Wednesday, July 09, 2008

How I Planned My Summer Vacation

Alright friends, time to answer the urgent question of the day:Before I answer, let me take you on a brief journey through the last few months of me trying to plan a vacation. I am convinced that at least one of three things conspires against you when trying to plan a vacation: 1) money, 2) time and/or 3) travel companions. I am convinced that when money is not the biggest hurdle numbers two and three will conspire against you.

Theoretically I have four weeks of vacation a year. I have never taken four weeks of vacation in a year. I generally take a week at Christmas, a week to a week and a half in the summer and a few random long weekends that might total three weeks, but never four. So this year I decided I was taking two whole weeks. And so did my sister.

Our destination? Originally it was Kenya. Then there was civil unrest and we got worried about that so we turned to South Africa as a backup plan. I started dreaming about safaris and balloon rides over the Serengheti plains and building a school house in a small village. . . I ordered guidebooks on both South Africa and Kenya and investigated flights and tours and debated the pros and cons of each. In March I contacted the humanitarian organization my sister and I traveled to Guatemala with a couple of years ago. After asking many questions and reading many articles online, I decided Kenya was safe and was ready to sign up and turn in my frequent flyer miles for two roundtrip tickets. But my sister wasn't ready. So I waited. And waited. And waited. Until Memorial weekend when I forced her into making a decision and her decision was not to go.

There goes my travel companion. My sister and I have been to Europe, driven across the country, taken a cheap and crappy little cruise to Baja Mexico, built a water system in Guatemala, navigated our way around the whole of Iceland and I was really looking forward to another exotic adventure with her. I knew there would be a time when our annual adventures together would end but I was hoping we could fulfill this last dream of Africa before one of us called it quits.

I mourned for a while this loss of a trip. Then I considered taking it on my own. Then I freaked out about traveling for 36 hours on my own. Not because I was worried about the solo traveling but because I can barely stand the idea of spending that much time in airports and on airplanes with a travel buddy so the mere thought of doing it alone nearly sends me over the edge.

So I sulked.

And grew apathetic and bitter towards work.

Then a glimmer of hope formed. I called up a friend and told her I would travel anywhere and do anything at any time in August if she could get away. And she agreed!

She was heading to Hong Kong and Vietnam and invited me along. I investigated flights and found a surprisingly affordable non-stop flight to Hong Kong and was itching to book it. I bought books on Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand and started investigating.

Then, sadly, this option fell through as well. I couldn't leave before July 31st and she needed to tack on the Utah holiday of 24th of July to be gone as long as we wanted. Our timing was off.

Once again I wallowed and sulked. I have had some amazing trips on my own to exotic locations such as Sydney and Tokyo and I have even enjoyed splitting vacations, spending part of the time with friends and part of the time on my own like I did in Costa Rica several years ago. And I enjoyed those adventures just as much as any I have shared. But these last few years as I have traveled with my sister I have taken her companionship for granted. The wonderful thing about traveling with a sibling is we will always have those memories together. Our photos will always have our familiar faces smiling back at us. We will always have the crazy tales of things gone wrong to laugh about. We can reminisce about that perfect Indonesian meal in Amsterdam or the horrifying 6 hour ride on the chicken bus in Guatemala or the nearly sleepless night in a tent on a fjord in Iceland or the time a bird pooped on my head in Pisa, Italy when we were trying to find the overrated leaning tower or sea kayaking around Catalina Island. Shared memories are somehow sweeter.

That being said, I still needed a Plan B, or C by this point and while shared memories may be preferable, I desperately need a vacation and so it was time to just strike out on my own again.

Over the last several months a glimmer of a plan was percolating in the back of my mind. At times I grasped onto it and fell in love with it and at other times I just wanted something . . . more. But even when I was convinced I was going to Asia, this solo adventure called to me and I was a little disappointed it might have to wait. But on Monday, I jumped on board and have completely fallen far my new plan that is now fully booked.

One month from today I jump on a plane to Idaho Falls, Idaho where I will spend one night with my 88-year old grandma. I will then spend the next six days on a river trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. According to my dad (who grew up in Idaho) and the all-knowing internet, the Middle Fork of the Salmon runs through some of the most pristine wilderness land in the continguous 48-states. From all written, verbal and photographic accounts I have encountered, it is stunning. I cannot tell you how excited I am.

I have been river rafting in Australia and Costa Rica but never for more than a day so I'm both excited about this trip and a bit daunted as to how to prepare. The outfit I am going with gives a fairly detailed packing list but I would love ideas, tips, suggestions or general encouragement from anyone who has ever done a multi-day river trip.

After the river trip, my parents will pick me up and we will spend a yet to be determined number of days reaquainting ourselves with Island Park and Yellowstone - destinations I knew well as a kid. We used to camp in Island Park for a week or two at a time and take day trips to Yellowstone, canoe in Henry's Fork at Mac's Inn or just explore on our bikes. My family also spent a significant amount of time camping in Yellowstone Park and I haven't been back in about 10 years.

I will finish up my trip with a few days in Salt Lake before flying home on the 23rd. Yes, I will be gone two whole glorious weeks that will be full of nature, sunshine, wilderness, no makeup and rigorous activity. There is also the possibility that my uncle will join my dad and I for a couple of days of fly fishing in Idaho.

While both Africa and Asia have a great appeal, I could not be happier with how things are working out and I am counting down the days to my trip. I will also be spending my Saturday mornings practice my paddling skills at the free kayaking in the Hudson River and doing plenty of push-ups so I don't embarass myself with an oar.

As I said before, any and all suggestions on what to pack or how to prepare for a 6-day river trip are more than welcome since this is new territory for me.


Annie said...

although i have never been on a river, i intend to. and when i do, i know who to ask for advice! it sounds perfect!!! enjoy!

Emily said...

That is such a fantastically awesome trip!!! I'm jealous. You'll have to post lots of pictures so I can live vicariously through you. Have fun!!!

Tiffany said...

Honestly, I think you came up with the best plan! Can't wait to hear all the details.

Nadia said...

YAY! I am so happy for you! It will be rejuvenating! I can't wait to see pictures.

michele said...

i LOVE river trips. generally, i only go for a day, but have done one overnight trip...i'm sure their packing list will be better than any advice i could give. have fun!

katie said...

I was hoping you were going to Cambodia so you could bring me back a son (really) but since I don't have $$$$$$$ to get him, I'm glad you're going to Idaho.

hovergirl said...

I have a dry bag you can borrow! I will ship to you for the small cost of yet another favor in columbus circle...

Kamille said...

Ok - I admit I'm a stalker and random friend of Hovergirl I love island park and know you will enjoy reaquainting yourself. You have inspired me though and I think I will take a trip where I accomplish something next year. Thanks for the ideas.

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