Traveling and vacationing are two different things. At least it seems vacationing should be relaxing and as stress free as possible. Of course that’s rarely true as getting yourself and your necessary belongings to an, often, unfamiliar place in order to sleep in an unfamiliar bed and eat unfamiliar food is not always as fun as you thought it might be. Surprise.
That’s why many people regularly vacation at the same spot where everything is familiar. But, travel is designed to bring you into new experiences. I imagine that’s why many people go on group tours or even cruises where the unfamiliar is reduced by proportional percentages. On a cruise, you get your own room which moves with you and meal choices based on what you already stipulated was familiar to you.
So here is an account of my latest Travel “Adventure.”
When I pulled my bag from the carousel in the Lisbon airport, I noticed it was soaking wet, my first observation of sunny Portugal was that it was not. On my brief guided tour segment of this trip, the guide kept repeating that this was unusual weather. I had looked it up and found that the mid 70’s was the norm for most of Portugal for the first half of June, but it was decidedly chilly and damp. [welcome to climate change=unpredictability]
Dire warnings of overly hot weather never came true. By the time I actually caught up to summer weather, which, admittedly only arrived days before me, I was in the Algarve, the little tourist city of Tavira, to be exact and it had become deliciously warm, even a ittle hot.
Airlines & the Inquisition
But let’s go back a bit because I always marvel at airlines’ ability to make air travel as uncomfortable as possible. First, they warn you to arrive a day or two before your plane is due to taxi the runway endlessly. A slight exaggeration but is there a reason that all planes have to attempt to take to the air at the same time and then airline personnel expect you to arrive hours preflight so that airports can make you wait in labyrinthine lines which snake slowly on the linoleum while denying you even a cup of water?
And then because the flights are scheduled on top of each other (a scary visual to be sure,) you gotta sit on the tarmac and wait out the actual take off in a line with the other air tubes, then taxi around, then rev up, then taxi some more. Ah…by the time of actual takeoff, you are already in a paroxysm of muscle spasms due to the Inquisition-style seats and the fact that you have only a centimeter between you and your seat mates meaty arm.
The seats were designed to cause maximum pain and then reduced by 30%, all the while we have expanded by 40%. Your lower back is sunk into your tailbone while your head is forced to jut forward and down. You then have to force it back up at much cost to your spinal health in order to view the little TV on which reside memories of earth as you knew it or knew it if you lived in Glendale in the early 60’s or the Village in the late 60’s in an enormous loft. But I digress.
I carry multiple pillows, some plush and some designed for inflation at the point when my oxygen supply has been reduced to barely breathing. I scour the internet looking for travel pillows and other accessories most of which I send back almost as soon as they arrive, some make it onto the plane with me but rarely make it off. If I were allowed scissors on the air tubes, I would have angrily slashed them to pieces before abandoning them in the seatback. But by some miracle the airline folks always seem to discover them in time to remind me of my loss. Let me not mention all the things that have actually been unwittingly left behind. I’ve already forgotten them.
Anyway, lines, surprise staircases, powdered creamer, multiple seized water bottles (yes in one airport after you have purchased yet another water bottle, they take it at the next gate,) kindles that inexplicably refuse to work and, why oh why don’t airline seats come with foot rests? It became far easier to focus on the brief interlude I had between planes always reduced by extravagant taxiing, I found myself racing then riding to my next air tube so that I could wait for my group which is always Group 3 or 4. Ok, one other airline query (yeah, like they’re going to read this,) why is my gate always the last or next to last one? Don’t they use the others?
Enough about flying or too much already, eh, like childbirth, it’s best forgotten or, you know, the species dies out. Arrival-I run around the airport looking for the Rick Steves designated departure area so I can get the good cabbies, ha, never found that so just got in line and it was fine. The way that driver scooted around traffic woke my bleary eyes right up and gave me someone new to respect…or fear.
I arrive at my little hotel and it even had an elevator, after you climbed one short staircase, which is why I use only a carry-on which I check and a backpack which I store under my aching feet. No matter how many weeks I’m away, I still come back with at least one shirt I didn’t wear and I always chuck something I didn’t have the heart to at home on my laundry chair (don’t pretend you don’t know what that is.)
My hotelier offers me breakfast even though I’m officially not yet his guest and a map full of suggestions I’m almost too exhausted to contemplate. I inevitably go off in the wrong direction or take the wrong tram but since I didn’t get pickpocketed and eventually found my way home, I considered it all a rousing success.
The next day I stumbled around in the rain, not realizing you have to open the train door yourself, doesn’t open automatically, and I began to wonder what the heck I was up to and why the heck I was traveling alone.
But by the next day, I had become the tour guide to some friends from the Bay Area whom I never see there but who had just arrived in Lisbon the day after me-thanks to a facebook tag. By then I was considered an old hand and we wandered the Alfama (medieval Moorish district) and had a wonderful lunch together after which we both had to join our respective tour companies and go our separate ways.
That’s enough about this little trip for one post but I just want to state for those who think San Francisco is hilly, you haven’t seen Lisbon much less Porto or Coimbra (look them up.)
More soon…I think. Meanwhile remember, travel, like life, is not for sissies but if you have cab fare and a paid bedded room somewhere, you are waaay ahead of the majority of the world today which is moving relentlessly and in ever larger groups around the globe in search of any semblance of home. Please donate accordingly.