I've got it bad. And it's not something that I like to talk about, because it can be slightly embarrassing.
Walt Disney World Withdrawal, also known as WDWWd.
Growing up in Michigan, I regularly dealt with PDD (post-Disney Depression) after every trip. However, after moving to North Carolina six years ago, if anything, my withdrawal symptoms worsened knowing that I was 800 miles closer to the magic and yet too far from it to go more often.
Because the parks are so expensive and my wife and I now have three children (twin five-year-old boys and a seventeen year old) that have been part of our lives the past almost two years, the opportunity to visit more regularly is now even slimmer. We took our children to Disney for the first time two summers ago, and the three of them instantly fell in love with the resort (yessss my indoctrination is working!). We are also in the process of planning our first trip to Disneyland for my daughter's senior trip this summer after she graduates (which I'm totally geeked about, as I've never traveled west of the Mississippi). Unfortunately, due to proximity from the parks and our lack of finances, the opportunity for us to visit Disney properties are less common now, which makes the withdrawal symptoms even worse.
To be serious, though, I have spent a lot of time thinking and considering why it is that I love Walt Disney World so much. For starters, my first trip to the parks was in the very early nineties, when I was only two or three. I had many wonderful vacations to the parks with my parents and brother growing up, leading to a strong sense of nostalgia for the parks (hence the title of this blog). My parents like to trace my love for Disney back further, as they honeymooned there, making it a special place for my family, which they claim has ingrained it into my DNA. As a child, I was fascinated by the attractions and the audio animatronics (even though, ironically enough, I was terrified of robots growing up...thanks a lot, Chuck E. Cheese...). I also loved seeing magical worlds and my favorite Disney films come to 3D life. As I grew up, I was more introverted. I had a hard time making friends, leading to low self-esteem. The world for me was a difficult place: I had a wonderful family and was heavily involved in my church (I was the antithesis of the stereotypical pastor's kid). However, I was tall and skinny, as well as an avid reader. As a result, I was often picked on and teased, leading me to withdraw further into myself. Eventually as a high schooler, I developed depression, which I still battle to this day. On September 1, 2015, I experienced a cerebellar hemorrhage, which is considered a form of stroke, while teaching my freshman world history class. I spent the next four days in the Neuro ICU at Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro, NC, and the next several months healing physically. I also learned in the process that my blood pressure was incredibly high and as a result, had developed stage 3 kidney disease. The pressure and stress continued to mount.
After contemplation, I've realized that Disney makes me happy. I've described my love for it to people who have asked this way: when I'm at Walt Disney World, it's like the entire outside world and all of my problems melt away. When I'm there, I don't have depression. I'm not an introvert. I can be myself, happy, goofy, funny, laughing at the jokes I notice without people looking at me weird, because I'm in company with thousands of other people who have reverted to their inner child, as well. For a few brief days, I can immerse myself in the stories being told by enveloping myself in the layers of detail Imagineers have created. The terrorism, political civil war of America, and stock market melts fades into the distance. For a while, the stress and fear about my brain and kidneys are absorbed by my wonder of being a child, before I had to deal with "adulting."
So how does someone like me deal???
The following are a few of my personal tips for dealing with WDWWd:
1.) There are some wonderful websites and apps that I frequent that create the illusion of being in the parks. For example, Subsonic Radio has both a website (www.subsonicradio.com) and an app on the Appstore that users can download that has a number of music streams from around Walt Disney World resort. For those who just want WDW music and loops, there is the requests and background music stations. For those who enjoy the sounds of Tomorrowland or Frontierland, there are stations for that. However one of my favorites is the Tangaroa Terrace station, which loops music from the restaurant at Disneyland, as well as the Polynesian Resort. Sometimes I make myself a homemade Dole Whip and listen to the station while laying on the hammock in my backyard. If I close my eyes and sip on the Dole Whip or a beer, it is almost as though I'm laying in a hammock on the shores of the Seven Seas Lagoon at dusk.
Another website I like to frequent that helps to eliminate my WDWWd is www.disneylivecams.com, which streams a number of webcams, both live and historic. They have a live stream of Disney Springs, which can be fun to watch, especially in the evenings when Illuminations is seen in the background at Epcot. They also have a prerecorded cam down Main Street from one of the Magic Kingdom 24 hour parties that is synced real-time as though it is a live cam. On occasion, there are also live cams that Disney Live Cams links to from U-Stream where guests broadcast their vacation. One user I like to follow is EyesOnEars, who often broadcasts from the Boardwalk or Port Orleans: Riverside. When made full screen, it is almost as though I am looking out my resort window to watch the boats come in on Crescent Lake or chug down the Sassagoula River. This is similar to following people on Periscope, which I've never found amusing or easy, as it is often taken from people's phones which can get a little wonky. The only time that I've enjoyed a Periscope from WDW was a few weeks ago when a user live-streamed the entire show of Yehaa Bob performing at Port Orleans: Riverside. I'm not going to lie: it made me cry a few times because the last trip we took (with our kids), we stayed at Riverside. It was as though I was sitting in the River Roost Lounge, watching and participating in Yehaa Bob's crazy antics. For a few hours, I wasn't lying in bed in North Carolina, but was sipping on a beer, enjoying the live music. The Disney Parks Blog also live streams shows every once in awhile on their website. Just last Sunday, October 9, Disney live streamed the last performance of the Main Street Electrical Parade (I didn't watch it, I'm more partial to SpectroMagic myself, as that is the MK parade I grew up on).
