February 2016

Five things I learned at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The fam (minus Tasia who is at college) at Hogsmeade

The fam (minus Tasia who is at college) at Hogsmeade

1. With age, comes motion sickness.

I grew up in Hershey Pennsylvania. Aka “Chocolate Town” and home of Hershey Park. I had a “park pass” as a kid and could ride every ride with the best of them. Never any hint of motion sickness. First experienced at Disney’s Mission: SPACE (aka Mission: NAUSEA) 2 years ago, I attributed my motion sickness to a pre-ride burrito, washed down with a margarita. I didn’t upchuck, but was told that I “didn’t look so good” after the ride by my kids. Going into the Wizarding World yesterday, I was a little apprehensive because of my Mission: SPACE experience. I’d been warned by a 40- year old physician friend that she had spent the afternoon in the Harry Potter urgent care with an IV in her arm after the “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” ride provoked hyperemesis themeparkium (aka theme park ride non-stop puking). I went into the ride yesterday with a “that was her, this is me” attitude. About 2 seconds into the ride, I found myself praying for a quick end (in whatever form it came). The kids tell me that I was screaming so loudly that everyone around me was laughing. And I was screaming not because I was scared of dementors, but because I was terrified I would barf all over everyone. I. AM. NOT. EXAGGERATING. I woke up today and have nearly lost my voice. I WAS SCREAMING THAT LOUDLY AND THAT LONG.

Yeah. It turns out there is a reason for these signs. They are so funny when you are young. Not so much now.

Yeah. It turns out there is a reason for these signs. They are so funny when you are young. Not so much now.

Hey Dummy! Yeah you! We put this sign here for a reason.

Hey Dummy! Yeah you! We put this sign here for a reason.

2. Some things are as good as you imagine.

And by “some things” I mean Butterbeer. Ever since first reading the Harry Potter books to our firstborn (now 18 and a freshman in college) when they first came out, I have imagined Butterbeer to be utterly delicious. When my husband and I stumbled off the “Forbidden Journey” (and yes, he felt the same way I did after the ride– AWFUL), the kids ran off to ride the “Flight of the Hippogriff” (“ha ha. Daddy and I are fine. You guys just go ahead. No, really, we can sit this one out”). And fortune ran us smack dab into the Butterbeer truck. You can bet your sweet muggle buns, that we didn’t let our nausea stop us. The Butterbeer was DELICIOUS! And I believe that it did “settle our stomachs”. I actually ended up drinking 2 during our time at the park.

And dreaming of how I would make it at home.

And how it be even more awesome with some alcohol in it.


Those smiles are for real.

Those smiles are for real. Check out Pat’s Butterbeer mustache.

3. The kindness of other people can be stunningly beautiful.

Normally, at a themepark (or any other tourist attraction), you prepare yourself to see the worst of humanity (screaming at the kids, tantrums, marriage-threatening spats). And that’s just in my family. But true kindness when you see it can be breathtaking to behold. Waiting with my son to have an audience with Spiderman after we ventured out of the Wizarding World, the crowd nearly mutinied (led by yours truly) when Spiderman told us he had to “go for a few minutes” (something about joining Captain America and Storm on motorcycles or something). When he came back he was so AWESOME and kind to EVERY child. He made each of them feel like they were the only one in the world. One boy who seemed to have a disability hugged him like there was no tomorrow; I looked over and his mom was crying. She said “You are his absolute favorite”. ‘Spiderman’ didn’t hurry him or speed him (or her) along. My husband noted “That’s one of hundreds of kids whom that guy sees every day, but for THAT kid, that’s his one chance to meet Spiderman, maybe in his whole life. And the great thing is that the guy who is playing Spiderman gets it”. I thought of that mom and that boy and how he will remember that interaction with his hero for years to come. We could all be more like ‘Spiderman’.

This guy is winning at life.

This guy is winning at life.

4. I have a tendency to “rose-colored” glasses.

After we got off the last ride of the day (the adorable Minion Mayhem ride), I said to my daughter Sophia and her friend Gavi who is traveling with us, “That was really fun!”. Gavi said to me, “Who are you kidding? You were screaming ‘OH BOY. OH BOY. THAT’S ENOUGH’ for the ENTIRE ride!!”. Truth be told, this one nauseated the crap out of me too with the flying and swooping and careening around. But once done, I was glad I had done it because it was fun to experience it with my family, even though my stomach again threatened to blow. I don’t know whether it is good or bad, but when something is over, I tend to try to draw the positive from it, forgetting the negative parts. Dr. Helen “Pollyanna” Kales.

5. There is a mindfulness to intense travel experiences that just can’t be beat.

Our day at the Wizarding World and Universal was intense and exhausting. My husband got us up at 6 freaking thirty in the morning because it was “early admission” from our hotel into Diagon Alley. He moved us with military precision to the two main Wizarding World rides via the Hogwarts Express so that we could get there before the crowds did. We stayed in the park until closing at 8 PM, hitting all the rides that the kids were excited about AND having a great dinner at Mythos (“Rated #1 theme park restaurant in the World!” screamed the sign. And it was very good.). Gavi’s phone app told her that we’d walked almost 8 miles during the day there. In reflection today, it almost feels like a mental palate cleanser. I had gone to the Wizarding World preoccupied with an issue from work, feeling angry, disrespected and ruminative. But in focusing on the getting what we needed to do yesterday in the intensity of the moment, I emerged feeling mentally refreshed and refocused. I have often had this feeling in doing yoga or other mindfulness work, but it struck me that such intense travel experiences are this way as well. Forced out of my routine and typical thinking and response patterns, I dropped the rumination and angst because I needed to concentrate on the matter at hand (e.g. how to get from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade before the crowds descended on the park). And the shared experiences and family teamwork, left me with a sense of what is really important to me.


Gavi points out the sign that got us. Reminded us of Elf’s “World’s Best Coffee!”. But it WAS good.

My husband said to me this morning (apparently he has the same #4 tendency as me), “That was great. Let’s go back in three or four years”. Yes. With some Dramamine.


kales@umich.eduFive things I learned at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
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