They, whoever they are, say that ‘getting there is half the fun’. Maybe it’s because their destination is so horrible, they have to find 50% of their vacation pleasure in the time it takes to arrive. Or maybe they’re head-over-heels in love with the idea of crowded airports and sketchy train stations and the stink of fishy ports. To each their own, I suppose. Do you find delight in a wailing baby in the seat behind you? Got a fetish for the large, hairy man who hogs the armrest? Perhaps the adrenaline rush of a dash to the departure gate turns your crank. Weirdo. Whatever the case and whomever the traveler, if you think getting there is half the fun, believe me, you’ve been going to the wrong places.
Now I know, when your travel plans, that is to say your actual travel goes smoothly, the journey can be enjoyable. Imagine waking in plenty of time for that flight, the champagne in the back of the limousine spills on you but it doesn’t matter because you’re in the hot tub, and you feel a little awkward with the pampering in first class because it borders on some semi-erotic geisha sort of thing. Who knew a window seat and a bag of nuts had its origins in ancient Japan? But I’m getting off track. When your trip from point A to point B is turbulence-free, yes getting there can be fun. But to give it a value of half on the total fun scale, I think is pushing it.
And speaking of getting off track, uhm, speaks to my point about getting off the beaten track. If I had a nickel for every North American who thought the perfect vacation was always to the south and the sun, a swim-up bar where the obsequious open-shirted bartender plied you with liquor for a five-dollar tip, and an all-you-can-eat buffet that only left you bloated and remorseful, I’d have many, many, many nickels. In fact, I’d have nearly enough nickels to head to an all-inclusive in Mexico for a week. But the return on that kind of investment is often little more than an extra ten pounds around the middle, a sunburn, and a hangover on the flight home. In economy.
So, if that’s the beaten track, the one littered with shot glasses and sunscreen, where is the track that hasn’t been beaten? Where is the one where a little blazing your own trail is the order of the day? I would submit that those tracks are everywhere. You just have to look for them. They are in every corner of this admittedly spherical and corner-less world. And it’s your job to go out and find them, and then immerse yourself in them like butter into the nooks and crannies of a warm English muffin. Odd simile, I know.
A great idea is to take something you already love to do whatever that passion is, whatever that hobby is. If it is sitting on a beach for a few hours everyday before your personal party with the mini bar, then you’ve already read too far. But if it is something other than a three-hour nap in the sand, your next task is to pair your passion with a place. Imagine your obsession is the meal. That means your destination is the wine. Are you a rock climber, a hiker? How does Switzerland sound? Expensive, I know, but for the purposes of this piece, money is no object. Suspend your disbelief. Reading moves you? Most countries allow it. Is the War of 1812 your secret mistress? Then you’ve probably already read up on her. Pierre Burton (remember him?) wrote a great book on the subject. Fill your vacation with some of the places where the battles happened. Bring your bayonet if you can get it across the border. Does knitting get you wound up? Per capita, Germany has the most knitters. Some research suggests Egypt as the birthplace of knitting. Others say the darn skill has its origins in Syria. I’d avoid Syria for the time being. Wherever you go, you’ll return with one helluva yarn. Sorry.
By now, you’ve gotten the idea. There is no end to the number of different ways we spend our time and as many places on earth to practice them. I have a friend with a very particular kink. He was and remains a huge fan of the L.A. all girl group from the 80’s The Bangles. You know, ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’ and all of that. He drove to Southern California and proceeded to retrace the steps the band took from its humble basement beginnings to eventual superstardom. He visited the places they’d rehearsed and played, the bars and coffee shops where they hung out, and the homes they grew up in. The trip down memory lane was cut short when, after a few cocktails at The Viper Club, he got up the nerve to head to the home of Susanna Hoffs. There wasn’t an altercation as such, and in hindsight, my friend realized that ringing her bell was a bold and not well-thought-out maneuver. In the end, he was able to exchange a few words with her and did see the inside of a Bel Air police station. To the pop star’s credit and generosity, no charges were ever laid.