Many people have kindly offered their advice as to how I could make this trip better. And I think, for the most part, I made the best of it. I definitely enjoyed the middle–after I’d gotten over the shock of many things (like how things can just be broken, like ticket machines and toilets, and no one fixes them or cares) and before I’d grown tired of many things (like the crappy, expensive food, or the yellow haze of stench I had to walk through to get almost anywhere). But now that the trip is almost over–thankfully–I’m forced to think about what, exactly, I did so wrong. After all, I planned this trip. I made the spreadsheets, the reservations, the binder. I did all of it. So what did I do wrong?
The answer to that, of course, is not simple–I did many things wrong. I planned too many things. I decided to only visit cities when I hate cities. I planned too much time in one place–Paris–and not enough time in others–Amsterdam. I didn’t take into consideration how much public transportation sucks–or, rather, how much I, personally hate public transportation. I picked a bad location for our hotel in London, a not-great location for our apartment in Paris, and scheduled a two day trip home that is going to require getting up at 6am on one day and 4am the next, with a total of two trains, two planes, and a bus, over the course of 36 straight hours of travel. Yes, I did many things wrong.
But the root of my wrongness can be found in what I did not think about. I thought about cties I’ve always wanted to see, ways to save money, and what the guidebooks and helplines tell you to care about. And I did see things I’ve always wanted to see, and I did save money. But I didn’t have fun, because I didn’t spend any time really thinking about my definition of fun. If I got anything out of this trip, it is that–an understanding of what kind of vacation I enjoy. It is ironic that, after many enjoyable vacations, I had to take a non-enjoyable one to figure that out, but hey, who doesn’t love irony?
This afternoon, my husband and I sat at a cafe with a glass of wine and discussed our ideal vacation. Clearly, after yesterday’s train wreck (not even worth writing about), this is not an example of a vacation, neither ideal nor otherwise. I asked him to describe his best day on vacation ever, and I did the same. They were both from the same trip–our honeymoon cruise to Alaska.
My best day on vacatinon ever was our first day in Alaska. We got up early, had breakfast, and then suited up for the day–multiple layers of waterproof clothing, hiking boots, ponchos, and fisherman hats. I still remember the odd looks we got from most of the cruise passengers, who were dressed for a night at the opera, though I cannot for the life of me figure out why, as it was maybe sixty degrees and raining steadily. We headed into Sitka–and then out of Sitka, a mile or so beyond the edge of town to Tongass National Forest, a rainforest with beautiful trails and trees with leaves the size of serving platters.
We hiked about for a good long time, taking lots of photographs, and returned to town. At this point it was really raining, and even with all of our rain gear, it was beginning to be uncomfortable. We stumbled into the Sitka Howard Johnson because it was warm and dry, and proceeded to have the best meal we’ve ever eaten–Alaskan King Crab right off the boat. You could actually see the docks from the window of the shabby dining room. We split one order, and could hardly finish it between the two of us.
Very full and tired, we returned to the ship, changed into bathing suits, and spent a few hours with drinks in the adults only therapy whirlpool before getting dressed up for dinner, selecting from a fantastic menu with no price listed–that was included. We may have seen a show or gone to a piano bar after dinner, I don’t recall. I know we slept well that night, and got up early again to sail into glacier bay.
So…that was my best day on vacation ever. Now, one does not have to be a genius to figure out what I like about vacations. I like being outdoors. Outdoors in nature, not outdoors in a park where the grass is forbidden. I like finding random places and enjoying good meals–I didn’t even crack open an Alaska Tour book before this trip, though I’d done some basic internet research. I also like to relax at the end of the day, somewhere safe, comfortable, and controlled, preferably with alcohol and lots of clean restrooms so I can enjoy said alcohol. I like to get dressed up and ‘go out’, because I don’t get to do this at home–ever. And I like to eat.
Why did I come to Europe, to only cities, with nary a beach or jacuzzi in sight, and no idea of where to go for dinner, with a backpack full of business casual dresses and a schedule so jam-packed we didn’t have time for a crepe on the street, nevermind a meal in a restaurant requiring makeup and a strapless dress? And more that that, why was I surprised when I was stressed the whole time? Why was I surprised that I didn’t have fun? I’m all about admitting when I’m wrong, but man, this is the most wrong I’ve ever been.
Though admitting it is kind of freeing. Crow is tasty, when you’re hungry enough.