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The shortest path is not always the best

I am going to take you to the series of blog posts about the son and dad journey from last year. We went on a week-long trip to the Alps. We wanted to take it easy, slow and sometimes not optimal. Contrary to busy networks or the fastest possible commute route of the usual day. This is the beauty of vacation. We don’t need to rush, we don’t need to be the most optimal, the most productive. This principle has led us to see one of the most beautiful, and sometimes hidden, spots during our journey. Let’s start, I hope you will find it enjoyable.

As a person who spent almost two decades in networking, I have certain habits and assumptions. One of them is that the shortest path should be the most optimal path. This is one of the main algorithms in the networking world. Likewise in life; you want to get from point A to Z, so you should select the shortest path. Yet, this is not always true.

🗺 The most optimal path is not always the shortest one. This is true in computer networking, but also when travelling, especially on vacations. Click To Tweet

Sometimes the shortest route is congested, degraded or even broken so that you need to look alternatives. This is how modern SatNav systems work. Thanks to real-time data, it may predict that the most optimal path is not always the shortest one, but the most reliable one.

Planning the trip 🗺

The shortest path is not always the best - The Alps trip
The shortest path is not always the best – The Alps trip

The excitement was in the air. The day finally has come. We were going on our trip through Europe. We have planned everything, packed our gear and we were now waiting for a taxi. Plan for today was to get to the airport, fly to Memmingen in Germany, rent a car and enjoy a relatively short trip to our first place. We planned the whole journey for 8 days. However, if I looked at SatNav, we could make it in … one long day. That was by design.

When travelling with kids, there is a balance between allowing for unexpected, spontaneous adventures and being prepared. Click To Tweet

The idea was that we were not in a rush, we should enjoy the trip, have multiple stops, including detours to some places that were not on our original plan. We had never been to this area, so we didn’t know what to expect. Obviously, I checked everything in advance and had some expectations. I also booked all accommodation in advance. At the end of the day, I was travelling alone with my 6yo kid. There is a balance between allowing for unexpected adventure and being prepared.

Incompetent taxi driver or ignorant passenger 🚕 😠

Our taxi arrived, we said goodbye to mummy and little sister, and off we went! We live close to the airport, but we decided to leave our house well in advance. There are generally two routes to our “local” airport. To my surprise, the taxi driver took some new, strange way through slow streets with 20mph limits.

I was a bit surprised, but I didn’t want to stress about it in the very first minutes of our dream trip. Things got a little bit more serious when we got stuck in the traffic jam in a place that should’ve been empty. I took a look at my watch and then the map on my phone. I found out what was going on.

There was a significant incident on the motorway. The traffic stopped entirely. Fortunately, it mainly affected traffic in the opposite direction. After a while, we were able to join the highway, and our trip continued. The shortest route was not optimal. The driver was trying to get us to our destination taking much longer, but the somehow manageable path.

A beauty of the detour 🏔 🥨

We made to the airport on time, and without any troubles, we got to the aeroplane. Two hours later, we were queuing to rent a car. We were travelling light, so we got ahead and managed to rent our “tank” very quickly. It meant that we had plenty of time to get to our first accommodation place.

We decided that whenever possible we would take some extra stops, enjoy the beautiful views that surrounded us and obviously have some tee, coffee and pretzels. We had plenty of time, so I tried to avoid the motorway. Instead, I was trying to find out places with a beautiful view, good food, or preferably both.

I would like to mention about two episodes when the strategy of the shortest path is not always optimal paid us beautifully.

Cafe Paradies ☕️🌅

We were driving to our destination, avoiding motorway. In the Alps it often meant we were going up to some local hills and down, enjoying beautiful views along the road. I decided to park on top of one of those hills to find the toilet, stretch the bones and in general to regroup. And then I spotted something intriguing. The small wooden sign saying “Cafe Paradies”.

The shortest path is not always the best - Cafe Paradies
The shortest path is not always the best – Cafe Paradies

It was pointing into direction leading by small narrow road into “nowhere”. We decided to go and check. After a few other small signs and several sharp curves, we eventually ended up in a relatively spacious parking place. We stopped our car, went out and stood in astonishment. It was indeed a paradise-like place.

the Cafe Paradies resort
the Cafe Paradies resort

It turned out, it was the whole complex of buildings, kind of resort on the top of the hill. The whole place was surrounded by magnificent views, practically 360 degrees.

The Cafe Paradeis magnificent view
Cafe Paradies magnificent view

It was one of the most amazing places we saw on our trip. The experience was comparable to the same feeling when I saw Norwegian fiords for the first time. Truly a breath-taking experience. It was definitely worth the detour.

The shortest path is not always the best one 🛣

It was a couple days later. We learnt not to rush, take a chance and stop wherever we decided to. Some of those stops, although spontaneous, were somehow planned, as we wanted to eat surrounded by delightful scenery. Some of our stops were just dictated by the nature call and needed to be executed sooner than later. I was driving the motorway when my little passenger informed me that we need a stop for a toilet, now!

I looked around, and there was nowhere to stop as we were driving fast through the motorway. Fortunately, there was a sign of some small parking ahead of us. I changed the lane, and after about 1km we saw a parking place that didn’t look promising. It had, however, the most desirable feature – toilet.

Boring parking turned to the best picnic spot ever 🏞 🧺

We swiftly went to deal with urgent needs. On our way back to the car, we spotted some people standing at the end of the eating area and staring at something. I decided to just walk there and see what was so exciting. We passed a few typical wooden tables and walked towards a small crowd standing at the end of the last row of tables. And again, similarly to our cafe paradise episode, we were surprised by what we saw.

The stunning view from random parking place
The stunning view from a random parking place

The motorway, parking and picnic area were actually on some elevated position. About 300m further was a small descending with a town, and further, there was a massive lake with many boats and surfing boards. On the sky, a few zeppelins were flying and shining in the sun.

We also discovered a few paths apparently leading to the distant town and the lake. Not being in rush, we decided to just walk for a moment to enjoy the view, come back eat in front of that magnificent view and carry on driving. We would not stop there if we had no urgent need for the toilet. At first glance, this place wasn’t worth 5 cents. But in fact, it was yet another fantastic spot that we saw.

The shortest path is not always the best path. We went to the next stop of our journey – the Alps where we experienced tough decisions while hiking during a thunderstorm in high mountains. Stay tuned!


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