Uncharted waters


March 8, 2010 by 8junebugs

I’m about to do something for which I have no childhood roadmap.

I’m about to book international travel. I’ve got flight itineraries saved and a quote for a hotel room with a view of the Sydney Opera House. I’m readying my documents to (finally) get my passport corrected.

Mom never had a passport. I’m willing to bet my dad doesn’t, unless the crackdown on Canadian border crossings prompted him to get one. I don’t know about KidBrother…some time ago, he said he wanted to see Australia, but I’m not sure where that came from or how serious he is. We were raised primarily around the side of the family that doesn’t travel far, and that’s how we rolled. A “vacation” in my immediate family meant school shopping in tax-free New Hampshire — for the extended family, the radius expanded to include Florida, Vegas, Maine, Massachusetts and…well, that’s pretty much it.

My folks went to San Francisco in the 80s with my aunt and uncle, but then a man hit on my uncle (so the story goes), and he hasn’t crossed the Sierras since.

Travel and vacations just weren’t part of my upbringing. You know how, when you go back to school in the fall, the teacher asks you what you did for summer vacation? “We went to Disney World!” “We hiked the Long Trail!” “We went camping in the Catskills!”

“I swam a lot and read this book and that book and these other books.” “I worked weekends making snowcones. Lots and lots of snowcones.”

And that was fine. There was nothing wrong with how I spent vacations. What came out of that, though, is that I have no real framework for vacationing as a verb. “Vacation,” since I was 15, has meant visiting family or attending weddings.

The Obligation Vacation.

I should note that the Gingras side has some world travelers. There’s the one who got married over Labor Day — formerly an Army cook and/or something-more-dangerous-that-I-don’t-want-to-know-about, he’s been…well, everywhere we’ve had a war in the last 10 years, plus some other places for work and for fun. Then there’s the one expecting twins this summer — she’s been to India twice, I think, to spend time with her husband’s family. Her sister, the quiet one, has been freaking EVERYWHERE, and usually on a ship — she’s in her last year at Mass Maritime. (As she’s the quiet one, though, I never know where she is or has been until someone tags her in a photo on facebook.)

I’ve been abroad before, although the travel was arranged for me. Over winter break my senior year, the Foothill Marching Band and Color Guard spent about a week in London and a night in Paris (HAR!).

For reals, though, we somehow got into this Guinness Book of World Records thing — we started playing in France, played throughout a Chunnel ride, then marched in London’s New Year’s Day parade. (And by “play,” I mean the band — particularly the percussion squad — played. The guard napped…I mean, the previous night was New Year’s Eve. In Paris.) It was supposed to be the longest distance over which a marching band had played continuously, but I’m not sure if the achievement was ever recorded in the book. I suspect not.

(Addendum to that story: Because I was required to spend a week in Vermont for Christmas, I had to fly back to the East Bay, spend one sleepless night, then fly back over the East Coast the next day on the way to London. Worst. Jet lag. EVER.)

Either way, I got to see Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden, Stratford-upon-Avon, Oxford, Windsor Castle, the Champs-Élysées, and the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower (from a distance) before I was old enough to vote. And I got to see them with Graham, who by that point was Foothill’s marching instructor.

(Ours is not a Hot For Teacher case — we were together before he took the job. I just walked into rehearsal one morning and there he was, in charge of teaching me to stand up straight. “Surprise!”)

(His surprises always sucked.)

(Like the one about how my previous boyfriend had become his roommate. I found that out on my way over to his apartment in 199something.)


(They thought it was hilarious.)


So the thing about planning a trip to Australia when you were raised in a non-vacationing family is that the cost seems staggering. It’s not that staggering (thanks, Expedia), I have the money for it, and it’s worth every penny…and this is why we earn money, right? I mean, above food, shelter, and clothing needs. We earn and we save and we budget so that we can pay for experiences that enhance, enrich, and embolden our lives. Otherwise, what good is it?

Such is my philosophy, anyway. Still, there are times when the ways in which that philosophy differs from the one I was raised in become violently clear. For the last 15 years, cross-country travel has just been a fact of life, not the event it was when I first boarded a plane. International travel…well, it’s been a long time.

Technically, you could call this trip an obligation vacation. We’re heading to Sydney in May to celebrate the wedding of a very dear friend. But Sydney is not Providence, Rhode Island — you can’t get there and then turn around and come right back. I mean, you could, but why would you? We’ll be there less than a week but more than a weekend. It’s not ideal, but the travel alone will take nearly three days, and I do need to go back to work eventually. I’ll be looking to a couple of Aussie friends to help us do the most with our time there…I trust they’ll help us do just enough that we’ll want to go back and do more. (Hi, Cat!)

(@sportik, this means we’re coming. Probably. Paper RSVP to follow.)


2 thoughts on “Uncharted waters

  1. elizabeth says:

    I would love to see the Sydney Opera House.

    I am a fan of vacationing, and Australia/New Zealand is one of those places where I’d gulp a little at the cost. Mostly the cost of the plane ticket. That being said, once you pay over a certain amount for a plane ticket, the next time you look at fares, they don’t seem as staggering. 😉

    However, I do agree that experiences are worth it. And to me, travel experiences are. Along with getting to see somewhere new, it’s a way of making the world feel a little bit smaller – and a reminder that we’re all not so different from each other in the end.

    Still giggling at your Graham story ..

    • 8junebugs says:

      I’m gulping, but I’d set up the scenario in advance–if I didn’t have to pay in for taxes this year, I could afford the trip. Because I got a bit of a refund, I might make the trip with new luggage. 😉 At this point, the time in flight is more staggering than the cost, but I’m told United’s booze is free on trans-Pacific flights…

      Also, visiting this friend has been important to us from the start, and if not for her wedding, then when? If you don’t make a trip like that for a major life event, you can sort of foresee putting it off. . .forever, no matter how much you want to go.

      The Graham story continues to be funny–we’re both still friends with that beloved ex-boyfriend (although sometimes people think we aren’t, because we argue a LOT). He was also on the London/Paris trip.

      What can I say? It’s a band thing.

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