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Keys to Travel Happiness (a series)

Number Three: Don’t over schedule.  

Every day at home you’re tied to a schedule – work, school, errands, chores… Don’t take that mindset and that pressure with you when you travel. After all, the word vacation comes from the Latin vacare: to be unoccupied. (Hard to believe we know both etymology and Latin, right? There’s lots of time to read on airplanes!)

So be unoccupied.

It may be a once in a lifetime opportunity but if you over-schedule your time, you’ll probably find it lacking. Give your vacation (and yourself) a chance to breathe. You’re more likely to make lasting memories and experience the wonder of a place if you leave a little space for fate to intervene rather than squeezing as many activities into a day as possible.  And don’t underestimate the impact of time zones, strange pillows, sore feet and another beer because it’s a special occasion.

Of course there are things to schedule – a dinner reservation at that restaurant you’ve been dreaming about; a few hours at that extraordinary art exhibit, your favorite performer in concert, the big race. The Statue of Liberty and Buckingham Palace are icons for a reason. Check them out – but let the rest of the trip fall as it may. Take a few moments to just sit in the Jardin des Tuileries and think “Wow, I’m in Paris!”

On a trip to Burgundy, France we planned absolutely NOTHING for two days. On Thursday we decided to take a drive to Vosne Romanée, a small village famous for its fine wine. Although it was late October harvest was still in full swing. This was before agro-tourism had really caught on, encouraging strangers to pay $50 to help bring in the harvest for fun, so every able adult living in Vosne was out in the vineyards picking grapes. But the town wasn’t completely deserted. As we wandered down the streets discussing the architecture, amazing views, and crisp fresh air an older gentleman stepped out of his home and invited us in.

Although our French is much better now that we spend time in Montreal, back then our command of the French language was not what it should have been. We took solace in the fact that his English was even worse than our French. So through a mix of Frenglish, hand signals and doodles on a napkin we spent the day together in his kitchen, drinking wine and talking about the old days. We had no plans and neither did he.

His name was Jean-Charles and he was 82 years old. That’s quatre-vignts deux. We demurred that he couldn’t possibly be more than 68. Mostly because soixante-huit was the only number we could think of offhand that would be polite. Our ‘guess’ thrilled him since he was upset that he was ‘forbidden’ to help with the harvest this year being “{hurmph} too old.”

We learned a good deal about local history (or at least we think we did) and wine-making that day.  Jean-Charles had been making wine since the 30’s and became a bit somber when talking about the war years.  We sampled some of his homemade wines and stepped out to the garage to appropriately marvel at his operation that allowed him to make just a little for his personal use.

By the time we left it was getting dark. And where did we leave the car? At some point Jean-Charles’ daughter came from her office job to make him lunch and she didn’t bat an eye when she saw us. Dad just being dad we guess. And thank goodness he was. This trip was truly a once in a lifetime experience.

Written by MajorMischief