The Dumbest Travel Mistake Ever

photo4v2I like to think I’m a pretty savvy traveler. Wait, scratch that: I’ve traveled extensively, all over the world, and just visited my 99th country, so when it comes to international travel I pretty much know what I’m doing. Or so I thought.

Julia and I had been up and traveling since 4:30am. After nearly 10 hours spent in various airports and security checks and immigration lines, by the time our taxi delivered us to the front gate of the resort in Cancun, Mexico we were both quite ready to bask in beach and sun.

Not so fast.

“There’s a problem,” we were told.

No big deal, I thought. Minor problems are a fact of travel life, and can usually be resolved in a matter of minutes.

The hotel manager, brow furrowed, explained that he could not find our reservation. Never heard of us. OK, that’s a bit odd, I thought, but easy enough to resolve: after all, I had a confirmed reservation.

I gave him the confirmation number, but he still couldn’t find us. So I asked for and was given access to a computer to look up our actual confirmation details, and when I pulled it up I stopped cold.

In a sudden moment of disbelief and horror, I realized exactly what the problem was: I’d booked the wrong resort.

Instead of booking the resort in Cancun, where we were, I’d accidentally made the reservation for a resort of the same name in Los Cabos, Mexico. That’s 2,000 miles away. And our reservation was non-refundable. And the resort in Cancun was fully booked.

Oh. My. God.

I couldn’t believe it. That’s like showing up in Miami when your reservation is in San Diego. The sheer absurdity of it made me (but not Julia) laugh. Is it even possible to make a dumber travel mistake?

In shock and wondering exactly the same thing, Julia asked the resort manager if this was a common mistake. Nope, never happened before. Apparently it takes a very special individual (i.e. a moron) to show up at the wrong place 2,000 miles away from his actual reservation. In fact, over the next few hours every new staff member that was told of our predicament would glance at us in disbelief and then break out laughing. Discreetly, of course.

Many hours later, a solution was thankfully found to our colossally dumb conundrum. No thanks to my genius reservation and geography skills.

Savvy traveler I may be, but there are two resorts in Mexico that clearly would beg to differ. I now top their list of “most clueless traveler ever.”

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I’ve Been Corrupted

Something dreadful has happened on this trip. An event of irrevocable consequence.

I went on a cruise. And I liked it.

NOOoooooooo.

This can’t be. This goes against every fiber of my travel being. Against nearly 20 years of independent travel to scores of countries around the world.

Alas.

I blame Julia, of course. When she first suggested we go on a cruise in the Caribbean, I scoffed, sputtered and snorted in disdainful dismissal. Never. Going. To. Happen.

For one, I’m not huge on following directions, and the thought of being herded along with thousands of others for set daytime group “excursions” had all the travel appeal of joining a working chain gang at the local penitentiary. And second, traveling in close proximity to 5,000 other Americans totally defeats the cultural immersion experience.

Julia did not take the hint. Shamelessly undaunted, she came back a few weeks later with what she considered a brilliant alternative: we’d hire out a small sailboat and have the captain sail us around wherever we want in the islands.

I think I visibly blanched at the thought. I’ll gleefully jump out of an airplane at 15,000 feet or trek through some of the world’s most remote jungles, but toss me on a little sailboat in the middle of the ocean and I’ll break out into cold sweats. Trapped, seasick and at the mercy of an endless expanse of water just begging for an opportunity to capsize you is not my idea of a good time. As far as I’m concerned, an ideal ship size is an aircraft carrier or larger, not a dozen feet of plastic and a flapping strip of white cloth.

Julia at this point could have given up. No herding, no little boats, no cruise, game over. Instead, the sly little creature went in for the kill: a luxury sailing cruise.

A big sailing yacht, but with 148 maximum passenger capacity. Big enough to overcome my (very reasonable) objection to tiny boats on a big ocean, and small enough not to feel like herded cattle.

I probably still would have given it a thumbs down, except for the total lack of reasonable air service between all the different Caribbean islands. You can literally see one island from the next, and yet there are no ferries and the inter-island flights are ridiculously overpriced. If you want to island hop, you’re pretty much forced to do it by sea. Bloody conspiracy, if you ask me.

