Travel Missteps is an every-other week series on how sometimes part of the journey is making mistakes and getting lost.
In February 2010 I had already had a busy travel month by getting delayed twice in St. John, and once I arrived home I only had a few days to pack and get ready for a work trip to Anaheim, CA.
On my first day in Anaheim it turned out I had a free afternoon. It was suggested I could “swim at the hotel” or go to the “welcome drink reception.” But nagging me from my window was Disneyland. I worried if I headed to Disneyland that I’d get a call from my co-workers asking where I was, or some other emergency would suddenly happen. After an hour of debate I decided to go down to the Disneyland area…just to check things out.
I got lost on my way there, and so it took me half an hour to get there. When I arrived, seeing all the young kids with Mickey balloons and dressed as princesses I decided to buy a ticket. I really wanted to ride the Indiana Jones ride, one of my favorite rides, and knew there would be a long line. I figured “Heck, if I can only ride one ride, at least I’ve been to Disneyland again.” So I got my ticket and pins saying “I’m celebrating” since it was close to my birthday, as well as “1st time” since I hadn’t been back in over a decade. I decided not to wear the pins as I realized I was still wearing my business suite, but they looked really cool.
As I walked in, a parade was going on so I had to snake my way into Adventureland and ran to get in line for Indiana Jones. By luck I saw a sign saying “Single riders see an attendant for faster line.” And here I thought being alone at Disney wouldn’t be fun! So I walked up and was given a pass and told to “Walk through the Exit.” It was sort of sad to miss all the fun “scenes” that they put on for people waiting in the line, but instead of the projected 50 minute wait, it was less than 5 minutes, as I ran down the Exit and met up with some “Fast Pass” people. Within minutes I was on the ride sitting in the 2nd row of the car.
Years ago, I had gone to Disneyland with my parents. I was a scardy cat. I hate heights and most roller coasters, so I had closed my eyes tight. It wasn’t until the ride was over and I realized I could survive it that I actually wanted to go on the rides…this time with my eyes open. This annoyed my parents to no end, as instead of riding other rides they were force to go through the same one they had just gotten off.
So now as an adult I embraced it! I was wide eyed trying to take everything in and remember it! I held my hands up instead of holding on for dear life. The Indiana Jones ride was a lot quicker than I remembered, less than a 5 minute ride. That was a little disappointing but otherwise I had fun.
When I got out I shopped real quick looking at the Indiana Jones theme tradepost. It took everything in me not to buy a whip and a hat, but in the end it seemed overpriced. As I headed over to get in line for Pirates of the Caribbean my phone went off. I proceeded to a quite corner hoping the person on the end wouldn’t hear the hordes of kids screaming around me. This was my biggest fear, being at Disneyland and then some big emergency happens and I need to be back at the hotel. I answered the phone and it was one of my co-workers. “Hey, one of our meetings ended, and we wanted to have a real quick, 5 minute meeting about tomorrow, before we go into our next meeting. So do you wanna come up from your room and be here in about 3 minutes?” I prayed he couldn’t hear the Dun Dun Dun Da of the Indiana Jones ride as I said, “Actually, when [Boss] said I was free, I decided to go out for a walk since it was a nice day…and I’m about a 20 minute walk away. I could look for a taxi and be there in 10 minutes or so….” I lucked out when he said “Ah no problem, we’ll be in our next meeting by then so you’re fine, so I’ll talk to you later.” Thank god I though as I then ran like an idiot to the next ride.
I had fun waiting in line as the atmosphere was a lot of fun. I ended up being in the very front boat in the very first row by myself. Right as we went over this HUGE fall my phone rang. I cursed myself silently as I muted my phone, and the fact that the HUGE fall made me get from head to toe soaking wet! The rest of the ride I was disappointed in. They had redone it from the old action that Walt Disney had created to a weird story line that focused on Jack Sparrow from the movie version of the ride. I love Jack Sparrow, but I felt that the changes to the ride weren’t that great. I can see how a kid would love it, so maybe I’ve just become jaded.The very last “scene” was of Jack in a room full of treasure with Jack saying some mumbled warnings while singing.
