For some, the perfect vacation is planned, mapped out, regulated by someone else- perfect for the ultimate ‘tourist’ who won’t look for adventure and experience, but simply the ability to say that they’ve “been there, done that”. But when things go wrong….
Unless we have family in the area, my parents always took the preplanned tour route. It was the third day of our seven day “Classic Grand Circle National Park” tour with Worldnet Holiday-a Chinese tour company. The first stop was Mesa Verde. After visiting the tiny museum, we walked down the dirt path to the abandoned pueblos, milled through with other tour groups and families, waited in line to see the inside of a ruin, and took pictures pretending to grind flour-more or less following among a herd of typical gawking tourists. We headed to the bus, expecting to soon be on our way to Arches National Park, only to find an unpleasant surprise: the old bus had broken down after the steep uphill climb that morning.
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Everyone crowded to the cafe area believing the problem will be fixed within a half an hour and we’d back on schedule by the end of lunch. However, hours began to pass by, causing attempts to kill time by taking picture at the visitor center, others by returning to the ruins.
Shadows grew longer as waiting eventually became too boring with just our own families, so we began talking to the other people on the tour. Talking for some became dancing, then cheering when the tiniest, most elderly grandma on the tour waltzed between tables outside the cafe. By then it was late enough for a couple to wander off to photograph the sunset. However, while half of the group were enjoying themselves, the other half grew apprehensive.
“Suppose they don’t compensate us,” said a grandfather, expecting a perfect vacation with his family of twenty, “they’ll never give us enough! I know these big companies, always preying on helpless tourists!”
“Don’t worry,” assured the Filipino couple who sat in front of us on the bus, attempting to calm him down, “We’ve been on a tour with this company before, and they compensated us when less extreme situations happened. Let‘s not worry about what we‘ve lost, and remember that we‘re at a beautiful park!”
“It could be worse,” whispered my mom, who has a fear of driving in high places, “We could have broken down going uphill.”
“Are there wolves here? Mountain lions? BEARS?” said another, beginning to panic as the last rays of sunlight disappeared. As if to answer, a park ranger then drove by to check on us and guaranteed us that other rangers were watching the area for our safety.
By the time the new bus came, it was past 8:00 pm. I learned that day, no matter how well planned a trip is, there’s always the possibility for flaws and setbacks that we, as travelers, must learn make the best of. As I looked out the window at the stars normally invisible in the urban area we were traveling to, I thought about an essay I read during standardized testing about how those who consider themselves the modern “great adventurers” are merely visitors who leave without truly learning or exploring the areas they’ve been. That was us that morning, but after over seven hours on top of Mesa Verde, we learned to become more aware and curious of the places we visit. Seconds after a stray Perseid meteor passed through the sky, a girl from the family of twenty sighed, “Look at all the stars!”
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