Our first vacation to America: Christopher Columbus vs us

In the USA, every second Monday in October is Columbus Day (Dia de La Hispanidad in Spanish).

That is a national holiday in many countries of the Americas and elsewhere, which officially celebrates the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas on October 12, 1492.

Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer and colonizer on behalf of Spain, who set sail across the Atlantic Ocean, searching for a faster route to the Far East to land at the New World.

His first voyage to the New World on the Spanish ships Santa María, Niña, and La Pinta took approximately three months (source: Wikipedia – Columbus Day).

Columbus Day

Stylized graphic from the United States Department of Defense

Pan Am, Jetlag & Miami

Reading this reminds me of WJ and my first vacation to America. We were only 19 years old and had never been so far from home. Of course, it was a whole different trip getting there than Columbus had made by a ship in 1492. We flew to America, with Pan Am airlines and it only took us 10 hours to get to Miami airport. We were so excited to go to America as it was uncommon to go there in the1980. Basically, it was for the rich and famous.

We didn’t know much about America at that time, only from what we had read in some travel magazines. When we arrived, it felt strange because of the time difference from 6 hours. We left around 11 am and arrived at 3 pm and had flown halfway across the world.

After going through customs, we came outside, and it felt so hot.
A Red Top Bus was waiting to bring us to our Hotel on Collins Avenue, Miami Beach. Everything looked so BIG. The highway was enormous, and there were so many cars on it. The most beautiful cars, some were convertibles and many shiny trucks. It felt like I was in a movie.

First vacation to America - Pointiac Firbird

Me in “our” Pontiac Firebird at the hotel parking lot 1980.

On my first vacation to America, I felled in love with the country!

Although it was our first vacation to America, I was immediately in love with everything I saw. As we were so excited and overwhelmed by everything, we didn’t go to bed till late. At least that is what we thought, but because of the time difference, it was only 8 pm. The next morning we were up at 4:30 am, and we couldn’t sleep anymore, so we took a long walk on the beach in the dark. When the sun came up, we went to a little restaurant for breakfast. We could not believe that some restaurants, supermarkets, and shops were open 24/7. In Holland, the shops still closed for lunchtime and on a Sunday.

Day after day, we were surprised by all the new things we saw and experienced. For example, if we ordered a Coca-Cola, we could choose from 3 sizes, regular, medium, and large. A large Coca-Cola was as big as a coffee pot in Holland. We even could choose a diet coke and refills for free, who had ever heard of that. We got water for free in all restaurants. In Holland, we have to pay for water even if it’s from the tap.

What is a (shopping) Mall?

A Mall, what is a Mall??? We had never heard of it and never been in one, and OMG, an American Mall is a shoppers paradise, and it had 2 or 3 floors, and you even could buy cars inside. Even supermarkets like the Winn Dixie’s had so many product ranges. In the 1980’s in Holland, we only had shopping streets outside, so I could not believe my eyes by this “indoor” shopping experience, controlled by airconditioning, which made it colder inside than in Miami in August. It was a whole new world for us.

But we also got warned by employees in our hotel not to wear any jewelry outside the hotel as gangsters would cut off my head to get my necklace. Collins Avenue was very dangerous at that time, especially during nighttime. So that made us a bit scared, and we were cautious.

Walt Disney World ticked 1980

To Disney in a Pontiac Firebird

As we didn’t have a car to go around, we knew we needed one badly after being there just one day because the distance between everything was too far to walk.

We hired a Pontiac Firebird, we felt like movie stars driving around. That way, we could go to the Lion Country Safari, Star Hall of Fame, Sea World, and the most magical of all, Disney world.

That is when I fell in love with everything related to Disney. I lived a fairytale; it was so Magical, seeing all the Disney characters, the electrical night parade.

Everything in and around Disney World itself. I felt just like a little girl.

Since then, we have been back many times to the USA and, of course, Walt Disney World. We have seen so many states and places. We have met so many lovely people along the way who are our friends now. I love the USA

So now maybe you understand why setting MY first step on USA soil in 1980 made me fall in love with America for the rest of my life.

A BIG HUG to all of you, and please STAY SAFE.

First vacation to America - Walt Disney World