Saturday, July 30, 2011

My Philosophy of Travel

When you go abroad, the one thing you must not do is judge another country by your own. You have to accept each place and each culture as it is, not supposing it deficient if it is not like yours. (It’s only deficient if it fails to meet the perceived needs of the people living in it.) Americans often make this mistake, and so do Englishmen.

There’s a television program programme here in which English couples are trying to decide whether to buy property abroad. Often one of the specs they give the presenter is that they are eager to become involved in local community life. Does that mean they want to meet the French, or the Italians, or the Spanish? NO. It means they want to meet other expatriates, other Brits!

When my friend Sylvia and I, then airline employees, took our two daughters to London and Paris the summer after their high school graduation, the girls made the same mistake. It very nearly ruined the whole trip for them.

Erin wrinkled up her nose to see a very well-behaved poodle sitting at its master’s feet in a restaurant. She was appalled at how people dressed in Paris, where she had expected everyone to have stepped right out of the House of Dior or something. “Grungy” was her word.  (I personally couldn’t see any difference between the way the Parisians dressed and the way she (and Sondra) dressed, but they said they did.) The only place they wanted to eat was the Hard Rock CafĂ©. Might as well have been in America!

But if I ever go to a place where the natives live in grass huts, then a grass hut is where I want to stay! If the locals eat something called “Toad in the Hole,” then I want to sample it, albeit with trepidation. If they wear togas or saris, that’s what I want to wear.  Okay, so i stop short of a grass skirt with nothing above that; nevertheless, when you come to a foreign country, my philosophy is, it ought to be to share their life as much as time and other circumstances permit. Not to carry around your own life, like a turtle with its home on its back. Because coming to know something of another way of life is the most interesting, most enriching thing of all.

That said, there’s a new television series on here called something like “Holiday Hijack!” in which vacationers actually do share the lives of the people in the countries they are visiting. And sometimes that way of life is impoverished, unsanitary, diseased, and all around difficult and the holiday-makers find themselves miserable. I’m not talking about that, but I still think so long as you are well vaccinated, participating in a very hard lifestyle, sharing in the privations as well as the joys of others’ lives at least for a while is a priceless experience.

Travel won’t broaden you if you don’t let it.


Weekend Fisher said...

I know someone who travels who says the best way to get the local culture is to go grocery shopping in their markets. She says she never misses it, and hasn't found a better way to see what the real differences are in daily life.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Anam Cara said...

I LOVE local grocery stores.

I will never forget being in Florence and an American man speaking loudly in a restaurant,
"They call this spaghetti? This isn't spaghetti!" Or maybe it was "pizza," but the result was the same. I was embarrassed to be American right then.

In Paris we ate at a smoke filled restaurant upstairs in a building where you could see the downstairs through the cracks in the floor boards. We couldn't read the menu as it was all HANDWRITTEN in French (we could deal with typed, but French cursive is something else). So we just tried our best to guess at what words were. We ended the meal with chocolate mousse. I love chocolate mousse. I make chocolate mousse at home. I was so excited to eat chocolate mousse the way REAL Parisians do. I was brought something that looked like those single serves of ice cream, paper top intact, and a wooden spoon!

Chocolatesa said...

I agree completely! If I ever travel I would definitely visit the local markets and try as many new and different things as possible! I love shopping in Chinatown for just that reason!

Weekend Fisher said...

So I'm not the only one who visits the Chinese / Vietnamese grocery stores?

Their produce aisles are the best.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Roger333 said...

Anastasia, good points.....hope you see some more of England than just London :-)

- and bravo for daring the 'Toad In The Hole' is pretty simple stuff - and no toads were harmed in the production !

( If you think that's off-putting try the Spotted Dick and custard)


Roger ,

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