The final countdown is upon me, and for really the first time, I am genuinely excited about this upcoming vacation. It’s been in the works for well over a year now, and when my mom first proposed it to me, I was very excited. The problem with that is that I’ve had to wait for so long to get to this point. Life’s ordinary ups and downs have gotten in the way, and it has been easy to lose sight of the excitement. Combine that with the fact that I’m spending over two weeks straight with my mom, and the enthusiasm can ebb a bit.
Don’t get me wrong…I love my mom, but sometimes small doses are what is best for spending time with her. I know that she values her alone time, too. She can be a difficult person, but I realized on my way into work this morning, that I generally do better with her when it is just her and I. So, perhaps this trip won’t be as stressful as I fear.
Anyway, back to the trip itself. We will be spending nearly two weeks on the Neva River and conjoining lakes going from Moscow to St. Petersburg, Russia. Following that, we will be taking a train (I think) from St. Petersburg to Helsinki, Finland for 3 days before coming back home. This is an adventure of a lifetime.
The Finland portion of the trip is personal, as my mom’s dad’s family came from various points around the country. I don’t know if we will have the time or the resources to get outside of Helsinki to explore, but I think it would be interesting to go to one of the nearby communities where I believe my great-grandfather came from. If nothing else, it will be great to experience one of the countries from whence I came.
Back to Russia and the bulk of the trip. Given my age (47) and location (United States), Russia holds a lot of mystery and intrigue. Growing up during the Cold War, Russia, or rather the Soviet Union was the Enemy. The “Evil Empire” as a former President once described it was the source of childhood fear. I know that my worry as a young kid was that of nuclear annihilation at the hands of this enemy. Fast forward 35-40 years, and here I am about to embark on a trip to this land.
Things have changed some. They are no longer the Soviet Union and are probably not the biggest threat to United States security. To be sure, they aren’t exactly an ally and probably can’t be trusted, but there has been some thawing of relations between them and us since the early 1990’s. One thing that has changed is that it is relatively easy to visit there now. I’m not sure I ever thought I’d be visiting Moscow in my lifetime, but yet, in a few days, I will be.
I like to think I’m a fairly seasoned traveler. Granted, my experience has mostly been within the continental United States with extended forays to Alaska (twice), Canada (a handful of times in childhood), and Mexico (twice). The furthest I’ve been from home was a week-long trip to Ireland nearly four years ago.
What is different about this trip is the language barrier. I speak no Russian and no Finnish. Granted, I have been to Mexico twice, but the sheer number of American tourists that flock there likely forces the citizens there to learn English, or at least those that run businesses that cater to tourists. I did not feel out of place.
I do think, though, that because this is a cruise with organized tours, the language barrier will be less than it would if I were striking out on my own. Still, it is a little intimidating to know that I won’t be able to communicate effectively if I had to. Learning Russian was one of those things I wanted to do when this trip was first booked. Unfortunately, I kept putting it off, and here we are. I do think that we as Americans are short-sighted when it comes to learning foreign languages. I am under no illusion that the merchants of Finland and Russia will speak English. If I encounter those that do, it will make things easier for sure. But, I’m the visitor in their land.
Aside from all of that, I’m looking forward to just being able to tune out for two weeks. I’m taking my work email off my phone, I’m going to limit contact with the people I interact with here (well, most of them anyway), and I’m just going to allow myself to be in the moment. I feel like I have a lot of thinking to do, and this time away will provide me the opportunity to do just that.
Most importantly, I’ll be able to relax and enjoy myself. I won’t have to deal with the pressures and stresses of everyday life. They’ll be too far away for me to do anything about! That by itself is a great gift.
That’s enough rambling for now. I may throw up one or two quick posts while I’m on vacation. I do plan on doing a full-blown travelogue recapping the trip once I’m back complete with pictures. But in the meantime, I hope you all have a wonderful couple of weeks and remember to take time out to just be in the moment. Until next time….