I’m traveling to Europe for the first time today. For me, this is epic. I have wanted to go – no – have been pining to go to Europe my entire adult life. It has been squarely seated at the top of my bucket list right above run a marathon (check x 3) and publish a novel (unchecked). I find myself this morning waiting for my first flight to New York City to take off, with visions of idyllic countries, vast landscapes, and fascinating people dancing in front of my eyes.
The problem with finally accomplishing something that has been only a dream for ten years? The potential for disappointment.
What if everyone is right and the food in England is bland and unappealing?
What if I meet someone in Iceland who doesn’t speak English?
What if the streets of Dublin aren’t cobblestoned and dotted with quaint pubs on every corner?
Have I set my expectations too high? Will I be disappointed? What if I am? How will the crush of disappointment impact the rest of my outstanding dreams? Will they also lose a bit of their sheen and luster? Will they start to feel unobtainable? Will the edge of my drive to always experience more, do more, and accomplish more, become dulled?
Here are (just some) of my expectations for Europe. In ten days, I’ll be able to confirm whether my expectations were nothing but romantic fantasy, or if my fantasy was everything I hoped it would be and more.
1. Expectation: The Shepard’s Pie is Actually Excellent. I cannot accept the common American belief that the food in England is awful. What I’m really looking forward to, is the fish and chips, but I can’t believe any restaurant, anywhere could disappoint on fish and chips (unless your Applebee’s because microwaves). My expectation is that the food is better than non-foodie travelers appreciate and I anticipate being delighted by such staples as Sheppard’s Pie, tea and biscuits, and bangers and mash. When we get to Scotland, however, I think I’ll pass on the haggis because organs.
2. Expectation: Everyone Sings Songs in Irish Bars Okay, this one may be a bit of a romantic stretch, but in my mind, Dublin will be all cobblestone streets, quaint pubs, warm pints of Guinness, ruddy-faced bar owners, and patrons singing Irish folk tunes and sloshing big glass mugs of beer as they sway from side to side. My expectation, is that I will love the pubs and the people in Ireland.
3. Expectation: The Accents in Scotland Are Outstanding. I actually already know that I love English, Irish and Scottish accents, but there is just something about the trilling cadence of a true Scottish accent that I find so sonorous and pleasing. I actually hope that the accents I hear in Scotland are so distinct and unique that I have to strain to understand the words they carry. Expectation: at least once while I am in Scotland, I will become so fascinated by the sound of someone’s voice that I lose track of what has been asked of me and I stand with blinking eyes in awkward silence until they politely prompt me again to respond.
4. Expectation: The Scenery in Iceland Will Rival that of Alaska. Four years ago I was fortunate enough to take another trip of a lifetime with my sister to Alaska. The scenery in Alaska is just as breathtaking and awe-inspiring as everyone says it is. Lush green grass, rolling hills, rocky cliffs, snow-covered mountains, and silver mirrored rivers and streams. In my mind, Iceland will stand to rival Alaska’s untouched, natural beauty, especially if they can produce for me the Aurora Borealis.
As Charles Dickens taught us, with great expectations comes the risk of great disappointment, and great reward. I think I am prepared to be disappointed, but are we every really ready to let a dream die? Whether parts of Europe disappoint, or over deliver, I expect to learn an important lesson about the power of expectations and their impact on reality.