As a young college student, I remember dreaming about my future and thinking that I wanted to get rich, retire early (say 60-ish), and spend the rest of my life traveling with my husband. Oh, those idealistic college days! Well I’m 60-ish, not rich and not retired, but I do travel a lot -- almost exclusively for work. It’s not the glamorous kind of travel I dreamed about either. It’s like millions of other business people who wake up in a hotel room and seriously have to look at their day-timer to see what city they’re in. I used to doubt business people when they talked like that, but no more. Sorry I ever doubt you all.
However, I still manage to get some time for fun traveling. Interestingly enough, those trips are rarely with my husband. Because Al and I work and travel together so much with our business, when we do catch a week or two for vacation, we have very different ideas of what we want to do. Al wants to ride his motorcycle. Now I can be a good sport at just about anything, and I do in fact have my own little Vespa Scooter. But I am not, let me repeat, NOT a biker babe! I know there are a lot of girls who really dig it. I’m just not one of them. So I won’t go with him (Al is so glad). Instead, I go off on my own with Launi. I’ve traveled with lots of friends over the years -- large groups, small groups, tours, you name it. But nothing beats a trip with Launi. No matter where we go we have a great time.
Launi is a retired airline employee. She travels on her Lifetime Flight Benefits and I tag along either on a buddy pass or use up the kajillions of Frequent Flyer miles I’ve accumulated over the years. Our trips start something like this.
My phone rings at 2:30AM. “Wanna go someplace?”
“OK” I say, “Where?”
“I don’t know, I’m in Atlanta”, she says, “How soon can you get here?”
The adventure begins.
I get up and quickly pack. Three hours later, I board the early flight to Atlanta.
It’s 7:30am, and I’m standing in front of the big electronic board in Atlanta with flights departures clicking off gates and times when Launi walks up, computer laptop open and tapped into the internet. She says, “OK, so, we can get first class to Hawaii or France. You choose.”
“Since I always choose Hawaii, I guess I’ll be adventurous and choose France.” I say, as I yawn.
She rolls her eyes a me, “And we’re not adventurous enough flying out halfway around the world on a couple of hours notice?”
We grab our little carry-on bags and run to the gate. In route Launi sees a poster for Athens, Greece. “Lets go there instead.” She says.
We shift gears and head for a new gate -- Plan B.
As we sit and wait for our flights to board Launi starts speaking Italian to the man sitting next to her. After a few minutes she turns to me and says “We have a place to stay in Greece, a villa on an island off the coast”
I’ve learned not to ask questions. I just nod in the affirmative.
Ten minutes goes by and Launi checks flights again. There’s been another change in plans. First class is full. Now we’re headed to Prague. We walk to the new gate and get there just in time to board our flight to JFK for our connection – Plan C.
At this point, I need to explain our theory on traveling. Launi and I have five hard and fast rules for traveling together. Please take note, because if we ever decide to invite you to come along, you’re going to have to sign a waiver that you’ll abide by them:
- Pack light in a carry-on suitcase. We don’t like to have to haul around a lot of stuff, and since we don’t care if we wear the same thing everyday, we pack very light. Since Launi and I are the same size, our wardrobe is automatically doubled when we’re together so if you want to come with us you need to gain or lose weight to be a size 12-14.
- The adventure begins as we drive out of the driveway. If you can’t deal with it, stay home and we’ll send you a postcard. Life changes, and so do our trips.
- We only fly first class if we’re flying for free. If we are paying for a ticket, we buy the cheapest one that can get us from Point A to Point B. But if we are going to fly for free, we get picky. I know this sounds turned around, but it is a rule we pretty much have chiseled in stone. This is especially true on a transatlantic flight. We like to be pampered and stretch out in those big comfy seats. And we like it even better when it’s free.
- When we get where we’re going, we do “nothing.” No sight seeing, no searching out ancient ruins, no visits to historic landmarks. We settle into the spot we’re in and proceed to do some very serious “nothing” We have mastered this art and we do it second-to-none. Launi and I are the only people I know who will travel half way around the world, sleep till noon everyday and then take a nap to recover.While sitting away the day at a cafe on a cobblestone street, we want the country to go through us and not the other way around.
- We talk to everyone...in depth and at length.(This part drives my husband nuts!) We love to hear peoples stories, all about their life, and their kids. We wanna know what they do, where they go and how they get there. We want to know who they love and who loves them. And we are in no hurry to leave. If you think that might be an issue for you, start praying for patience now.
Anyway, long story short -- or should I say long trip short -- seventy two hours later, I open one eye and peer into the sun, palm fronds gracefully making a pattern of shadows across my legs. The surf is pounding against the shore, and we’ve been sitting on the same chaise lounges for three days straight. When a stud-muffin cabana boy (whose named Juan del Rio and is going to college to be a RN and his wife is a chef at the resort... like I said, we like to hear stories!) brings us Guacamole and sparkling water, I tip him well, so he will keep bringing more. As I hear a Mariachi band playing in the distance, I turn to Launi and say, “I forget, what town are we in?”
“Plan E…Suzy… we’re in Cancun.”
I think this through for a minute, trying to absorb my surrounding and say “Wanna go do something?”
Without missing a beat she says “Nope”
I smile. “Me either” I say.
As I start to doze-off under the Mexican sun, I realize that there’s no one I’d rather travel with than Launi. How blessed I am to have a friend who I can do nothing with, and in the end, feel so fulfilled doing it. This was my dream all along.