When I got out of the ride I had 3 phone calls, all from work. Damn I thought. They are looking for me again. I listen the the messages, the first one was just a co-worker reminding me to pickup my floor badge so I could attend my 6AM meeting the following morning. The next 2 were from my counterpart who was the only other person who had free time this afternoon. I had asked him before what he was doing and he said “A nap and then maybe swimming.” Apparently after 2 hours he was extremely board and wanted me to come with him to the “Welcome Drinks Reception”. I called him back and admitted I was at Disneyland and wished him a fun time at the Reception (I’m glad I didn’t go, cause this co-worker caused some drama, thank god I wasn’t associated with it.) He wished me a fun time too.
After this I made sure my phone was off, and I prayed no one else from work would look for me cause I didn’t want to get in trouble. I ran off to the Haunted Mansion, it was good, just as I remembered it. After this I looked at my watch. I knew I wanted to leave by 6-6:15 so that way I could run the 3 blocks back to the hotel, shower, change and then make it to my dinner meeting of 7PM. I stopped at a New Orleans pin trading store to buy some pins to put on my laptop bag to distinguish it from my co-workers.
So I rushed over to the big railroad roller coaster right as it started to become dark and waited in line to ride it. That was a lot of fun! Then I ran all the way to the opposite end of the park to go to Star Tours, the Star Wars ride, as I had completely forgotten that this ride existed. (Indiana Jones and Star Wars are two of my favorite movies!) I remember going to this ride the many years ago, the line was SOOOO long and I accidentally set my seatbelt too tight so was uncomfortable the entire time. This time there were no lines (I regret not taking pictures of C3PO as I learned later this was a real prop from the movie) and was on a “Shuttle to Endor” very quickly. I enjoyed the ride immensity. Upon leaving there were posters for other “Shuttles” and that Disney later used in the updated Star Tours ride.
The great thing about Disneyland (remember I’m a marketing person, so my take on advertising is different from others) is that when you exit a ride it normally dumps you into the corresponding themed store. The Star Wars “Star Trader” themed store didn’t disappoint. The first thing I saw was an incredibly cute Ewok stuffed animal that I snatched up. I then looked around at all the cool toys. I was about to leave when I noticed on a far wall a huge display saying “Build your own lightsaber.” Now I’m a huge geek, and I’ve wanted my own lightsaber I just never found one I liked (the clone ones they’ve come out recently are interesting but just lack some of the feel of classic lightsabers.) So I got in line behind 3 young boys. Man was I out of place, a 5 foot 2 in 24 year old woman in a business suite. The attendant teaching how to make lightsabers angerly answered my questions as I built it but I didn’t care, this was the most awesome experience I’ve ever had. I paid for my Ewok and Lightsaber, and looking at my watch decided to chance it and I ran over to the Castle. I was hoping to find some Disney princess themed items, but everything I saw was designed for little girls (costumes and the like) so I turned around and had to fight my way through yet another parade and then ran the 3 blocks (in heels and with an Ewok under one arm, and a purple lightsaber in the other) to the hotel. I had enough time to take a quick shower, change my outfit and shoes.
Disney hi-lights in under 3 hours? Yes its possible, but only if you dash quickly through the crowds. :)
Travel Missteps is an every-other week series on how sometimes part of the journey is making mistakes and getting lost.
Tourists are criticized for having their camera plastered to their face for their entire trip instead of interacting to the world around them like a normal person. I can attest I’ve been on both sides of this argument, there has been trips I haven’t taken many photos, and other times I’ve returned home with thousands of similar images.
But sometimes the dangers of over-photographing a trip has little to do with missed moments vs lasting visual memories. Sometimes the dangers are very real, from tripping on things you aren’t aware of, stepping out into traffic, or in my case: getting a fractured nose from my own camera.
