Over-Planning, Under-Enjoying Travel: A Boomer Without a Bucket List

It may be heresy to express this thought, but I did NOT enjoy our recent vacation.

When friends ask, upon our return – “Didn’t you just love ***? It’s my favorite place. We loved our trip there.”  I can respond in one of three ways:

 

  1. Lie – “Oh yes, *** is a terrific place to visit. We had a great time.”
  2.  Semi-lie – “*** is fascinating. I can see why you liked it. ” – OR
  3. Truth – “Actually, I thought *** was a bit boring. Our vacation wasn’t as enjoyable/fun/interesting as I expected.”

Trust me, no one wants to hear the truth.  I tried it out last week on a good friend and her eyebrows raised in horror, “How could you not have loved it out there?

 

 

Yes, *** is a beautiful area. Yes, the red-cliffed scenery as you drive north is stunning. Yes, you see tall snow- topped mountains in the distance. Yes, there are fascinating remnants of ancient civilizations to visit.

But to my eyes, it was if I’d seen them all before. And in part, I had.

What happened, I think, was that I did so much Pre-Reading before we went on our vacation, that by the time we actually got to ***, the newness factor had disappeared.

I offer this to you as a polite warning;  it IS possible to over-prep for a vacation.

I over-studied every ***-related website, I read all the reviews, I perused all of the museum exhibits, I knew all of the restaurant menus. I knew what to expect. I knew too well what to expect. All of the places we went to in and around *** were familiar by the time I got there. They looked exactly like the internet said they would!

You might be saying at this point – “wow, is she ever a whiner!” There’s an obvious remedy here. I tell myself the same thing: stop planning so much. Allow in more serendipity. Lose your itinerary and to-do list.

And that is a valid point. On our next trip I will (me, the ultimate planner, list maker) TRY not to prepare quite so much. I will allow in more opportunities for adventuring down the side-road that wasn’t on the itinerary.  The freshness of the unexpected is what delights us.

It was more than that, though. It is that trick that our mind plays on us when our imagination jumps ahead to what an anticipated experience will be like and when it happens, and doesn’t pan out as we thought, we are disappointed. At least I was.

It is not as if we take frequent trips. We do not. We do not have a travel slush fund.  Each holiday must be planned for and anticipated.

My husband still works full-time.  But if when/if he retires, he wants to stay in a ryokan in Japan, see the sights in Istanbul and visit his cousins in Melbourne. (Bet you didn’t know that many Macedonians left Greece to emigrate to Australia?)

Pick up any advice column for people in their 60’s and beyond – we are encouraged to take trips, to broaden our horizons, to see all of the places we never had a chance to see when we were chained to our desks in our working years or taking care of our children. We are empty-nesters, free to see the world if our finances can take us there in that slim window of time before we become too infirm to stand in long security lines at airports.

The passion to travel has not (yet?) seized me.  I may be the only “baby boomer” (hate the phrase but you take my meaning) you know who does not have a bucket list of sights I long to see before I can no longer see.

Remember the lesson that Dorothy discovered at the end of the Wizard of Oz? 

“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there….then I never really lost it to begin with.”

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It is not as if I ventured to *** to seek out my heart’s desire. The analogy does not translate that closely.

But I do enjoy my own backyard. Sitting on my deck, laptop on the table, my dog (a/k/a my writing muse) at my feet. I can hear bird song, smell the flowers and tell time by the sound of when the school bus stops on my street.

For now, familiar scenery beckons me more than exotic vistas.  Call me “Dorothy” if you like. I’m happy to see your travel photos. Just don’t ask to see mine.

 

 

 

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under Baby Boomers, Empty Nest, Holidays, Husbands, Semi-Retired, Travel

4 responses to “Over-Planning, Under-Enjoying Travel: A Boomer Without a Bucket List

  1. Bonnie J. Weissman

    I love to over plan travel itineraries and the like, and it worked well on our long trip to Italy in 2015, but then again, part of my process is plugging in days here and there for rest and/or serendipity, which we did. On the other hand, some places are overrated and others underrated. We took a small boat cruise in 2010 to the Greek islands for our 30th anniversary. It was nice, but not at all what I expected, and other than Santorini, I thought they were overrated. I was shocked at how filthy Athens was too. We had a stop in Turkey to see Ephesus, and were blown away by the friendliness and hospitality of the Turkish people and had a great time. But that’s why I travel. For example, I lived in Germany for a few years while stationed with the Army there. Most people go to Berlin and Munich (wonderful cities), but rarely make it to Trier, in the Mosel wine country with Roman ruins and historic stuff galore, plus it’s gorgeous. You learn these things, kind of like the Home Away commercial when the narrator says something like, “We discovered we were not outdoorsy people,” and it shows a family carrying a small sleeping child in their arms on a hike. You travel, so you learn!

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  2. I absolutely get that last paragraph. I’m such a homebody and enjoy it here so much that making plans to leave feels like perhaps more effort than it’s worth.

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  3. I really being in my home city – there’s so much to see and do, and there are all my great friends too. I also like to travel but don’t like researching a place beforehand for precisely the reason you describe – there’s no real surprise when I get there. So different from when I traveled overland (as much as possible) back to the UK from Australia in the 70s. Then I never knew what to expect round the next corner!

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