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While Mark has traveled quite extensively (he even lived in Belgium for year), I've never been farther than Disneyworld. I travel for work, but that doesn't really count as "visiting a place", since you spend most of your time either on the client site or sitting in a little hotel room. Not fun, and certainly not requiring much more planning than checking the Weather Channel for the expected temperature wherever I was supposed to get off the plane, and packing either a jacket or shorts.

Neither of us had done this before on our own, but we had some pretty clear ideas about what we wanted. More importantly, we knew what we didn't want:

  • We didn't want to be on a Tour. No tour buses, no harried crowds of tourists whisked off a bus to snap a few pictures, then herded back into the "air conditioned comfort". No disinterested tour guide droning monotonously about the lovely scenery that we would only see through the cloudy glass of the bus window.

  • We didn't want to stay in spiffy, internationally-recognized hotel chains. They are the same the world over. If I wanted to see the inside of a Holiday Inn, I could stay in the one down the road for a lot less money.

  • We didn't want to have a strict itinerary that required us to rise at 5:00 am, drive like maniacs to the next place on the list, spend ten minutes there admiring the view, then back in the car because we had five things to do before lunch. No leaving a perfect evening because we had to be at the next hotel.

Sure, sounds easy enough, right?

Unfortunately, I'm a planner. I can certainly be spontaneous, but I can only do it when I have the comforting solidity of a plan behind me. Mark is perfectly willing to just get off the plane and get in the rental car, ending up wherever we might end up. I have a nagging fear that we'll miss something if I don't know where things are, what I want to see, and which map sheet to unpack.

Really, I'm not an uptight traveler. I don't wander around with my head buried in a guidebook and never look out the window. I do all of that long before we ever get where we're going -- or at least that's what I'm trying to convince Mark of!

I don't think he really understands, but that's OK. He laughs at me when I buy maps and a half dozen (or is it a dozen?) guidebooks and travelogues and make lists and write notes. He actually shrieked with laughter when he realized that I was highlighting the B&B Guide I had just bought. He thinks I'm nuts.

The way I look at it, I can't plan the perfect vacation, but I up my chances of having a great time and seeing cool stuff if I know about the places we're going to to. I can be very well prepared.

"Prepared?" he snorts, "You'll have to ship all your guidebooks and maps ahead of time -- you'll never be able to carry them on the plane." I airily inform him that I have no intention of carrying them with me. I will read them all now, take detailed notes, and once we arrive in Scotland I will have most of it in my head. He starts to cackle maniacally, and I refuse to talk about it any more. Hmmmph.

Regardless, he humors me. He was a bit amused when I ordered a set of books on castles from a bookseller in Edinburgh (and even more amused when I started to complain that they were shipped overland and wouldn't arrive for weeks). He obligingly made room in the bookshelf for the guides and books, and even tromped out to the office supply store for those magazine-holder things for the brochures I get in the mail, which he sorts through so I get all the Scotland stuff first.

He spends a lot of time smiling at me in that amused, tolerant way that married couples use when they know they shouldn't laugh or it will get them whacked.

"But I'm not laughing at you, dear, I'm laughing with you".

Yeah, sure.

And we're laughing at me, right?

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