Well, we made it back from our Balkans road trip with a bag of souvenirs and a case of campylobacter. If you aren't familiar with the latter, consider yourself lucky. However, this got me thinking that maybe, just maybe, I shouldn't be in charge of planning our vacations.
Why? I'll give you eight reasons.
1. I am a terrible co-pilot. Whether I am directing you to a nearby grocery store or following a tiny GPS dot on a nonexistent road in the middle of Bosnia-Herzegovina, you're going to get lost.
Most recently I got us turned around first in Montenegro and then again Bosnia. In my defense, the GPS unit we rented didn't work so we were reliant on an atlas that provided ZERO direction and the GPS on my phone that we couldn't use in-country. That said, driving through a field under the cover of Montenegrin night or Herzegovian countryside isn't ideal for a host of reasons.
2. I'm good at planning, sometimes lacking on details. Back in 2006, I was tasked with planning a last minute honeymoon for us lovebirds. Once again we rented a car (I know, see #1) and I booked a non-refundable eco-hotel (see #6 & 8). After I excitedly hit "reserva", I spied a little info balloon informing me that the "resort" was 1) without A/C (in JULY) and 2) clothing optional.
How about when I booked tickets to visit California for the right dates, wrong month? Same goes for a hotel in Norfolk, VA.
Then there was the time LAST WEEK when I realized I'd booked our most recent vacation using my married name on the tickets and my maiden name on my passport.
What the what? It's not like I manage international delegation logistics for a living and demand to see copies of people's passports before I book tickets. Oh wait, yes to all of the above.
Sweet baby Jesus did I lose my mind. Not only was this a trip I'd been planning for over a decade, but I was so shamefaced by making such an avoidable and egregious error.
However, rest assured no one but the good ole USA seemed to care about such a major inconsistency. That's NOT AT ALL disconcerting, right?
3. Illness follows us. Unfortunately, gross diseases are my travel souvenirs.
We visited Turkey in 2009 and Mr. Swirley opted to eat some fish from the Bosporus. I don't want to blame him for contracting a food-borne illness, but that water looked pretty murky. Regardless, the poor bastard spent at least a day in bed while we toured about.
On our Balkans trip, I fell ill the day before we left and by the time we crossed the Atlantic, completely lost my voice. While Mr. Swirley did indeed avoid listening to me sing off-key for seven days, he endured a consistent level of squawking the wrong directions and reading from guidebooks.
To make matters worse, he once again tried to kill himself via food poisoning and spent the entire flight home feverish and shivering in the fetal position.
Lucky for us, I was tapped for a visit to the joyous customs' holding box once we landed in 'Merica. I told Mr. Swirley he had to "act normal" and quit with the hunched over shivering so we could get out of there. Easy peasy, right?
A day later we visited Northwestern Hospital's ER where he was pumped full of saline solution (three bags) and forced to snuggle with me. Had I known all we needed was a little ER visit to get in some cuddle/TV time we could've saved serious cash in plane tickets.
4. Always a day too long. Listen, I like to maximize my time away. If we can get someone to watch our kid, feed our cats or whatever, I'll stay longer than we should.
Of course we end up regretting such decisions; by day eight, we smell bad and are tired and grumpy. Actually, usually I am the one who is tired and grumpy. And yet nothing ever changes with respect to trip length.
5. Stressful shopping. I loathe souvenir shopping as it usually entails bargaining and shit made in China. But I love our friends and family so very much. Mr. Swirley could care less about the entire endeavor: "Just do it and move on," is his motto.
HOW MANY SNOW GLOBES DOES ONE PERSON NEED? An infinite number, friends.
As a result, I procrastinate until I panic on our final day in wherever we are and frantically pick up crap made by child slave laborers. "Oh, this key chain? I need 49. Some unidentifiable candy? 4000 boxes should do. Honey isn't a liquid, is it? Maybe it is? No it's not? Screw it, I'll take a gabillion and put the jars in my carry on. It'll be finnnnne (see #s 2 & 6)"
6. Laissez-faire attitude when it comes to travel (see #2). Unless we are running for a plane I complain about being bored. No map? It'll be finnnnnne. Life's an adventure until Mr. Swirley gets justly irritated.
I don't know how many times I heard, " Oh Annie...I never saw myself doing this" from Mr. Swirley on our recent trip. That's a good thing, right? RIGHT?
7. I'm cheap when it comes to airline tickets. Like "I can save $200 and add 20 hours onto our travel time if we buy a ticket that includes 12 impossible-to-make layovers" cheap? Sign.us.up. And by "us" I mean Mr. Swirley doesn't see the itinerary until our non-refundable tickets are issued.
8. The more bizarre our hotel accommodations, the better. Two Fridays ago, we spent the night on the outskirts of Podgorica, Montenegro at a B&B (loose definition). Our hosts were more than accommodating and even greeted our late night arrival with a shot of an unidentifiable alcohol (for the lady of the house) and some equally questionable juice for us. (see #3)
After leading us up 4000 flights of stairs to our room, our hostess made herself at home on our couch and extolled tales of her recent trip to the hospital where she was treated for asthma and rocked newborns (??). She clearly spoke no English and us no Montenegrin or Russian. I told her "ja spim" which I think translates to "I to sleep" but I could've just as easily called her mother a filthy tramp. Who the hell knows?
A few hours later we were woken by neighboring roosters welcoming the morning and this view.
I already loved the absurdity of this trip and we hadn't yet set out.
To cap off our vacation, we ended at a hotel that appeared to be anti-electricity for no discernable reason. Who needs lights on in the garage and/or lobby? It was like we were in the Overlook Hotel and awaited a proper welcome from Jack Nicholson's Slavic twin, Jan.
So I guess our next trip will be somewhere a bit more reasonable, like the Outer Banks. Or Ghana. My seatmate on our flight from O'Hare to JFK made an excellent case for the latter.
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