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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Do as Henry Rollins says: travel

"SHARE this among young people, encourage them to travel... there ARE many ways to travel on shoestring budget... Travel is NOT a pre-booked cruise to the Caribbean" from

The above quotation speaks to something that I've thought about quite a lot in the past years. I'm 31 years old and I have been quite a few places. But in past years, while the trips were relaxing, I've had particular experiences where I would be on vacation at a resort and nothing about the atmosphere would feel in any way different or alternative to my normal day-to-day knowledge of what it's like to live in America.

This brings to mind one vacation in particular in Mexico which I enjoyed very much. However, most of it was spent sitting by the pool with English speakers and club hopping with the very same gringos like me. It was incredibly fun, but looking back I had no sense of being in another country save for the brief interactions with the cleaning crew in our hotel who didn't speak English too well and, in so not doing, forced me to coax out Spanish words that hadn't passed my lips in almost a decade previous to a random case of a clogged toilet in Cancun. Ay Dios Mio!

Conversely, there have been times ing my trekking where detours into the territory of the indigenous folk of the place have been completely accidental. My trip to London comes to mind. In 1999, I traveled to London with a group of high school juniors and seniors as part of EF Educational Tours' large group package. I was thrilled to get to the sites: the Globe Theater, Buckingham Palace, and Roman baths in Bath, England of course-all of it being good. But it really wasn't until the tour when accidentally off course  with non-wheelchair accessible shenanigans that we are able to see some cultural-milieu-related goodies.

Because of our troubles, our tour guide David took us into town in his personal car to local pub for fish and chips and burgerish, spiced and fried matchup that no hotel could ever offer it seemed, on even the most exotic or neurotic of stays with My dad, (someone who I brought along somewhat begrudgingly, but who may have saved the trip for me in a sort of serendipity meets Clark Griswold, "Let's do the vacation together" manner.) But the pub came only after just a few days earlier with he and I having to climb several dozen stairs to the top of the one of the government buildings while I rode piggyback on his back with people following our lead from likely about 15 states in the Union and quite a few European countries. 

Flash forward to one of our final nights when we were surprisingly shut out of one of the theaters showing what I recall was something called The Black Widow. This, with no shortage of irony, would be the kiss of death for our theatergoing experience. Instead we would opt to have dinner at a local Italian restaurant with seemingly Tex-Mex inspired murals on its walls as if we walked (and rolled) into the catering venue for a Cirque du Soleil show that just so happened to be in The Twilight Zone.

There have been countless other trips of which to speak in which the smallest details of culture rather than grandiose gestures of hotel room and board hospitality have entertained me like a baby handed a cardboard box. The Mexican restaurant in Vermont with all white people both serving and eating comes to mind. The Purple Cow restaurant in Virginia where dessert is served first also pops in there.

My point, though roundabout and brief, is clear to any person who enjoys randomness: it is more enjoyable in many instances when we go off the grid so to speak and escape from a comfort zone, our itineraries, our beach resorts, or sometimes even our handicap access. (Though I must say that last one is a bit more crucial to wheelchair users seeking eventful, rich or unique experiences in any kind of travel.) And so, I invite you to explore your life and all its idiosyncratic glory that you may become better learned and better traveled in the most precise sense of the word "better." The next time you travel, try staying with somebody  who lives there. You might want to opt out of the hotel for a friend's spare bedroom. You might skip the trendy nightspot, for the back door, hole in the wall with the best DJ in town and a signature drink that rocks your fancy pants socks off your very well-walked feet and thus, boldly go where no beach bum or Bahama mama has gone before.

Roll on!

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