I also like to use the My Disney Experience app for a few different reasons. It is fun to look at current wait times in the parks and see what is happening, but I also enjoy seeing what characters are out in the parks and where they are located.
2.) In the same vein as my suggestion of Subsonic Radio, a fun summertime ritual for me is putting on the Illuminations preshow BGM loop in the evening and lighting the tiki torches around my back patio, usually with a cold drink of whiskey, wine, or beer. This helps me to create the illusion that I'm standing at or wandering around the edge of World Showcase Lagoon as the music plays before Illuminations and the large torches burn.
3.) I find that one of the best ways to make me feel like I'm at Walt Disney World is to stay up to date on Disney parks news. I do this a few different ways. I like frequenting Disney info sites and message boards. My favorites are WDWMagic.com and DisneyParksBlog. I also like reading Disney commentary from websites such as Parkeology and (I may be crucified for this) Jim Hill Media. I also enjoy getting news from podcasts, including WDWRadio and WEDWay Radio. The Parrish brothers who do the WEDWay Radio and WEDWay Now! podcasts also spend a lot of time looking at Disney history, which helps to ease the pain of withdrawal. For example, this season, they are focusing on Disney artist and Imagineer, Claude Coats. I was a little disappointed when I found out they were spending a whole season on one guy I wasn't all that interested in listening about, but I've found his story and background quite fascinating and am really enjoying the episodes. I also listen to the RetroWDW podcast, which is particularly fun for me, because a lot of the Retro Disney stuff they discuss feeds into my longing for nostalgia that I experience daily.
4.) Weirdly enough, there is a practice I participate in on a somewhat regular basis that is not, at first glances, Disney-related at all. When I am particularly missing Walt Disney World, I will go out to eat. Now, unfortunately, one of the ways I deal with stress is by eating, which is something I'm really working on. But stress-eating is not the type of eating I'm referring to in dealing with my WDWWd. Rather, I frequent restaurants or indulge in foods that remind me of fond memories of the parks. One example is running by my local McDonalds and picking up a large box of fries. Starting in 1997 and lasting until 2008, McDonalds became a sponsor of Walt Disney World with various snack kiosks throughout the parks, selling primarily boxes of french fries. The fast food chain also opened two stand alone restaurants on property and even sponsored the opening day Animal Kingdom attraction, Countdown to Extinction. When in need of a quick bite to recharge our batteries during a busy day at the parks, my family would stop by a snack kiosk to purchase a box of fries, packaged in the typical red McDonalds fry box decorated with Disney icons, such as Spaceship Earth and the Sorcerer Mickey hat from MGM/DHS. Some of my favorite kiosks included PetriFries in Dinoland, USA and Frontierland Fries in the Magic Kingdom. The Refreshment Port in Epcot also brings back memories, as there were travel posters from around the world advertising McDonalds products. One example I particularly remember is tourists around the Great Pyramids in Egypt with McDonalds images nearby. Something interesting I found in my research is that Animal Kingdom's Restaurantosaurus was a full-fledged McDonalds location, selling hamburgers and nuggets from the popular restaurant chain. For more information, visit http://www.yesterland.com/mcwdw.html.
While eating McDonalds fries brings back happy memories for me, another food-related way to ease my withdrawal symptoms may not make a whole lot of sense to others. When I am feeling particularly withdrawn from Disney, I take my family to Longhorn Steakhouse. This quiet establishment is a steak restaurant chain across America, serving various cuts of steak, potatoes, and other dishes. While I've never had a Disney steak, this restaurant has excellent theming. Patrons dine surrounded by artifacts of the Old West, such as lassos, barbed wire, and cowboy hats hanging from the wall. Lights hanging from the ceiling and mounted on the walls feature horses, Native Americans, and cowboys racing across the Great Plains. Bookshelves in the waiting area even feature titles about living in the Old West. This creates the illusion, for me at least, that I'm eating at a well-themed Disney restaurant at Wilderness Lodge. Again, sounds odd, but it helps me, at least. You can get a similar experience at Logan's Roadhouse or Texas Roadhouse, but that is a little too loud and busy for me. Maybe you can eat there and try to create to illusion you are at Whispering Canyon. *shrugs*
5.) My last tip for beating WDWWd involves YouTube. We live in an age where loads of content is available to us at all times through the wonders of the InterWebs. Various users have uploaded content to YouTube, from ride through of videos to walkthroughs of the parks to live restaurant reviews. However, my favorite way to beat WDWWd using YouTube is watching either "Must Do Disney" featuring Stacey Aswad (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oeL3LFKl-E) or the "WDW Today" channel showing the day's park hours while majestic Disney music performed by a symphony play in the background (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5Wm0hEbe_g). Watching both of these, especially on Saturday mornings, create the illusion for me that I'm sitting in my resort room, turning on the television while getting ready for my day in the parks. I also use this as my chance to indoctrinate my five year olds (bwah hah hahhhhh).
So there you have it. There's my five tips for beating Walt Disney World Withdrawal. I've got lots of other tips and tricks that I'll have to share in the future.
Let me know in the comments how YOU beat Disney withdrawal!