Group traveling seems like such an attractive solution when you have reached a certain age and are happy to delegate all the burdensome aspects of a trip. Isn’t it nice when someone else takes care of bookings, transfers, organized visits and other tiresome details? Sounds good, right? The trouble is that I never learned the trick of sticking with my party and have accidentally strayed more times than I can count. It seems that I don’t care for being herded along in a group. It feels like being tied to a long rope like a kindergartner on an excursion. So I somehow manage to detach myself. (by the way, I also don’t like name tags.)
The first time I strayed was in 1967, The American Library Association had organized a four-island tour to Hawaii for which I signed up. On Maui, our bus stopped for lunch at the Sheraton. I was so enchanted by the beach that I decided to go for a quick swim after eating.
Unfortunately the bus left without me. The hotel found out where it was and I had to take a taxi to rejoin my companions. Lucky they hadn’t left for the next island!
Another time was on a trip to Tahiti with my daughter. We were on a cruise ship. One day they scheduled a bus trip to some attraction (I forget what it was) and on our first stop we were having such a good time admiring the display of crafts that we did not notice the bus continuing without us. We decided to walk to a beach to swim and relax. We eventually rejoined the ship on our own.
Two other misadventures occurred during a group tour to Italy and Sicily. After a visit to Pompeii I had lingered a little and lost sight of my co-travelers. I walked and by some miracle arrived at the place we were supposed to reassemble. On the same trip, I was overwhelmed by the crowds at the Vatican and felt I might be swallowed by the sea of tourists. To be sure I didn’t lose my group, my entire attention was directed at the guide with the yellow umbrella. As a result I had no eyes to spare for all the splendors.
On a Dnieper river cruise, we visited some very interesting Ukrainian towns. One day we took a little boat to see a village where we were greeted by small children in colorful garb. Many beautiful crafts were on display and again I lost track of time. Suddenly I looked around me and none of the faces were familiar. Fortunately I remembered where our little boat was moored. The crew was still there and I asked one of them whether he knew where the group had gone. Thank God for cell phones. He got busy and presently he was leading me some distance to a building where everyone but me was having lunch. Whew!
Here is one more example of my talent for getting lost. This was in Poland on a tour celebrating a Chopin anniversary. We had many concerts everywhere. One evening in Cracow we attended a klezmer concert. We were traveling in several little vans. Cracow is a very
old city and many of the streets are too narrow for big buses. I enjoyed the concert immensely. Walking back at night, I somehow lost my way and could not remember where the vans were parked. I stopped some people on the street and asked where I could find a taxi. They gave me directions and I was lucky to find one. Fortunately I also remembered the name of our hotel and had visited an ATM that morning so I had local currency. When I got to the hotel the others had just arrived and no one ever knew that I had been missing.
Nowadays my travels occur vicariously via the big screen and high definition technology. I can revisit all the sights at leisure and remember, rediscover or simply see for the first time what I had not seen then. In fact, I saw the Vatican this way in much more depth than when I was there. Of course some things are missing: the sounds, the smells of a different place and the feeling of “being there”. Those are some of the trade-offs we make. The thing is to make the most of where we are and what we can do. Happy traveling!