More words of wisdom from The Happiness Project Journal on this Tuesday….
“When one loves, one does not calculate.” – St. Therese of Lisieux
“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”
“Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.” – Simone Weil
“There is an “I” in ‘happiness’.”
“Happiness does not reside in strength or money; it lies in rightness and many-sidedness.” – Democritus
“Don’t always worry about being efficient. Exploration, experimentation, and digression don’t necessarily look productive.”
Is it obvious from this post that I have travel on the brain?! Always. Always.
As I was editing photos and writing about South Beach and our cruise over the past couple of weeks, I relived all the fun, anticipation, and excitement we had. I loved it, yet felt pangs and yearning in my heart to be transported back immediately. But as I got to the ports on the latter half of our trip, I also felt the sadness and anxiousness I know I was feeling as the end drew near.
Can you grieve a vacation? Are there stages one must pass through to finally reach acceptance? And does one ever really accept that they are not still on vacation? I began to deconstruct and dissect my mental journey before/during/after our vacations (because this is important stuff, guys ). DT and I have talked about this before, but I really started to think in terms of a timeline.
Here’s how my mind works:
Six months out: Not really even thinking about vacation much, probably because the weather is still decent where we live and we haven’t been sitting in a polar vortex for two months (in the instance of a winter getaway).
Three months out: Inching closer, starting to become more real.
One month out: The countdown is officially ON! Any plans made for dates after we get back seem like an honest eternity away, and frankly, a little incomprehensible. Life becomes segmented into “Before Vacation” and “After Vacation.” And I don’t want to think about “After Vacation”! So it’s kinda like it’s a black hole that’s not even there….
Three weeks out: Early stages of packing-thoughts begin. Start to think about leaving the house for a week, who will take care of the critters, what do we need to do before we go? A checklist is born.
Two weeks out: !!!! Two weeks away! Preparation to be away from work begins, more serious packing consideration unfolds, I’m basically beside myself.
One week out: !!!! Holy buckets, one week from now we’ll be THERE! Crossing things off my checklist, the guest bed has started to become littered with piles, tackling chores around the house so it’s not left in shambles. But the darker side – I’m already mentally preparing myself for it to be over. Isn’t that sad and stupid? I’m already thinking about how excited we’ll be in one week, but in two weeks….it’ll be almost over! Gosh, I’m sick.
The week before we leave: !!!! Out-of-office preemptively set at work, last minute errands, clean up food in the fridge, critter/house care has been arranged and confirmed, piles on the guest bed have grown, suitcases are dragged out (and the cats have done multiple, thorough inspections on these foreign objects). I’ll be honest, I get a little stressed out before we leave.
The night before we leave: DT and I have a tradition of happy hour after we leave work on the eve of a vacation. A kickoff, if you will. By now he’s printed out all our documents and confirmations, we’ll go home and fill our suitcases, set the timer on the living room lamp, one last-ditch effort to eat leftovers or any other perishables in the fridge. No fewer than two alarm clocks set, cab called if needed. We probably won’t go to bed early, who can sleep at a time like this?!
Vacation day is here! It’s likely been a wake-up-get-dressed frenzy, tend to the animals once more, load the car/cab, a final house walk-through. I will fret all the way to the airport whether a light was left on, the door was locked, a faucet was left dripping, I forgot to do or pack something. I’m so excited….and yet I’m a basketcase. DT can only shake his head. The plane ride(s) is/are usually a blur – usually because we’re on such an early flight. But then, we arrive! To me, in those moments of the first day, it honestly feels like how could this ever end? Oh no, it will NEVER end!
The first few days: It takes me/us a while to become fully immersed in our time away right off the bat. It’s hard to get into that “We’re on vacation and we literally have zero accountability and can do pretty much whatever the heck we want for the next __ days” mindset. And when I say “hard” I don’t mean as in hardship, or “poor me/us.” I mean it really is a mental shift to pull away from real life obligations, schedules, routines, and responsibilities. We’ll look at the time (even though we have nowhere at all to be) and say, “Omigosh! It’s only __ o’clock!” Time kind of stands still when we slow down to the groove of vacation.
The midway point: Then time begins to not stand still. We’re having fun, and time flies when you’re having fun, man. When the days we’ve been gone begin to outnumber the days left….sad. It’s definitely a mental turning point in the vacation. That I do not like. But we press on, we must make the most of our time!
