You see, for the most part, they aren't forced to risk life and limb to hang the outside lights, gird their loins in anticipation of the family drama queen's rants or even sweat up a storm preparing the holiday feast.
Christmas is all about expectations.
Yet since we not only spent a week on Easter Island recently, but also tacked on a 10-day French Polynesian cruise, my mind is still on expectations of the travel variety.
While Charlotte Bronte wrote, "life is so constructed that the event does not, cannot, will not---match the expectation," I suspect that expecting too little might prove far worse than expecting too much.
When I asked a fellow sojourner why she had traveled all the way from Montreal to Easter Island, she admitted that as a child she had fallen in love with a poster of Ahu Tangariki.
"Don’t say a word," she would insist---upon learning we had photographed the site the day before.
She wanted to be (in her words) "a tabula rasa" as she personally glimpsed the Moai.
She couldn't possibly be, however, a "blank slate." Her poster had led her to at least three false expectations: that Easter Island's most photographed site would be hers alone to enjoy, that the sky would be painted in the same vibrant sunrise colors and that the statue detail hadn't seriously eroded in two decades.
Additionally, this woman routinely expects to be disappointed. Only the day before she had created a huge stink about the food, her accommodations and the service.
She reminded us of stuck-in-a-rut travelers who resist all changes to their daily regimen. They get tcked when they fail to find prune juice on the menu, a sleep-number bed in their room or the absence of precipitation in the Great Outdoors.
We, on the other hand, had been tickled by the hotelier’'s idiosyncratic conduct. She seemed to be the Polynesian equivalent of "The Soup Nazi" made famous on "Seinfeld." We now had an amusing story to tell.
Unfortunately, travel, instead of merely broadening the mind, also broadens the beam---especially aboard a cruise ship.
Still, as proponents of the "if it scares you, it might be a good thing to try" philosophy, we endeavored to taste new foods from doughy breadfruit to poisson cru (raw fish) to po'e (taro pudding).
While our fellow passengers (most of whom had racked up voyages in the double digits) attempted to be open-minded, a myopic few viewed everything through the lens of "getting my money’s worth." In fact, they felt financially cheated when forced, by unanticipated circumstances, out of their comfort zones.
"But you are on vacation!" the Polynesian tour guides would exclaim with frustration. They actually considered it a personal failing if a client was "unhappy."
Still, did the couple from Moscow really expect the impressively multilingual (English, French, Spanish and Tahitian) guide from Moorea to converse in fluent Russian as well?
We decided to bestow our unofficial "Go with the Flow" award on Martha. During the second day, she came down with a (still undiagnosed) fever and was quarantined to her cabin by medical staff.
Five days later, she emerged from the ordeal with a heartwarming smile on her face (despite a $600 doctor bill), a hearty appetite and heartfelt gratitude---her thoughtful roomie, Janet had videoed their planned excursions, smuggled in restaurant doggy bags and (via iPhone texts and photos) did the bulk of Martha's souvenir-shopping.
While Susan Heller provided sound travel advice when she wrote, "When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money," we invested our loot upfront---leaving few francs or pesos for tourist shop proprietors.
Handmade curios (oil-painted pareos, rongorongo carvings) or homegrown products (manoi oil, vanilla pods)---seemingly unavailable in the US---however, were must-haves. Of course, we had forgotten we reside in a global economy---where just about everything can be obtained at amazon.com.
Still, when our new BFF from Hangaroa requested an American flag, we didn’t hesitate to say, "yes." We now know that though Amazon doesn't ship to Easter Island, USPS does. Tepihi’s stars and stripes are on their way.
Our cruise line's advertising campaign included a "come back new" mantra. Yet, the letdown expressed by our shipmates upon our return tells us that those who expected this ocean voyage to be life-altering, were sorely disappointed.
Still, their dissatisfaction may be merely temporary. According to Miriam Beard, travel is "a change that goes on, deep and permanent---in the ideas of living."
"Are you excited about your next trip?" our friends inquire.
"Maybe when we pay for this one---and Christmas," Hubby sagely replies.