Last year was a dream-come-true in terms of travel, but with so much awesome, a few bad experiences were bound to creep in. For the sake of full disclosure, here they are, in chronological order.
Florida jet-lag and junk food binge.
It took me nearly a week to stop waking up at 1 am and get on a normal sleep schedule in Florida — essentially my entire time there. I got to watch some beautiful sunrises, but then was crashing before the sunset, and missed out on a lot of fun evening activities in the party-town that is Fort Lauderdale. On top of that, I over-indulged in my favorite American nostalgia foods: cheesy poofs, Bud Light, anything deep-fried, marshmallow peeps, etc, instead of eating quality local fare, or just eating moderately healthier, period. As a result I felt sluggish and generally unwell for a lot of the vacation. Definitely due to bad judgement on my part.
It’s true that days of unexpected rain in Novy Svet gave me a chance to write and generally chill out. But I was staying in what was, essentially, a shack, and didn’t have warm clothes or rain-appropriate footwear with me, so when I wasn’t camped out at my favorite seaside cafe, I was a pretty miserable soul. Even after the sun came back out I had to cancel several major trips (Mount Ai Petri, Livadia Palace) and activities (hikes and horseback riding) because the roads were too dangerous from the deluge. And I couldn’t swim in the sea because of the run-off that took a few days to clear.
I’ve written about the experience at length here, but in short, one of the best and most surprising vacations of the year was tainted with lectures and Russia-bashing nearly every time I told someone where I was from. And even when I didn’t. After bearing this for the first day and a half I changed my point of origin to New York, and everything became hunky-dory. Mostly.
Most of last year’s travels were packed into the second half of the year, and coincided with the most intense months of my entire professional life. I’m talking 18-hour days, weekends, and a phone that never stopped ringing or beeping. By the time I landed in Belgrade, for the vacation that I took so that I could do some WORK in peace, the stress and exhaustion started to catch up with me. Instead of exploring the old city center with my German, I tried to climb ruins of a fortress wall, fell, got caught in thorny bushes, fell again and nearly broke my brand-new camera, ripped my scarf and got wet and muddy getting out — while the poor German looked on totally bewildered. Then I broke down sobbing and collapsed into his arms. We decided to abandon the Belgrade plans and I passed out in the car for the entire two-hour ride to Croatia, where we were staying.
I was my first European Christmas Market and it was all a bit too much. I think I had the misfortune of going there on the first day that it opened, and the crowds, the lights, the noise, the rides, the smells were all so overwhelming that I wanted to curl up in a ball in the middle of the street. But I was with a group, so I gritted my teeth, gripped my mulled wine, and tried to avoid being rammed from all sides by screeching children — and, in the immortal words of John Goodman as Glen Allen Walken, to “breathe regular.”