Travel Is Like Love…And Killer Bees.

Nothing gets us more excited than planning a great vacation whether it’s a romantic getaway with our spouse for some alone time, a girls trip, or a family adventure somewhere fun to make memories with the kids. Vacations are awesome! We get to rest, relax, eat some new foods, maybe take in a new experience somewhere, and really escape from life’s responsibilities for a week or so. Vacations can be so perfect for recharging and reflecting and just basking in the joys of life.

Unless you’re vacationing with the Hudgins family.

Over the years we’ve developed a bit of a reputation for our unfortunate vacations. We plan our trips, and being normal working people we don’t go somewhere every time the school calendar says “closed.”  But we do manage to take some sort of vacation once every year or two, and it’s usually been a while since our last one, so we are filled with anticipation. We can’t get in the car fast enough…

First of all, that’s a joke. We actually can’t get in the car fast, period. We are notorious for being so relaxed about this that we’ve had people leave without us, receiving the text, “We’ll just meet you there.” (not to point any fingers here, but thanks Dad).

We also make a habit of stopping at every little attraction, restroom, diner for milkshakes, shack for bbq, turtle in the road, bakery for pie, farm stand for peaches and tomatoes, or Walmart—my daughter actually got in the car with no shoes on once, nor did she pack any, so hours later on discovery of this we had to stop and buy shoes. It’s become a mission over the years to see what we can experience ALONG the way, and some of our most memorable places were found while making the journey, I’ll admit it. But maybe we are so slow and hesitant to actually get where we’re going because we know what’s waiting for us.

Let me run down just some of the highlights:

Coldest weekend on record at Disney World. Stayed specifically at the resort with the dragon water slide into the pool. It had icicles on it.

Gulf oil spill of 2010. Couldn’t get in the water or go on the beach (the least of anyone’s worries compared to the ecological disaster that was for the Gulf, and still can’t hardly joke about it because it just wasn’t funny).

Swarming Africanized bees in Arizona as we hiked up a mountain to see Indian ruins. Take an arm-flapping 3-year-old who is horrified of butterflies, much less bees,  with you for maximum enjoyment. Nothing makes for a more relaxing outing than the prospect of being stung to death by killer bees.

Monsoon rains and gale force winds at the beach for days. So strong that the pelicans flew “in place,” looked into our vacation condo, and mouthed “Go home.” We did. Two days early.

“Shark Week” at the beach.  It was redfish season so fisherman were chumming the waters. Beaches posted. Swimming was not advised. After listening to three teenagers whine all week I started “wine-ing” too and with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth, saying “I’m sure if you swim at night, the sharks will be sleeping. Go ahead.”–exhale–I really don’t smoke, but that was a particularly bad trip. I sampled every vice.

A sick person on every single trip. Ear infections, fevers, viruses, rashes, kidney stones, bladder infections, pink eye, vomiting, surf board to the foot. We’ve seen every Urgent Care and emergency room in the entire Southeastern United States, some in the Southwest, and Hawaii as well. The one in Hawaii had chickens in the waiting room–wouldn’t have wanted to miss that charming bit of island culture.

Tornadoes and power outages–notice how I said tornado-es, and power outage-s. As in plural. Because one just wouldn’t have been enough.

A hidden egg sac inside the car, hatches. Suddenly we are accompanied by 300 starving baby praying mantises, each about the size of an eyelash, for the duration of our 1200 mile spring break trip. Kids, especially little girls, love being trapped inside a moving car with 300 free range insects! Think Jurassic Park–same amount of human screaming, but with much teeny-tinier dinosaurs.

Red tide. Undertow. Rip Current. Dangerous marine life—we’ve seen all the flags at the beach. Last I heard they had designed a new beach flag, symbolizing “the Hudgins are here.” It’s kinda like the skull and crossbones pirate flag, only not as cheerful.

Jellyfish breeding season— best Scuba diving trip ever, if you’re into really intense pain.