I had decided to get out of my comfort zone and randomly picked Costa Rica for a trip in 2012. This would be an “Adventure Travel” tour: whitewater rafting, hiking a volcano, kayaking a lake, and zip-lining. It was zip-lining that scared me the most, since I’m afraid of heights. But I knew I couldn’t go to Costa Rica and not do zip-lining so I pushed myself not to chicken out, how bad could it be?
I was terrified. I had this look of extreme horror, wide eyed, lips pressed, jaw locked terror. (I know this now from the many photos and videos the kind people of the zip-lining company provided.) After the first line where you literally jump off a cliff over a river and then through the canopy, I looked around on our little platform for a ladder down just in case if I suddenly decided I was to chicken and found…there wasn’t one. I was in this for the duration of the next 10 zip-lines. I had to remind myself to look around and enjoy the experience. Mentally I know it was amazing to soar above the trees, rivers, and multiple waterfalls, with views of the ocean nearby. But psychologically I was trying to remind myself that I couldn’t cover my eyes with my hands, for this particular zip-line my hands were my breaks.
You see I was wearing leather gloves and you held down on the line to slow/stop yourself (very sketchy). Things were going (terrifyingly) well until it started to pour, making the lines so much slicker. The last line is the longest and the fastest, going through the canopy, over a river, and over two waterfalls. We were told when you see water to use both hands to break, instead of the one we were using before. What I didn’t consider was I had been filming the zip-lines by tethering my camera to left hand since I was breaking with my right. I had been filming the zip-lines because I wanted to prove that I did it, and also have time to enjoy it later when I was on firm ground.
So while on the last zip-line I’m going much faster than before due to the slicked up, I can see the rain fall off in strange patterns as I zip along it. When I see the river I grab the line with my right hand, and then bring up my left hand, the momentum bring along the camera that hits me right on the nose, 1, 2, 3, 4 times. I feel the impact of the speed hit me in the helmet too, and I knock myself out for a moment, completely letting go and hurdling towards the platform…and the tree the line is tied to. I think “I’m going to die, the tree is coming closer and closer…” and then I grab with both hands again, hitting me one final time in the head before I see the guide step out and stop me with his body. He goes flying but I am saved. I unhook the line and his wide eyes tell me something is wrong. I then see massive amounts of blood streaming down my face and note that my camera has gone “black” to do extreme shock. But then we hear the whirling of another soul coming down the line too quickly, so the guide goes to work while I walk up to the office.
Shocks sets in, and I cannot breath or talk, and I look horrible. At this point I’m just glad I’ve lived through zip-lining. After what seemed like an eternity I’m cleaned up, and breathing normally. I have a few nasty cuts on the nose (thank god it didn’t hit my eye), a concision, and possibly fractured nose. And amazingly enough my “tough” camera not only survived, but filmed most of the encounter. Enjoy the views, see the terror in my eyes and experience the accident first hand.
So while both me and my camera survived this with just a few scars, I learned a valuable lesson about not photographing or filming the entirety of my vacations.
Travel Missteps is an every-other week series on how sometimes part of the journey is making mistakes and getting lost.
We’ll continue our Travel Missteps series in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, one of the best preserved Medieval towns in Germany. While this town is primarily touristy, it was beautiful decorated and thankfully deserted for the holidays when I was there in December 2011.
One of the key attractions is taking a “Night Watchman Tour” ( 7 EUR) to learn this history of the town. We had planned on doing this on the first night we got there, but as what commonly happens, we were too tired and so kept putting this tour off until the last night. And as it so normally happens, the weather was perfect…until the last night. Large wet snowflakes and Christmas decorations are beautiful when you can sit inside and enjoy it, but waiting around for a dark shadow carrying a deadly halberd to appear seemed like a silly venture. But that was just perfect as the Night Watchman blends humor and history in such a manner that we hardly cared about the weather. I definitely recommend this tour! And each time it is a little different, so you can do it over again and learn more Rothenburg history.
