THE OVERDUE BROTHER TRIP
My brother Eric got married to a gal from the UK something like 12 years ago, and life did what it did after that. It happened. He has lived in the UK most of that time, had a few kids, etc.
Before that, we were inseparable. Two peas in a tight pod. Best of pals.
Of course, the goal is always to keep that in place when two people move far apart from each other, but… Life happens. It does what it does. And days between Skyping sometimes turns into weeks. Months between seeing each other turn into much longer.
Needless to say, Eric and I were way overdue for an escape. Just the two of us. No kids, no wives, no girlfriends, no other family members. Just some good quality bro time.
And since a huge part of my #365DaysToLive challenge is stopping worrying, and just spending the money and time to go visit all the people I love and care about, seeing Eric had to be first on the list!
THE PLAN TO NOT PLAN
In the days leading up to the trip (which we only planned at all a few days prior), we decided to make only one real plan… We would take the Euro Tunnel into France, and…
That was it.
We would just drive wherever we felt like driving, and end up wherever we would end up. We would *probably* leave on a certain day and *probably* come back on a certain day. We didn’t know if we’d end up in Spain, or Italy, or Norway, or just park it in France. We didn’t need to know. We needed the adventure.
BUT FIRST… FIRST CLASS
Back when I very first started my #365DaysToLive list (which has grown HUGE, by the way), I added “Fly somewhere first class.”
I’ve never flown first class, even when money was rocking. It just seems like such an extravagant waste to me, even though I’m a 6’4″ ogre of a man who sits cramped up all pretzel-like back in coach.
And as if the universe really wanted me to knock another item off my list, the airline gave me an upgrade option on the 10 hour flight to England. For just a few hundred bucks, I could ride business class. Why not? #365DaysToLive baby!
And friends, it was every bit as awesome as you might think.
My own personal flat screen TV. A power seat that reclines or turns into a bed. Wall plugs and USB ports. Filet mignon. Hot towels. What might as well have been my own personal bathroom. Attendants who came at my beckoned call. All the beer, booze, or wine I felt like asking for.
It was the most awesome flight of my life…
I’m not going to share every detail of the trip. That would take 46 pages (minimum). I also like keeping some of my favorite details to myself.
Instead I’ll share a few of the highlights of our trip. Like, our first big stop in Dunkirk, France!
Eric and I are both photographers. We had way more interest in wandering the places we ended up with our cameras than we did learning history or visiting touristy spots, and so that’s what we did.
Over the years, we’ve had epic “Bro-Downs” where we both photograph the same places or things and let my followers vote on which one they like most (not knowing whose is whose). This is accompanied by ridiculous smack talk between the two of us as we do it, and this trip was no different. Stay tuned for that. And don’t worry about disappointing me. You’ll end up voting for mine.
We decided to head up from France, along the west coast of Europe toward the Netherlands. First we drove through Belgium. It was too dark to see most of it, so we decided to get to Amsterdam that night, and see other things on the way back.
But we couldn’t just drive through a new country without seeing or doing anything. We stopped at a food stand and ordered food that seemed unlike any food I’ve ever had. The fries were just like fries here, except that they dumped a gallon of mayo on top of them. You can’t see it very well in my little tray, but that was a giant mystery deep fried ball. Turned out to be sausage. It was weird.
After that, we stopped at a Belgian grocery store and picked up a few supplies. Including these…
We admittedly didn’t know much at all about Amsterdam or the Netherlands when we decided to go there. We didn’t know it was a place where all sorts of things are legal that are not usually legal. We didn’t know it was so steeped in culture and history. We didn’t know it was such an amazing place where people just get to… be.
I think it was really the very place we both were supposed to end up. With the stresses of life having creeped up on us both, it was the place where we could just…. be. And it was beyond awesome.
We spent a full day walking the city with our cameras for our bro-down. People watching. Shopping the open street markets. Taking it all in.
And then, I think I was taking it all in a little too much because I knocked some poor schmuck’s bicycle into the canal.
Amsterdam was packed with people while we were there. Some streets were elbow to elbow, wall to wall, building to canal, you get the point. On one such street, Eric wanted to pop into a little shop to get a souvenir for his kids. I pulled out my phone while he did to look at the pictures we had gotten so far.
