Monday, July 6, 2009

Traveling Companions

Jen was telling me all good things about her recent travels and future plans, and it got me thinking...

I am the sort of traveler that likes to visit all the historical sights. I want to see the marble arch, the Victoria and Albert museum, the varied fountains and art museums the world has to offer. I also like to stroll around city center, eating food at little outdoor tables with umbrellas over the top of them, while I watch people playing in big fountains like the ones outside the National Gallery in London.

Here is what I hate:

I hate sitting around for half the day because someone is "tired" and doesn't want to do much. I did not go to [insert country here] to sit in a hotel room. I will go with you to a park while you sit back and relax and I read a book and people watch. I will leave you in the hotel and go do something on my own. I will have a leisurely dinner instead of fast food as I walk. But I will not spend half the morning waiting for you to get out of bed, unless I am jet-lagged.

I hate to fly. I will do it, I will try not to complain, but it will be hard for me. I need you to understand that, and try to deal with me as best as you can. I will load myself down with airsickness medication with the hope that I will feel fine when I get off the plane, because that is when my problems start. The first day after we arrive, I will be sick. I will fight through it, but I will need a touch of understanding. Like, maybe, sleeping at the hotel at a strange hour, then working my way through the pain. I will not mind if you abandon me as I curl up, trying to make myself, curled in the fetal position, realize that both Earth and my body are moving together and not independently.

I hate traveling to a different country just to spend the day at the mall. We have malls in the US. We might have invented them. Certainly, we have perfected them, because we have a mixture of stores in ours and not just the haute couture. If I won't buy Chanel at home, I won't buy it in Prague. Or in Paris, London, Capri, Rome...you name it.

I will go on a day-long hunt for French lace (good luck) or that lovely Italian paper they color by hand...something I will look back on and smile at, remembering the time I watched them make it and not wondering about what third world country churned the product out.

I don't like spending tons of money on food at every meal. Sure, I like a nice meal when I'm walking all day and night. But I like one a day. I don't like to spend the whole morning over breakfast, afternoon over lunch, and evening over dinner. I like to eat breakfast at the hotel as I wake up, then rush out and keep moving until I am too tired to continue without a break, at which point I eat lunch wherever I happen to be. Then I run around some more. When, finally, I can walk no further, I have a very sedate dinner somewhere, then go back to the hotel to sleep off the day.

I hate sleeping in filthy, crowded places. During my trip to Spain, France, and Italy, we were smashed together sometimes four to a room. We stayed in drafty, mouldy rooms with badly running water and no extra blankets or towels, and those were the three and four star places. I would hate to see a two star place.

I also hate sleeping at some random person's house. Sure you save money, but come on--if you aren't really comfortable with the person, it is just unpleasant. You feel like you are interrupting their life for your own convenience, they have to think about the food you will eat, the place you will sleep, towels, and all the other things you don't think about until you want them--like band-aids or rain gear. Then you are using their shower when they want it, or otherwise inconveniencing them.

And I hate it when people decide that their personal hygiene can take a back burner to the rush from place to place. Wearing a hat does not mean you don't need to wash your hair in the morning. You should. And you do need to.

And I hate inflexibility. Your plans will fall through. That is the way things work. Shops will be closed, museums will close early. It will rain, pour, all over you--us--and I will laugh it off and keep going. The rain will stop, and if it doesn't, we will go to another, indoor place. You will eat something that makes you sick. Or I will. It is going to happen. Drunk people will keep you up until three, road construction will wake you up at five. Don't freak out.

Crying will not fix it. Crying will make me laugh at you, harder. Just go with it. Change your reservations if the hotel is crap. Go to a different town if the one you're in has no trains leaving the day you want to go to the next place.

We will get lost. I do all the time. I will just get better directions and we will try again. It's better that way, because you get to know the city you're in and have a laugh.

I hate to "party." My ideal vacation has nothing to do with alcohol, except maybe a glass of wine with my nice dinner. If you want to get wasted, stay home and get wasted. If you want to go to a loud, smokey place to stagger about in a vague interpretation of "dance," don't expect me to go with you and don't get mad at me about it. I hate that way of life, and I will have no part of it. If you want to dance; I will not stay up all night to do it, but I will go with you. To dance. Not to flirt with random guys, not to drink until I have to drag you home...no.

Here is what I like:

I like to impulsively change my plans when I see something cool to look at, like a street fair based on something clearly medieval in a tiny English coastal town.

I like to take pictures of all the architecture I see.

I like eating native food.

I like nice British chocolate...the glory of art museums...wonderful old houses...little villages...old cemetaries...bookstores...ethnic food...buying guide books for fun...having a laugh in a park...long train rides, spreading out all the nice brochures and books, and talking about what we've seen and loved.

I like getting to know someone as we walk down random side streets closed to all but pedestrian traffic because they are so narrow. I like spending money on one very nice thing at a cute little shop native to the town I'm in, like the little place in Bath where I got my Moroccan slippers.

I like writing a travel journal. I like filling an extra bag with all books, especially when I can't buy them in the states.

I like taking public transportation and not taxis, because then you can see the people.

I like yarn stores...

And I like going for more than a weekend, if I'm going overseas. And staying more than one day in each place.

I like people who put up with my quirks, like laughing at nothing, at getting lost, at eating disgusting food, at sleeping in a hostel with a crude hiker woman who hangs up her hand-laundered underwear on a tiny personal clothes line hooked to her bunk, at the two new age women who talk about cleansing auras in a train.

And I like laughing off all our disagreements and all the things that tick me off that I listed above.

Well, Jen? Still want to travel with me? Maybe we should start small...

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