The only strange part was at the end of the tour, the Night Watchman yelled at us “Go to hell!” Usually when the locals say “Go to Hell!” its because you’ve pissed them off, but this is not the case in Rothenburg. Zur Höll (literally ”To Hell”) is, (since 900 AD), one of the oldest buildings within the city walls and hosts a Medieval tavern. In the snowy weather we headed the Night Watchman’s recommendation and made our way into the small tavern. Luckily we were able to share a table with other travelers and we enjoyed some warm bread, hot soup, and great wine. This is one of the few late night spots in town and its a great people watching spot. We stayed into the night talking with traveler and tourist alike, and even had a chat with the Night Watchman as he came in to enjoy some wine. So if you are in Rothenburg don’t forget to go To Hell!
As I’ve written before, in the summer of 2004 I went to Japan through a Sister Cities student exchange. The bulk of the trip was spent with a host family in Chino, Nagano Prefecture. This period in late August is during the Obon festival where Japanese honor the spirits of their ancestors. Its sort of like if you combine the American aspect of Thanksgiving where everyone goes home, Mexican Dia de los Muertos, and every possible firework related holiday.
There are many components of the Obon festival. One key piece is the Bon Odori dance, that is danced by everyone in the city going round and round kind of like a big massive parade everyone participates. I actually missed this part, but had learned the dance a year before. Another big piece is fireworks, every night. I was surprised that what would be considered “Illegal Fireworks” (aka Wyoming style) was found readily available at 7/11 stores at any street corner. And I was shocked that they sold these fireworks to adults and children alike.
The fireworks are symbolic of the bonfires that they use to light in front of the family home to shine a beacon to their ancestors spirits to find their way home. The word in Japanese for fireworks is “Hanabi”. It combines the word for “Flower” (Hana) with “Fire” (bi).
And one of the main fireworks that I did every night was also simply called “Hanabi” and this was very aptly named. Essentially you are given what looks like a string and you light the bottom of the string. If you hold it still, the bottom starts to form a molten ball and from it little sparks fly off, making it look like delicate flower petals surrounding a molten center of the flower. The first time I did it I was startled and dropped the Hanabi thinking the sparks would burn me. My Japanese friends laughed at me, so I tried again, staying very still and admiring the beauty of this firework. I ended up doing this same firework with every host family I visited. After my first mistake I became a pro, and surprised the other families with my fearlessness and skill.
But not all fireworks are harmless. With another family I watched as fireworks were given to a young 5 year old to play with and marveled that nothing burned down. However, I wasn’t that lucky a few nights later. I had met an older former Ambassador friend of mine for dinner in Suwa, and to also spend time with her brother his friends. We had a lovely dinner and then moved onto the ritual of buying fireworks at 7/11 and then headed down to the Lake Suwa to light off the fireworks.
This time we had gotten small dragonfly fireworks that you lit and then used the string to make big circles over your head. As someone who enjoyed fireworks I was having fun with these unique fireworks that we didn’t have back home, and probably wasn’t paying as much attention as I should have been. It wasn’t long before the smell of burned became apparent. In slow motion I realized I WAS ON FIRE! At that moment I truly considered jumping into the inky black lake to put out the fire but at the same time, one of the guys in the group started saying “No worry! I Fireman!” quickly over and over while others shouted things in Japanese I didn’t understand. But my mind racked and remembered the old childhood rules of “Stop, Drop, and Roll”. Thankfully this did put out the small fire, and beyond hair being singed I was no worse for the wear.
After nearly two weeks of doing fireworks with the families, my exchange group was invited by the mayor to be the guests of honor to the large firework display in Chino. Our host families dressed us up in traditional Yukata (a summer cotton kimono) and helped us get into the elaborate obi belt with bow at the back. The families burned mini logs in front of their house to guide the spirits home, and then we headed to the firework display. It was like a summer traveling carnival with lots of food vendors, toys and glow in the dark knickknacks for sale, and rides. It was so much fun to be dressed up and watching fireworks, and I was thankful to take a break from all the intense Japanese fireworks and just be able to relax and watch them instead.
