A 44 Year-Old Man and His Love for Disneyland

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The Thursday Think Tanks are semi-random thoughts that may not necessarily fall directly into the category of finances, but I still feel are worth sharing. Read at your own risk!

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Disclaimer: If you’ve been following anything about Disneyland of late, you know that there has been some controversy over worker salaries and benefits with a Disney family member even speaking up on behalf of the park employees. I 100% believe that the workers should be paid a fair wage, and even above. The job they do of making that park function in a spotless and seamless manner is world class.

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I know I’m not alone when I say that I have a fascination with Disneyland. It’s obviously a mildly popular destination for families and Disney fans alike.

I will also say that I don’t believe in magic, at least in the traditional sense, but Disneyland is the closest thing I’ve found on the planet to a truly magical experience. It’s pretty gutsy to put it in your tagline, “The Most Magical Place on Earth,” but damn if they haven’t done everything humanly possible to deliver on the promise.

My first trip to Disneyland as a child was also my last trip to Disneyland as a child. For parents I had the one-two punch of a mom who hated animated films almost as much as she hated airplanes, and a dad who hated vacationing anywhere that didn’t have slot machines, black jack tables, and relatively few people. So each year he and my mom would go on their retreat to Reno and then as a family we’d go to places within driving distance like the Oregon Coast or Yellowstone. Great places to vacation no doubt, but they weren’t Disneyland.

So when the time finally came (meaning us kids wouldn’t shut up about Disneyland and finally wore mom and dad down), we drove from my house in central Washington State some 1,100 miles to the front gates of Disneyland. It was a true Wallyworld experience to say the least, complete with breaking down on a massive stretch of freeway in Central California, and being forced to spend the night in a cockroach infested hotel while we waited for our Chevy Blazer to be repaired.

The trip is relatively blurry now some 30 years later, but aside from remembering that we spent time at Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Universal Studios, I also remember one fact crystal clear:

We never fought or bickered once while we were in Disneyland.

Sure my sister and I were at each other’s throats in the vehicle driving down, and there were times that my mom may or may not have threatened to throw us out of the moving car if we didn’t shut up, but once we were inside Disneyland, a strange calming presence came over us as a family and we got along insanely well.

Maybe that one-off trip is the reason that I have such a love for the park now. It was one of the few truly harmonious times that my family shared together. My parents were rarely warm towards one another, eventually divorcing after I graduated from high school, and my sister and I fought all the time. That trip was the only time that the four of us acted like we belonged on a lame 80s ABC sitcom, holding hands, smiling constantly, and… well… enjoying one another.

Then later in life, my wife and I honeymooned in Disneyland, and returned 1 year later for our 2nd anniversary. This is part of the reason we have no savings now. We blew money on extravagant trips like these…

My crowning Disneyland moment however was captured in a previous post of mine and revolves around the fact that we tried to have kids for 16 years, finally made it all happen through IVF, and then anxiously awaited the moment they were old enough to take them to Disneyland:

“So we took our kids on the most amazing trip ever. In the days leading up, I was almost jealous to know what they were about to get to experience for the very first time. My son seemed very blasé about the whole thing, even commenting that Disneyland didn’t seem that exciting because “he had already been to the county fair, and this just seemed like more of the same.” He of course totally changed his tune after being in Disneyland for around 11 seconds.

They had a blast, but more importantly we as a family had a blast. My wife and I took every moment we could to enjoy that trip and consciously remind ourselves of all of those times we truly believed we would never have children, and here we were watching our two kids enjoy our favorite place on earth.

I’m wiping tears as I type this just thinking about that trip. Real talk.”

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I’m sure you’re aware, but an insane amount of engineering and science goes into Disneyland, and making sure that it’s not only as efficient as humanly possible, but that it also provides the largest possible “magical” return on investment to its attendees.

So maybe it was that single treasured childhood trip. Maybe it was the honeymoon. Maybe it was bringing our “thought we’d never have you” kids to Disneyland for the first time. Or maybe I’m just being manipulated by really smart people who know how to trick me into spending an assload of money.

I frankly don’t care. When I’m at Disneyland, sharing experiences with those I love, there is no place on Earth I’d rather be. I act like I’m 8 year-old, and my wife says that I even do that little kid “I’m trying not to run, but am walking so fast that I might as well be” walk between each attraction. I can literally recreate almost every square inch of that park in my mind.

We hope to get back there one day before our kids (11 and 8) are too old to appreciate it, but if we can’t quite get our finances in order in time, I’m sure we’ll get in at least a few return trips with grandkids… or even by ourselves. I seriously don’t know how much longer my tailbone can take The Matterhorn though…

I know it’s odd to be so enamored with a place that primarily targets children, but it’s just the way I’m wired. There is such joy and positivity on 99% of the faces you encounter there, and it warms my heart each and every time I’m able to visit.

I even love It’s a Small World. I’m sick. I need help.

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What’s your favorite place to visit? What do you think of Disneyland/Disneyworld? Let me hear from you in the comments below!

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