My husband, Paul, lost his first wedding band snorkeling in the waters of Hawaii hours after we stepped off the plane. The brushed platinum band...

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My husband, Paul, lost his first wedding band snorkeling in the waters of Hawaii hours after we stepped off the plane.

The brushed platinum band with rounded surface and small border chosen together a few weeks before. I slipped it on his finger in a ceremony near Lake Washington, where the sun shone in my eyes (I wasn’t crying).
Now, minutes into our honeymoon, the ring, a symbol of our love to last a lifetime, was gone forever.

Sitting on the beach, with his hands clasped behind his head, Paul glanced at me sideways, like a self-conscious teenager. We waited for my reaction.

Disappointment. I knew he hadn’t lost it on purpose, but he was careless and I was mad. I left my new husband alone on the beach, and while he searched the pink coral and loose sand I found myself a massage.

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After a few days of intense relaxation — including a spa treatment where they wrapped me up and baked me like a potato — I emerged fresh and new. I reminded myself the band was only a material possession. Perhaps it could be replaced.

A day later, while shopping in Kona, Paul fell in love with another ring. A ring made of “real Hawaiian Koa wood.” A silver band channel set with timber. He paid $20 cash and wore it out of the store.

I imagined a lifetime of Paul telling people his ring was made of real wood. Not platinum. Not gold. Wood.

The wood ring traveled with us for almost seven weeks, through Maui, Japan and most of China. Ours was not a conventional honeymoon. To celebrate the creation of our new family, we decided to experience life beyond the corporate 9-to-5 with an eight-month trip around the world.

Walking down the street in Shanghai, Paul noticed his hand was once again naked. Perhaps he’d left the ring in the bathroom of our Communist-run hotel, the People’s Hotel, and the maid accepted it as a tip. You could see the temptation. After all, it was real wood.

I had to admit, I wasn’t sorry to see this one go. It was inexpensive and had only accumulated seven weeks of meaning in our lives. But I realized my husband had a problem. Once was an accident. Twice was an affliction.

A few days later, in an e-mail exchange with Paul’s mother, I learned this disorder was hereditary. Paul’s father lost two wedding bands in his first year of marriage and wore the third for 35 years, until the day he died.

Perhaps Paul would actually keep his third ring.

We met the new wedding band two weeks later in the Central Vietnamese town of Hoi An. That evening, after feasting on snapper wrapped in banana leaves and cao lak, sweet Vietnamese soup, we walked the downtown streets, browsing storefronts.

Paul pointed at the simple band, rounded with an etched surface, in the back corner of a jewelry case.

A thin black line ran along each edge and a triangle pattern covered the center. The inside was engraved with the words, “Hoi An,” and the number “925,” internationally understood to mean silver. After some negotiation, Paul paid $4.50, slipped the ring on his finger, and we strolled down a narrow street that was draped with hanging lanterns.

I’m proud to say “Hoi An 925” has survived the ruins of Cambodia, the red sand dunes of Namibia and even the rigors of life at home.

When I see it on my husband’s hand, I’m overwhelmed not only with memories of our wedding day by the lake, but of adventures in obscure corners of the world.

With this ring comes a story. The story of a couple who traveled the world in celebration of their marriage. The story of a man who lost two rings. The story of us. Let the sea turtles keep that other band. I wouldn’t exchange this one for all the platinum (or wood) in the world.

Katherine Ellis lives in Seattle.

The Travel Essay runs each Sunday in The Seattle Times and also online at To submit an essay for consideration, make sure it’s typed and no longer than 700 words. Essays, which are unpaid, may be edited for content and length. E-mail to or send to Travel, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. Because of the volume of submissions, individual replies are not always possible.