I’ve written about my first trip abroad before, but sadly not having a watch wasn’t the only thing I got wrong in Paris. The other spectacular travel misstep was my wardrobe for the trip. You see my mother had read up on Paris, and was adamant that Parisians are savy dressers and wouldn’ t be caught dead in blue jeans. Instead, all the rage in Paris was sleek black clothing. And so no one in my family was aloud to bring blue jeans, or bright color clothes as we didn’t want to stand out as Americans, especially since France was not being terribly helpful after September 11, 2001.
And on one hand this was probably a good plan. While we were there, Paris had protests against the US and the start of the War on Terror. Signs for American movies were defaced with anti-American slogans. And while walking to the Eiffel Tower we noticed a beautiful memorial called The Wall for Peace that had messages in many languages. On our way back, someone was shooting up the English panels and spray painted “FU America” nearby. So it was a strange time to visit France.
But wearing all black did not help us blend in. Not only was that assumption wrong on my mother’s part, but we saw NO ONE wearing all black. I saw every single teenager my age (as I was 16 at the time) wearing blue jeans. And the black beret my mother force my dad to wear…was ridiculous.
Now looking stupid wouldn’t be a terrible problem, but in February 2002, every monument and museum was on full alert for possible terrorist attacks. Men with rifles monitored the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Napoleon’s Tomb, etc. And each time they got suspicious of the strange people wearing all black. My dad got extra screening and extra security at every stop. The guards at the Eiffel Tower demanded to know why we were all in black. My dad kept pleading “My wife said Parisians wear all black, that is the style these days.” And looked at him like he was nuts.
Needless to say, don’t ever wear all black when traveling. And thankfully, my mother never gave us wardrobe direction on any trip again.
I’m the type of person who is always planning my next trip. But after my last few trips in Central America, I’ve decided to focus a more on the good old USA.
And what represents America the best than the capitol! That’s right, I’ll be going to Washington, DC for a week. I’m really excited as I love museums! I’ve already got tickets for a tour of the Capitol building and the National Archives. I don’t have set plans but just wanting to experience the monuments and maybe some food trucks while I’m there.
But as soon as I get back to Colorado, I’ll be turning around and heading out on a work trip to Henderson, NV at the M resort for a trade show. Trade shows are always draining, and this is the second time I’ve been to this particular trade show. Beyond being excited to see my clients, I’m also excited as the M is a really nice hotel. The beds were divine, the bathroom mirror has a TV in it, and the bathtub walls are glass. I once again will have a view of the Las Vegas Strip, so I’m looking forward to unwinding after a long day with the TV on, running a bath, and looking at the Strip.
Then I return back to Colorado for a few days…and then head on out again on the road for a few days.
So it will be 3 weeks of quick trips.
“Yo Mamma! Go slow. They ain’t gonna leave you.” I had heard that Belize’s islands unofficial motto was “Go Slow”. I had been warned that if I rushed I would be told to slow down. But I didn’t expect that to be my first greeting in Belize while waiting for my water ferry to Caye Caulker. You see my group had been split up, and our van arrived an hour later than the other half of the group. When we finally made it to the dock I was told the boat was leaving in 2 minutes, so I was running around, going to the bathroom, buying snacks, etc. And my rushing around was noticed by every local. Hails of “Go slow” and “Slowly mamma” followed me.
As someone who frequently moves quickly, going slow is hard to get use to. But on my second day on the island I both embraced the “Go Slow” and completely disrupted it.
I had slept in, had a wonderful breakfast, and then took a leisurely stroll for some shopping. I ended up at the Split, hung out a bit, and then made my way back the way I came. I would stop here and there to get some ice cream, or sit by the waves. I ended up finding a hammock over the ocean at a restaurant And I ordered a drink and some lunch and then spent a few hours enjoying the ocean waves, reading a book, and napping in the hammock. It was a perfect day!
But after a while I wandered back to the hotel to find that my stellar GAdventures Guide was putting together a Scavenger Hunt via golf carts. Caye Caulker doesn’t have any cars on the islands. You get around via feet, bike, or golf cart. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do the hunt, and I certainly didn’t want to drive. But it turns out you had to have your drivers license on you, and I was one of 3 people on the tour who had it…and we had enough people for three teams, so I got auto-elected to be one of the drivers.
