Travel Misadventures Part One – Costa del Sol

I’d booked two weeks at a resort in Costa del Sol and was looking forward to spending my vacation in Spain, a country I had never before been.  I flew from LAX to Heathrow in London, and then from Gatwick to Malagua, Spain. Being on a tight budget, I called the hotel prior to my departure to find the most economical way to get to the resort. The receptionist at the hotel desk where I’d plan to spend my vacation, told me the best way to get there was to take a taxi from the airport to Costa del Sol. “It will cost around $50,” she said. “Is there a less expensive way?” I asked. “Well,” she hesitated, “there is.” She gave me directions.  From the airport in Malagua to the resort in Costa del Sol is a distance of over thirty miles.  Piece of cake, I thought confidently. I love an adventure, or so I thought. 
Outside the Malagua airport was a line of taxicabs, each driver beckoning me. “No, gracias,” I waved them away. In my halting Spanish I managed to find the local train station.  The car I stepped into was practically empty. I sat down and as I waited for the doors to close, I looked around wondering who to pay and when. The doors closed and the train started. At each stop passengers hopped on and off before the conductor reached the car in which I was sitting.  Will I be able to do the same? Not a chance. Fortunately, I had exchanged a few dollars at the airport so when the conductor came to me, I was able to pay my fare. I think at the time it was three pesetas to Fuengirola. 
The town of Fuengirola was the last stop. Trying not to show how confused I was, I followed the crowd of people to one of several bus stops and waited. Someone told me what bus to take and where to get off. After several minutes, the local bus arrived. By now it was rush hour and with my heavy bags I managed to get a seat.  It was a long ride and especially distressing because with so many people standing in the aisle, I couldn’t see the street names. Finally I heard the driver call out the name of my stop.  I managed to push pass the passengers to get off before the bus pulled away.  On one side was a long stretch of coastline; on the other, various shops, and restaurants, and in front of me, a very steep hill. As I stood looking up at Mount Everest, I began to wish I had paid the $50 for a taxi. Gathering my remaining strength, I dragged my luggage up the hill to the resort, a distance of almost a mile.
It was almost dark when I checked in. Tired, hot and sweaty, not to mention suffering from jet lag, all I wanted was a shower and something to eat.  I had no problem checking in or finding the way to my apartment. When I surveyed the rooms, I noticed that the bathtub was filled with water. I unplugged the stopper and let the water drain out. Then I undressed, stepped into the shower and turned on the faucet. Nothing. Not a drop.  I phoned the desk. “We turn off the water for a few hours, once every week. It’ll be on again tomorrow,” the clerk explained cheerfully. “Use the water in the bathtub.”  I groaned. Too hungry and exhausted to bother, I decided to forget the shower; just let me get something to eat.  Unfortunately, the on-site restaurant was closed. The desk clerk told me where to purchase food and water – halfway down the hill I’d just climbed!  Oh well, my adventure had begun.  If this were any indication of things to come, it would be a long two weeks.

My Favorite Vacation

Not too long ago on vacation in Arizona, I went to a sales presentation for a timeshare. The reward for sitting through the ninety-minute presentation was half price off a tour of the Grand Canyon. The salesman, Tom, asked me “Of all the vacations you’ve taken, what would you say was your favorite?” I had to think a while about it. I’ve gone on vacations alone and also with family.  Each time was unique.
I thought about the time I went to a resort in Tobago. I couldn’t get anyone to go with me so, not wanting to cancel my vacation, I went alone.  However, before I could settle in, I met a family, two sisters, their daughters and granddaughter, who feeling responsible for me, took me under their wings. “How can you travel alone?” they asked. “We go everywhere together,” to Alaska, to Turks and Caicos in the Caribbean.  They couldn’t imagine me traveling alone.  While I appreciated their concern, not wanting to appear standoffish, I accepted their invitation to tag along with them. But I soon found their taste differed a bit from mine. I love to swim.  I never saw them get into the pool or Jacuzzi, nor did they relax at the nearby beach.  Instead they shopped.  Lunchtime they usually went out to a restaurant to eat.  My place had a full kitchen. And since I was on a budget, I purchased food and brought it to my small apartment. Each evening they dressed up in makeup, heels, dressy outfits, and sat around the lounge watching the entertainment. I felt more comfortable in my shorts, tee shirt, and sandals.  While I was grateful they included me in their activities, whenever I could, I ventured off on my own.  
Whenever I go places with family, I’ve always enjoyed myself. Once we accompanied my uncle to Paris. Now that was fun.  That was one of my favorite trips.  There were other trips with family I found thoroughly enjoyable.  The advantages of vacationing with family and friends are that you don’t have to make critical decisions that affect everyone, it becomes a group effort; Also when you’re with others, no one looks at you strangely; you can blend in.  Traveling with family and friends, I have felt safe, more relaxed. I laugh a lot. However, on the other side, vacationing with family and friends, I usually set aside my desires and yield to the desires of others.  
Whenever I’ve gone to places alone, such as a recent trip to Sedona, I’ve enjoyed that very much as well.  It was an adventure that had me discovering not only the magnificent sites in the area, but also learning more about myself; tapping into my strengths as well as recognizing my weaknesses. There is no escaping one self when you vacation alone.  On the up side, I’ve found it easier to meet people when I’m alone than when I am with family or friends. On the down side, I’m always aware of the issue of safety. I don’t stay out late at night. I can’t be as relaxed as I am with family.  Nevertheless, I set my own schedule, eat what I want, wander wherever I please, stay as long as I want, and can change my mind without worrying about hurting others.
I appreciate vacationing with family and alone.  Both have their advantages and disadvantages.  To answer Tom, the salesperson’s question about my favorite vacation, I’d have to say all were special. Just getting away from time to time from my normal routine is one of my favorite activities.