Happy New Year’s!
The countdown begins…ten, nine, eight… Only this year, if you believe the hype and are secretly hoping you’ll never have to pay off your credit card bill, it’s a countdown to more than just a new year. In a few hours, minutes or seconds depending on when you read this (but let’s hope you’re not spending too much of your New Year’s Eve reading my blog – oh ok, go ahead and flatter me) it will be 2012; the doomed 2012 glorified by such films as the John Cusack masterpiece. Just kidding, that movie stunk, but I’m feeling quite generous thanks to the New Year’s champagne.
Isn’t it wonderful to throw caution to the wind and have a little uninhibited fun on vacation? To let your hair down, throw back a few drinks and release your inner break dancer? After all you’re miles from home and you’ll never see these people again. It’s great to let a crazier, more fun-loving you out of the bag when you’re travelling…until it shows up on Facebook.
You went to London to see Big Ben. You went to Cairo to see the sphinx. You went to New York City to pose patriotically in front of the Statue of Liberty. So why is it that when you look back at your trips and travels those aren’t the things you remember? Why do the stories you bring home revolve around the funny looking waiter and the maniac taxi driver rather than the great monuments you went to see?
South Africa has lit up her red and green lights, hung the stockings with care and put Santa hats on every sales person in the land. Christmas time is here!
And yet it doesn’t feel like it. December is a beautiful month here. The sun shines. The ocean beacons. Even the birds
chirp a merry song. But none of this reminds me of Christmas. Where is the snow? Where is the cold? Where is the ice you swear at as you scrape your windshield in the morning? Carollers should be carolling in fur trimmed coats, not board shorts. Your nose should be red with frostbite, not sunburn. No, this isn’t right. My South African boyfriend may think of family Christmases around the pool, but I remember them around a crackling fire.
And so I’m headed home for the holidays.
Planning a trip is often centered on a particular place. You’ve always wanted to see Fiji, Estonia, Chile. There’s something about the culture or the history that draws you to that particular edge of the Earth. You buy your travel books and learn what foods and customs to expect on this point on the map.
However there are other ways to plan a trip. Take theme travel, for instance. People do it all the time and it doesn’t involve elaborate costumes or lady boys.
Theme travel is any type of travel that focuses on what you’re doing, not where you’re doing it. It may or may not be a real expression, but I think it works. Often theme travel takes you to areas of the world you would have otherwise overlooked.
Life at home is frantic. You work, you clean, you forget to buy cereal and wind up eating last night’s fish sticks for breakfast. It isn’t always easy to stop and smell the roses.
But when you travel things are supposed to be different. That’s why you mark the start of vacation time on your calendar and count down to the day when you’ll be able to get away from it all.
Yet sometimes you inadvertently bring your hurried world along with you when you travel. You pack your suitcase with socks and shoes… and a hyper need to see a whole country in three days. You plan your trips around important monuments and the expectation that you’ll return home a little more cultured.
You don’t mean to be in a rush, but it’s hard to break from habit.
When you’re at home finding a typo in a billboard is just annoying. Doesn’t someone check for those things? Did they seriously pay to have a sign put up that says, “Come eat at our restaurant – best chief in town”? Or how about those signs that just undermine themselves – pictures of smiling chickens warning you not to drink and drive? Who makes them? It’s painful.
And yet those same human errors and misjudgements strike you in a totally different way when you’re a tourist in someone else’s country. The same irritating spelling mistakes and ridiculous slogans and store names become, well… funny.