This time last week I was probably evading Darth Vader as he tried to take a “rebel spy” from our Star Tours ship. Or, I might have been playing boardwalk-style games with Woody, Buzz and Jessie. Or, maybe I was just meandering among palm trees and colorful buildings, relishing the warm Florida sun.
To be honest, I can’t remember exactly what I was doing last week, because the best part of vacation is the absence of schedules and deadlines.
But I can tell you this: I was having a blast.
My family and I recently finished our eighth trip to Disney World. I feel blessed to have been able to travel to the “happiest place on Earth” so many times – some with family, others with friends, but all with a childlike spark that Disney World seems to nurture into a wondrous blaze.
And that, I think, is the reason we’ve been to Disney World so many times. As my brother and I have gotten older, people have raised their eyebrows at each of our treks down to Orlando. “Do Seth and Sarah still want to do that?” my mom has been asked.
Um… yes! Absolutely!
Where else does a resort take “Be our guest” so literally that you feel like a pampered princess, with everything from transportation, to dining, to luggage managed for you?
Where else can you walk around the world in only a few hours, sampling food from each country as you go?
Where else can you enter your favorite movies, from “Star Wars” to classic John Wayne films?
Where else can you go on a safari with a guarantee to see uncaged animals?
And, perhaps best of all, where else can you be 7 years old again, even if just for a few moments? Where else can you believe in flying elephants, fairy godmothers and, of course, faith, trust, and pixie dust?
I can’t help but think the world would be a better place with a bit more of the latter – faith and trust (pixie dust optional).
It’s easy to forget such ideals, after all, to think that they are as fanciful as Neverland. But each trip to Disney World reminds me that they are as real as hopes and dreams, as determination and love.
To paraphrase from a favorite Disney movie (“The Rescuers”), they might not be touched, bought, or wrapped up tight, but they’re there just the same, making things turn out right.
Needless to say, Disney has played a significant part in my life for a while. Years before our first Florida trip, I watched our Disney VHS tapes for hours on end, and I knew all the words to my favorite Disney songs.
So, yes, while I have often commented on my many nerdy pursuits – Harry Potter, “Doctor Who,” and superheroes – Disney movies came long before any of them.
And, I suppose, I’ve learned a bit from Disney, too. As naïve as it might seem, I really do believe in dreams and wishes – but not without hard work and resolve. I also believe that love conquers all, but not without challenges, and rarely with a “fairy tale” ending.
But, during this past trip I realized a few other lessons I might have overlooked.
For one, that kindness is contagious. See, Disney World cast members (employees) are instructed in how to be friendly and they are held to very high standards. So, you can’t go anywhere without welcoming chats or smiles – something that spreads even to the guests.
And, to quote the traditional, but slightly annoying ride, it really is a “small world after all.”
During our trip we didn’t have to go to EPCOT to experience other cultures. People from across the globe come to Disney World and they all get excited when they see Mickey Mouse. Different customs, clothes, or languages didn’t change that.
And perhaps such ideas are nothing more than wishful thinking, but maybe a bit of that is good now and then.
After all, our lives are littered with reminders of all the dangers and pitfalls of being human: that we make sometimes dire mistakes; that we can be selfish, greedy and intolerant; that the world is unpredictable and often unfair.
But also, hidden here and there like sea shells buried under the sand are other reminders, too: that we can be magnificent, that good things can happen to good people, and that kindness and caring will never be extinguished.
Disney World is just one such place where I’ve found those. Other such reminders come at Christmas, at family reunions, at anniversaries – just to name a few.
And thank goodness for those happiest things that as Peter Pan once said, are “the same as having wings.”
Reach Sarah Allen at 937-393-3456, ext. 1680, or on Twitter @SarahAllenHTG.