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Geography Lesson

October 29, 2010

In sixth grade social science class, Mr. LaCroix made us memorize all of the countries in Europe and their capitals.  I’ll date myself by saying this was easy back then, because half of Europe was the USSR and the Balkans had not yet Balkanized.  I undertook this challenge with all the fervor an 11-year-old would typically use for any beloved hobby.  And in my case, memorizing long lists of things was a hobby.  Why?  Because I loved being awesome, so I gravitated toward activities at which I was most likely to achieve a state of awesomeness.  Like memorizing lists.  Nerds are born, not made.

Filling in a blank map of Europe gave me a sense of worldliness unearned by a child who had at that point left the state of her birth only thrice – each time for family reasons not fully (if at all) understood to her at the time.  It would be years before I would leave the country, though eventually I would develop a low-grade wanderlust that, coupled with a  job with a multi-national corporation, would fill the pages of my beloved passport with exotic stamps in scripts I cannot read.  Despite the best efforts of the airlines, I do love to travel.

I decided months ago that I would take Boyfriend to Tahiti.  I’ve wanted to go ever since I was a child, having read a Nancy Drew book that took place there.  I had no idea at the time where it was or what it was like, but I loved that exotic name and I imagined it to be an equally exotic place.  I hear that’s true.  I began thinking about it in earnest over the summer, while lazily browsing on Hotwire for good deals (this is how I window shop, and incidentally how I ended up in Belize a few years back).  I began strategic discussions with Boyfriend on the topic; we formed an agreement in principle.  When, a few months later, he still had not gotten his passport, I knew this was not going to happen.  Prices were going up, anyway, and this marginally-feasible trip was very quickly leaving the realm of my financial capabilities.

So we settled on Hawaii.  Closer.  Easier.  Cheaper.  No passport required.  And best of all, we could almost get there and back on the miles I’d amassed in all those far-flung work trips last year.  Then the negotiations began, and I once again had to come to grips with the fact that, much like the RSVP to a Facebook event invitation, Boyfriend’s “Maybe” meant “No.”  To be fair, United’s Miles Plus program is as friendly as their flight attendants, so there was literally one 11-day period in four months when we could take this trip, and 11 days was more work than Boyfriend could miss.  Fair enough.

I still needed to get out of town and use up some vacation time before the end of the year, but solo trips are different.  Beaches, hiking, snorkeling, any place of questionable safety… these things just aren’t as fun alone.  Oh, but I can walk around a good city by myself for days on end, content as can be.


Having recently read a glowing review of the city in an acquaintance’s delightful blog, and knowing that Boyfriend had no desire to see Scandinavia, my destination was set.  I thought.  But you sure can’t get there from here on miles.  Or any other way that’s affordable.  Resourceful as I am, I tapped into the depths of my sixth grade memories and recalled that Denmark borders the Netherlands.  And a ticket to Amsterdam could be had for frequent flier miles.  One, please.  I figured I’d spend a few days in Amsterdam, a city I’d wanted to see anyway, then hop on one of Europe’s many famously convenient trains and zip on over to Copenhagen for a few more.

Stupid American.

Yes, the two nations border.  Yes, each has a fairly small land area.  Yes, Europe has a great rail system.  All these things I remembered are true, but so is one thing I forgot: Denmark is a little bit oddly shaped, and Copenhagen is nowhere near Amsterdam.  Apparently the very pricey FOURTEEN HOUR train ride between these two cities involves your train car being loaded onto and subsequently off of a ferry.  But having already booked Amsterdam before doing this research, I needed a Plan B.  You know what else Holland borders? Belgium.  The place with the chocolate and the breweries.

So now somehow my plans to visit a city Boyfriend cares not a whit about has morphed into his dream vacation.  My first instinct is to feel guilty about this, but as usual I shall cloak my guilt in umbrage and say to him only this:

Get your stupid passport already.

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