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Lessons Learned From Vacation

April 11, 2011 · 20 comments

in Life

Each new day in life is an opportunity to learn something, and vacation is no exception.  Actually, for me, I learn more during ‘off’ days because I actually have a few minutes to really pay attention to what is going on around me, instead of rushing from one place to the next.

So, what did I learn during my 10 day break from normal life?

Ignorance Can Be Bliss, and It Can Be Dangerous!

We were staying in a hotel right on the Gulf Coast and there was a terrible storm.  The locals said they normally only get storms that strong during hurricane season.

Stingrays swimming near the shore in the Gulf of Mexico (Florida)

The storm really affected the Gulf water for the next few days, even though the weather was beautiful.  The waves were so high you could actually surf on them if you wanted, it was so fun!  However, the water was also all churned up from all the wind and such that you could not see clearly to the bottom at all.  This cloudy water lasted until the morning of our departure.

As we were packing up, I looked out the balcony and I saw about 10 stingrays swimming right by the shore.  Rays generally do not like people and will swim away if you get too close.  However, they can and may still sting you.  My daughter thought she might have stepped on a ray early in the trip as she did see one near the shore that morning, but she was not stung.  I didn’t give the stingray much thought and figured it was an isolated incident.  Once I could see the water though, I realized that those rays were everywhere.  Had the water been clear and I saw how many rays were in the water when we first arrived, we may not have gone in the water at all.  Instead, we spent 2 whole days frolicking in the water nonstop.

Tip: Really, really research any vacation destination.  I had investigated our hotel on Tripadvisor and such, but I did not read all the reviews.  Had I known the beach had so many stingrays, I don’t know that I would have chosen the same location.  We did have a great time, and it was beautiful.  However, if someone had gotten stung or hurt, I would have been pretty upset.

Plan as much as you can, but accept reality will most likely be much different

Driving for 20 hours with 3 kids requires a lot of packing and planning.  I like to plan the basics of any trip, and then play the rest by ear.  Meaning, I have the hotel reserved, the bags packed, and that is about it.  However, this time, we needed to take along medication (Vancomycin) that had to be refrigerated, along with a bunch of probiotics and other OTC medicines.  Well, about 5 days into our trip, my son came down with a raging sinus infection/fever, and with the exception of the Vancomycin, I  realized I had left all the other medications behind at the other hotel.  (We had since traveled from the Gulf to Orlando.)   To make matters even better, I realized I had left the Vancomycin out on the counter overnight instead of putting it in the refrigerator.  In my pre-planned perfect world, all the medicines would be taken exactly as directed and would be transported properly.  Instead, I ended up spending an afternoon tracking down probiotics at the Vitamin Shoppe and I had to get on the phone with several pharmacists to find out if the Vancomycin would still be stable after being out overnight. Thankfully, it all ended up ok.

Surprisingly, I just rolled with it, but I very easily could have gotten frustrated and upset and ruined an entire day because things did not go as planned.  This is nothing short of a miracle for me!

Tip: Try to be as flexible as possible, especially when it comes to situations you may not be able to control.  Worry and guilt are both useless emotions, and so don’t let them get the best of you.  (OK, I need to repeat that to myself about 1000 times…)

If A Store Seems Scary, Don’t Buy Anything From It

We were driving back to Michigan, and it was getting dark, so we decided to pull over and get some gas and a cup of coffee.  We were kind of in the middle of nowhere, but there was a gas station that was open.  We walked in and the ‘convenience store’ portion of the station was actually more of a souvenir shop- from hell.  The store was selling ‘fresh fruit’, which consisted of moldy strawberries in the fridge and some citrus out front.  (Produce shipping was available too!) All of us needed to use the restroom, but they were closed for cleaning.  After a couple minutes, the restroom doors were opened to reveal a giant puddle of bleach water sitting in the middle of the floor.

After a quick trip to the bathroom, we looked around a minute.  Turns out some of the souvenirs were quite gruesome.  The store was selling real alligator heads (small ones that were preserved somehow) and baby sharks in jars of formaldehyde.  Of course, Mickey and Minne were on the next set of shelves over, so it was quite an amalgamation of offerings.

In the end, we did buy a bottle of prepackaged Starbucks iced coffee and some overpriced gas.   However, the ‘iced’ coffee was room temperature and was promptly whipped into the garbage.  The whole experience  left us all feeling creeped out and we just got out of there instead of asking for a refund on the bad iced coffee.

Tip: Buying fresh fruit, preserved baby sharks, or small alligator heads at a gas station is probably never a good idea.

I am sure I could come up with many more lessons, but this post is getting quite lengthly.  Overall, we had a fantastic time and it really was hard to come home.  However, I was so happy to take a shower and sleep in my wonderfully comfortable bed after a 20 hour drive.

Do you have any vacation stories to share?

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