The first real trip I recall was my family's trip to Disney World when I was five. My family has a flare for drama and fun. I was super excited about the plane ride until my aunt warned me to “Hold onto your panties... and if you use the potty on the plane, the toilet will flush everything out of the plane and fall to earth.” Needless to say I was ready for a potty when we landed!
Disney itself was truly a magical kingdom. Like every princess-in-waiting, I was equipped with an autograph book, a special pen, and the determination of a pit bull to get as many autographs from famous Disney characters as possible. Jasmine and Cinderella were my favorites. Remember, I was young? I approached a woman wearing a colorful sari and sparkly bracelets and shoes. To my mother's chagrin, I had approached an Indian tourist for an autograph! The woman smiled and laughed as she had daughters of her own with autograph books and pens who were chasing down characters. I was completely enamored by those sparkles!
I rode all the classics such as Dumbo and the spinning teacups. We were at the parks from opening to closing and saw the fireworks nightly. Epcot was my favorite of all. I think I might have actually believed I was going from one country to another. I was not a picky eater which served me well as we consumed all sorts of "foreign" snacks. Side note: I wonder if this is one of those moments that defined my future was a traveler. At the time, my school had a Japanese woman who came in once a week and taught us Japanese and origami. You better believe I bought an origami set at one of the gift shops!
The tropical climate at Disney meant reptiles at every turn. I loved reptiles of all sorts (still do!). The manicured grounds at our hotel sometimes seemed to be moving but it was just the lizards and frogs. One day I was so mesmerized with them that I didn’t realize my family walked away. Truth is they were just around the corner teaching me a lesson to pay attention. I sauntered to the hotel room door, plopped down on the stoop, and pretended to be chilling out. I was so afraid but stubborn enough to keep my fear to myself. I just sat in front of my hotel door, trying to act cool while other visitors passed by. A few minutes later my brother peaked around the corner with some sort of sibling insult and told me to hurry up or we'd miss the shuttle. I learned to be mindful of my surroundings that morning. And I was grateful to be with my annoying brother.
What Disney visit is complete without a meal with the stars? None! My parents arranged for us to have a character breakfast. Mickey and gang was all there. I remember being particularly grossed out (that's how I described it to my mom) that Pluto licked me. You know, that wasn't a real tongue and it surely wasn't wet. But try telling that to a precocious 5-year-old princess! If you visit Disney during the warmer months, be sure to visit one of the water parks. We rested one day at Blizzard Beach and were joined by some cousins who live in Florida. I was a total beach babe rocking my Lion King swimsuit and Disney shades.
Sometime midweek, we loaded up in a rental and drove east. We stopped at Cape Canaveral where we toured the NASA property. While waiting for our tour to begin, I was upset with my parents because they wouldn't let us get ice cream. Everyone else had ice cream. When the tour guide arrived, they weren't permitted to take ice cream on the tour so had to throw it all away. Ha! Mom was right! But there were some tourists wearing those same clothes and sparkly things I'd seen at Disney who were determined to eat their ice cream. The children were hurried by the adults; they took huge bites, swallowed hard, and repeated the process as the tourists (me included) waited. I remember seeing them wince and complain about brain freezes only they didn't speak English but rubbed their foreheads and temples and some of them started crying.
Our tour through NASA was fascinating. Rockets and giant buildings. I saw the incredibly huge crawler-transporter that weighed almost 6 million pounds, was 20 feet tall, and moved at a top speed of 2 mph. The crawler-transporter moved the space shuttles from the vehicle assembly building to the launch pad. I know it was spectacular because my dad was awestruck. The next stop I remember wasn't planned. The poor children who had consumed all that ice cream were sick. Luckily, the driver stopped the tour bus in time for several to almost fall out of the bus and throw up on the road. The final stop I remember was Launch Complex 34 where a video played the actual footage of the moon landing.
Our next leg of this adventure was the Disney cruise. We boarded at Port Canaveral and cruised to the Bahamas. The ship had unlimited ice cream. Yes, you read that right I got my hair braided in Nassau. I was so proud of those braids and wore them until they began breaking off at the scalp. I guess Mom was right again that my hair wasn't the same kind as the pretty hair sporting the braids on the islands. We swam with dolphins. We snorkeled. My only complain was that my parents signed me up for Kids’ Club. Oh, the travesty! I was already an old soul at five and the confines of a babysitting club were insulting to me! To make matters worse, I could see my parents and brother on the beach having a swell time while I was stuck on a treasure hunt with babies. And the treasure? Thanks for asking. It was cheap, yucky candy. Not real treasure at all. But who were those babysitters fooling? Sidebar: It would be 24 years before I cruised again. See that story under North America for details.
All in all, the Disney adventure was fun. I learned at a tender age that I was more interested in people and culture at Epcot than in the movie-based characters. I also learned to trust my elders about staying together, eating ice cream in a hurry, and the toilets on the plane. You see, as we were leaving the airport upon our return to Tulsa, I couldn’t believe my eyes! My aunt was right! There before me was a car completely covered in toilet paper. Not fluffy toilet paper. Flattened, yellowed toilet paper adhered to the vehicle. I'm sure my expression was complete and utter shock. My parents just shook their heads. It was some time later -- perhaps even a year -- before I asked my mom about that car. She explained to me that it was “Just Married” car décor and that rain had fallen on the car while it was parked given in that yellowed appearance.
I still prefer not to use the restroom on planes.