It's true: After six months of planning, it seems impossible that the big day is finally here.
Such is the emotional irregularity of trip anticipation: We expect excitement, but we get incredulity. Inspiration soon gives way to insecurity, and elation morphs into depression at the drop of an airfare. The stages of this buildup are different for everyone, I’m sure, but here’s what transpired for me this time around:
STAGE 1: INSPIRATION
New Zealand? Where do I sign!?! Our friends are moving there for a year -- to Motueka no less, which is sandwiched between a national park and wine country -- they’ve invited us to stay with them, we all love wine, we all love sandwiches, their kids are BFFs with our kids, we’ve always wanted to visit NZ, we’re due for a big family adventure, we all love wine, it could not be more perfect.
STAGE 2: BARGAINING
OK, if we travel over the holidays the kids will only miss a few days of school. They spend most of December crafting awkwardly non-denominational ornaments anyway. Luckily, you’ve got a bunch of paid vacation time, and my Oscar-winning screenplay will be complete any day now. And do we really need a functioning furnace this winter?
STAGE 3: OVERCONFIDENCE
‘Twas I who navigated the medina of Fez without a guide (and only got lost two-score and nine times). ‘Twas I who had the ski school pick up our kids from the chalet. ‘Tis I who has but thrice laundered his passport. A New Zealand quest? ‘Tis child’s play, I tell you!
STAGE 4: ANGER
Me: So let me get this straight: All 27 times I selected your super-discount airfare, someone else grabbed the seats while I was filling out the seven pages of passenger and credit-card info. And it just so happened that the next-best fare was two grand more than the one I wanted. Do you honestly think I’m going to go for the new fare? Who does that? Doesn’t this sound like a scam to you?
Them: Well sir, it’s a busy travel time for travel to Mexico, and…
Me: Mexico? We’re going to New Zealand!
Them: Ah yes, sorry sir, New Zealand. Excellent choice. As I was saying, it’s a busy time for travel to New Zealand, and…
Me: No, wait, I’ve changed my mind. What do you have for Molvania?
Them: Ah yes, Molvania. Excellent choice. It’s a busy time for travel to Molvania, and…
STAGE 5: ACCEPTANCE
I will let the rigours of travel planning wash over me like the oceans of guacamole in my soon-to-be-Oscar-winning screenplay. I know that sometimes those guacamolean seas will be chunky, as they are on the way to New Zealand when a customs official asks, “Are you carrying any fresh fruits or vegetables?”
“Hold up there good sir!” our 10-year-old exclaims. “Let’s back things up for a sec. Mother and Father, I distinctly recall you stowing several large jars of honey in your luggage. I believe it was the cheap non-organic stuff. Anyway, officer, I just want to make sure you have all the correct information at your disposal.”
There is an incredibly awkward silence. The customs official stares at us blankly. We stare back. Somewhere, off in the distance, a dog barks. Which is odd, considering we are in an airport. Then again, it’s probably one of those sniffer dogs searching for concealed honey.
Trouble is, we can’t truthfully correct our full-disclosure-obsessed child for fear that the maple syrup in our luggage will be confiscated. Maybe maple syrup is right after honey on the customs checklist!
That’s when I jump in: “No no sweetie, that wasn’t honey. It was my all-natural ball wax.”
The awkwardness relieved, we go on our merry way.
STAGE 6: EXCITEMENT
I often find that people say “you must be getting excited about your trip” long before you genuinely feel that way. For me, the excitement starts the moment I miss my last deadline.
STAGE 7: DISBELIEF
I think this is why so many people walk around airport departure levels in zombie-like states. It makes sense in arrivals, jet lag and all, but in departures it is the only reasonable explanation for the exorbitant price of duty-free bocce ball wax.