My husband and I studied the trip itinerary for Mayflower Cruises and Tour’s “Tulip Time on Jewels of the Rhine” for the fifth time. We had a tough decision to make; one that could shape our future, maybe even our destiny. I’ve long dreamed about river cruising in Europe and this trip includes seeing the colorful fields of tulips in the Netherlands, touring a medieval castle in Germany, spending time in a picturesque town in France, and riding a gondola where we’ll soak in the view of the Swiss Alps.
We discussed the pros and cons. The trip will enrich our world view; we’ll delight in new aromas, tastes, and sights; and we’ll have stimulating conversations with people from various backgrounds.
The cons included the worry of possibly having health issues while overseas, the stress of traveling, and whether we could justify the cost. Since we’re driving a high-mileage car which has a temperamental heater and fluky hatchback door, we should save for a newer model. I scratched my head, frowned, and wandered off to think some more.
Later that day, I accepted an invitation from a nearby library to hang some of my photographs on their display wall. Excited, I hurried home to choose which images I’d like to enlarge. One of the first to catch my eye was a blossoming cherry tree in Washington D.C.’s Arlington National Cemetery. Several years ago, along with my husband, I had taken Mayflower’s Cherry Blossom Time tour which included Williamsburg and Washington D.C. Memories of breathing in the fragrant spring blossoms and soaking in the welcome sight of vivid red, orange, yellow and deep purple tulips come flooding back. I recall how I became choked up with emotion while touring memorials of heroes such as Martin Luther King and while viewing Arlington National Cemetery.
I also reflect on the other Mayflower travelers we met, including a retired police officer who confided he had been on duty on September 11. He looked away after telling us, letting us know he didn’t want to talk about it, but meeting him caused me to think about all the heroes we encounter every day.
If my husband and I decide to go river cruising, we’ll meet people from all walks of lives, people who will show their love of their country, in big ways and in small. That would be much more fulfilling than upgrading to a car that has a working power hatchback door.
I keep scrolling through my photos and find one taken during a trip to Scandinavia. Our tour group had gathered in a Sami tipi in northern Norway to learn about the indigenous “reindeer people.” We got to sample reindeer broth, learn about the Sami’s nomadic lifestyle, and enjoy cultural music. On our way back to the ship, our bus had to pause to allow a herd of free-roaming reindeer to cross the road. Visiting Scandinavia and broadening my world view was more valuable to me than owning a car with a dependable heater.
The next photo I choose is the image of a sunset backlighting a Costa Rican palm tree near the ocean. It transports me back to our trip, where our tour guide howled to monkeys and they answered him. I also remember the flock of scarlet macaws that flew past us and the sunbathing sloth we discovered. During that trip, I got to soak in the sight of a vibrant, glittery turquoise bay. After slipping on snorkel gear, I dipped into the warm ocean water and explored the underwater world. Later, I got to feel like Tarzan after conquering my fear and crossing a swinging bridge high in the tree canopy. A newer car couldn’t give me those same thrills.
I remind myself that traveling can be stressful. As I scroll to the trip we took to Alaska in 2010, I recall how our flight had been delayed for 24 hours. We sat in the Madison airport for a full day, confused, stressed out and crabby, before needing to take a bus to the Minneapolis airport to catch a different flight. Starting out on a trip after not sleeping for a day isn’t ideal, but as I look through our photos, I realize how lucky we were during that trip as well. We were among the 30% of the people traveling to Denali that got to see the entire mountain top. (Clouds usually obscure it.)
I was also lucky during a panning-for-gold attraction. I sifted out several gold flakes, enough to add an impressive amount to the glass bubble earrings my husband bought me. And I was extremely lucky to be working out on the cruise ship’s treadmill, looking out the enormous picture window, when a whale breached right in front of me. Would I trade those experiences for a newer vehicle? No way.
My husband and I booked the “Tulip Time on Jewels of the Rhine” trip, which we’ll take in May, making a decision that is sure to enrich our lives. I’m already happily anticipating all we’ll learn, see, and experience. That is, if our poor old car can make it to the airport.
About the Author: Amy Laundrie is an author, blogger and avid traveler on several Mayflower trips. www.laundrie.com