So I accepted. And within 24 hours on the ship, I was sold.

Go to bed, wake up, and your most excellent floating hotel has taken you to a brand new place while you slept! Oh my God, how amazingly awesome is that!

Now, of course, I’m hooked. Like, where else in the world can I go where my hotel brings me everywhere I want to be?

Now, don’t get me wrong: there’s no way I’m going to turn all my travels into neatly packaged cruises, no matter how convenient. One of the reasons I travel in the first place is for the culture shock and to get away from the familiar. But I can definitely see myself sneaking a small ship cruise in now and then as appropriate. Wait, did I just say that? This is such a colossal change in my thinking that it has my travel identity well and truly flummoxed.

It’s all Julia’s fault.

Julia’s Comment: I have to say, I just don’t feel bad about this AT ALL.  And don’t worry sweetie, I won’t tell anyone how blissful you looked relaxing in our stateroom in that plush white bathrobe enjoying the little chocolate mint they put on our pillows at night 😉

Gabriel: OK, good, I don’t want anyone to know about that.

Julia: You’re so hardcore.

Gabriel: Yes, yes, totally.

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On the way to the ship

I Have a Genetic Condition

I love the ocean.  I’ll always jump at the opportunity to snorkel because of how at home I feel under water.  Just being able to see pretty coral and fish swimming in their natural habitat is always enough to put a big smile on my face.  So when we saw several little sea turtles today on our snorkel in Tobago Cays, it was almost too much and I got a serious case of “the squeezies.”

The squeezies are what you get when you see something so unbelievably adorable it makes you want to squeeze it.  You may notice your hands balling up into tight fists, clenching of your jaw and or buttocks, and ultimately the overwhelming desire to squeeze the living daylights out of it (without actually killing it, of course).   I’m convinced this is a genetic trait and something that definitely runs in my family.  My mom had it as a child and I’ve seen my nephew on multiple occasions get them so badly he will literally try and rip off his dog’s head (out of love of course).

I have a borderline unhealthy obsession with animals and think almost every single one is adorable, so I get the squeezies on a pretty regular basis.   When I saw that little sea turtle, I knew I was doomed for a pretty big episode.   The water was pretty shallow and I was just slowly swimming above the little guy watching him eat.  I loved him so much I started singing Disney songs to him in my head.  Everything from Aladdin’s “I can show you the world,” to the Lion King’s “Can you feel the love tonight,” and the obvious Little Mermaid’s “Under the sea.”  He started to swim up towards me to get some air and I was able to touch his back.  Then, very carefully, I grabbed the sides of his shell and tried to go for a ride.  My excitement was through the roof.  I needed to be medicated.  In that moment I was so sure that he and I would ride off together and be happy forever.  Turns out I was too heavy for him to pull, so I just let go.  He left me behind and I came back to reality.  But I still dream of us.

Gabriel’s Comment: I saw the whole thing. Julia was stalking this turtle, who’d been casually munching stuff from the reefs for the past few minutes, and when he came up for air she reached out excitedly to pet it and grab its shell on either side. Then she suddenly tensed every muscle in her body in giddy excitement, letting go of the turtle in the process. Knowing exactly what was going on, I chuckled into my snorkel. The turtle went back to eating.

Oops, I Drugged My Boyfriend

We had only been at sea for about 4 hours when Gabriel turned to me with blood shot eyes and a slight green tinge in his complexion, mumbling about not feeling so great. His head was slowly bobbing back and forth to the gentle rocking of the ship.

Knowing his obvious seasickness would only get much worse before it got better I immediately jumped out of bed and grabbed the Dramamine for him.  He was a little resistant to taking it (because he has a penis and is very proud about it); however,  I’m a firm believer in not suffering so I insisted he take some.  Also, his face was turning greener by the second and he looked beyond miserable.

