This year I turn sixty and for my birthday, my wife has offered to take me on a nice vacation — I did the same for hers. We went to London to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day. The question then arose of where we might go this year.
Initially we both had in mind to go back to someplace we know we loved. Florence, Paris, New York all sprang to mind. These were places we had been once or thrice and we knew we would have fun and see things that gave us pleasure. At 60, you sometimes think nostalgically.
But then we saw an advert in the paper for cheap fares to all sorts of places. It was a case of pay now and fly much later. We save money overall and they get a boost to their cash flow in the weakest time of the year.
All of a sudden, possibilities opened up. For less than we usually spend to go to Europe or California, we could go to South America or China or even Africa. These are all places we have thought of going but the price was never right and our mindset was too locked into the past to remember the possibilities of the new.
All my life I’ve been interested in the new. For a long time I would try to go someplace completely different every year. Yet in the last decade I’ve found myself returning to the same places over and over, seeing the same things and the same people. Where did that sense of adventure go?
Well, as it turns out it wasn’t dead, it was merely resting. Perhaps it was pining for the fjords. But suddenly I find it taking wing again.
What does the new bring us? It is first and foremost the thrill of novelty, the thought that we will see something that will change the way we see everything. But going someplace new is not a guarantee in itself of a transformative experience. It would be easy to go somewhere and only do the safe touristy things, the Americanized things — the bits of our own culture and life that have been deftly inserted into another country. A little cocoon that protects from the really different, that makes sure all our risks are pretend ones.
We made that choice by going to an all-inclusive resort in Cuba this winter. It will be nice, it will be warm and sunny, the food will be good and we’ll make a little side trip to say we ‘saw’ Cuba but we will, of course, be fooling ourselves.
So wherever we go for my birthday trip it will be planned by us and not others. We will select and search out the possibilities for true immersion. We will visit the popular places but we also will look for those spots that few people — unwilling to be disappointed or surprised — ever visit.
We’ll take risks. Because that’s what life is for.
And that’s ten minutes.