Travel: the ideal comfort/experience ratio

I’ve been helping friends plan their honeymoon and it’s been interesting to get their different perspectives on travel.  One of these friend’s perspective aligns nicely with mine: comfortable, but with room for experimentation, the unexpected, adventure.  The other friend leans more heavily towards the experience, with less concern about comfort.

That’s not to say that either person is anti-comfort or anti-experience, but these two don’t quite see eye-to-eye all the time.  One key difference between them right now: rent a car to drive around Belize or pay for drivers to get from place to place?  Mr. Comfort wants a honeymoon with more structure and is willing to pay for escorted transfers (in no small part so that he doesn’t get stuck with all the driving).  Ms. Experience wants a honeymoon with more adventure and would rather get a rental car than pay for escorted transfers.  She doesn’t mind getting lost or not quite maximizing the time on the ground because, for her, the journey is as much part of the adventure as the destination.

I admire that.  I’ve never really been good at enjoying the journey itself but I’m trying to get better.  (Of course, it helps if the journey is in business class!)  Chris and I have been talking about doing a train trip where the journey is the destination and that sounds wonderfully romantic to me.

She also finds joy in the detours of travel: her best memories and stories of when something didn’t go according to plan, when improv was required.

I also admire that.  And some of my best stories are from my own (or Chris’) screw-ups.  But I also seek to limit those kinds of experiences: getting on the wrong train in Germany, where I don’t speak the language and I’m jet-lagged and I’m not sure of where I’m going, was not fun — not COMFORTABLE — in the moment.  Besides, there’s going to be screw-ups anyway.  The best plans can’t account for everything.  So why deliberately increase the odds of more mishaps?

But one reason for travel is to get out of the comfort zone.  To experience life in a different manner.  To get a little lost.  To get a little knocked out of the usual trajectory.

So in planning our next big trip, I’m thinking about the comfort/experience balance for myself.  Sometimes I think I lean too far towards comfort — maybe I need to get a little lost.

But most of the time, I’m lost in my real life: I don’t know what I want career-wise, I’m reasonably sure I’d like to leave Chicago (but why??? that’s another blog post), and I’m looking at the end of my 30’s wondering what I still want to do.  So maybe my vacations are a well-organized, well-planned escape from the chaos of my day-to-day life?  In which case, leaning towards comfort makes total sense, right?

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