We’ve been talking about going on a great American trip for years. But then there was another promotion to take or kitchen to be renovated or city to be moved to and we put it off yet again.
Our family and friends were quite sick of our pipe-dream, nodding politely whenever we brought it up and secretly thinking, “Well, that’ll never happen.” One of the parents even emphatically declared, “You will never do it.” Of course, that just made us more determined (thanks Dad!) and in 2011 we started planning.
The first place we booked was the Grand Canyon. We jumped around like kids who had just done something terribly daring and naughty. We have demanding careers, we own property, we have a cat, we’re both in our thirties, most of our friends have babies – are we absolutely insane to be leaving everything for three months?
Throwing caution to the prairie wind
Alistair is the responsible one, I’m the more impetuous one. During months of planning those roles have been reversed.
Me: “My love, that cool New Orleans hotel is pretty expensive. I’m going to look for another one.”
Al: “Book it! It’s historic and amazing and this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip!”
The refrain “once-in-a-lifetime trip” has become our justification for sea-facing rooms in California and penthouse apartments in New York. That said, I’ve been remarkable cunning in my planning. Massive discounts for early bookings, vacation rentals instead of hotels, using our AA membership to its full advantage, etc. TripAdvisor has also been a massive help and we’ll try to review all the places we stay – it’s just good karma.
Many previously advantaged South Africans head to Europe or Thailand for gap years or to “find themselves” in their early twenties. It wasn’t an option for us. We had to work. Hell, we wanted to work – to be independent and not beholden to anyone.
Maybe that’s why the idea of America – a place that encourages you to make your own myth and forge your own destiny – was so appealing to us. We’d both been to Europe and London. The old world has its charms, but it’s hardly dynamic.
America on the other hand, as my dad (who has never been) always says, “is the land of opportunity”. It’s inescapably informed our cultural lives through music and film, and I have always been simultaneously fascinated and intimidated by its power. England and Europe are known, but America holds the allure of discovery. Oh yes, and I really really want to go to San Francisco with flowers in my hair.