Baby accidentally gets sunburned. So she can’t go back outside for the rest of the trip meaning–neither can you. Do not start judging. She was under a tent! But still referred to as “the trip where you burned the baby?” by my husband. Let it go honey…

Beautiful helicopter ride (so I was told) over Hawaii straight to “Vomit-ville.”

Every Mardi Gras parade rained on.

Ants in the vacation rental bed.

Used condom in the vacation rental bed–I’m still recovering a little bit, emotionally, from this one.

You get my point? So when I tell you I’m a little concerned about my husband and me going to Italy for five weeks this summer I’m sure you can understand my trepidation.

Most people visiting Italy learn phrases like “how are you?” and “excuse me” and “thank you.” I’ve been working on learning phrases like, “Does this look swollen to you?

Taking our trip intercontinentally with different laws and customs opens up a whole array of new possibilities for misfortune. So I am also working on learning things like “Do I need a lawyer?” and “Stop yelling at me.” Although I’m pretty sure after five weeks of my husband and me traveling together I’ll have plenty of chances to say,”Stop yelling at me,” in English as well.

Just in case it escalates past the “Stop yelling at me” stage, I learned all the Italian words for calling someone something really derogatory too. I practiced and practiced those. I don’t want to sound like a tourist. I want to sound genuine, deliberate and like I really mean it when I’m mad and on that beautiful bridge…or in that ambulance, or emergency shelter, or police station. Honestly, if we get through the trip without an assault charge on either of us, I’ll consider the voyage a success.

And then there’s my husband who has some food allergies. So at first, I was stressed about how to convey that in Italian, but did you know that the Italian word for “Epipen” is… “Epipen?” I figure it’ll just be easier to let him eat whatever he wants and stab him in the thigh after every meal.

We’re going to be like two 4-year-olds who got dropped off in Italy. Can’t talk, can’t read. We’ll probably not even be able to cross the street alone. With our reputation of travel disasters, what could possibly go wrong? Uh…Italy could run out of wine (insert all my newly learned cuss words here).

I joke about it, because I have to. If I can’t find some humor in all our misadventures I’d never leave the house. And my husband takes some abuse, but he’s actually a very good sport and is great at finding the comedic elements in our catastrophes. He’s got a great sense of direction, and he’s patient and dry-witted–like traveling with a snap-on sandal wearing Indiana Jones, Bob Newhart, and Gandhi all rolled up into one, and I’m more like traveling with “Dora The Pissed-Off Explorer.”

For now, “Dora T.P.O.E.” here is really dreading the long flight over and her five stages of air travel:

Denial — Me: “I’m gonna get sick.”  Husband: “No, you’re not.” (this is my husband’s denial, not mine)

Anger— “What’s taking that bar cart so long? Are they waiting for the drinks to just serve themselves?! Did they run OUT of liquor?!”

Bargaining— “Honey, go flirt with the flight attendant and see if you can get me a drink. I’d go flirt with the guy flight attendant, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t work.

Depression— “Well. That’s it. I’m never gonna get a drink. They can just crash us into the ocean now.”

And finally…

Acceptance— vodka’s kicked in– “Gosh, honey. I love you,” me, talking to the flight attendant.

While those friends who have traveled with us know this is all true, I’m really trying to focus on just being grateful for the opportunity and excited about all the unknown that is coming my way. I won’t have my pillow, I won’t have air-conditioning at points along the way–which is probably where the assault charge is gonna come into play, because “hot” Missy is as pleasant as an Africanized bee– but it’ll all be ok as long as someone shoves a glass of wine in my hand. I heard you even get served wine in the hospitals over there so if that’s true, I say “Kidney stone, make your move.”

I recently read a quote by the famous travel writer, Pico Iyer, that made me laugh:

“Travel is like love, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which you are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.”

That quote is so romantic, but Pico Iyer has never traveled seven days with 300 praying mantises and two screaming little girls in the car with him. Oh, I’ll tell you right now. That trip ends.