Countdown @ 19: Measured Panic

Posted on: Thursday, May 17th, 2012
Posted in: Travelog, Blog | 2 comments

Yee gads!  The BreakAway bus leaves again in just 19 days–this time for 5 weeks in Europe with the whole famn damily of 4.  We are, of course, in a calculated state of denial, which, when turned inside out, resembles measured panic.  Although we’ve traveled a lot, everyone prefers blithe ignorance regarding planning, preparing, packing, ETC!

  • Enter the agitated task-master

As my family’s chief chef, bottle-washer, errand-runner, schedule-maker, general contractor, list-steward, and task-master, this particular phase of travel brings me as much joy as a colonoscopy.  I’ve lived through one of those now, and thus know all things must pass—including this pain-in-the-ass prep stage.  Thank God!

Still, the first digit on the clock is one number earlier when sleep abrubtly stops each night.  Soon, there will be no need to go to bed at all.  Funny.  The mind can’t stop agonizing over countless tedious tasks in the middle of the night.  But in the middle of the afternoon, it lacks the mental competence (and time) to attack said details.

  • Let us all praise Doug Mack

Lucky for me, a copy of Doug Mack’s Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day graces my bedside.  He’s a friend and a heckuva funny writer.  And during last night’s insomnia, I found desperately needed inspiration as he trashed Amsterdam and Belgium.  He made me smirk at stoned tourists, aloof eateries, and the pissing-boy statue.

In other words, in the dark of night, Doug lightened up this BreakAway blogger.  Arthur Frommer’s Europe on 5 Dollars a Day is dead!  Long live wrong turns, long lines, tourist traps, and the bloated Euro!  Bring on jet lag, busted luggage, and whiny progeny who will prefer iPod games when presented the wonders of the world!

Doug’s memoir confirms that travel is both a nightmare and a dream.  Many pursuits will disappoint, yet serendipity will abound.  A sav-trav attitude is in order, yet even veteran bon vivants confront disappointments daily.  They key is to keep your sense of humor, self, and place.

Doug’s bold storytelling also gave me the guts to get back on my blog-horse and, maybe, log this ride.  After all, his journey brought him a book deal!  And if that doesn’t work out, well, nobody reads most blogs anyway, right?  I mean, not even my mom.  So what have I got to lose, other than time?

Time?  I got time—or soon will.  That’s what BreakAways are all about:  Making and taking time for what matters.  Capturing the moments from a once-in-a-lifetime European family adventure.  This stuff matters.

Besides, writing and picture-taking take on more meaning when you fly away from your already-seen scene.  And you observe more mindfully.  If nobody views my stuff, so what?  It gives me literary license to say whatever the hell I want with no risk—which may be its own reward.  So thanks, Doug (I think).

  • Can we get there from here?

The itinerary, in brief, features Tuscany, Denmark, and Sweden.  Tuscany offers a place we know, and have even “lived,” plus a two-week extended family group-grope gathering that, one hopes, will be good for the kids.  Think: Cousins.  Grandparents.  Goats.  Soccer in mountain pastures and village piazzas.  Daily gelati.

Then we bid the rellies arriverderci and head north to Scandinavia—praying to the Pope and anyone else who will listen that the unglorious Nordic cuisine doesn’t head too far south, breezes up there are not too northerly, and the stoic Scandi-hoovians serve up some sort of la dolce vita.

The Big Idea here stems from wanting to show the kids “where they came from.”  That we are “more than just American.”  That the family lore and fading lingo that somehow live on here are alive and well there.

Years ago, on BreakAway #1 (one whole dang year off in the Caribbean and Europe), visiting Scandinavia was a coveted vision for me—and, yes, it DID live up to the heartfelt vibes that pulled me there.

Will it for them?  Can we get there from here?  Should we just stay in Italy and soak up sun and vino and study la dolce far niente?  Naah.  Let’s give our children wings and roots.

Today’s Washington Post announces that, for the first time in history, the majority of  babies being born in America are minorities.  In other words, minorities are the majority now.  It’s a timely twist as I show my offspring where they got their (increasingly rare) blue eyes and blond hair.

But we also aim to wander in ancient castles, build short-lived sandcastles, dance around a ginormous Midsommer bonfire, and bask as a family in summer days that are so long the sun barely sets.

Rain or shine, may those days dramatically differ from the multi-sport/traffic-jam/laundry pile-ups /homework & concerts/dates and playdates/alarm-clocky/Subway-in-the-SUV routine that life can become when two parents, a 15-year young man, and a 9-year-old girl get lost in Modern-Family America.

So let’s get lost.  It’s about time.  And let’s take that time, while we still can.

Care to join us?  Please do!  It gets lonely telling tales when nobody listens.  But I’ll do it anyway—knowing that the stories and scenes that await are truly priceless, and they will only appreciate in value as the years fly by.  We’ll be glad to have these keepsakes, someday.

Someday.  There’s that word again.  In 19 nerve-racking days, sweet Someday will arrive again…

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2 Responses to “Countdown @ 19: Measured Panic”

  1. Sherry Ott Says:

    Oh – I know that feeling of panic too well – I can’t imagine it with a family! Good luck!

  2. kirk Says:

    Sherry: You? Panic? I can’t imagine it. But knowing some of the adventures you’ve signed up for, well, MAYBE it’s possible!

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