It’s all a matter of perspective. If you have a good day or a bad day is simply how you look at it. We all know this but I’m lucky that I have regular reminders once in a while. I set up the vacation of my dreams and I was really excited about it. I’ve dreamed about going to the Caribbean for vacation for over thirty years. When I was in tech school many, many years ago, I looked at some brochures about vacations in Aruba and St Thomas and various other magical and perfect destinations and I fell in love with the idea that it would be a perfect place to go. I did go to Barbados once. It was for work, I was on the island for less than 24 hours, and I had to catch a plane out at 4:00 in the morning. I did get to see the beauty of the ocean and stayed in the most incredible bungalow on the beach. Last fall, I decided it was time to do something about it and make it finally happen. I set up a cruise to the western Caribbean for 7-days and I was pumped. The only thing I was concerned about was being able to get to Florida in the middle of winter because of bad weather. This is a problem sometimes when travelling from Minnesota but since winter never really showed up this year, it turned out to not be a problem at all.
The day we (my wife and I) flew to Tampa was my birthday – quite fitting I thought after wanting to do this for so long. My pal Tim and his wife Karen live in Florida and were going along on the cruise. They picked us up at the airport and we were on our way. It was really cold for Florida as we waited in line at the pier – 49 degrees and windy. It didn’t matter. I knew we were headed for fabulous weather in the ports of Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize, and Isla Roatan. If you’ve never been on a cruise, you need to try it – just once. It’s fun and relaxing. As we were boarding the ship they were handing out flyers about the risk of stomach illnesses that we’ve heard about plaguing recent cruise excursions. As someone who doesn’t believe in being sick, I was hopeful that would not be an issue. A month prior to our cruise, a cruise ship had run aground off the coast of Italy – that’s what most people were concerned about. I figured after all that bad publicity; the crew would really be paying attention where they would be driving our ship.
To cut this story a little shorter, after a ‘fun day at sea’ on Day 1, my wife awoke to the first symptoms of a gastrointestinal illness. More symptoms added up throughout the day. I did go ashore but it did have a bit of an impact on our vacation fun. Lu went to the on-board hospital and because of her doing the right thing, she was confined to the cabin for more than 24 hours and she was unable to partake in all the delicious food that comes with a cruise. Just like hospital food at home, the food they give the ‘sickies’ at sea sucks too. We had set up what we figured would be a fantastic shore excursion in Cozumel but of course my wife couldn’t leave the ship. After being sick for a couple days she recovered, they sent the ‘hazmat’ team into our room and we worked to make the best of our ‘vacation of a lifetime’. About a day later, guess who got the virus next? Yeah, it was me. The scary thing was that I was on the other side of Roatan Island when my symptoms began and I knew the worst was yet to come. I had to get on a jeep for the hour drive over the mountains and through the jungle to get back to my home away from home. I made it out of the van before the worst of the symptoms kicked in (think ‘horrible, uncontrollable vomiting’ [sorry!]). Yes, even though you are treated like a leper when you admit you are sick, I still had to do the right thing and report it. So now I was relegated to very bad food and was locked in my cabin. Needless to say, with four days of our seven-day cruise spent dealing with very bad illnesses, it made our vacation of a lifetime less than fantastic but certainly memorable.
After getting home and getting back to work (and still working to get completely well), I shared with my best friend Fred about our terrible ordeal. He felt so bad. He knew how much I had been looking forward to this vacation and all the things that I was going to do. He kept checking back regularly making sure that I was getting better (getting sick on the ship really seemed to lower my defenses to all the sickness that I had been avoiding for years) and every time you could tell how bad he felt with the cruise not turning out the way we had planned.
Here’s the kicker for me. Fred is going through his second battle with cancer. He’s not going to come out on top this time. He is unable to use any more radiation or chemo therapy and is striving to make the best of whatever he has left. He doesn’t focus too much on his challenges which include helping his wife deal with the cancers (2 types) that she is dealing with. Fred’s just happy that feels as well as he does and he’s able to maximize his time with his kids and grandkids. We may get the occasional vacation that goes bad, or an unexpected bill, or some other thing that doesn’t go right, but there’s a lot more right in my world than there is wrong. Making the most of our lives every day is what the focus needs to be. The time for all of us in limited, it’s just that most of us don’t know where that limitation is. We still need to recognize that time is fleeting and we need to make the most of it – even (literally) crappy vacations.
Please take the day to appreciate all you have because you only have it for sure right now.