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To Vacay or Not to Vacay?

9.29.2009

 

In January, while the economy was in free fall, taking a European vacation seemed irresponsible. Nevertheless, one of my "bucket list" trips was a September European cruise with golf included. We hesitantly signed up but were so conflicted that we "forgot" to send our deposit. As a result, when the economy started improving and we resumed our dream of cruising, we discovered the cruise was sold out and would sail without us. Undeterred, we paid to be on the waitlist, booked airline tickets and hoped for a cancellation. The summer months passed with no news. By August, I was worried and even used one of my "Linked In" emails to reach out to the CEO of the cruise line who is a 3rd degree connection. I was shameless! Friday morning of Labor Day weekend (the cruise left Labor Day weekend from Southampton) we were told we had not cleared so we proceeded to make Labor Day plans. An hour later, we learned we had cleared ----- the only catch was we had to get to London from Park City, Utah in 36 hours. We flew to Houston, had two hours to pack, communicate with clients and colleagues, and fly to London.

The trip turned out to be one of our best trips in 30 years. We were even able, on the spur of the moment, to add a Coldplay concert at Wembley Stadium and a trip on the Eurostar through the Chunnel to Paris to catch our return flight.

Post Vacation Musings Part of the joy of a vacation is the anticipation and planning. We did neither. On the other hand, there was something crazy and youthful about dropping everything and throwing ourselves into another reality with a fearlessness not seen since our college days. We found our own golf courses when we docked, created our own tours and arranged transportation.

Cruising is the ultimate travel indulgence. A ship (with a great room) offers a wonderful cocoon. You have no schedule. Champagne at 1 am? Home baked cookies? Perhaps a selection from the movie library of 200 films on demand? The choices are endless: gambling, shows, great workout facilities, massages, a good book, or the option to do nothing but reflect on the vastness of the sea and the always changing sunsets. You have the option of making lots of new friends or being alone. Keywords: freedom, peace, unstructured time with lots of choices.

The biggest change in cruising in recent years is the improved communications. I was rarely without Blackberry access though the telephone carrier was "Orange" or "Cellular At Sea." The ship's Internet Cafe was crowded with people wanting to keep one hand in their non- vacation world back in the states.

Music is universal. When we ventured off ship, none of the taxi drivers spoke great English yet you could always connect over the tunes on their Ipod or radio. Our Bilbao, Spain driver asked about Willie Nelson and played us his favorite song, "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

Cruising is not the best way to get to know a country. When asked my favorite port, I have to answer "The ship." With cruising, you are never in a city for more than 12 hours, which is like interviewing someone for 10 minutes and making a definitive conclusion.

My quick impressions:

  • Lisbon - sleeper city with lots of charm and an interesting artistic community.
  • Barcelona - Madrid with a hipper, more contemporary feel.
  • Valencia - a city that has redefined itself. The architecture of the Art and Science Center alone would entice us back.
  • Monte Carlo - always sparkling, very crowded and claustrophobic - made us yearn for the hills of Eze and St. Paul de Vence.
  • Bilbao - Not sure the Guggenheim is enough to lure us back.
  • London - Not the same city I have loved in the past. So overcrowded and expensive as to have blotted out its personality.

A two week vacation with minimal office contact is something everyone should do, if not yearly, then every other year. Many of our cruise companions who still worked felt it was a huge stretch to be gone for two weeks, yet all said two weeks provided exponentially more rejuvenation than one week.

I'm convinced people don't really want to see your vacation pictures, unless you are going to a place they have been or might visit or if you are a great photographer. I took very few pictures, and the ones I took I posted to Facebook. The fewer than 20 comments I received validated the above.

While memories of a vacation may not fade quickly, the vibe and resonance of it does. One week after we returned I would think, "a week ago we were sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge of Lisbon." Three weeks post trip, I can't imagine a day where my choices are to work a jigsaw puzzle or walk two miles on deck before lunch.

Which brings me to a quote from an unknown 18th century author - "no man needs a vacation more than a man who has just had one."

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