I declined a free trip to Scotland to vacation at a retirement community.

A picture of the villages welcoming sign.

OK – before you go, “Zoom, you did what?! Gave up a FREE TRIP TO SCOTLAND?” I know, I know, believe me. When I wrote my thanks-but-no-thanks email I literally said, “I can’t believe I’m saying no to this opportunity, but…..” It was a really tough call guys, I mean really tough call. So, before I lose all credibility with my readers as an adventure guru, let me explain.

The Context

For the last three years, my parents and sister have been vacationing at a retirement community in Florida called “The Villages“. My mom first discovered The Villages when she sought out ‘golf cart communities’ online. My family has a long-time love affair with golf carts. We just love riding them and have owned several over the years. On my 16th birthday, my parents set up a golf-cart relay race for my party – lemme tell you, that was the coolest party in school…..oh, the glory days. 😛

Just as advertised, The Villages is a golf-cart-transit city. I say city because The Villages is its own municipality with a post-office, radio station, school system – the works. With all the fancy golf carts zipping around, it kinda reminds me of Burning Man mutant vehicles. Residents of The Villages have no need to ever leave – anything you could need or want is accessible on a golf cart!

Yes, this a golf cart.

This spring, I graduated with my associates degree in Web Development (thank you, thank you!). To celebrate that, of course I wanted to do some traveling! In a freak occurrence of destiny, my brother also happened to have off the first 10 days of May – clearly a family vacation was being called for. Since Florida is beautiful in May and my brother and I had never been to The Villages, it seemed the obvious choice. We rented a house with a pool and golf cart for [the month of] May and started the Hoffman Vacation Countdown.

The Temptation

Then I got a call – it was my boss.

B: “Would you like to go on an all-expense-paid trip to Scotland? Its from May 9-19, that’s all I know.”

*Shocked silence*

M: “Um… YEAHHHH I’D LIKE TO GO ON THAT!” (~Sorry family~)

B: “Ok, I’ll tell them. Someone should be in touch shortly.”

As excited as I was about what just happened, I dreaded telling my family. They hid their disappointment well and told me I’d be crazy not to go. Even though I knew they were right, something kept gnawing at me. Not many families – especially ones with grown kids living their own lives – get the opportunity to go on vacation and spend that kind of time together.

After the call, all I could do was wait to hear from “someone”. Finally, I was contacted. On the other end of the line was the professor of a geology class that includes a study abroad component. “Scotland is doing amazing things in peat and was chosen for this years destination,” she explains. “We had a young woman who had to drop out because of personal issues, but she’s already paid for the trip – we need someone to replace her.”

The Catch

As the old adage goes: “If something is too good to be true, it is.” As it turns out, there was a lot of strings attached to my offer of ‘free trip to Scotland’. While there would be no expense, I would have to pay the tuition for the class next semester as well as make up all the work that the rest of the students had done.

Additionally, there would be no personal time on the trip. The group had a full itinerary that we would need to be ‘strictly adhered to’. We wouldn’t be having any classroom hours or exams while we were abroad, but everyone was expected to give a presentation recapping what they learned in Scotland and how it related to what they learned in the course (that I would not have taken yet).

Because of my non-traditional path in higher education, I missed out on a lot of everything that younger me was looking forward to experiencing. Living in a dorm, meeting new people who would be my life-long friends, going to house parties, and – most of all – studying abroad.

Time to Choose

The rip of conflict within me was massive. I literally had to phone a friend – make that several friends – to talk it out.

After an intense weekend of talking it out and analyzing the options, I finally decided to pursue my original plan to travel with my family.

Why? Well, I think because I love them and have been realizing over the years just how fast time is going. Some day when I have kids, a vacation like this could probably never happen – but a trip to Scotland still could. Also, its summer and I want to enjoy myself and not be cramped with a bunch of strangers. Not that I can’t make friends, but there’s no need when I have my family…. LOVE YOU HOFFMANS <3 <3

Do I regret it?

With any big decision, regret is always lurking in the corner ready to visit after the choice is made. I knew that no matter what choice I made here, some form of regret would inevitably be my companion – at least for a little while.

But, I’m happy to say that I was wrong about that. This was 100% the correct decision and I am living regret free! Stay tuned to hear about just what is making this trip so great.

In my situation, what choice do you think you would have made? Tell me in a comment!

Don't be shy!