Earlier this week a friend of ours posted a Facebook plea, which read something like this, “I am going to the Welsh Coast this summer and need help buying proper hiking shoes…”
Having recently been in Wales (at a Pub near the English border, not the coast), I felt like I could give the perfect advice, [wink, wink]. In truth, we did hike in South Downs, England at Beachy Head (one of my favorite places I’ve been), which I imagine has similar terrain to the Welsh Coastline. Quickly, I looked up my favorite walking/hiking shoe brand (I have purchased at least thirty pairs over the years), copied and then pasted the link with this message:
“Do not go hardcore. You won’t need crazy hiking shoes/boots. Get something cool, functional, comfortable and waterproof, like a pair of Gore-Tex Salomons. Take one of your lovely friends to REI or the Salomon Store and look. Trust me. I have worn these for years and have hiked many a mile in them. The Salomon Gorw-Tex trail runner rocks!”
Quickly the thread digressed into why our friend should not buy the shoes from the store I recommended (REI), because of REI’s new return policy “sucks.” The thread had a point.
As I was telling the shoe-exchange-gone-wrong, Dave burst out with “that’s it.”
“What’s it?” I asked.
“Often times it is the anticipation of the trip that gives someone the most pleasure — like shopping for shoes.”
We are currently in Costa Rica staying at the Five Star Andaz Papgayo (a Hyatt Brand Hotel). I would call this hotel a little bit of heaven tucked away on the Costa Rican coast. Moments earlier Dave, the boys and I were at one of the four swimming pools when the rain rolled in. It was falling just hard enough that we decided to take shelter under the open-air, covered Rio Bhongo restaurant. Here we sat as I stared at the beautiful bay view, the jungle flowers, the sky, the ocean, and the swimming pools below. We are in paradise.
Yet paradise can go wrong. Last night, for instance, I walked into the bench at the foot of our bed, stubbed my toe, and split my toenail all the way down the middle. Ouch! Before that Dave was in the ocean with Kyle when he walked into a rock. We thought it was broken. And right before that, I sprayed bug repellent on my legs, which melted my pedicure.
As we waited for the rain to stop, our conversation continued.
“People spend months and months looking for the perfect hotel, the best attractions, reading reviews, and telling their friends about where they are going.”
“It is like the fantasy created in planning is where the joy is, and the trip may even be something to check off a list, or better, the less-enjoyed aspect of the whole experience.” I responded.
What Dave and I both observed is that for many people the real joy in travel does come from picking out the right travel shoes. Then we both wondered, “how much of the actual satisfaction of the journey lies in the planning, or doing things like gathering points?”
I think for many it is a lot. I would argue that getting the most joy out of fantasizing your most amazing trip is not only ok, but your trip fantasy can give you endless joy and satisfaction. When you plan, you can take time to imagine things like all the stunning and formidable rock cliffs shooting out of the Welsh coastline. You can see yourself walking along in your perfect hiking shoes while using a clever walking stick (I imagine one with some sort of Celtic wood carving). And then you can see yourself hiking along with your adorable Welsh guide. You hardly understand what he is saying through his strong Welsh accent, but that does not matter. You are simply delighted as the sea mist brushes your face and you share tales of warriors and magical sea creatures. I imagine your fantasy does not include toe injuries, unexpected fees, or canceled flights. I am certain it does not include the possibility that you bought the wrong hiking shoe, or the fact that once you arrive in Wales, you may not even see the coast through the rain and fog. My guess is that if you were thinking about staying in paradise, rain, which it is doing now, is not even considered.
“See, once you are actually there, things can go wrong.” Dave continued.
“You may not even need the hiking shoes, or better, if you go some magical place like Hawaii, you may never leave your beachside chair.” I inserted.
“Or not even make it to the beach at all, and stay by the pool.” Dave followed.
It is an interesting thought. I do not think it matters. I think some of us enjoy all aspects of travel: the planning, the trip, the social media sharing, and the return. I also think for some people the actual trip is perfunctory (remember things can go wrong), and it really is the planning (the fantasy) that allows them to escape their everyday life. I look at it this way. You can plan for months and months. Each of those planning days can serve as a most perfect vacation day. If planning is your thing, I think you have created a most excellent way to extend your vacation. High fives to you and your super durable hiking shoes!
Here is a list of some of our favorite planning websites:
1. My favorite multipurpose travel information website: Tripadvisor
2. Rent-your-own lodging: VRBO, HomeAway, and AirBnB (all of these sites are worldwide)
4. My mother-inlaw’s favorite travel review website: Fordor’s
5. A great flight, hotel and car rental aggregator: Kayak
6. To learn about earning points: The Points Guy
7. If you want to stay on someone’s couch: Couchsurfing
8. Flight Matrix Search (gives you a way to really find the lowest cost airfare): ITA
9. Finally, If part of the fantasy is a personalized, customized approach, and you are traveling in South or Central America: Mosaico Travel