What does make a vacation great?

What makes a great vacation?

What makes a great vacation?

I am now on the backside of my 50’s. As I have gotten older, I’ve begun to think about time as a more finite commodity. If you have read any of my other blogs, you’ll see references to time there also.  And my admonition (of sorts), not to waste time and not to waste your life.  Definitely not to wait for the future to come: putting off for some future date your hopes and dreams.

As I have thought about the whole vacation experience, it has occurred to me that it’s quite possible that we go about vacation planning all wrong.  Perhaps we have it backwards. For instance, we look at photos of our friends having a great time snow skiing, taking selfies up in the lift of them with their friends or family.  Similarly we  see the selfies of our work associates with the Eiffel Tower,  London Bridge,  Buckingham Palace, or the White House in the background.  Well, you get the idea. We see their photos and decide we want to make those memories too.  Subsequently, we opt to go to the same places and  insert our faces in those photos.  So we too can say ‘we’ve been there and we’ve done that, and we have the t-shirt!

When you think about your future vacation plans, consider a different perspective.  While looking back at the photos of iconic places brings a smile to my face, it is really the “memories of our experiences” that will not be forgotten. The memories spent with people we traveled with and the memories made with those we met when traveling.

One of those was on a trip to Costa Rica. We had stopped in a cantina after a day of white-water rafting. And while waiting to board the bus, we saw a palm grove laborer (shirtless and sweaty) running down the “Pan American Highway” trying to catch a pair of oxen with his oxcart.  At that moment, one of our friends made the remark “Now there’s something you don’t see every day!”… To which we all laughed so hard, and so long, that we still chuckle about it when the story is told today.

I remember driving south out of Nuremberg, Germany. And on a lark, calling a friend of a friend who happened to be a Lutheran Pastor in Augsburg. We hoped to introduce ourselves to them and perhaps treat them to dinner.  Who knew what would happen as a result of that call? They invited us to dinner with their family in their home that night and then asked us to stay with them that night. We even forego plans later in the week to attend the opening of Octoberfest to spend the day with them on the Amersee just south of Munich. Because of that call and that time spent with them, we have very special friends from Germany And since that first call, we have been to visit them another three times in Germany, and they have visited us here in Florida as well.

Another example that comes to mind occurred while visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake. We were eating dinner the first night by the on an outside deck overlooking Lake Ontario.  While waiting on our food to come, we started up a conversation with a large group of locals. They happened to be  celebrating the birthday of one in their group.  Later they brought us birthday cake and even shared the recipe with us. While celebrating with them, they invited us to join them after dinner in their local watering hole. These Canadians made the small town feel like our second home. We were welcomed at the tavern, as if though we were long lost friends. It is a memory that we all remember and relish.

And so, in closing I will tell you that what made our trips great were the people we went with. Certainly, the memories made with them and  yes the people we met while in those locations. Notice I use the word ‘and’. The historic sites, the iconic buildings, the spectacular mountains, the rushing rivers, the massive glaciers all create the environment for the great memories of vacations.  But the people you travel with and the people you meet while there… Those are truly the ingredients for what makes a vacation great.

When planning your next vacation, you must take all of the physical elements into consideration. But also think carefully about the people dimension; who you will travel with?  Yes, and how can you position your time on the trip to have those opportunities to meet and even befriend locals.  Making friendships that just might span continents and oceans!

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