Welcome to the New Year – new calendars, new goals, new attempt to forgive myself for not meeting last year’s goals. 2022 had it’s ups and downs, just like any year. But two of the most amazing weeks of my life began one year ago today, January 8, 2022.
It all started early in 2021 when it looked like there might be light at the end of the COVID pandemic. My husband, the dreamer of our family, suggested we return to travel in a big way – a week in Costa Rica and a National Geographic Expedition cruise through the Panama Canal. We would leave December 25th and return in January. The biggest trip our little family has ever taken, a bucket list item, an experience of a lifetime. He was excited, my son was excited, I was…scared to death.
It wasn’t just because we were still dealing with a global pandemic. I’m an introvert and totally risk-adverse. Big time. Sheltering at home during the pandemic? No problem for me; I’ve been working my day job remote since 2005. Except for store clerks and home repair people, I rarely talk to anyone in person, other than family and close friends. Also, I am overweight and most days I walk with a cane; both the cruise and the beautiful country of Costa Rica came with expectations of hiking, climbing, and sundry water sports that certainly would require some type of bathing suit. Then there’s the fact that I’ve only vacationed out of the United States once in my life, a trip to Canada, and I am hopeless with languages. My husband speaks Spanish fluently but what if he’s not around? And, of course, there’s the expense. Wouldn’t it be better to spend our savings on foundation repair, or paint the house, or invest for retirement? Yes, I want to travel, but now?
Yes, now, my husband encouraged. Now, before we get any older, before the high school senior leaves for college and then for his life. I caved. Deposits were sent and planning started.
There were hiccups. Because of COVID, travel rules changed several times during 2021 for all three countries – Panama, Costa Rica, and the U.S. – and for National Geographic. The cruise moved to early January 2022. Airplane reservations were cancelled and rebooked twice due to flight cancellations and changes by the airlines. B&B, hotel, car rental, parking lot and fishing trip reservations were made and remade. I became very familiar with the websites for Lindblad Cruises, American Airlines, the US State Department, and Costa Rica and Panama Tourism. I filled out forms, put the dog’s meals in color-coded bags with a page of instructions for the boarding kennel, studied Spanish through Duolingo, had a special brace made to support my bad ankle, went on a diet, purchased travel insurance, bought new, colorful luggage that might survive an airline and be more easily located in baggage claim, read books on Costa Rica and the building of the Panama Canal, acquired tropical climate clothing for the whole family, and created zipper bags of medications, first aid supplies, and miniature games that could be played by a bored teenager on his first long plane ride. By the end of the year, I had a travel binder that was a half-inch thick plus packing and itinerary spreadsheets for each member of the family.
Was I a little obsessed? Yeah, probably.
Early Saturday morning, one year ago today, we packed up Sammy (Finn would be adopted later in the year) and drove to the boarding kennel. I started missing him as soon as he walked through their door.
We adopted him seven years ago from a rescue who found him wandering the streets. The longest time he’d ever spent in a kennel up to then was three nights. Two weeks is an eternity. Would he think he’d been abandoned again? I felt horrible driving away.
By mid-afternoon, we arrived at the Austin airport for the flight to Miami. The flight we needed to take to meet the cruise didn’t leave until the next day, Sunday, but during the planning stage I’d figured out there were no connecting flights on Sunday that I thought I could catch in the time allowed. I had studied the Miami airport map and gate locations (no surprise, I know) and knew that even with my new brace there would be no getting me from the gate where we would land and over to our gate in the international wing in anything less than a couple of hours, minimum. So I planned for us to stay in Miami overnight.
Note to self for future trips – teenage son does not want to play miniature games of chess, Battleship, or hangman with his mother. Teenage son wants to put in ear buds, close blind on carefully selected window seat, and go to sleep. Eliminate from packing spreadsheet the plastic bag of miniature games that made TSI do a double take when my backpack went through the Xray machine.
About that TSI – My husband and son decided he needed to pack his backpack with snacks for the trip. It was not stuffed with granola bars and carrot sticks. Did you know chocolate pudding, cheese dip, and bean dip will not go through TSI?
By sunset, we were in Miami – amazing city from the air. Not our photo, but close to what we saw as we came in for a landing.
Neither airport was too busy; people were just starting to travel again. And yes, I had a plastic Ziplock with spare masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes in my backpack. And another one in my suitcase. As if spares wouldn’t be available everywhere, which they totally were.
Our flight took off late from Austin and landed near midnight Miami time, so we missed the airport shuttle, but it was easy to get a taxi to a hotel I’d booked near the airport. Odd experience there – have you ever been in a hotel where the entrance to the room was through the bathroom? The whole time I took a shower I was hoping no one in my family would order room service.
Wakeup call was at 6:30, so everybody hit the sack. Tomorrow – Panama!