A Day Inside America���s Largest Indoor Water Park In Round Rock

I recently received a WhatsApp from my friend P. “What am I doing?” she wrote. “I have barely any money in my bank account, I’m in the middle of buying a house and yet I’ve just booked a holiday to Mexico.” 

“What?” I replied. “When are you going?”

“This Thursday!” she responded. “I did ask you!”

She did? I scrolled back through our messages. It was true. Earlier that week, she had sent me a link I’d forgotten to click on. I clicked on it now. My iPhone screen immediately bloomed with images of blue skies, bluer swimming pools and happy people drinking cocktails. “Good for you,” I typed, adding a smiley emoji, a cocktail emoji and a sunshine emoji. I was truly happy for her. She’d had a tough year. Faced with a drab grey British winter, which of us wouldn’t want to jet off to the sun? 

January is a dismal month. Little wonder it’s when people start planning their summer holidays. Although, who am I kidding: I usually start Googling hotels on December 27, right after the Christmas cheese has been put away. This year, more than ever, I’m reminded of the words of the poet Andrew Marvell: “But at my back I always hear/Time’s winged chariot drawing near”. Or, for those of a more populist bent, the words of Queen: “Forever is our today/Who waits for forever anyway?” For if there is one positive thing to have come out of the pandemic, it is a reminder to seize the day. Nothing makes you appreciate your liberty more than having had it taken away from you. 

If lockdown was characterised by everyone sending each other cheer-up memes, then post-lockdown, everyone is sending each other links to exotic holidays. They are my porn. Forget watching the latest episode of The Tourist: I would rather spend an hour on i-escape plotting a visit to Western Australia, where it was filmed. 

So intense is my desire to experience holidays in far-flung places that I forget the vow I made, as a child, never to embark on a plane journey longer than 10 hours. Who was that blinkered child? A child who was afraid of flying, clearly, but grew into an adult who believes that life is too short to live in fear. 

My childhood wasn’t exactly peppered with long-haul holidays. Or even short-haul holidays, since my mother was afraid of flying. The first foreign holiday our family took was to Spain, via a 36-hour coach journey so arduous that it’s a miracle it didn’t put me off travel for life. When it came to exploring the world, my mother’s trepidation rubbed off on me: while all my friends took gap years in France or Peru, I went straight to university. Only years later was my wanderlust ignited, courtesy of a work trip to New York. Driving over the Triborough Bridge and seeing Manhattan loom up before me – so tall, so exciting, so alien – was life-changing. We all have one special place we missed visiting during the pandemic, and New York was mine. How I yearned to chat rubbish to a cab driver en route to the Whitney, or walk along the High Line to the Chelsea Flower Market, where I would feast on lobster roll, Clamato juice and aged white cheddar popcorn. Anyone who believes the world is globalised hasn’t tried to order an MSG-free Chinese takeaway of brown rice and steamed pak choi – not fried – outside of Manhattan. 

Like many people, I spent too much of the past couple of years with my head bowed over my phone, scrolling through old memories of holidays past. Had I really been to Iceland? What year was Marrakech? Did I really go straight from Ibiza to Venice in 2017? Joni Mitchell was right: you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Now that the travel we took for granted has resumed again, it would be remiss not to grab every opportunity with both hands. After all, we have almost two years of stasis to make up for. We can’t snatch that time back, but we can maximise every moment to come.

And we will. We will roam further than we ever thought possible – so far that our fridges, sofas and really-needs-regrouting bathrooms are a distant memory. We will cycle through the Dolomites, play golf in the Algarve, gape at the Taj Mahal and wonder at the Pyramids. We will make that oft-promised safari trip to Kenya, even though we are scared of spiders. We will visit the old school friend who emigrated to Vancouver in 1992. We will climb Machu Picchu, and failing that, we will take a photo of it. We will drink mojitos on Copacabana beach, a place that has intrigued us ever since we heard the Barry Manilow record, because why should Lola-she-was-a-showgirl have all the fun? 

As well as far-flung pastures new, maybe we will also revisit favourite old haunts: the cities of our honeymoons; the ski slopes from our school trips; and the beaches of that disastrous backpacking holiday where we lived off beer and prawns for three weeks and fell in love with a tour guide called Somsak. We are older and wiser now. We are also less impoverished, and don’t need to stay in a youth hostel. We will roam further and better, with minds as open as our horizons. Nor will we be as tense when things go wrong. So what if we are seated next to the toilet on a long-haul flight? It’s all part of the journey. Remember when we couldn’t fly at all? 

We will never forget. Instead, we will remember to remember, in minute detail, every sound, sight and scent our destination spawns. We will travel differently, mindfully, learning from new cultures and respecting them. We will speak to the people we meet, and we will listen. We will learn. We will learn that a tan is great, but sightseeing feeds the soul. 

Most of all, we will be grateful: for the opportunities life holds, and for a world that has opened up again, allowing us to bask in its glorious sunshine or rain. We don’t know what the future holds – only that it is out there, asking us to experience it to the full.

Marvel at the Iguazu Falls

The northern tip of Argentina’s Misi­ones Province, named after the Jesuit missionaries who first settled in the region in the 17th century, has one of the country’s few remaining tracts of subtropical broadleaf forest. Within this, the Iguazú National Park is home to bright-billed toucans, colourful parrots, raccoon-like coatis and howler monkeys, as well as harder-to-spot jag­uars, oce­lots, tapirs and giant anteaters.

The centrepiece of the park are the Iguazú Falls, which comprise some 275 separate falls spread over a 1.7-mile-wide fault where the Iguazú River plunges down to join the mighty Paraná. The Devil’s Throat – the highest, noisiest fall – is almost 500ft wide and 270ft high. Gravity-defying palm trees cling to the vertical cliffs, swifts dart in and out of the tumbling brown-hued cascades and thousands of butterflies flit around the spray. Walkways above and beneath the falls make access easy, and while bathing is proscribed, there is plenty of opportunity to get soaked on a boat trip or by standing at the base of the cascades.

Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/activity-and-adventure/20-life-changing-trips-make-count/

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