To Stress or Not to Stress: A Tryst with the Unknown.
That’s how I feel.
No, not in a 3-days-post-bikini-wax kind of way.
No, not in an I-went-to-Hawaii-and-forgot-to-wear-sunscreen-and-all-I-got-were-these-billions-of-dead-peeling-skin-cells kind of way.
And no, not in an I-slept-in-a-questionable-motel-last-night-and-neglected-to-check-the-mattress kind of way.
Maybe that’s a better word to describe it.
And while last week I rambled on about the camaraderie of backpacks, I’m realizing more and more that I don’t really care how I travel, just as long as I get to travel. It’s simply easier for me to romanticize backpacking when imagining or re-living exotic trips abroad — the implied gritty, grungy, down-in-the-dirt feeling that stems from steering clear of the relative comfort of plush hotels, room service cards, and pre-packaged experiences. To leave the sanctity of the hotel restaurant and buy empanadas from a man behind a chicken wire screen, or better, to devour fried platanos from the tiny kitchen of a generous resident. To experience that uncomfortable feeling of riding on a rickety bus with the locals, knowing I’m noticeably different.
It’s humbling. And probably something everyone should experience at least once in her life. Like waiting tables.
There’s something in this world about feeling pampered. Or, if not pampered, at least safe. Clean. Looked after. And that kind of travel can be equally wonderful. Where my clothes emerge relatively wrinkle-free from a shallow suitcase and hang in a closet for the duration of a trip. Where if one thing gets wet, everything else doesn’t smell like mildew for weeks on end. Where my burden-free back is left free to stretch and bend and soak in the rays of the sun.
Nope. That’s not so bad. As long as I make it a true point to discover a place — to see more than what a single company or business would have me see — I feel like it’s a trip well-spent.
Take, for example, our honeymoon in St. Lucia back in 2006. It was an excellent balance of hotel pampering mixed with our own adventures:
Luxurious honeymoon suite.
Crazy and scenic cab rides to fancy, schmancy restaurants.
Make-you-wanna-cry views over frozen cocktails.
Tourist food — delicious!
Tourist coconut — more delicious!
Typical street food — MOST delicious.
Travel friends whose names you soon forget.
Locals you know you’ll never forget.
Vacation debauchery and shirts you wish you could forget.
I think the thing that burdens people the most about travel — why some return home feeling the need for a vacation when, in fact, that’s where they’ve been for the last 2 weeks, is because they spend their precious time pressuring it — twisting it and molding it and expecting it to be all of these things that, in reality, it might not want to be.
A tryst with the Unknown is, I imagine, like raising a child. You can want it to grow up to be a doctor. A lawyer. Just like you. Better than you. But you’re setting yourself up for some serious disappointment if you think you can control another soul. If you think you can arrange its life just-so, with the right upbringing, the right education, the perfect amount of discipline and fun time and family time. Because there are always outside influences you can’t predict. Things that will poke and prod and interfere with your project. Things that will influence its way of thinking and growing. Things that could even make it better, if you’d only let them.
So in the end, you have a choice: You can drive yourself crazy trying to steer and constrain, or you can simply set the gears in motion, nurture as best you can, and see what happens.
A trip is like that. It’s not a crafty DIY project you assemble in your garage — it’s a life experience intended simply to be experienced.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t plan. You should always know ways you might get from point A to point B. But you should also be flexible enough to change those plans should a new opportunity arise. This simple shift in thought can mean the difference between a stressed-out, tension-inducing, jaw-clenching whirlwind of befuddlement and a carefree good time.
I’ve quoted them before, and I’ll quote them again:
If you don’t expect too much from me, you might not be let down.
The Unknown is scary.
But, if we’re really honest with ourselves, that’s what makes it so damn fun.
I love the way you write, especially your photo captions. They’re a story in themselves.
Thanks, Tracy! Maybe I’ll be able to make something of myself one of these days. ;)
Great post! I love the vacation – child raising analogy. I really need to learn how to let go of the controls a bit on both fronts. I’m always coming back from vacations needing one and just this week WD was doing his daily count down til keys(16th bday,) and I realized that I can’t steer him forever. Great pics! Thanks for sharing.
Cut yourself some slack. I’m sure it’s something that is much, MUCH easier said than done. ;)
GREAT food for thought. Now that I am in my 50’s, I finally said, I am going to do the pampered route more often than not. We now have an income that can support that type of travel, but I still don’t like the all inclusive resorts that discourage getting out and getting “local”. Meeting people (vendors, itinerant “tour guides”, etc.) is part of the flavor of the destination. Getting lost and feeling uncomfortable only to find your way and then falling in love with humankind once more, when your uncomfortable feelings go away after you chill out and enjoy the experience. We have had our faith uplifted more than once when we take a chance on a “local” or find that just like most people, they want to be helpful and are proud of where they live.
So, now when we travel, I like knowing that my head is going to fall on recently washed bedding, and that I don’t have to walk through dicey neighborhoods to get there ;) Is it 5 star, no way, but it is as close to it as I need it to be in order to experience the best of both worlds. We still try to mindful of cost, as the more we save the more we can travel ;) But my dormitory co-ed hostel days are over. (though in my late 40’s I still did them once w/ Kat, UGH!)
Now you have me dreaming of a good trip again, gotta wait till next year though…
I love that you travel with Kat! What an amazing experience. Though something tells me she wouldn’t complain if you put her up in a nice hotel. ;)
My worry is that we’ll never be in the position to really pamper ourselves since I don’t wait long enough between travel opportunities to save for it! :)
I’ve still never “really” pampered, just upped the accommodation level ;) and I not sure I ever will as I feel the same way, but you have plenty of time to dream about it.
I was actually visiting Kat in the UK when we traveled together, what a riot, a bunch of drunk football/soccer fans in the hostel tried to pick BOTH of us up! Talk about beer goggles, I was more than old enough to be “their mum”.
I have to say… if I had the money, I would, at least once, go all out pampered. Don’t judge. :)
And you know, young guys are into that! They wouldn’t have hit on you if they didn’t find you attractive. ;)
You dream and yearn so nice and big. It’s impressive to me, a dyed in the wool homebody. ( I first wrote “died”, which is probably some kind of psychological slip.)
All I dream of is of a night…, where I go to sleep, stay asleep, and wake up when my body is ready… Not because the 7 yr old had a bad dream and needs me to wedge into the twin bed with him, not because DH’s alarm goes off at 4:45 and he showers and shaves clattering around with the light to the bathroom shining in my face, not because the cat, who hates me and loves Hubby so is plotting my demise, lands 4-footed in my mid-section, nearly meeting her goal to give me a heart attack, and not because the dogs are going crazy wanting food…and all in one, supposed “night’s sleep.” And not every night. Really? Come ON.
Sorry to ramble. I’m a little tired. I could use a get away, too. But just somewhere quiet. You enjoy the “experiencing the adventure” part, and I’ll be happy to read about it! :-)
Okay. You need a YOU night. A night in a hotel. A night with room service. A night with your favorite chick flicks, a bottle of wine, and NO wake-up call. No guilt. Just enjoyment.
Trust me — your kids will be happier knowing that YOU are happy. Sometimes you have to be a little selfish and take care of yourself. You have a body and a soul and it deserves a little pampering. Even wonder moms need a little vacation every now and then. :)
Yup… But I don’t know a hotel that will barter for homemade bread or dirty laundry, of which I’m rich. ;-)