When I was little, I spent all December playing with the wrapped gifts under the tree. I rearranged them by giver, by receiver, by wrapping paper, by size. I stacked and restacked and shook and poked, all the while wondering what lay inside. I could hardly sleep on Christmas Eve. I burned with anticipation. In the morning, we were barred from the living room until Mom put on a scratchy old Christmas record and turned the tree lights on. Then we'd emerge into a wonderland of toys and gifts. Though not extravagant by many people's standards, it was fantastic to me. I loved Christmas morning, but I also loved the anticipation of all those many days before. And maybe, just maybe, I loved the anticipation more.
Now it's not Christmas that gets me rearranging things for hours, dreaming of what will come. It's travel. I spend hours rearranging my search criteria on travel websites, entering different dates for a flight abroad, different ports for a good deal on a cruise, researching cheap hostel options and public transportation routes in new cities. I browse guidebooks and websites and talk to other travelers. I can spend hours and hours on my vacation before I ever set foot out the door. That anticipation feeds me.
I booked my first cruise five weeks before departure. Those five weeks were a blur of happiness. Happiness and packing. My Dad joked that I was getting at least $100 of fun out of it before I ever got on the ship. And that made it a very cheap cruise.
I once traveled budget style around Central America for six months. You should have seen me hunting down Permethrin to do a long-term insect repellent treatment on my bed-sized mosquito net, waterproofing my shoes, shopping for clothes that were light-weight, wrinkle-free, and quick-drying, for all the sweat and hand washing and hauling everything around on my back. The trip lasted for six months, but the joy of it started a year before and hasn't ended yet.
Memories let you live an experience twice. But anticipation lets you live it three times.