The trip of a lifetime has come to an end. I’m sitting on the plane from Prague to JFK and ultimately to home; an all day, time-lagging journey. The wind-down from all the awe and excitement has now begun. While to many observers, this trip was just that. A trip. Another vacation for the Robert’s. To us, it was the trip of a lifetime. A first. A dream come true. But more than that, it was a gift. It was my 50th birthday gift from my husband. But even more than that…it was a gift of thought, of energy, of intense planning and execution that took months of energy and time on his part. I’ve traveled alot the past 10-15 years and I’ve done all the planning, the worrying, the reading, the researching, the price comparisons. This is the first time that I’ve been able to sit back and be on the receiving end and not have to worry, to plan, to budget, to look for the best options…all I had to do was enjoy the ride. I didn’t even have to do any of the driving!
This journey took us on (2) 8 hour flights round trip and 1600 miles of driving from country to country (6 plus 2 that we just drove through on the way back to Prague) every 1-3 days for 2 weeks. It was nothing short of amazing and I didn’t have to do one single thing. That is the good part. The best part is where we went. Jamie didn’t just pick some pre-planned itinerary on the internet or off of some travel site. No. My husband invested hours of planning and researching to give me (us) the ultimate European experience, starting all the back in January. And he did not disappoint. Here’s why. He knows what I like. What I don’t like. What I expect, and what I look forward to. We’ve only been together a little over 3 years, but he knows me better than anyone ever has and to know that I mean that much to someone is the best feeling in the world! I look at him sleeping so peacefully in the seat next to me and think how exhausted he is from all the driving and calculating and yet how satisfied that he has to be in knowing that he pulled this off without so much as a hiccup. I hope he is as proud of himself as I am of him. I’m in [happy] tears as I stay awake on this very long flight to write this story. Of course, something else just happened that I might as well add. A silly turn of events that yanked at my already sensitive heart-strings and will make this entry a bit more wordy…of course, when have I only been a woman of a few words, right? So, thanks to the in-flight movie…and a few very generously sized cups of the complimentary wine, here goes!
Anyone who knows me, gets that I am not a good sit-still and relax kind of person. So here we are, at the end of an unforgettable trip and at the start of a long and tedious journey home and I’m already antsy and looking for things to occupy my mind because there’s no way I can sleep. I’m scrolling through the movie options on the back of the seat screen in front of me. I usually opt for a mindless comedy or a sappy romance, but this time, the Disney cartoon/movie “Finding Dory” stood out at me. The child and once young mother inside of me said “why not”, after all, I haven’t watched a Disney cartoon since my kids were young. Little did I know that I’d find myself bawling my eyes out and trying to hide my emotions from my neighbors.
To summarize, Dory, the blue and yellow toddler fish, becomes lost from her parents. She suffers from short-term memory loss and her parents are super-protective and understanding of her forgetfulness. She is also carefree and innocent, which ultimately leads her to getting caught in an undertow and lost from her parents for years. She grows up all alone until one day she meets a father looking for his lost son, Nemo. (The first movie). They became friends and eventually venture off together in search of Dory’s family. They end up on a wild goose chase of chaos, danger and dead-ends. The moral of the story being that the bond between parents and children is [should be] unbreakable and everlasting. Of course, that’s where I start to get emotional. Dory didn’t mean to lose her parents. She didn’t run away or become suddenly rebellious and they didn’t abandon her either. She got lost though natural causes and neither gave up hope of being reunited. Despite her deficits and the barriers that kept them apart, she eventually found them again. She fought like hell to make it happen. She took chances. I always say that the best things in life happen by chance and that there’s always a way. Dory says “you just have to swim faster”. The storyline also suggests that you have to try harder, think positive, and take chances. I think this is why I got so emotional. Because that is how I choose to live my life. I also choose to always be protective of my children, even if they don’t necessarily need me to be and I can do it from a safe distance so that they always know that they can depend on me.
As the movie came to a close and I’m discreetly trying to wipe away my steady steam of tears with my dinner napkin and complimentary blanket, an older gentleman behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I feel bad that you’re feeling emotional and I just want to come up there and comfort you”. “I didn’t watch that movie, but I can see what an effect it’s having on you”. The woman beside me chimed in and said “don’t feel bad, I cried too when I watched it”. I felt like an idiot, but they made sure that I didn’t have to feel embarrassed. The older gentleman said “I just went on vacation for 2 weeks and learned that my best friend passed away while I’ve been gone, so I’m feeling emotional too”. Here was this total stranger with a pain all of his own, feeling empathy for me and expressing it without hesitation.
This is why I am trying to have a different outlook on life and see the best in everyone that I meet. We all have a story, we all have hidden pain. I want to have more patience, more understanding, and more empathy. I don’t want to judge, criticize, or critique others. That is not what life is about. In fact, instead of feeling frustrated at the constantly crying child in front of us this entire flight, I feel bad for the parents and what they are going through to keep her quiet and occupied so not to bother the rest of us. They are trying to do their best, like we all are. Empathy, empathy, empathy. It really goes such a long way.
Life is about enjoying and living in the moments and doing it with compassion and patience. We all endure issues that are out of our control. We all make choices, take chances and run away from things that we shouldn’t. We feel sorry for ourselves, blame others, hold grudges and think that the world is against us. We know people that we wish could think and behave differently. We can only control what we think and do. I choose to live like Dory…to not give up, always try to be better, and to just keep swimming!