Roller Coasters, Harry Potter and a Driver’s Permit, Oh My!

The Gulf Coast of Florida has been my “home” for the last couple of weeks.  I always love coming here, usually in the summer to spend a bit of time with family, including my mom and her husband Gary.  The beaches are absolutely beautiful and life is pretty easy.  It’s not truly “home” (not sure what is to be honest), as it is not where I technically grew up.  But, it is where I spent my college summers, and it is really nice to be directly connected with family for a short period of time.  It always reminds me, that despite where I reside, I am an amalgamation of my roots which are not necessarily geographically based.

During my time here, I decided to combine a “business trip” with some bonding time with my 15 year-old daughter.  Through a LinkedIn connection with my cousin who lives in Orlando, I was virtually introduced to an expert in the field of edu-tech who worked at the same central Florida university that she does.  My cousin had read about my recent investments and work in this field, and thought it would be prudent for Dr. Lim and I to meet in person.  And it was.  He was a wealth of information and shared his perspectives and experiences with distance learning and gamification of education.

But, as much as I learned from talking with Dr. Lim, the real educational re-inforcement came from my time at Universal Studios Orlando with my daughter.  As a bit of background information and at the risk of sounding un-American, I really don’t like theme parks…dare I say, I kind of detest them.  And, this is despite the fact (or maybe because of the fact) that I grew up visiting Disney World every year from the time I was able to walk.  But, today, the thought of waiting in long lines to be inundated with “entertainment” that is a disguise for buying their products really turns me off.  Funny coming from a marketing girl, huh?

But this particular trip was different.  My daughter happens to have inherited some of my mother’s genes.  My mother is the ultimate organizer, planner and gadget guru…you have no idea.  My high school graduation party (mind you, in 1985) was completely planned and mapped out on her newest toy, the latest and greatest MacIntosh computer.  The entire buffet table was graphically planned on that computer with strategic placement of hors d’oeuvres, main course, salads, etc. Planning to the nth degree.

My mother taught me most of my organizational skills, and for that I am grateful.  They have definitely come in handy in the business world.  But, if I am truly self-aware, my real nature favors my father’s genes which were of the more artistic vein. Deep in my core, I like “going with the flow” and seeing where things lead.  But, this particular trip to Universal Studios with my daughter was a strong reminder of the value of a well thought out plan, mixed with a dash of flexibility and a teaspoon of luck.

The day before my meeting with Dr. Lim, I convinced my daughter to join me and tasked her with picking which park we would visit in Orlando.  After a bit of determined research on her part, she chose Universal Studios.  This happened to be a good choice, because it was the closest park in that area to the university that I was to visit. Lucky.  I quickly chose our hotel which was on-site at Universal and, although still a bit pricey, was running a special.  I later learned that the price of our one night stay included an 1-hour early entrance into the park, along with an express pass for all of the rides. Again, lucky.  If you hate waiting in long lines as much as I do, this is definitely the way to go.

My daughter had us up bright and early the next day so that we could take advantage of the advance park admission.  Her strategy was to get to the newest rides (Harry Potter and Transformers) first, before “regular park goers” arrived, to avoid the long lines throughout the day.  Good plan.  We were in and out of those rides in record time…no waiting.  Wait, this wasn’t so bad after all.  And, the rest of the day was just as pleasant too, given our “express passes.”  We were able to ride every ride we wanted (more than once for some) with no more than a ten minute wait. I began to remember that I really do love the rides…especially the roller coasters…the scarier the better.   And, this wasn’t the dreadful experience that I had remembered from years ago…a trip to Disneyland in Anaheim during spring break…the last time I vowed I would set foot in a theme park.

Our original plan was to stay through dusk, have dinner there and drive the two hours back to the Gulf Coast.  But, to our amazement, we were finished and completely satisfied by 3PM and decided to head home.  Flexibility.   With her recently acquired learning permit, my daughter was even able to drive us home.  The ride was pleasant and unhurried, and we avoided having to traverse a terrible storm that hit later that evening.

All and all a great little trip and refresher on the value of a plan balanced with flexibility and serendipity.  Although theme parks are still not on the top of my list of favorite things to do, I’m glad that we had such a pleasant experience and some “rare these days” one-on-one time together.  And, the roller coasters weren’t so bad either.

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