was republished. I was also interviewed by Harper’s Bazaar and The Guardian about my mystery honeymoon as it relates to the “surprise travel” trend.)