I don’t know what happened next. I never felt myself touch anything. I don’t remember bumping into anything. But suddenly there was a giant SPLOOSH in the canal behind me, and I turned around just in time to see a bicycle wheel sink below the surface.
I spun back around. Several people were looking at me, like “did that really just happen?”
“Did I do that?” I asked one gawker. He just laughed and kept walking. I asked another. “Was that me?” Again, just a laugh and a head shake.
I am 92% sure it was me. That 92% certainty made me stick around, ready to admit the deed and pay the piper. The 8% that didn’t think it was me made me laugh and eventually take off with my brother when he emerged with souvenirs in hand.
So, if anyone out there in internetland was in Amsterdam last weekend, and your bike went missing, it was me. Sorry about that. But I’m not sorry, too. I mean… Who leaves an unchained bike next to a canal on a street that is lined with thousands of passing people?
A trip to Holland wouldn’t be Holland without seeing some of the famed windmills. So we did just that on our last day there.
A MOONLIGHT STREAK
On our way back down the coast, we ended up driving through Belgium again. Once again we missed seeing most of it in the daytime, and were bummed that we didn’t ever get to see the ocean.
Next thing we knew, my brother and I were both streaking buck ass naked on a freezing-ass Belgian beach in the middle of the night.
“I just want to stop for a minute,” Eric said when we passed a hillside with a sign that obviously meant “awesome beach thataway.” It pointed up a trail that disappeared over the hilltop.
We stopped. It was almost pitch black with the exception of the distant street lights.
We hiked the trail. It was still almost pitch black, and getting blacker.
We made our way down to a giant completely deserted beach. It was even more pitch black.
The ocean was a long ways out. There were no signs of human life for miles on either side. No lights. Just the faint and subtle difference in darkness where the ocean met the beach in the distance.
Eric wanted to go to the water. I didn’t. It was too far out. He went. I stayed up by the hill.
After he disappeared, It thought it would be funny to meet him on his way back from the water and be standing there buck ass naked in the almost pitch black light of the moon. So I did just that. I stripped naked and marched out there and waited for him to come back.
It was exactly 42 degrees outside. It was freezing. The sand was cold. The air was cold. *Every* part of me was cold. But, hey. Brothers gotta get their laughs when they gotta get their laughs.
“I touched the water!” I heard Eric yell from somewhere way out in front of me.
“Come back over here!” I yelled. “I need your help with something!”
He took his sweet little time, not knowing that I was turning into a naked blue popsicle. Finally he made his way up the beach.
“Dude, are you…”
He got closer. Then he started laughing as my dark silhouette came more into view.
Long story short, pretty soon we were both sprinting across the beach, buck ass naked, screaming like a couple of muppets as we ran.
I can’t believe I just shared that.
Then again, I can.
It’s officially one of my favorite videos ever.
As it turns out, streaking, and screaming, and laughing is one of the most therapeutic and awesome things you can do. If you ever get the chance, don’t say no.
After we shared a little too much of ourselves with the Belgians, we headed back to France, assuming we could just find a hotel once we got there. Instead, we drove to twenty different hotels, only to find out one at a time that there were no vacancies… anywhere. Which I guess is the price of planning nothing in advance.
We were unexpectedly told by one interesting desk clerk to not trust any prostitute in Calais. “They’re all dirty,” he told us. Ummm, thanks pal. I would have assumed they were clean and pure everywhere.
It was THE BEST trip. It had some insane moments. It had some fun moments. It had some deep moments. It obviously had some naked moments.
This #365DaysToLive challenge is making me feel more alive than I have in years. It’s bringing back old relationships (and with several others besides my brother). It’s making me love waking up in the mornings.
Before I had even arrived home from Europe, I already had my next plane ticket booked to see friends I haven’t seen in far too long.
If you haven’t yet, start living your #365DaysToLive. Don’t think about it. Don’t plan it. Start little or start big, but do it. I can’t wait for whatever I’m gonna end up doing next.
For now… Post vacation wind down sounds pretty good.
Dan Pearce | The Single Dad Laughing Blog