Friday, January 27, 2012

Vacations--Financial Fridays

When I was little girl our family would travel. My parents would ride in the cab of the truck and my siblings, our dog and I would ride in the back of the truck. We pulled a camper that smelled of kerosene gas and bacon. After a few windblown hours, we would reach our destination—a lake, typically inhabited by a few deer, rabbits and no one else. I spent the days reading and slapping mosquitoes while my parents fished. At night we would roast fish and then listen to my dad snore.

Did I enjoy these vacations? Not even a little bit. Do I look back on them with fondness? Never.

When I approached marriageable age and dreamed of who I would marry I had two requirements for my future spouse—I had to love him and he couldn’t enjoy hunting or fishing. Period. I had no wiggle room on this last requirement. It wouldn’t have mattered if my Romeo had a thirty million dollar trust fund, looked like Johnny Depp, sang like Sting and wrote poetry like Robert Frost, if he owned a gun and used it on animals I would not have been interested. (Larry is from LA and I’m pretty sure I’ve killed more animals than he ever has—-Hey, I was there and everyone else in my family was killing animals and occasionally I ran out of reading material. Don’t judge me. )

My brother, on the other hand, had a totally different attitude to our family vacations and he grew up to be a very successful fly fishing guide. People travel from all over the world to go on fishing trips with my brother. (Check out his book—love you, Dennis, so proud of you.

Is Dennis right? Am I right? Yes and yes. We just have different definitions of fun. And that’s okay. Vacations are important. It’s important to have time away from our daily work. It’s important to spend time with people we love doing something that we love. And we need to budget so that we can afford vacations. And we need to calendar in our vacations. Someone once told me that memories are made by appointment and I believe it’s true.

The following is an experience I had on vacation almost two years ago. Remember, lasting memories have to be made. Nothing ever just happens.

19 Miles in Southern Argentina
I visited the Glacier National Park in Southern Argentina and hiked 19 miles. I don’t think I intended to hike 19 miles, but summer’s daylight in the southern hemisphere lasts a long time and there wasn't a compelling reason to return to the hotel.

The scenery was mouth dropping gorgeous and the weather perfect. Lakes a surreal blue, a matching sky, big fluffy clouds, a gently breeze, a soft sun, which made the thunder difficult to explain-- until we realized we weren’t hearing thunder, but the splintering and crashing of glaciers.

Whenever I’d start to feel buff and proud of my ability to hike with Larry and Nathan, I’d be passed by some 60ish sisters with serious looking backpacks. Once I was overrun by a herd of tiny Asian women who looked about as strong and substantial as hummingbirds. But, when I came to mile 10 and the sign that read DANGER, STEEP INCLINE NEXT 1.5 MILES, all the middle-aged ladies disappeared.

And after a few yards, I thought I’d disappear, too. A thirty-degree incline up loose shoal. Step one foot up, slide 6 inches down. No trees, bushes or hand holds. Serious arguing ensued and after I used words such as chauvinists, sexists, and death, I convinced Larry and Nathan to leave me behind. They went to find the lake and glacier and I sat down on a rock.

For about 3 minutes.

A teenage hiker passed by and I asked him far to the glacier. 20 minutes, but he assured me it was worth the climb. So, I came up with a plan. I took 60 steps and then picked up a pebble (they were plentiful.) When I had five pebbles (300 steps) I allowed myself to sit down and replaced the pebbles with a rock. When I had two rocks (ten minutes, 600 steps) a pair of hikers passed and I asked them how long to the glacier. 10 minutes, they said. By the time I had another rock (300 steps, 5 more minutes) I crested the hill and could see the lake and glacier below. I could also see Larry and Nathan at the water’s edge. I found a place to sit down to watch them. I didn’t need to join them; I just liked seeing them together.

There’s the old maxim, by the yard it’s hard, but by the inch it’s a cinch. But, it wasn’t a cinch, ever. It was hard. If I hadn’t taken it at my pace and allowed myself to occasionally sit down, I wouldn’t have made it. But, I did make it. One pebble, one rock at a time. Was the view worth the climb? I’ve seen prettier postcards, but watching Larry and Nathan together at the lake’s edge, that was worth seeing.

When Larry and Nathan caught up with me, Nathan said, “I knew you could do it, Mom.” Which was nice to hear, because I didn’t know I could. We were still 9 miles from the trailhead, but it was all downhill from there.

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