When Vacations Don’t Go Exactly As Planned
Let’s say you get the flu as soon as you step out onto the beach. Or, your romantic hotel room is right next to a family with screaming toddlers. Often, you can find hidden opportunities in these small tragedies. Maybe the flu that keeps you inside also keeps you from getting sunburned like the rest of your family. Or, the screaming toddlers later befriend you in the hotel pool and you spend a giggle-filled afternoon seeing the world through their eyes.
Just over three weeks ago, my friend Brooke and I set out from Denver for a Vail vacation. Brooke and I have known each other since college at U of M, and we spent much of the nighttime Rocky Mountain drive catching up with one another. One minute, we were laughing and reminiscing, and the next minute we hit a spot of black ice, lost control of the car, smashed into the left guardrail, spun across the interstate in circles, got hit by two other cars, and finally landed front impact in a snow bank. We were stunned, terrified, badly banged up and bruised, and very lucky to be alive.
Obviously, this wasn’t supposed to happen.
We were supposed to arrive in Vail that night around 9pm, and check into a posh three-bedroom condo where our friends would be meeting us. Then, the next morning, the plan was to get up early and hit the slopes—I was choosing between skiing and snowboarding—and my friends were bringing up a bunch of sleds, too, which I was particularly excited about.
Instead, Brooke and I were taken from the accident scene in separate ambulances, and spent much of that first night in the hospital. When we finally were released to our rented condo, it was the wee hours of the morning, and we were shaken up, bone tired, clutching ice packs, and chomping advils to calm our pain.
There would be no frolicking through a winter wonderland. The able-bodied among our group really rose to the occasion, deputizing themselves as nurses and never once complaining about their vacation being ruined. Later on, they spent hours cooking Brooke and me a magnificent feast, even grilling vegetables on a barbecue outside in the falling snow, in a touching attempt to lift our spirits.
We dined that night by candlelight, Brooke and I both propped up on ice and recounting the accident. We all wondered at the circumstances that had brought us together, and at the very thin veil between things going as planned and that great unknown, the unexpected. We sat and talked long past we were done eating, and I don’t think I’ve ever before been part of a group speaking so starkly and openly about life and death and our hopes and fears and what really, truly matters to us all.
It wasn’t the vacation we intended and it certainly wasn’t the vacation any of us wanted. But it was a journey, and–if it’s not too trite–a jarring reminder to be thankful for the here and now, even if it’s not quite how you planned it to be.
My name: Rachel Berg.
Favorite way to get around: By Venetian gondola during starlit high tide, gliding past decaying and slightly spooky palaces, with perhaps a bottle of prosecco placed between the gondola seat cushions.
View that took my breath away: Unable to sleep in the mystical city of Sfat in Israel, I wandered outdoors predawn and was treated to a purple-on-purple sunrise below the mountaintop that seemed to emerge feet-first through ground-level clouds.
Greatest travel lesson learned: Sunny weather isn't everything. Some of my best travel memories involve go-karting through a deluge turned mud-fest in Mexico, drinking tea in the cold Denali tundra, and watching electric thunderstorms roll through national parks out West.
Most challenging travel moment: Getting leveled by altitude sickness in Cuzco and realizing that my body was forcing me to slow down and rest despite the fact that there was so much to do and see.
Travel ambition: To see the northern lights.