I didn’t sleep very well last night. I actually had a dream that I was tired, but had to wait for something to happen before I could go to bed. It felt like that Mitch Hedberg bit about not wanting to dream because next thing you know you have to build a go kart with your ex-landlord. Waking up tired to a gray fall day had me feeling a little humdrum and then I made the fatal error of opening Facebook, so that was a great start to Monday morning.
Several weeks ago there was a slim chance that Kalen might attend a professional conference in California and I could tag along and we’d have a short vacation at the end of the conference. We did this in 2019 and it was marvelous. My favorite part of that trip was a whale watching tour which included around 60 humpback whale sightings, numerous sea birds, and tremendous seasickness on my part. Obviously, the seasickness was not a ton of fun; I concluded that if I had to travel across the ocean by boat for weeks like my ancestors did, I would have quickly died of dehydration. On the brighter side, I realized that puking off the back of a boat quickly speeding away from the sick while looking at whales is unfathomably better than sitting on a cold, hard bathroom floor trying to ignore how long it’s been since you last cleaned the toilet you’ve got your head in. And even though it’s gross, I feel like that’s a pretty compelling recommendation of whale watching: I puked so many times I lost count and I would still go again with no hesitation. Now I know to take some dramamine or something.
On Facebook this morning, I saw a post from another whale watching tour group that I had researched for this year’s trip. Over the weekend, they had a special encounter with a playful humpback calf that was really curious about the boat. Had we gone to California for the conference last week, we probably would have been on that whale watching trip.
But we didn’t go, and I missed out. And we’ll have chances to travel in the future. But I miss traveling. It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve been more than a couple hours from home, and the video of the calf was a difficult reminder of all the travel that’s been lost to me.
Kalen and I were supposed to take a big trip to London and Paris in April of 2020, which obviously didn’t happen. We had carefully planned a great itinerary and found deals on special tours and cute places to stay. We had saved for a long time for this trip, and Kalen had accrued enough frequent flier miles while traveling for work that we would be able to fly to London first class (technically it was business class, but on the flights we were considering, there was no first class; business class was the highest option on the plane).
But then the world shut down and we postponed the trip a few months, and the world stayed shut down, and we had to cancel it. We got refunds for almost everything, which was a relief, but the disappointment of canceling paired with the uncertainty of future infection rates and global stability kept us from rebooking. But now the world is pretty well unconcerned with covid and we’re up to date on vaccine boosters. It feels like we could finally reschedule without too much risk of having to cancel yet again (as long as World War III doesn’t break out, which honestly feels pretty possible).
I’ve even made a lot of progress practicing my French for the Paris part of our journey, and I was feeling really excited about getting our trip rebooked. My Greek was coming along well enough that I even entertained the idea of adding another stop to our itinerary.
Except we looked at flights and even though we have vastly more reward miles than we did when we initially booked our trip almost three years ago, it’s not enough get us business class again. And part of me wants to say “Who cares?! It doesn’t matter how you get there, just go! You flew out there on economy before! Isn’t it better to go than not go, regardless of how you get there?” But another part of me just feels crushed and almost robbed. We had a beautiful, perfect trip planned and it feels like it was taken from us. When I’m not sad about it, I’m angry, even though it’s not any individual person’s fault. And entitlement has become an ugly plague on our society, and I don’t feel entitled to much, especially when I consider what a privileged life I already have, but I can’t help feeling entitled to the trip we were supposed to have, that we saved so long for, including the fancy-schmancy flight.
Please don’t think I’m super snooty about flying; I’m really not. I’ve only flown first class once before and it was because Kalen got us a free upgrade on a two hour flight. On flights that small, all it meant was a slightly bigger seat and a free alcoholic beverage. I generally think of first class as a massive waste of money. After all, at least I’m not on a wooden ship puking my guts out on the way to the new world. I don’t normally care where I sit on a plane, and I don’t care about which boarding group I’m assigned. But a transatlantic flight is usually six to eight hours. When I did it 13 years ago, it was an overnight flight and I got about 30 minutes of sleep because the person behind me had their reading light on the whole flight. Had I been traveling alone, I’m not sure I would have had the mental wherewithal to get to the school after we landed. I only care about getting a better class on this trip because it’s such a long flight and I don’t want to be a miserable zombie for the first three days.
And maybe it doesn’t matter how we get there. I’ve lost count over the last thirteen years how many dreams I’ve had where I’m back in London. And every one of those dreams includes me thinking, “I made it! I’m finally, really back. It’s not a dream this time!” Sometimes I even pinch myself to make sure it’s real, like you see in television and movies, and the pinch feels real. But I never remember how I got there, and that’s what how I know it’s a dream. I never remember the journey, I’m just there. And then I wake up and I’m not there.
But someday I will be. Right?