The last couple of days: Bummer. Big, big bummer. Vacation depression has set in and the trip we thought would never, could never end….is ending very soon. In our desperation to keep the spirit alive, we turn to plans for the next vacation. It’s the best defense!
The last day: DT and I always try to go out with a bang and we’re usually successful. It’s part denial, part savoring, part saving the best for last. Or something like that.
The trip home: Sigh. We must plan another vacation pronto. On a positive note, it is always nice to be home. Nice to be back in a routine, back in our own bed, back with the critters, back to normal eating and drinking schedules (i.e. not total and complete gluttony).
The first week back: I do the thing where I think “A week ago we were….” At first it’s a painful exercise until I get to the end of the week and realize the trip was coming to a close and I’m probably mentally a way lot better now. Oh, and we’re plotting the next getaway seriously.
That’s pretty much my journey, thank you for coming along with the crazy. I must absolutely declare how fortunate DT and I have been for the travels we have experienced. I never want to sound ungrateful or minimize the opportunities we’ve had. Every one has been a-MAY-zing and we’re very lucky to be able to spend a week here and there every now and again.
It’s just that we LOVE IT SO MUCH!
But as much as we love and look forward to these trips, and as much anguish as I may talk myself into having when it’s over, I know in my heart of hearts, there is no place like home and we are every bit as lucky to have that.
Now, if our home was on a tropical island in the middle of the Caribbean….
Grand Turk, our fourth and final port! Waahhhh!
This was our second visit – it was the first port on our very first cruise back in 2009. A hurricane had recently rolled through, so much of the beach was destroyed and in disarray. Five years later, it appeared to be restored.
It was another beautiful day – we couldn’t have asked for better weather on this trip, we were so lucky. I loooove zee blue skyyyys!
Grand Turk’s port is pretty easy to navigate: disembark the ship and walk to the beach. Like this!
I loooove zee bluuuue water too!
Pretty okay with this view.
We spent some time lounging on the beach, it was a very popular place.
Then we wandered up to Margaritaville for a little pool time. It too was a popular place!
After Margaritaville we took a walk on the other side of the beach. A much more desolate, quiet vibe over there.
Conch shells were everywhere.
It was a very nice little stroll.
Then it was time to board the Glory one last time before our return to Miami. Waaahhh!
Friday night’s sunset was pretty unbelievable.
You just don’t get to see that every day. Well, maybe you do, and if that’s the case I hope you never take it for granted!
After a relaxing last day at sea, we were graced with this moody dusk sky. I love the gradients of color.
I love my travel buddy too.
Ohhh. Why does it have to END?
We love it here. I think we will always love it here.
2014 cruise: The End.
It was a beautiful sky as we approached San Juan Thursday morning.
Actually kind of overcast for a while – I [incorrectly] assumed our day of walking about town would be one under the clouds.
Oh no – it turned out to be a sunny and toasty-HOT afternoon.
Our cruise three years ago left from San Juan, but we stayed on the other side of town AND my suitcase was misplaced on its way from Minneapolis to Miami to San Juan. So the fun night in the city before boarding the ship the next day was completely stressful and frazzled and NOT FUN, with calls to the airline and tracking what we could online. Oh, and I had no clean clothes. Anyway. Here’s round two!
(And, just for clarity….there are no pictures of me here because, well….my husband does not take pictures of me. So, you know. I know. We’re working on it )
From the port, it was a less-than-10-minute walk to Castillo San Cristobal, the largest fortification built by the Spanish in the New World (not the fort you saw in the photos above – that is Castillo San Felipe del Morro, or El Morro).
Construction began in 1634 (1634!) and finished in 1790. While El Morro was built to protect the city from attacks by sea, San Cristobal’s 27 acres defended against attacks by land.
For a $3 entrance fee, we more than got our money’s worth on this visit.
You guys, this place was pretty amazing. So old and such rich history, with tunnels, lookout posts, cannons, moats, uh….a dungeon!
The idea of a dungeon just seems so….primitive and archaic. It’s crazy to imagine people were actually held here.
Back into the light! We found our way out of the tunnels and explored San Cristobal’s sprawling grounds. As you’ll soon see, the views are absolutely spectacular.
