WHEN IN HOME: WANDERLUST
|Wanderlust in Small Doses|
The Family Plan
I just took my first international family trip down to Mexico for about two weeks. From the start, everything was different than it would have been for just a couple. We ponied up the extra money to fly into one city and out of another in order to eliminate an extra bus trip. We got a hotel with a suite so we could put the little one to bed and stay up later by ourselves. We rented a beach house for a week to have a home base with space and a kitchen. Finally, we spent the last three nights in the plastic atmosphere of Cancun. That way we could drop our daughter off at the kids' club, as well as eat buffet meals that provided a better percentage of food she would eat.
The reduced attention span of a child creates all kinds of obstacles. If we were going to see a cathedral or other monument, a side trip to the main square’s playground or maybe a stop by the piñata store had to be in the mix. We could forget a leisurely afternoon of checking out local bands playing in the parks or seeing the inside of a museum. We could eat at street stalls, but only if the little one was already fed—she wasn’t going to touch that stuff.
Some things admittedly worked out better than expected. For example, she loved the Mayan ruins of Uxmal with its many steps to climb and lizards everywhere. A trip to see the flamingos near our beach house was a big hit. She adored the funky little hotel we stayed at in Merida. It had a swimming pool, a pet bird, a hammock and a little living room where she could spread out her coloring books. What more could a little girl want?
Yes, it takes some sacrifices to travel as a family, and if you ignore that fact, you’re doomed. Suites and rental houses work great; typical hotel rooms do not. Going with the flow and taking things as they come works well; trying to cram in everything you want to see does not. Taking a long-distance bus trip works fine; standing beside the road in the hot sun waiting for a shared taxi does not. You’re going to have to pay a bit more so everyone is comfortable—it's best to get used to it.
The Short to Medium Vacation
So what do you do if you’re a working stiff who only gets two weeks or so a year in vacation? How in the world can you really travel?
There are several ways to deal with this situation. The most obvious is to take advantage of any gaps in your working life that you may have, whether by choice or not. Take some travel time between college and work, between work and grad school or between grad school and working again. You can sock away some money into a travel fund while you’re employed so that you can easily hit the road if you get laid off. Unless the job market is hot, you’re not going to get a job the next week anyway. Take advantage of the time and go somewhere.
If you can carry over vacation time, sacrifice now for some more time later. If you carry over a week and add it to the two weeks earned next year, you may have enough time to go to Asia, the South Pacific or Australia.
The next best option, if you like your job and can afford it, is to ask for a sabbatical without pay. True, this is more common in Europe than in North America, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t done. In fact, pregnant women do it constantly—just for a more pressing reason—literally. It’s worth exploring the subject with your boss. Most companies have a slow period where they could spare you for awhile. They might welcome the chance to shave their costs a bit.
If all this fails, or you truly are indispensable, you’re stuck with only a week or two of vacation time—if you are European, you can ignore all this.
The rest of you, make the most of your limited time! Go somewhere you can fly to in less than a day, where you can hit the ground running upon arrival. If you are American, suitable regions are, depending on your home city, Canada/Mexico, Central America, the northern South America, the UK, Morocco and Europe. I didn’t include the Caribbean because, if you’re going there, you’re probably going for the beach, and a week is enough time. If you’re living in another part of the world, pull out an Atlas and see what’s close.
When making your plans, don’t try to do everything there is to possibly do and spend your whole time in transit. If you’re going to Peru for two weeks, pick two or three places to use as a base and explore those areas. You’ll see more, meet more people and learn more about the culture. If you’re going to Mexico for a week, pick a region and really discover it. Otherwise, it’s like someone coming to the Unites States for a week and saying they want to go to New York, Miami, New Orleans, Los Angeles and San Francisco—with a stop by the Grand Canyon, of course.
Just because two people are compatible, it doesn’t mean they will have the same tastes in travel. One may want to travel the world, whereas the other has no desire to set foot outside his or her own country. One may like mountain climbing and white-water rafting, but the other is perfectly happy with a beach chair and a book. One would love to take off for a year, and the other can’t imagine being away from home for more than a few days.
If you are in one of these situations, forget trying to move the other person to your point of view—it isn’t going to happen. The argument could last for 20 years. Either find a way to meet in the middle or take separate vacations. The latter may sound odd, but plenty of spouses have been doing just that for years or decades.
There are several ways to meet in the middle. If it’s a matter of activities, go somewhere that has a beach/spa and adventure in the same area. Spend your days apart, then get back together at night. You could find a good base to you can strike out on different paths and then reunite for a shared activity. If it’s a matter of short/long time frames, spend a week together, then go your separate ways for a while. One returns home, and one travels around a bit more.
If your significant other truly hates to travel, your options are limited. You either stay home and steam or go alone. Assuming your relationship is stable, going alone can actually be good for both of you. It can provide a nice break from each other and the opportunity for the pursuit of opposite interests, and nobody has to argue about where to go and what to do.
Some people fear the thought of traveling alone, thinking it will be lonely. If you are one of those people, either take along some friends or meet people along the way with whom you can travel. There are some good books on solo travel out there if you need some reassurance. Find a way to make it happen, and you can still have the trip of your dreams.
Wanderlust in small doses may not be as exciting as the thought of globetrotting for a year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t rack up the adventures!
Tim Leffel is the author of “The World's Cheapest Destinations: 21 Countries Where Your Dollars are Worth a Fortune.” For more information visit www.worldscheapestdestinations.com or buy the book at www.booklocker.com.
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