In the last 45 years I have taken four vacations:
1965 Mexico (3 weeks)
1971 Amsterdam (10 days)
1998 Florence (10 days)
2005 Hawaii (10 days)
Each vacation was haunted by my own pennypinching, since I could barely afford the air fare and lived on one meal a day once I got there (except for Florence where I was guest for meals).
In one instance, the pennypinching actually enhanced the vacation: Mexico.
I was 20 and went with two friends from Ithaca College: Christia and Tom. Christia's mother was Writer in Residence at the University of the Americas on Paseo de la Reforma, and we stayed in her hacienda on campus ( a cement bungalo ). Immediately across the street from the campus on the Paseo was a two-room mud hut. The front room was a type of convenience store (which sold soda). The back room housed the proprietor, his wife and seven children, all sharing a single bed with a crucifix hung over it.
Christia and Tom had more money than I did, so they flew to Acapulco for one of our three weeks in Mexico. I took the bus, an economy which turned out to have been a stroke of great luck, for the bus travelled from 12,000 feet to sea level through mountains and valleys, rainbows and out-croppings of grass-covered huts. It was a tourist's dream of a ride, except for the cowboy driver who sped all the way.
When I got to Acapulco, I found Tom and Christia's hotel quickly enough and learned they were on the 20th floor. I didn't have money to pay for the hotel that night, so I slept on the beach, making a bed out of the sand.
In the middle of the night---a balmy beautiful beach night---I noticed there were several large cats patrolling the sands on the beach around me in the shadowy surroundings. At a closer look, their tails seemed too stiff for cats and I concluded I had got the first letter wrong: they weren't cats at all---they were rats.
This got me on my feet and down for a dip in the tepid sea, gently rocking me back and forth as I stood chest high in the deep. Soon lightning appeared on the horizon and I decided my midnight cradle gentle rocking was about to become a midnight frying pan, so I hightailed it to the sidewalk above the beach.
I was too proud to ask Christia and Tom to take me in since I was unable to pay a third of that night's fee, and I walked the streets of Acapulco till 7 the next morning, absorbing the sounds of bars closing and the odor of garbage being cleaned off the alleyways, an odor which is the same round the world no matter the street or clime.
I had been pinching pennies because I promised myself I would water-ski in Acapulco Bay. I had learned to water-ski while a camp counselor in Mallet's Bay in Vermont in 1960 and I wanted to be able to say I water-skiid in Acapulco too.
Hiring the ski-boat was exactly the price of one night in the hotel split by three, hence my night on the beach with the rats.
That was 45 years ago: I was 20 going on 21. Even though I have held bragging rights to water-skiing on Acapulco Bay all these years, the better adventure was sleeping on the beach with the rats; swimming in the midnight ocean to a backdrop of lightning; and walking the streets of Acapulco all night long--putting the city to bed and waking it up.
Forty years later I'm on the 29th floor of a hotel over Waikiki Beach. Not much has changed in those 40 years: I am still penny-pinching to be able to afford an extravagance--- this time it's parasailing which requires my eating yogurt and nuts for two meals a day so I can purchase the highest sail, 1200 ft (400 ft. above the lowest sail) for my adventure.
It was my 60th birthday present to myself and 1200 feet above the Bay (higher than the Empire State building) the parasail's seat rocked back and forth in the wind like a child's playground swing.
I descended all 1200feet with a smile plastered on my face that lasted two weeks.
Pure unadulterated fun, at age 60, is just as pure and just as unadulterated as at 20.
PS: I won't tell you about the Mexican family in a 1954 Nash who picked us three up hitch-hiking on the Paseo de la Reforma and took us home to a meal cooked by their "maid". When they found us sufficiently naive, they asked us to bring a package back to Nyack, New York (Tom's home) to deliver to their family member. It never occurred to me in 1965 that the package might contain drugs, and we three,in profound innocence, transported it across border and 3000 miles home.
Wet behind the ears (all six of them)!