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The Best Vacation Ever. Thank God We Survived.

Here’s a recap of our ski trip to Breckenridge from 2018. There were some hiccups on the trip, like the way the Griswalds had some hiccups in the movie Vacation,(1)BTW, National Lampoon’s vacation was based on director John Hughes’s magazine article Vacation 58: If Dad hadn’t shot Walt Disney in the leg, it would have been our best vacation ever. but it was still the Best Vacation Ever.

My Toastmasters Speech

When we got to the JetBlue Terminal at JFK we were feeling really good. My wife and kids were going skiing in Breckenridge with some friends. This was going to be the best vacation ever. We’d been planning this trip for months. We found an affordable rate on the flight to Denver during Christmas week which was quite an accomplishment. Even though it landed at 2 in the morning, but we were going to be fine. That night we were staying at the Westin right next to the airport. As we sat down to eat our overpriced but surprisingly tasty cheeseburgers, my wife Abigail said, “What’s the confirmation number for tonight’s hotel?”

“I don’t have it. You made the reservation didn’t you?” I said.

“Nope,” I said, as we scrambled to book the closest hotel available, which turned out to be an extended stay hotel a half-hour from the terminal. At this point thought to myself, “This vacation isn’t going as planned.”

And we’d planned so well! I thought that landing at 2 AM wouldn’t be so bad. The kids would sleep on the flight. But we’d forgotten that JetBlue had TV’s to keep them rapt with cartoons until about 1:45 when they nodded off 15 minutes before landing. So we were dragging two kids through the airport on rolling suitcases.

When we finally got to Breckenridge it was amazing. It has the highest chairlift in North America. Abigail and I spent one afternoon in an enormous empty snowscape. The base of the mountain is over 10,000 feet, taller than the summit of many nearby mountains. This height gave us these incredible vistas but it also meant there was little oxygen which leads to altitude sickness. Our friends couldn’t sleep and missed most of the skiing, coming to breakfast with bloodshot crazy eyes.

Abigail wasn’t doing so well either. The altitude sickness had gotten to her so my eight-year-old son Blake and I went to get her some comfort food. Blake came back with a bottle of wine, beaming, and said, “Mommy, I have some wine for you.:

And she looked at him, lying in bed with a splitting headache, and said “Why would you get me wine? It’s just going to dehydrate me and make me feel worse.”

And he hung his head low and said, “I’m so sad. Wine always makes mommy feel better.”

I make it sound like a string of bad luck but that’s not totally true. Like when Ari asked us how to pee when encased in a snowsuit, I should have realized that this wasn’t an informational question. Because we didn’t take his question seriously and didn’t show him how to do it, I ended the day with a child covered in pee because he didn’t know how to take off his snowsuit.

We ended the trip with one final run on the slopes. On the way up the chairlift, Abigail and I discussed the dangers of the last run. I said, “Remember, the last run of the day is when people get injured. They are tired and try to milk everything out of that last run.” We agreed that we wouldn’t be those people.

She nodded her head in agreement saying, “Absolutely! We need to be extremely careful.”

Now Breckenridge has awful signage, kind of like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz who told Dorothy that both ways are very nice. So when we saw a sign, Abigail went one way, I went another way, and we smacked into each other, knocking into each other and turning into two big snowballs. When we stopped rolling, a ski patroller in a yellow jacket appeared from out of nowhere and asked us if we were OK. Looking back we were more than OK.

By the end of the trip we’d survived with no broken bones and everyone went home with approximately the same number of body parts as they came with. We had awesome scenery, great friends, and incredible skiing. And because our wonderful friends couldn’t leave the lodge due to altitude sickness Abigail and I got to spend the most time alone since the kids were born.

We learned that having a great trip isn’t about making everything perfect. When we made mistakes, we were able to see the humor in each pratfall. We decided we were going to have an awesome trip and weren’t going to let anything stop us. So think about this the next time you take a trip. Remember that you have the power to make any trip into the best vacation ever.

Toastmasters notes for improvement from my first speech. (This is how we get better right?!)

  • Overall people liked the speech and thought it was funny.
  • I need to do a better job of raising the stakes. I need to highlight how we kept trying to have a great vacation and kept failing. I need to stay in the moment of failure and not keep saying “but that’s OK…”
  • I could shorten the bit about Jeff and Debbie and altitude sickness. The story about Abigail and the wine is much better.
  • Zoom is particularly difficult on hand movement. I had a nice full body shot and could let my hands hang but I kept them higher because I wasn’t sure they’d be in the frame. I need to be more comfortable here.
  • I need to go bigger with my emotions. It feels big internally but it doesn’t feel as big on screen. Alternatively, I could step back and try to be more of a storyteller and less of an actor — because I’m not a very good actor.
  • Possibly make the last line about “you” vs. about “me” to provide more of a call to action.
  • The story about the Westin is the kick-off to this whole thing, I need to make it stronger. I can talk about the next closest hotel was next to the airport, but the airport is HUGE, requiring a 30-minute ride on the complimentary shuttle. Blake as also upset because we told him about this great hotel with a beautiful pool and now we are staying at an extended stay hotel. The end of the Westin story might be “This trip was not going well” or something similarly dark.
  • Is the line “We’re going to have the best vacation ever” high enough in the story.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. BTW, National Lampoon’s vacation was based on director John Hughes’s magazine article Vacation 58: If Dad hadn’t shot Walt Disney in the leg, it would have been our best vacation ever.