He was the perfect husband when he announced my special birthday gift. A Mediterranean Cruise. Finally the opportunity to create my own adaptation of “Eat, Pray, Love”! We would explore Italy, cruise Greece, and enjoy Turkey. I would wear flowing outfits and Jackie O sunglasses and we’d have our photos taken next to the white washed cave houses of Santorini. And then it hit me. If my Mediterranean memories were to be magical I would have to work magic on my husband. I would have to get him to leave his fanny pack behind.
My husband has always been a problem solver. And the problem with vacations is that he wants to keep on solving problems. He not only packs for every emergency (medical, weather, and navigational), he dresses for them. So when vacation time rolls around so does the enormous, stuffed-to-capacity, black, weatherproof pouch that provides enough zippered compartments to save a small nation.With one quick snap, an average guy in cargo shorts becomes Pack Man. Pack Man is a walking medicine cabinet (ibuprofen, ChapStick, and Band-Aids) equipped with navigational aides (maps and compass), weather emergency devices (poncho, sunscreen, flashlight—thunderstorms produce power outages) and the means to document everything (video camera, iPhone, and for those hard to reach places—binoculars). From a fashion standpoint, Pack Man is a disaster. His attire is so far off the charts “What Not To Wear” won’t go there. If he were to show up for an audition of a stereotypical tourist he would be told to tone it down.
Friends doubted my husband was a Pack Man until they vacationed with him or saw a photo of his favorite vacation accessory. The amusement park plastic “soda sling” allowed him to clip a “Big Gulp” cup to his belt. It suffered an unfortunate melting death in the bottom of our dishwasher in 1994. He’s never gotten over it.
In my quest to avoid vacation embarrassment and insure optimal photo opps with Pack Man, I began Operation Fanny Pack. It seemed simple. I would introduce an additional problem and a superior solution. Many of our destinations were notorious for pick pocketing. Tourists were prime targets. I read aloud Internet and travel book warnings. Then I produced the replacement. A thin wallet on a neck string claimed to be “pick pocket proof” when tucked under a shirt. When he said, “This is great”, I rejoiced and bought an extra memory card for my camera.
Departure Day proved Operation Fanny Pack was a failure. Overseas travel had thrown Pack Man into overdrive. My new and better option was not the alternative one; it was an additional one. On the plane and all over the Mediterranean, he wore every option he had ever acquired. Exploding fanny pack. Bulging string wallet pushing through golf shirt like a bad medical device. String passport holder—never mind that the passports were in the safety deposit box in our room. Extra large backpack with clip on water bottle and Pittsburgh Steeler hat. The bad news was this was my Mediterranean photo opp. The good news was he had room for my lipstick AND zoom lens.
I soon realized that two weeks on a dream vacation with a great husband is a blessing especially if he is loaded down like a pack mule. We laughed and explored. We enjoyed it all and each other. My headaches were cured. I never got sunburned. And all of my purchases were stashed somewhere on his body. If you can’t beat ‘em, let them carry your stuff!
I learned a lot on my “Eat, Pray, Love” adventure. I wore flowing outfits but didn’t look a thing like Jackie O. My guy did not have the abs of Demetri the gorgeous waiter who served us on the Santorini roof garden, but neither did I. I didn’t work any magic when it came to photo opps but my pictures are magical and prove something very important about life with Pack Man. Sometimes a perfect Mediterranean adventure involves a fanny pack not a six-pack.
© 2011 Nancy Berk