What I Learned at Disney World (or Some Thoughts on a Magical Experience)

I recently returned from a week at Walt Disney World in Florida. Truth be told, I wasn’t looking forward to going. I was going to spend a week with 17 other members of my (wife’s) family on a vacation in a very crowded place. I have nothing against family, or my wife’s family, but am an introvert. Being around large groups of people drains my energy, I need time alone to regroup and recharge. I tend to like quiet places and time for solitude on vacation. My vacations in the last couple of years have not been filled with such times and I was even planning a vacation from my vacation to make sure I had the recharging time I needed. Well, surprise, the magic happened. The family agreed that we didn’t need to all be together every day and each of five family units each went their own way during the days. The crowds didn’t bother me too much (even though they were ginormous), and I had a fantastic time. I even took time to reflect and wonder. Here’s what I learned, or relearned during my week in Disney World:

Have a Magical Day. Make every day magical. I grew tired of hearing every Disney World employee say this until I realized that it was up to me to take their advice. So I did.

Celebrate today. This phrase decorated many pins and buttons and various items around Disney. It’s good advice. All we have is this moment. Live in it. Celebrate it, even.

Be a kid again. Rediscover wonder. I realized, after about two days, I was just having fun. I felt like a kid again. I wasn’t worrying about things. I was amazed and enthralled. Too often I let the weight of the world drag me down. This led to…

Escape is necessary…as a break, but dangerous as a lifestyle.

Fantasy is wonderful and required, but I also knew that Disney World wasn’t the real world.

If Disney World, with it’s hundreds of thousands of visitors to a half dozen theme parks and various hotels and resorts every day can keep every single rest room crystal clean and stocked with toilet paper and soap and towels, then why is it so difficult for the local filling station or fast food store to maintain one stall? Why is it so hard for me to keep my bathroom at home clean?

It really is a small world, after all. Given all I saw and all I did all week, my favorite moment was the morning I gave up my seat on the bus to a senior citizen as we boarded the shuttles to a theme park. Then I felt a tug on my shirt and little Japanese girl patted the seat next her. She was pushing her little brother over (the two of them fit in one seat) to make room for me. I bowed and sat down. Smiles all around. Bows and smiles again leaving the bus. I ran into this family four or five more times during the week and each time the smiles were bigger and the bows deeper. I will now learn how to say “thank you” in Japanese.

It’s not necessary to be entertained twenty-four hours a day. Even at Walt Disney World, sometimes all I wanted to do was just sit down and watch the people and world go by, or sit and read my book.

All people, including me, get grumpier, nastier and less friendly in direct proportion to how tired and hungry they are, how many small children they are caring for and how long they have been standing in a line. Preparing for these things ahead of time, makes for a better you and a better world.

Wearing name tags is a universal act of radical hospitality. I had a number of great conversations with Disney “cast members” based on their name tags including a ferry boat captain from Lowell, Massachusetts.

Playtime, nap time, dessert, and staying up late are all good for you in moderation.

Realize that not only theme parks, but the everyday world we live in are both full of illusions.

Family isn’t perfect, but family is important.

Go at your own pace.

Not everything is for everybody. I just can’t do roller coasters and such – I get sick.

Get used to waiting. How you handle waiting correlates to how you handle the ride, not just amusements, but life in general. It’s not about the destination, but the journey.

There’s no way to see it all or do it all or experience it all – at Disney or in your life. So don’t try. It’s all about the choices we make that limit our experience. Go for quality over quantity.

Sometimes “Thank you,” is all that’s necessary even when you feel that “Thank you,” isn’t nearly enough.

So, Thank you to my in-laws who gave us this incredible gift: the plane tickets, the theme park passes, the hotel room, the meal money. It was the gift of a lifetime. Oh yeah, one last thing, the most magical thing of all – Love.

2 thoughts on “What I Learned at Disney World (or Some Thoughts on a Magical Experience)

  1. I use to live in Florida[off and on from 1971-2001] and my best friend’s husband has worked for Disney for years, so I was fortunate to be able to go there many times for free. Another friend of mine help build Epcot[that is how long I go back with Disney] and we were one of the first to view that part of the park when it was completed before it was open to the public.
    Have had the pleasure of a private day at Typhoon Lagoon with my friends. It is always the best. Except when my nieces took me on the tea cups and set them spinning way too fast for poor Auntie Jacqui who has motion sickness! Back in the day had the “Big Bad Wolf” follow me around the park!:) Never get tired of “Its A Small World”
    It only saddens me that the Park has priced itself so that many children[and adults] will never get to exprience the wonders. Thank you for sharing your time Tony and bringing me back to those times in my memories! Love,Jacqui

  2. Bravo Tony! I so enjoyed reading of your Magical week! You listened from the heart and you heard.
    Wishing you, Tina and Zack well.

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