Wowee. DT and I spent about two hours at San Cristobal and could have easily spent another two. If you find yourself in San Juan, definitely make time to see one or both of these old forts! The history lesson and incredible views are so well worth it.
We wove our way into and around Old San Juan on our way back to the ship. Such a pretty part of the city – narrow, cobblestone streets and bright, colorful buildings.
I just love those wrought iron balconies….especially with little pops of flowers! So European.
This street made us think of Charleston or Savannah:
So did this.
It was such a great day in San Juan, I’m so happy we could explore this port. I’ll count on a return visit someday!
Coming up….last, but certainly not least, our day in Grand Turk. Sad! The cruise is almost ending!
My bff Nancy and her husband Nate hosted a little ravioli-making party and dinner Saturday night. So fun!
Our ringleader was Gina, below right. Every New Year’s Day her family gathers to make homemade ravioli and eat a pasta feast. I love the idea of this tradition!
You have to feed the dough through the pasta machine about four times to get the right thickness. Nate is hard at work here:
Micah and Gina team up to make some pretty pasta sheets:
Sarah stamps out her ravioli rounds:
Gina made another batch of dough and kneads-kneads-kneads away.
Now Sarah kneads-kneads-kneads away. What a workout!
Nancy rolled out her dough and plots out cheese filling placement:
Then it was my turn….
Cheese filling spooned onto the dough -
- then the dough is folded over and I sealed off the spoonfuls with my fingers. Gina helped me cut them out and use tines of a fork around the edges.
Our creations – all shapes and sizes!
The little pillows need just a few minutes in the boiling water to cook and become tender:
Time to eat! Look at this beautiful spread….
And this scrumptious plate….
Dessert was courtesy of Micah and Sarah – Sweet Science chocolate mint ice cream (they also brought salted caramel) with biscotti. Ahhh! The sweetest ending to this meal.
I left Nancy and Nate’s as stuffed as our ravioli! (Stretchy pants now please!) Thank you, friends, for such an enjoyable and delicious culinary adventure.
Can I just say this….St. Thomas is beautiful.
Absolutely, positively beautiful.
We arrived in the port around 11:00 Wednesday morning. This was my second visit – the first was three years ago on a southern Caribbean route.
DT and I walked down the long pier and through the cruise visitor gates, then to the corner where we could catch a taxi. $8 per person, one way, would take us to Magen’s Bay, one of the most amazing beaches I’ve ever seen.
The drive to and from was scenery enough….up, up, up rolling hills, scary-skinny and wind-y streets, then back down again, with little glimpses like this:
$4 each, admit two.
And here was where we spent our day….
The beach was quite crowded when we first arrived but curiously cleared out significantly after the noon hour.
No matter….more paradise for us!
DT and I soaked up the sun, read our books, and walked up and down the beach – we savored every moment of our time here.
We grabbed a couple of refreshments from the beach bar – gotta stay hydrated!
More views on the ride back to the Glory:
A return visit may find us on an adventuresome excursion to see more of the island, but I have to say – you cannot, cannot go wrong with Magen’s Bay. Powdery sand, blue water, serenity now….it really does feel like paradise. It would be hard to stop in St. Thomas and not have that part of our visit. I’m so glad we made it back!
Coming up: we get a little touristy in San Juan!
Good morning in Nassau!
DT and I visited Nassau on our first cruise in 2009. We tried a snorkeling excursion on a catamaran, but the weather was cold, windy, and rainy that day – basically we just drank a lot of rum punch. ;-) The return visit was a lot more pleasant.
Junkanoo Beach was a quick, easy walk from the port, maybe 15 minutes. It’s public and free, but no riffraff. A couple of little stands had fruity refreshments available, otherwise the area was very low key.
The ship left relatively early that afternoon, so we were off the beach by 1:00 and did some walking through town.
And we’re off….back to sea!
Departing fruity drinks from the Red Frog Rum Bar:
Goofing around on the balcony….
Tuesday was a day at sea – we spent the day reading, napping (me), and playing games, namely Yahtzee and Farkle. That night was the formal dinner and lobster tails were served. I made the executive decision that we’d get a little dressed up and go down to the dining room so DT could get some lobster, darn it!
All gone, clean plate club!
We were in the casino bar for the rest of the evening, playing trivia and dancing.
Up next: our return to the gorgeous St. Thomas!