Wednesday, July 12, 2006

My Comfort Zone

Let's be perfectly honest. I am not the most courageous person. In fact, if it was not for my family, I would probably always stay home watering my plants, being on my computer a little, walking the dog, and drinking coffee while I look for whales with my trusty binoculars.

Taking off to Eastern Europe with my husband who saw all of Istanbul by himself once when he had a short lay over at the airport and my son who would travel alone through the deserts of the world with only a camel was challenging for me at times. My daughter seems equally willing to jump off the edge of the world. Geez, even my mother went to Israel after 9/11.

I do not know what happened with my genetics because certainly my Grandparents and Great Grandparents on both sides had adventuresome spirits. Otherwise, I would be watering my plants and walking my dog in Canterbury, England still. All I know is that all of the wild and crazy exploration genes I have combined with my husband's multiplied several fold in my kids. Ok, ok. I admit I can drive to Montana by myself and I took my daughter to Calgary without leaving my comfort zone.

My comfort zone became the joke of this trip. "Mom, are you out of your comfort zone?"

"Yes, breathe, I am just along for the ride. Tell me when we get to BudaPest!"

Several times this trip pushed the edges of my comfort zone. My stomach tells me the boundaries so I try to fool it with pepto-bismol which I always keep in a handy little pocket of my purse. Mostly, the issues with which I have trouble concern transportation:

1. Venice, Italy. We were staying outside of Venice a ways on purpose. My plan was to be near a train station so we could leave easily for our 4 hour train ride from Venice to Ljubljana. Lucas had purchased our tickets and made our reservations before we arrived in Europe at my request. My comfort zone requires me to be at foreign train stations about an hour ahead. This drives both my son and husband nuts who believe 10 minutes is plenty of time and according to them 2 minutes is perfect planning. The first mishap occurred on our day trip by train into Venice from our hotel.

Sure enough on the trip back from Venice to our hotel, Dave sees this train labeled "Udino" and he runs in true two minute fashion to jump on. The three of us were trailing behind and yelling at him to stop. He is language challenged and since our hotel, Villa "Odino" was located in the Quatre "d'Altino", my husband was absolutely certain the "Udino" train was correct. Oh man and the trip was just beginning.

"Will you promise me that you won't jump on trains, planes, and buses unless we are sure......PLEASE??"

"Hey, I am just trying to save time--hate to miss our train and wait another 30 minutes!" Dave tends to do this on Metros in big European cities, too. By the end of the trip, Lucas and I had control of the metro maps and I would direct us all to the correct subway while Dave would follow along.

2. Ljubljana Train Station. We arrived in Slovenia with no Slovenian money. And we were hungry and we were supposed to pick up a rental car at the train station. My husband had made the rental car arrangements. This was his only duty on the entire trip--to arrange for pick up and drop off of a rental car AND to get directions for where to pick it up and where to drop it off. I had made all of the other arrangements for accommodations.

Suffice it to say, there was no Budget Car Rental at the Ljubljana train station and pretty much nobody spoke English. We needed to call the people whose apartment we rented and Lucas's European cell phone was nearly dead and we had no money for a telephone card. "Mom, are you out of your comfort zone?" Kaley inquired.

"What do you think?", I snapped. "Ok, breathe. Dave, let us go into the Tourist Information and find out where the car rental place is. What if it is an hour away at the airport?" It turned out the car rental place was only 10 minutes away by foot so Dave took off and we waited...and waited with all of our luggage. I guess the car rental guy was on a lunch break but eventually everything worked out.

3. Croatia. We drove the four hours from Ljubljana to our vacation cottage on Lake Balaton in Hungary. We were not arriving on our scheduled rental day and though I had e-mailed someone named Miklos about our arrival, I had not heard back. So I was anxious to get to Hungary and to make sure we had a place to stay. But my family wants to take a detour into Croatia for lunch. As we are driving happily along the Slovenian freeway, Kaley is reading Rick Steves outloud about Croatia:

"Only a decade ago, [Croatia was the site] of one of the most violent European wars in a generation....Ten years of war, no tourists, and economic troubles mean that Croatia's service standards and infrastructure lag behind...Americans worry about the potential dangers of traveling in a country that was in the headlines for a bloody war...The inland is sprinkled with destroyed homes and churches...If there is anything visitors need to be aware of, it's that much of of the Croation interior was full of landmines. Almost all have been removed...But as a precaution, stay on roads...."

"WHAT the...? I am NOT hungry. I want to get to Hungary...alive and with all of my limbs. I do not want to cross the border from safe and comfortable Slovenia into Croatia." I plead to no avail.

"Mom, this is so cool. I could put another pin in my Europe map of the countries I have been to. I want to see bombed out buildings--this is so cool," said by no-fear son Lucas. Needless to say, Dave was driving and we detoured into Croatia--with no Croatian money, of course. The temperature was about 110 degrees and immediately, it looked war torn and depressed. We pulled into a pay parking lot in a village and Dave left Lucas and me with the rental car while he and Kaley searched for a cash machine and a restaurant. It took them for what seemed like forever. I guess the single cash machine was broken and they had to find a bank. Snidely, Lucas asks, "Are you out of your comfort zone, Mom?" All I could do was glare...and eat pepto-bismol from my purse.

I have to admit, we found a nice place to eat that was inexpensive and air-conditioned. We were the only people there and frankly, we were treated like royalty. So it was ok. It was ok.

And there's more. So stay tuned.