One doesn’t need a reason to embark on travel adventure
A couple of years ago, Kathy and I spent a chilly, rainy afternoon in a spartan cabin on a cliff high above the Pacific Ocean. There was a cheesy gas fireplace for heat, furnishings that looked as if they’d come from yard sales, no television, no wi-fi, no telephone, not even cell service. We played gin and occasionally peered out the window at the Big Sur coastline some 300 feet below us. When the rain would let up, we’d venture outside and peer over the cliff and snap a few photos.
A couple of weeks ago we were at dinner with some friends and someone mentioned they’d heard of incredibly cheap rooms in Mesquite, Nev. Why not go? someone — maybe me — asked. Never mind we all agreed that since we weren’t golfers, there was no reason to go to Mesquite. If it were casino gambling we were after, then Las Vegas was a mere 80 miles further. Mesquite’s only attraction was the room rate.
Wiser heads eventually prevailed and the Mesquite trip never happened. I mention the two stories because they, to me at least, illustrate the good and the bad about travel. And now that we’re retired — me completely except for this missive every week, and Kathy only working part-time — travel, always important to us, has become even more so. Like everything one does, it’s important to get it right.
I think we got Big Sur right. And Mesquite too, for that matter, since we didn’t go.
There are lots of reasons to see other parts of the world, and they change over the course of one’s life. There are trips back home, trips with kids to Disneyland. There are business trips, weddings and funerals and graduations to attend. There are milestones to be marked by extravagant vacations. There are long, exotic vacations to far-away places and short weekend trips. Some of those are travel with a purpose. Some are not. They are trips for no other reason than the destination sounds interesting.
Although it seems like lately we’ve been to a lot of weddings, and have a few more to hit this year, the Herzogs are finally, for the most part, to the latter. Let’s go because that sounds like someplace we’d like to see.
Kathy and I have played gin countless times at home. I’m sure some of those times were on rainy days. Not a one of them stands out. But the afternoon at Big Sur is indelible. Such experiences are more than simply fodder for cocktail party small talk. They are experiences that matter. They make life a little richer.
There are three parts to the perfect getaway. There is the anticipation and the planning. (I’m pretty good at the anticipation; Kathy is much better at the actual planning. I think it has something to do with men’s natural disinclination for chores.) But there’s nothing much better than the giddiness of counting the days until the early morning trip to the airport. I’ll admit it, it’s still, at this relatively advanced age, much like being a kid on Christmas morning.
Then there is the trip itself. That may be the most over-rated of the three parts. Let’s face it: How many times have you traveled and not been presented with at least one, and probably many, unforeseen hassles and problems? In the post-9/11 world of airport security, the answer is not many. But along with the hassles come the great experiences that are the reason we go in the first place. It’s gin (the game and sometimes the drink) in the afternoon, and watching a child walk across a stage to get a diploma, and eating things you swore were still moving, and fighting your way through translation problems, and seeing places where history was made. It’s the natural adventure of the unfamiliar.
Then there is the warm afterglow of the memories. That, perhaps, is the best part. There are no hassles and no unforeseen problems in the memories. That afternoon at Big Sur becomes more enjoyable every time I think about it.
I’m trying to think of why I wrote this column. I’m not sure there is a reason. It’s much like travel. One needs no reason to see new parts of the world. Just go.