Personal · USA Travel

Lola the Cat and the 5 Stages of Travel

What do cats dream about? Food? A ball of yarn? Their owners? Nothing at all?

In 1959, Michel Jouvet, a physiologist and sleep researcher, found that cats have a structure near their brain called the locus coeruleus that was necessary for muscle relaxation during Rapid Eye Movement (REM), the stage in which dreams occur for both humans and animals. Jouvet found that when this structure was surgically removed, cats would physically stand up, stalk, pounce, arch their backs and hiss all while being sound asleep, suggesting that they dream of their favorite daytime activity: hunting and exploring.

In the marketing world, there is something we refer to as the 5 stages of travel which include dreaming, planning, booking, experiencing and sharing. Marketers, particularly in the hospitality industry, use this model to try to reach you during each step of your trip planning process. I was looking at this and thought, instead of being a marketing strategy, couldn’t this model be used to explain how each of us goes about planning our next big trip? Why stop there, couldn’t this explain why my cat dreams of going outside every day?      

Dreaming

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Unlike cats, humans have the luxury of being able to surf the web to dream about their next trip. My vacation dreaming is organized on Pinterest where I save all of my dream destinations in one place. I even go as far as sorting my Pinterest boards by state or country which helps me select my next vacation by the board with the most pins.

Where does your dreaming begin? Is it through a friend’s recent travel posts? The travel channel? From books you’ve read? Movies? Word of mouth? Whatever it may be, never restrict the dreaming process. Allow yourself to dream the impossible because even though my cat, Lola, knows she isn’t allowed to venture to the other side of the busy intersection, it doesn’t stop her from dreaming about it.

Planning

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We have a fireplace with a large window above it in our home where Lola spends most of her time. This brings me to the second stage of travel: planning. If you have a cat, I’m sure you have experienced the terror of seeing them slowly arch their back and stare out the window wide-eyed, as if something truly horrific is about the approach the front door, only to discover a trespassing squirrel on your front lawn.

Lola will spend some time stalking this squirrel, watching its every move, figuring out where it resides. Then, Lola may get distracted, lie down and take a nap. What can I say, she’s a cat, her attention span is approximately 5 seconds. Her frustration comes when she wakes up from her slumber to discover that the squirrel is nowhere to be found.

Losing track of the squirrel isn’t Lola’s fault and doesn’t come from a lack of planning on her part. It simply comes down to the timing. Would she have gone on her excursion the second she saw the squirrel, it may have been a different story. But getting to your destination within minutes of planning isn’t always possible and this is something to be aware of when you plan your getaway.

When we planned our trip to Puerto Vallarta for our honeymoon, we had a set list of restaurants we were excited to try because they had excellent reviews. You can imagine our frustration when not once, but TWICE the restaurants we had planned to visit were permanently closed.

Just like Lola, we were victims of poor timing and our lack of backup options left us running around the town in heels (just me, not my husband) looking for a place to eat. Don’t fall into that trap, create a list alternatives. Trust me, your feet will thank you.

Booking

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How often do you go on vacation? If you’re lucky, your job will provide you with 2 weeks paid vacation per year. But studies show that more than half of Americans didn’t take all of their vacation days last year. This takes a toll on your mental and physical health. It has been found that people are more productive, creative and happy when returning from a vacation. Do yourself and your boss a favor and take a few days off.

The prime booking window for purchasing flights is 27-114 days with 47 being the lucky number of how many days to book prior to ensure that you are getting the best price possible. I know what you’re thinking, “Ain’t nobody got time for dat!” Just use a month and a half as a good rule of thumb for purchasing your tickets. Unless you’re flying Spirit, their pricing tends to be cheapest a couple of days before a flight.

I used to get so angry at Lola when she would cry at the door to be let outside. I thought it was an annoying trait, something that I needed to un-train. Then I thought of it from my perspective and how I would feel being trapped inside all day, exploring the same rooms over and over. Wouldn’t I be itching for a change of scenery? Now, I try to let Lola outside at least once a day. She is noticeably happier and in turn, so am I.

Experiencing

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Experiencing your vacation is the best part of the journey and no one can tell you how to do it. You may be the type that enjoys taking photos of every single thing you see (that’s me), or maybe you’re the type that likes to go on 3 hour long guided tours (hi, Mom and Dad), or maybe you prefer to just wing it and see where the the wind takes you (what’s up, Pocahontas).

I am not here to tell you how to experience your vacation, but I will tell you to proceed with caution, just as I tell Lola before she runs out the door each day. For the most part, Lola’s excursions go well. However, there have been a few times when she has gotten into fights with other cats and come back a little banged up. I also vividly remember a time when she was backed into a corner against the fence by a stray dog. My husband witnessed it and was able to chase the dog away.

Use caution when traveling. Travel with others when possible, stay aware of your surroundings and keep someone who is not on your trip updated with your current location. Just like Lola, don’t let the fear of being caught in an unfortunate situation keep you from experiencing the world.

Sharing

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When it comes to sharing her experience outdoors, Lola is anything but elegant. Just a month ago Lola was outside of the front door announcing that she was ready to come inside. I wasn’t aware that she had brought a guest with her until she dropped it at my feet. There it was, a small mouse, no larger than a plum. Lola looked at me with such pride. I was surprised that the mouse was still alive. Many of the guests she brought in the past weren’t able to stick around for dessert, if you know what I mean.

Sharing a trip with people who weren’t there to experience it is a tricky thing. It doesn’t matter how many photos you share or stories you tell, your listeners will never be able to match your excitement about the trip. When I come back from a trip and a colleague asks me how it was, I take the opportunity to tell them about the things I would recommend if they were to go in the near future. You can always bring souvenirs from your trip and hand those out when people ask how it was. Everyone loves a good souvenir. Well, unless it’s a mouse. Then you just smile, express immense gratitude and toss it back outside.

         

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