Australia. New Zealand. Israel. Ireland.
These are all places I’ve been invited to, and that I almost visited. But you know what they say?
Almost doesn’t count.
Turns out a destination unvisited can teach you almost as much as one you do visit. Yeah, I know that sounds like corporate speak or some Confucian proverb. But it’s true.
For example, take my trip to Australia and New Zealand, which took months to plan and which very nearly happened in 2013. In order to get from Orlando to our first destination, Hobart, Tasmania, we would have spent 26 hours on a plane.
I didn’t particularly look forward to doing that with three young children. I wasn’t even sure about my own state of mind after spending a full day on an aircraft. I’ve heard stories of people making that marathon flight, and coming out the other side in a strange state of mind from which took days to recover.
Just as I was mentally preparing for the trip, two unexpected things happened.
First, we ran into a little snafu with the airline tickets. Nothing insurmountable, but let’s just say it would have made an uncomfortable flight even more uncomfortable.
The deal breaker? I was asked to write a book. Quickly.
I tried to postpone our Australian adventure, but was told that it was now or never. I chose door number two — Never. I’ll probably live to regret that.
The lesson: some things aren’t meant to be. Also, if you can avoid very long flights, you should do it.
I have a different set of regrets about Israel.
Again, my family had been invited for a visit. It was all very official, and we were already making plans to see the Holy Land. Israel is one of those bucket list destinations that you should probably see you sooner rather than later, because no one knows what Israel will look like later.
But again, reality intervened.
I lost a client, and then another one. By the time we were getting ready to buy airline tickets, it was clear that the Elliott family would not be visiting Israel. Too bad for us.
I still do want to go, but now may not be the best time. I’ve been inundated with requests from people who are trying to get their non-refundable airline tickets to Tel Aviv refunded, thanks to the Gaza conflict.
Guys, I’m no miracle worker. Nonrefundable means nonrefundable, unfortunately.
There is no excuse for missing Ireland. Kari and I both have Irish ancestry, and we are drawn to Ireland in every way. We celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. We enjoy a tasty Irish stout every now and then. We even eat Irish food and know the words to Irish songs.
A well-known tour operator invited us to Ireland not so long ago, and we immediately said “yes!”
But as they might say on the Emerald Isle, the devil is in the details. We squabbled over all the arrangements until the trip fell through, like sand coming off of the side of the Blarney Stone. Not that I’ve ever actually seen the Blarney Stone, so I don’t know if you can grab any sand off it, but who cares? We didn’t go.
That hurt. I’ve always wanted to show my children Ireland.
Scratch that. I’ve always wanted to show myself Ireland. I’ve only been there once, back in the 1970s, and I really don’t remember much of it. It’s time to get reacquainted. It’s time for my kids to meet their Irish relatives.
But that will have to wait for another time.
What will of the lesson of our aborted trip to Ireland be? That good things come to those who wait? Maybe that patience is a virtue, or something like that. I don’t know.
Perhaps the next time we’re invited anywhere I won’t squabble about the details and focus on the big picture: that we’re going to Ireland. Or Israel. Or, maybe if I play my cards right, to Australia and New Zealand.
A place can teach you much, even if you never visit. If I never see Ayers Rock or the Wailing Wall and if my lips never touch the Blarney Stone, I will still be a better person for not having gone there.
Thanks to these elusive destinations, I am more patient than before. I don’t get bogged down by details. I recommend canceling a trip or two. See what it does for you. You might be surprised.