So we split into teams, and explained what a Scavenger Hunt/Treasure Hunt was to those who hadn’t done it before. And then we took off. I was a little weary at first, as the island’s three streets (Named Front Street, Middle Street, and Back Street…no joke) are marked by rocks and pot holes. But then the competitive atmosphere took over…and it was full speed ahead. Each of the three teams took off in different directions, although we would sometimes spy each other at cross streets. It was exhilarating but I couldn’t find the horn so I had to shout “BEEP BEEP” when we needed people to get out of the way.
The items that I remember we had to find:
- A photo of a frigate bird
- A Belikin beer cap
- A t-shirt that has “Belize” on it
- Something Orange
- A flower
- A coconut
- A handful of Sand
- A photo of one of the two trucks on the island
- A photo of the cemetery
- A photo of the team doing a pyramid
- A photo of a local celebrity (Wish Willy)
- A photo of someone making a sand angle
And…my team won! I would definitely recommend renting a golf cart on the island. While it can take a half hour or so to walk from one end of the island to the other it was amazing to zoom from one and to the other in seconds. And if the locals told me to “Go Slow”…I must have been zooming too fast to hear them.
Ireland is full of 3 things: Pubs, Churches, and Sheep. In 2009 I visited southern Ireland for a few weeks. One thing I thought was out of the ordinary was the different colors on the sheep. Some markings are to help determine the owner of the sheep, as sometimes sheep from multiple farms are kept on the same land together.
But other color markings are during the breeding season. The male sheep, a ram, has a harness installed near his neck that contains an animal friendly dye. When he mounts the female sheep (an ewe) he adds the dye to her back. The male’s dye can be changed out for a different color after some time has passed, and this helps to identify if an ewe is going to have multiple lambs, and when to expect the babies (early or later in the season.)
And from what I could tell, the sheep in Ireland were very frisky as most of the sheep had multiple colors on them!
In February 2010 I visited a paradise known as St. John USVI for the first time. Nearly 3/4th of the island is national park land and it is beautiful. I stayed in an eco cottages (pretty much tents in trees with geckos and frogs as roommates) and snorkeled every day. I didn’t want to ever leave this paradise.
But as with all trips the end seem to come too soon and it was time to go home. A day before I was supposed to fly out, I started hearing rumors that flights into the USVI had been cancelled and no one was getting into the islands. At first it was like a little joke, “Ah darn…looks like we cannot go home. Stuck in Paradise.” But as the day went on it turned out that the rumors were true: a “Snowpocalypse” hit the most of the Central and Eastern part of the US. It also meant that all of the mainland bound flights were also cancelled…as there were actually no planes currently on the island.
We used the antiquated computers and dial up to confirm that yes our vacation was going to continue for an extra day or two. Usually the island would have been packed for Valentines and Presidents Day with no rooms available but since no one could enter the islands either we lucked out and could stay in our same rooms. By this point there were many people trying to use the computers so I then had to word a quick email to work saying I was stuck in paradise because of the snow in the East Coast. I smiled a little as I wrote it, expecting my co-workers to be envious of me. But hey, I had plenty of vacation time and it was a slow time of the year, so it shouldn’t be a big issue.
So I enjoyed being stuck in Paradise for another two days, lounging in hammocks reading books, snorkeling, and hanging out with the other stranded people on the island. And then the flights started to resume and our little paradise was invaded by outsiders who had just arrived. And then it was time again to pack up. But then once again our flight out of the USVI was suddenly cancelled. This time because a nearby volcano had erupted ash into the air which is dangerous for jet engines. So once again I had to wait my turn on the dial up computers and send another quick email to work, to say that this time I was going to be delayed another day due to a volcano erupting. Man did I get so much crap from my co-workers for that email! They didn’t believe I was stuck in paradise, and wondered if I would ever come home.
And to be honest, I wondered too. :)