Saturday, May 16, 2009

Discerning Travel

It's been nearly 8 months since I last set foot in Virginia. As hard as the Community Voters Project I helped run down here, I definitely look back on my time here fondly. Even when you are working long hard hours towards a seemingly unattainable goal, if you are near the beach, things all seem better.

You might have to wait 20 minutes at a street corner in the projects to take a 1 hour city-bus ride home at 11pm at night, but when you wake up to this . . .

life will seem better. I firmly believe that a little reprive in nature does the soul good. For me my ideal natural setting is water, so here I am again in Virginia Beach. My friend is turning 30 (:::gasp::: am I nearly there too?) and I took the opportunity to use my vacation days.

I still don't share the view that vacation days should be used to go somewhere and then just lie somewhere, so its a bit of a tension to fly somewhere and then have no agenda or things to see. I know, however, that this is many people's idea of a 'vacation.' Why else are there cruise ships and places like Sandals Jamaica.

Somehow my regular mastercard got upgraded to a "World Elite" mastercard. Now I get big glossy brochures mailed to me with great deals like get your 8th night free when you buy 7 nights at a "couples resort." What is a couples resort you ask? It's an all-inclusive, every detail planned for your, vacation spot in a beachy locale where only couples are allowed. (Who does this appeal to? What are they implying about single people here?) Or book a 7 nights Chianti package and get a Ferrari tour with free police escort. (And what are they implying about having a Ferrari in Italy?)

Is it worth it to spend $4709 for 4 nights in Lima, roundtrip private transfers, private city sightseeing tour and business class flights? When traveling half the experience is meeting people, private tours and flights might save you a few annoyances, but take away half of the memories of your trip.

They bill their packages as being for the discerning travelers. But do discerning travelers really have it better? If discerning means having special insight and understanding, aren't you missing the essence of a place by setting yourself aloof and apart?

One of my most memorable truely discerning stays was in Barcelona. After e-mailed a few dozen Barcelonians for couch space, we finally got an affirmative reply back. When we arrived it turned out our host, a generous, gregarious Italian had said yes to a German couple and two French girls as well!

Freddy showed us his roommates' room. "She's gone for the weekend--put everything back exactly as it is when you go." What a great roommate!

During the day we all went our seperate ways exploring the city, but at night we came together for a big dinner party. Other Italians and Spaniards were invited over. I cooked an impressive risotto with fresh, chewy mushrooms from the market. We opened a half dozen bottles of wine. Ate glorious olives and ripped pieces of bread off from a loaf from the downstairs baker.

One Italian brought his guitar and as we settled into our spots on the floor, the couch, in folding chairs, he strummed us a flamenco. A girl from Seville sang a sad song and danced a Sevillana. I asked for a basic blues, sang Goin' to Chicago and danced a little charleston. When it got to a proper 'going out' hour, say 2am for a Spaniard, we headed out to the student barrio to duck into dark smokey bars and hear more music.

At the end of the weekend we compared our digital picture of the items that had been on the bed to our recreation of the scene--a sock just so, a book laid open, a blanket pulled back. We showed it to our host--"Perfect, she will never know!"

1 comment:

Drew Pidkameny said...

hey wow nice blog :)