I just finished reading a description of the Blue Grotto of Capri, written by Richard Halliburton, an explorer who travelled and wrote during the early 1900’s. I am reading his book The Complete Book of Marvels. He writes about geography and travel in a way that makes the reader want to get out of his chair and go, now! If I were still homeschooling we would be reading these stories as a way to enhance history and geography. As I read I am laying out a plan of study, then I remember, I no longer have students. I am reading for pleasure only.
Halliburton shares his visit of the Blue Grotto with us. The entrance to this cave is nearly under water. The guide and the writer had to lean down into the boat to enter. Inside this famous cave the writer was amazed at the beauty, the rock walls, the sparkling light made when his hand trailed in the water and the very deep luminous blue wavering throughout the cave. They were the only visitors, and changing into bathing suits they dove in the water, splashed and had a great time. I could just imagine how it would be now, for me. I looked up the Blue Grotto on youtube, and found a home video posted by a vacationer. It looked like Disney Land, a line of boats waiting to enter the cave, taking turns with the exiting boats. Inside the water and the rocks sparkled a deep blue, guides sang Italian love songs and children shouted at their echoes. I’m not sure how much magic is left.
So often our travel dreams and travel reality are not equal. We forget, in our plans and excitement, to think about the realities; traffic, parking and crowds. The very things that cause us to want to visit a place entice others as well. A few years ago my kids and I drove out west, and one of our stops was the Grand Canyon. We decided to visit the North Rim, choosing it over the more popular South Rim. We had a wonderful visit. We camped at a Forest Service Campground and in the morning, after coffee and breakfast, we drove into the park. There was a slow moving line of cars at the entrance, causing maybe a 15-minute delay, but once in the park we all spread out, driving to the various overlooks. We never had trouble finding a parking space even though we saw plenty of cars and people. At lunchtime we ate at a picnic table along with many others, but we had no trouble finding an empty spot. We spent the entire day in the park. By evening we enjoyed a few of the pullouts by ourselves. We walked to a fairly remote spot, peacefully enjoyed the sunset and the blending of colors across the canyon. Other people were nearby, but it was never crowded.
Near the end of summer we met a man that worked at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. He told me that during the same month we enjoyed the North Rim, he was at the South Rim, where cars waited in line for over an hour just to enter the park gates. Crowds were huge, and vacationers were tired. The South Rim is so popular the park has a bus system to move people from one viewing spot to another. Visitors sometimes have to wait for a second or third bus before they can find a seat. A few years later we visited the South Rim, and saw many short tempers, frustrated visitors and perhaps disappointed faces.
We don’t expect to go on vacation only to encounter more stress than our daily lives, but often that is what happens. There is a disconnect between the desire and the reality. Here are a few tips to help prepare and avoid these troubles.
1 Plan plenty of time for crowd related delays, long lines and long drive times. Look at a map and understand the distances you may be driving.
2 Pack water bottles and snacks to avoid dehydration and the crankiness that comes with hunger.
3 Relax and enjoy. Don’t set a goal to see the most things possible, instead set a goal to enjoy the things you do see. Live in the moment, not in an imaginary expectation.
4 Go to places that are less popular. The Grand Canyon is just as beautiful from the North Rim as the South.
5 Understand that just because you are on vacation it doesn’t mean you are not in the “real world.” You still have to look before crossing the street, you still have to take turns and be polite, and plan ahead.
6 You are still “you” on vacation. You have not entered a magical world where suddenly personalities have changed. If you have problems, you will bring those problems with you.
7 You must be alert. Thieves go on vacation too, just for different reasons.
8 Treat the vacation place as you would your own home – don’t litter, don’t park on the grass, take care of the resources.
9 Most importantly, have fun! And learn something!