Outrageous Travel Lesson 5

Don’t expect everything to be perfect.

Another trap that can spoil a vacation is expecting perfection.  It won’t happen.  Vacations are like everything else in life- flawed.  But don’t let that discourage you because you don’t really want perfection.  Perfection is predictable. Perfection is dull.  Perfection is boring.  Finally, seeking perfection makes you blind to many wonderful opportunities that come from imperfection.

We are conditioned to demand perfection in our vacations.  We want to find the ‘best’ beaches, the ideal weather, the most beautiful views, and the tastiest food with immaculate service.  No one wants to pay for a bad experience.  The biggest pressures for perfection are the constraints of time and money.  Vacations are expensive and no one wants to squander limited resources on second rate.  But there is also the need to feel in charge and master of every situation that adds to the pressure.  No one wants to make a mistake.

Outrageous travel eliminates the pressure of time and mitigates the constraint of expense.  First, you have time for a do-over.  If it rains when you go to the beach, you can reschedule.  It’s no big deal because you have the time.  But even better is the opportunity to get creative and explore other options.  Maybe you can find a wonderful spot for coffee or a glass of wine watching the rain over the ocean.  Maybe you discover shops and galleries near the beach to explore.  It might be a great time for a conversation with your wife or to get reflective over a journal or sketchbook.  Imperfection provides an opportunity to get off the treadmill, stop and smell the roses and think about life’s pleasures.  Isn’t that why you take a vacation anyway?

A vacation where everything you want to see and do is available without lines and with perfect conditions may seem ideal but when you get back home and reminisce about the trip, you might as well have watched a travelogue.  With nothing to engage or challenge you it hardly matters that you were there.  You saw it but did you experience it.  If your experience is pre-packaged and controlled so that you never have to worry about details, you are a voyeur and not a traveler.  That is not outrageous travel.

Seeking perfection can isolate you from life.  If you only accept perfection then you become very wary of new experiences.  You read reviews and recommendations so that you can have only the best experience.    We did that with parilla’s (steakhouses) in Buenos Aires.  We had never been to a parilla and we had no idea what might constitute quality or perfection.  We were open but we had no ability to judge parillas.  What we found was that the only constant was the high quality of Argentine beef.  We never found a bad steak anywhere.  Beyond that, parillas were all over the map in ambiance, service, and accompaniments.  The parilla’s with high ratings seemed no better to us than some unranked spots. We enjoyed them all.    I have no idea what a parilla aficionado might consider the perfect parilla and now, I don’t care.  There was something wonderful about each parilla we visited in addition to the steak and something else that we missed.  No place was perfect but they were all memorable.

parillaYou see perfection is very subjective and it depends upon establishing some kind of standard.  When you go someplace you have never been, who are you to even consider perfection until you experience the whole enchilada.  I still can’t tell you what a perfect parilla should be but I do have a better understanding about parillas in general and the Argentine lifestyle.  For us, perfection would have been a parilla that served dinner at 7:00 instead of 9:00 but since Argentine’s eat late, we would never experience seeing how Argentines live.

Seeing the city of Buenos Aires without using the subway would be missing the reality of Buenos Aires life.  The subway is hot and crowded but strangely civilized and it got us cheaply and quickly from our outlying apartment to the city center in a half hour.  It’s not perfect but it is a vital part of the city and you haven’t experienced Buenos Aires if you don’t ride.  Some of those trips were definitely not fun but my wife and I smile with pleasure remembering them.  Outrageous travel creates memories.

I agonized about committing for the trip to Iguazu because the weather prediction was always rainy.  If I had waited for clear weather, we would probably never have gone.  As it was, we got wet once but had two beautiful afternoons.  We will probably remember the rain as much as the sun.

My recommendation is to embrace it all, warts and all, stop worrying about looking foolish or making a mistake and look for the four leaf clovers hidden in the weeds.  You won’t have a perfect trip- if by perfect you mean no surprises and no disappointments but when you look back on your trip years from now you will be pleased to relive your adventures.  “Yes,” you can say to your friends, “We really did do that.” That is when you will understand the delight of outrageous travel.

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