Anticipation and travel plans are funny things. The photo above, of Castelo dos Mouros, depicts a sunny day, wide view, and an interesting cultural site. I could decide to go there, but will it be a sunny day? Or will it rain? Will it be crowded? Cold or warm? Fun? Who knows?

It’s good to make plans; it’s proper to do research. But at some point you have to acknowledge that the reality might suck. Really suck. And be okay with that. (Hey! It’d perhaps make a more interesting blog post, right? Trials and tribulations and such.)

The time you have available to travel makes all the difference. I work a regular job with lovely amounts of time off that I can only take in two-week chunks. Two Weeks!! That’s tiny. That’s my life. I get paid just enough to get by and save a little toward travel. Those crappy two weeks in the middle of an amazing six-month exploration are quite another story if you only have two weeks to start with.

When I have such a short time to spend somewhere I’ve always wanted to see, the excitement creates an almost crushing anticipation. But usually this anticipation of a vacation far exceeds the actuality. I end up thinking my vacation should’ve been more fun, more exciting, involve less illness, less frustrating….any number of issues that arise when real life steps in. My answer to this disappointment was not to stop anticipating, but to actively use the anticipation to expand the “travel” time.

Late last August I bought a plane ticket to Portugal. The ticket is for a departure date in April. Crazy, right? Not really.

When I buy the ticket so far in advance, my “travel” includes months of fun: learning the rudiments of Portuguese, reading literature from Portuguese writers, studying maps, reading Portuguese English-language news, following ex-pat living-in-Portugal blogs and checking the weather. (Every time I ask “European or Brazilian Portuguese?” I feel like I’m in a Monty Python skit.) I may never speak a word of Portuguese once I get there, but at least it won’t seem so overwhelmingly foreign. (Ok, I’ll probably say “Obrigada” and “Se faz favor” and a lot of “Fala English?”) It’s always a good idea to have winter topics-of-interest when you live in a cold, dark climate.

I try not to imagine myself actually in Portugal too much. Over and over again I remind myself it doesn’t matter if the two weeks I finally get to spend there are fun, interesting, miserable, or anything, really. What matters is the six months of anticipation. The key is to know that fantasy does not match reality. The reality may take any form. The anticipation is the cake. The two weeks there will just be the frosting on top.

Someday I hope I’ll be able to travel long-form again. To slowly drift from new place to new place, exploring culture, language and nature. I’m lucky enough to have done it in the past, but the means I had then differ from my current means. How can I experience this again? I can’t help but think the answer is just right there past my fingertips. (Is there a bookkeepers international I can sign up with?)

In the meantime I have this delicious anticipation.


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