We agreed on half a dose, what a 12 year old or younger would take.  Within 45 seconds he was unconscious, lying diagonally across the bed on top of the covers.  About 30 minutes later I was ready to go to bed and very much not looking forward to the task of having to move Gabriel while he was asleep.  He gets very grumpy.  Even the slightest poke on the shoulder can result in a loud groan and looks of utter aggravation.  When I finally mustered up the courage to give him a gentle nudge, he gave out the usual groan and then followed it with about 30 seconds of complete gibberish.

The next morning I woke up before Gabriel.  This was a total shock, as I don’t think this has ever happened.  It actually took him a full hour to get completely out of bed.   Three separate times he made an attempt at getting up, raising his head and one arm in the air, groaning loudly and pathetically, and then plopping back down and sleeping for another 30 minutes or so.  It was about this time when I realized “good god, I’ve drugged my boyfriend.”

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Thankfully, he did eventually make it to breakfast, and after about 2 cups of coffee was finally able to speak in complete sentences.

Gabriel’s Comments: Never taking that evil white pill again! Clearly, they need to add “speaking in tongues” to the litany of Dramamine side effects. And for the record, my attempts at waking up were herculean, given that I’d been heavily drugged and sedated. Thank God I was able through sheer force of will to drag myself to the coffee pot for the antidote.

Existential A/C in Suriname

Our cramped room has two temperature settings: Jungle Hot and Arctic Breeze. Either you turn the medieval air conditioning unit on, blasting cold air at full volume directly over the two narrow beds like a glacial gale, or you keep it off and let the hot, heavy jungle air envelop you in an oppressive sheen of moisture and sweat.

So the existential question of the night becomes: do you leave the AC unit off and endure the tropical jungle heat until you’re marinating in your own sweat on the bed like a human slip ‘n’ slide, despite air conditioning available right there, just a switch away?

Or do you turn it on and brave the cold wind from a unit that has all the silence of a farm tractor trudging uphill on a bad day, with no covers available and only a small thin bed sheet closer in size to a large napkin? Shivering in misery sounds ridiculous when the off switch is right there, just within reach.

Either way, the open air window offers zero barrier to the local mosquitoes, who are perfectly content to ride in to feast on either jungle or tundra setting.

The perfect answer, of course, is to do both. Every time I’d wake up, either sweltering or shivering, I’d reach up and turn the AC knob to the other setting, going back to sleep after casually scratching some of my latest mosquito bites. Until I woke up again to switch the knob back. Genius!

(Miscellaneous note: in the interest of full disclosure, Pascal is not a fan of my so-called “schizophrenic climate change strategy.” I believe his underappreciative and wholly unwarranted term for it was “sadistic.”)

No Naps Allowed!

I’m rather partial to fast-paced, adrenaline-pumping vacations to the edge of the world; Julia on the other hand prefers the peace and tranquility of warm, idyllic settings.

Which is why on this trip I’m doing the “roughing it” part first with my brother, then meeting up with Julia for a more leisurely tropical R&R later. A brilliant plan.

So today I mentioned in an email that Pascal and I took a power nap in between rounds of exploring the city, still reeling from a rough red-eye flight that had us landing in Guyana at 7am, hungry and exhausted.

Julia emailed back with the following tongue-in-cheek response: “I’m not going to lie, I’m a little nervous about all this ‘napping’ and sitting around.  You are supposed to be going balls to wall playing Indiana Jones now! Trekking off the beaten path, mildly suffering in poverty stricken areas with gross local mystery meat foods, painful mattresses, 72 hour bus rides sitting next to a crate of chickens, waking up at 5 am for an all day tour, and basically doing a bunch of other Indiana Jones type stuff. That way you are all tuckered out by the time you meet up with me and will be ready to have a fantastic, leisurely, adult trip.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I like to play Indiana Jones too (because obviously, I’m a crazy badass) which is exactly why we will be going on the Indiana Jones ride at Disney World!  So STOP taking naps!!!  You better be exhausted by the time I see you. ;)”

Gabriel: Pfffft, no worries there. Tomorrow we’re waking up at 3:45am to take an all-day series of buses through lands unknown. So there!

Julia: Ohh please! Over the past two days, I have heard of at least 3 naps and a 6 pm bedtime curfew.

Gabriel: Those were manly power naps!!