I can still remember the first vacation my wife and I ever took. We were just married and decided to take a three day weekend to Lake Okeechobee. We lived in South Florida, so it didn’t seem too far, and it should be easy to keep the expenses down. You see at that time we were, to say the least, struggling. We had a total budget for the trip of about $70 dollars, which for us represented an entire year of saving and cutting expenses.
My wife and I were so excited about taking this trip we were like two little kids eager with anticipation and excitement. Our plan was to leave right after I got off work on Friday, travel up to the Lake to set up camp, and stay through Monday, which happened to be a holiday. We had borrowed a tent from a friend since we couldn’t afford luxuries like hotels. I mean think about it, we had to borrow a tent.
I can still remember that Friday, the day went by so slowly, I thought it would never end. But, finally the end did arrive and I raced home. My wife had just arrived home from her job and we quickly threw things together and jumped in the car and set out on the three hour drive to the lake, to our very first vacation.
We arrived at the lake around 7:00PM and broke out the tent to start setting it up. The first thing we noticed was that we had no instructions on how to set up this monster of a tent. You see this wasn’t a modern day tent that sets up in 10 minutes. This was an old school tent with complicated pieces that had to go together a certain way, and in a certain order, or it would not work. After about 30 minutes it started raining to really complicate things. By 8:30PM the sun was setting and swarms of mosquitoes were draining us of quarts of blood by the minute. Completely aggravated and starving, we gave up on the tent and huddled in the car. Being that it was July in Florida, it was over 100 degrees in the car with the doors closed, so we decided it would be a good idea to start the car and leave it running with the AC on. It was pouring outside and all the food we brought needed to be cooked on an old propane grill we had borrowed from the same friends who had cursed us with the tent, and no instructions. Considering the pouring rain, we knew there was no way we were going to eat that night. We soon realized we had made one other big mistake! While we were trying to set up the tent we had left the car door open, now we were trapped in a car with 100s of hungry mosquitoes. As the car started cooling down we drenched ourselves with bug spray and tried to get some sleep, hoping tomorrow would be a better day.
The next morning we woke up, turned off the car, and stepped outside. The first thing we noticed was that our tent had become a nice little wading pool from the previous night’s storms. Frustrated, we decided that we would hit the showers and try to wash off the mosquito spray, only to realize that we had forgotten to pack soap, shampoo, or anything really needed to take a shower. Surprisingly, we did remember the towels!
The rest of the day didn’t go much better. We also realized we had brought cans of food but no can opener, fishing rods but no tackle box, and worst of all, a gas grill with no propane! By noon our stomachs had gotten the better of us and we packed it up and headed for home, only to realize that we didn’t have enough gas to get home since we had left the car running all night! Luckily we were able to get a hold of a relative on the campground payphone, who agreed to meet us at a gas station in Ft. Lauderdale and lend us enough cash to get home.
While I have always been the consummate planner, and always had two or three back up plans in place for everything at work and in life, in this case I let my enthusiasm for the trip get in the way of proper planning.
To this day I will never live that trip down. But it taught me a valuable lesson. Regardless of how pressed for time you may be, or how urgent a situation maybe, you cannot afford not to take the time to formulate a proper plan. As I illustrated in this story, failure to plan will have much worse consequences in the long run. The extra time it takes to put together a solid and well thought out plan will always bring rewards during implementation. So regardless of the pressure placed upon you, always take the time to think through your venture, step by step. What will be needed, what could go wrong, and how will I handle that situation? By going through all of the ‘who, what, where, when, and how’s’, you will have a successful and enjoyable road trip no matter where the road may be taking you.