When we had visitors from other countries in the US, I used to laugh at them when they’d tell me they were going to visit Washington, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. In one four-day weekend. Oh, and they were driving. Lately I feel as though I’ve been doing a bit of that myself. We’ve lived in Germany now for four years and the list of places I’d like to visit isn’t getting any smaller. We have one year left in Germany and I feel like I should be making an effort to see everything. I’ve hit the point of travel insanity.
Travels usually don’t go exactly as you plan them. Most of our travels were wonderful. We tend to have a fabulous time wherever we go. We’ve found a few things that work for us, we know where each family member is most comfortable and what they enjoy doing. We have a system that works for us. Recently we tried something different. It didn’t quite work out the way I anticipated, but I didn’t enjoy our time any less because of it.
This past month, we scheduled two separate day trips. The trips were through our US installation Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) department. During our first three years in Germany, I read about the MWR trips with a pang of jealousy. It seemed that there was a bus trip to every dream European destination you could think of, seemingly every week. Unfortunately, we lived too far away from a base to take advantage of these. So when we moved closer to a US installation, I was determined to take advantage of as many as we could. Finally, two trips came up that we could fit into our schedule.
Ordinarily when we plan our travels, the general rule is if we drive three hours we spend the night. We have found that four hours a day is about the maximum amount of time we can spend in the car and still enjoy ourselves. These two trips would definitely stretch that limit. Bratislava, Slovakia would be four hours one way, and Budapest, Hungary would be 6 hours one way. We figured that since we weren’t doing the driving, we could sleep on the way there and enjoy a full day of adventure in each of these lovely cities.
In the week leading up to the first trip, the kids and I scoured the internet and searched for places we wanted to visit in Bratislava. We explored castles and statues and landmarks virtually in preparation for our trip. We were ready, we had our adventure bags out, our snacks prepared. Perhaps the fact that the guidebook I ordered still hadn’t shown up should have given me warning that something was amiss, but we continued to happily prepare for our trip. Then my youngest woke up with a fever, swollen glands and bright red cheeks. She had come down with fifth disease, and her fever wouldn’t break until Sunday. I was the next one to start running a fever, and since both my husband and son had a nasty cough as well, we decided to cancel at the last-minute. We were disappointed, but too ill to worry about it most of the weekend. Sadly, no Bratislava adventure for us.
We weren’t too devastated because we had the trip the following weekend to look forward to. Missing the first trip gave us a chance to go into the weekend rested and ready to explore Budapest. For the second time in as many weeks we became virtual tourists, scouting out all of the fascinating sites we hoped to see. We were all excited about the trip, which would begin in the middle of the night on Friday and conclude in the early morning hours of Sunday. Finally Friday came. At 11:00 we woke the kids. By 11:15 we were on the road. By 11:40 we were at the parking lot, which was strangely full for 20 minutes to departure. We waited in the dark, and waited, and waited. Finally at midnight, we called the tour coordinator, who informed us the bus left an hour earlier. For some reason, that day they decided to change the time of the tour. We were the only ones that they were unable to get a hold of. I was mightily upset. I railed on about how they should have emailed the new itinerary and grumped most of the ride home.
When we returned to the house, the kids asked me if they could open the snacks they had packed for the trip. So at 1:00 in the morning, we sat down in the living room and had a little picnic of snack food and the kids went off happily back to bed. When we woke up the next morning, they weren’t upset that we didn’t travel to some distant city that in reality they really couldn’t distinguish from the ones we’ve already visited. They were excited about being woken in the middle of the night, a late night car ride, and a midnight picnic. It was an adventure for them. It was probably more of an adventure for them than the 6 hour bus ride that we missed. They love exploring new places, but they are just as excited to do something new in a familiar environment. The next day the first thing the kids asked us was “when can we do that again?” I nearly missed out on the wonderful experience that brought such joy to the kids because I was so angry about the mix-up.
That night I made the decision that I wouldn’t take another MWR trip. At first it was because I was so angry, but then Saturday morning, we decided to visit nearby Nuremberg. We didn’t have to drive six hours for a brand new experience. We had a lovely day that didn’t start in the middle of the night and wouldn’t have us recuperating all day on Sunday. Instead we spent Sunday hiking on some of the trails near our house. So I am pulling back a little on the travel insanity. I’ll never check everything off of my dream list, and that’s ok. I don’t want to travel to a city just to check it off of a list. What can I hope to experience in one day in a city that has stood there for centuries? We are looking forward to visiting both of these cities in the future, but we’ll stick to what we’ve found works for us and enjoy them at our own pace. In the end, we had a lovely weekend making many happy memories. And if I don’t have an opportunity to visit all the places I’d like to, I am going to make sure that I take the time to enjoy the unexpected pleasures of a cancelled bus trip.