Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The Gypsy Lifestyle

It's amazing how you can come to associate a certain song with a particular phase in your life. One of them for me is Paul McCartney's "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey." It was popular back when I was just a little kid, still young enough to be serene in my innocence, with no sense of the burdens and complexities of life. The lyrics that stand out in my mind are those sung by Paul's late wife, Linda:

Live a little be a gypsy, get around (get around)
Get your feet up off the ground
Live a little, get around
Live a little be a gypsy, get around (get around)
Get your feet up off the ground
Live a little, get around

Whenever I hear that song, I am instantly transported mentally back to long-ago summers spent at a beach called Lake Eliza. Music would blast from the bath house, forming a background score for my summertime adventures.

I am part Hungarian, and my mother always used to say that we have gypsy blood. She was a restless sort who thought nothing of driving an hour or two to see a particular movie. That was in the days before megaplexes, when a major release might not make it into the neighborhood theaters for several weeks. Even Lake Eliza was an example of our family wanderlust. We had closer beaches, but we had to drive miles and miles to another state to visit that particular lake. It never seemed strange to me, because that's just what our family did.

Both my husband and I are the same way. We think nothing of driving over an hour to eat at a favorite restaurant. We used to have season passes for Cedar Point (an amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio) and Kings Island (in Cincinnati), even though they were a five hour drive. We spent almost every summer weekend road-tripping, and we've also seen much of the western states from horseback at a variety of dude ranches. You haven't lived until you've been perched in the saddle on a tiny goat path carved into the side of a moutain, so high that you should probably be wearing an oxygen mask, praying that your horse doesn't feel suicidal that day.

When I finally managed to get hubby to hold still long enough to implant a Disney chip, our wanderings took us even farther. Our annual Florida vacation turned to bi-annual, then every few months, and then suddenly we had annual passes to Disney World. I knew that we were visiting Florida too often when I actually got tired of my favorite Epcot restaurant (Morocco) due to eating there so much.

When we starting cruising on the Disney Magic and Wonder, our wanderlust surpassed any level of sanity. Currently, we just completed Disney cruise #39, which might not sound so bad until you consider that we took our first cruise in 1998. We've done four on Royal Caribbean, too, but Disney is by far our favorite (and that's me talking, not the chip).

In view of this gypsy lifestyle, I suppose it wasn't a big leap to become a 1500 mile commuter. I had always thought that our move to Florida would be a smooth, well-planned event, but it didn't phase me in the least to suddenly chuck that out the window and buy a house on a whim. It does feel odd to be on an airplane almost every weekend, though. My husband is used to commuting on a train, but I've rarely ever lived more than five miles from my workplace. Now, the place I consider home is 1500 miles away.

Generally, I am a nervous flyer, and that was compounded by a flight from Hell in which we had a six hour diversion, coupled with our landing being aborted at the last possible minute. Now, all a pilot has to do is mention the possibility of a diversion and I go into a full-blown panic attack. I am not a big fan of psychotropic drugs, but I carry a stash of Xanax. It's more for the comfort and safety of those around me, just in case I ever encouter a flight like that again.

But in normal circumstances, I'm not too bad. I bring my laptop computer so I can do some work, as well as a portable DVD player, a CD player, hand-held games, and enough books to fill a small library. That way, no matter how long a diversion or delay might be, I'll have something to keep my mind off the problems. And I love night time landings, especially on the Orlando leg. It's fun to see the lights below and try to pinpoint exactly where we are and which malls and hotels we are seeing. Once in a while, when the timing is just right, we are even treated to a fireworks display from overhead.

I have come to know Orlando International Airport as well as I know my own home. And since we don't keep a car in Celebration, I am an expert in nearly every major rental car agency. It would be nice to have our own vehicle, but with the cost of paying for transportation to and from the airport nearly every week, coupled with the cost of insurance, it just doesn't make sense. Instead, I rely on the tender mercies of Priceline and William Shatner, and he rarely lets me down. I must have that air of the seasoned traveler about me, as the rental car agents rarely try the insurance hard-sell anymore, nor do they bother to offer a map and directions.

It drives me crazy to be in a rental car, as nothing screams "Tourist!" more loudly than driving a Chevy Cavalier with a "Sunshine State" license plate (vs. one listing a Florida county). In Celebration, many residents have a decorative plate on the front of their cars with the town seal. It's a subtle way of saying "I live here." I bought a Castaway Cay plate, figuring we could put it on our rental cars while we are in town. Unfortunately, none of the darned cars has a front plate mount. I guess I'll forever be branded as a tourist on the road.

Still, I know that the left lane of Celebration Avenue becomes left-turn-only just before North Village (the tourists always notice at the last minute and veer wildly to the right), and I never swerve out of the left-turn-only lane in front of Mirasol. Those are both signs of a resident, but then I blow it by abiding by the speed limit and actually coming to a complete stop at all stop signs. Those are both big Celebration resident no-no's.

I used to think that my husband and I were unique, but as we starting regularly taking the same flights, we began to notice some familiar faces each week. In Celebration itself, we have encountered other long-distance commuters. It makes me feel a little better, like I might have some small shred of sanity left (or at least my form of insanity is not unique).

Still, sometimes it feels strange to have two complete households. We generally bring only carry-on luggage, and I rarely bother to unpack the suitcase anymore, since it's just my "toys" (CD player, DVD player, etc.). On the weekends that we don't come home to Celebration, I get a strange sensation on Friday night. It's like the movie "Lassie Come Home," where the collie gets restless every day at the precise time her master is due to get out of school. For me, it's a mad desire to head to the airport.

When I head that Paul McCartney song as a child, I never once suspected that I would spend much of my life as a gypsy and literally live its words. With all the flights I take, I certainly "get my feet up off the ground" and I "get around" even more than the Beach Boys. But the part that I relate to most of all is "Live a little." So many people spend all their time incessantly planning for the future, until they reach a point where most of their life is now in the past. I don't want to spend so much time dreaming about tomorrow that I don't enjoy today.

It might have made more sense to wait a while and buy a place in Celebration once we were ready to make a permanent move. But who knows what could have happened in the meantime. We probably would have been priced out of the market, and even if we weren't, who knows what could take place. Maybe it's a little inconvenient to have a 1500 mile commute, but we cherish every minute that we spend in Florida, and it makes the workdays more tolerable to know that our paychecks are financing our dream home.

I'll end with one more quick song lyrics quote, this one from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show": Don't dream it, BE it.

Read the trip report for my 39th Disney cruise at www.disneycruiser.info

You can email me at celebration@mailblocks.com with comments about my blog.

Visit my Celebration website at www.celebrationinfo.com

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