Friday, February 19, 2016

Canceled Trip—Praise God!

      Last month I was pleased to find low airfares to Japan and planned a possible family vacation in Osaka—if I could find reasonable accommodations. All the hotels and hostels I called or tried to reserve on-line, though, were either fully booked or allowed reservations at most three months (or even one month) prior to check-in.
     In the interim, I planned a tentative itinerary that included the Osaka Aquarium, Kids Plaza Osaka, Aizen (Cultural) Festival Hoe Palanquin Parade, Nara Deer Park, Minoo Park, Floating Garden (sunset view from top of building), Kuromon Ichiban (food bazaar), plus perhaps visits to a castle and a temple. It was going to be a full trip on a reasonable budget with lots of walking around, some catching of rail and limousine bus, food and grocery shopping for in-room cooking, and perhaps meeting up with distant relatives (my dad's cousin's kids and their children). It would certainly have been a memorable trip, if a bit stressful and expensive.
     But with the delays in securing accommodations, airfares rose as I had anticipated and feared they might. But there was no way I would have booked flights earlier at the low fares without a reserved room and risk a nightmare scenario where we'd later have to book any room (or rooms) we could get at any price (which could easily rise to $500+/night—youch!)  Available airfares had risen from a reasonable $640/person round-trip to over a $1000/person—too much for our limited budget and not worth it for a short one-week stay (and we still don't have accommodations).
     Funny thing though, I'm not very disappointed, I'm more so relieved. No more stress of planning train rides, walking tours, meals, itineraries, and figuring out how to keep everyone happy. No more fear of the unknown: getting lost, getting ill, losing things, having bad experiences (it happens on all trips, it seems), having flight or hotel difficulties, jet lag, trouble sleeping, or digestion problems, etc. Are such complicated trips really worth all the expense and stress, I sometimes wonder? (They have been worth it in the past, but that's no guarantee of future success.)
     Over a decade ago, I had a preliminary notion of taking our family of four on a mission trip to Africa. I imagined our kids (ages five and two at the time) wrapping some of their simple toys (large Lego pieces, a stuffed animal, etc.—whatever they wanted) to share with orphans they'd meet. It turned out our kids were too young for the “working trip” so it got canceled. Nonetheless, I shared with my friend Norm that it was as if I really had taken the trip (the visions I had had of the kids giving away their presents wrapped in their home-made wrapping paper were so vivid!) He mocked me for it. My relief for having been spared the half-way-'round-the-world plane rides with multiple stop-overs and connections, twelve hours of jet lag, sparse accommodations, and risks of malaria and who knew what else? made me feel even more content—the sense that I had experienced much of the benefits of the trip without the costs.
     An article I recently read vindicated my feelings. It said that those who planned vacation trips and didn't end up taking them were happier than those that took theirs and those that didn't plan a trip at all.
     I shared with Pene a couple weeks back about this research finding and wondered would it work to plan a trip knowing you weren't going to go? Would you still be happier for it than those in the other two groups? (I doubted it, because the relief wouldn't be real.)
     But I did say that other studies showed that imagined vacations throughout one's workday, say, can help reduce stress as if you really did go. Imagine sipping sodas before a sunset on a beach in the Bahamas. Ahhh. Such daydreams in times of stress can be good and healthy.
     Although I'm relieved in a way that the trip didn't work out, that doesn't mean I've given up hope of a summer trip somewhere. Last I checked, airfares to Narita (just north of Tokyo) were quite reasonable. Perhaps a chance for us to revisit Japan Disneyland with our relatives? It all depends on the accommodations. Back to square one...

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