Back in the ’80s, I was an extreme couponer. I saved up enough from couponing and rebating to fund a 10-day trip for my husband and me from Maryland to California.
We decided to fly into San Francisco and drive north to the Redwoods. Then, we’d turn the car around and head down Pacific Coast Highway, stopping at all of the spots we’d read about, dreamed about, ending in San Diego.
The fact that the trip was idyllic from the beginning made that middle stretch a nightmare.
We flew into San Francisco, and sun oozed from every corner. We watched street performers, rode cable cars and enjoyed dining with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.
We headed south on Pacific Coast Highway, and one beach seemed more pristine and more inviting than the next. The people frolicking in the sand seemed like dots as we drove on.
We didn’t stop because I had set an itinerary. Sure those beaches were beautiful, I assured my husband, but Santa Monica was the goal. And if those beaches were great, imagine how much better Santa Monica would be.
In Santa Monica, we checked into a hotel that fell flat expectation wise, slipped on swimsuits and headed out. The beach was dirty, the crowd chaotic, the pier sad, and as far as the eye could see were layers of people wearing bikinis and speedos. Normally, that’s not a bad thing, but these were not people who should be wearing bikinis and speedos. Why are they always the ones who want to shed the clothing?
Back in the room, we tried to sleep, but the phone started ringing, over and over for hours, until we took the phone off the hook. A woman, hysterical, screamed, ranted and accused us of harboring her teenage daughter in our room.
The next day I felt ill, so we stopped at Long Beach to rest rather than make the next leg of the trip. Long Beach turned out to be a bright spot of the trip, along with San Diego. That unexpected stop taught me a lesson.
I learned from this trip that the best laid plans of the over-planner always goes awry. We missed out on the beauty in front of us because of the promise of something better. Why aren’t we ever happy with what exists right in front of us?
Now when I see something I like, I stop. Maybe it’s from gaining a few more decades, but I allow myself to enjoy the moment. You can plan trips, but you can’t plan moments. And in the end, it’s the moments, not the trip, you’ll remember.