Your personality will take over whether you like it to or not.
Travel writers are always telling you what you should do.
It’s their basic job description, I guess. Sometimes they put it as an option: The best 258 things to do in Berlin. That sort of thing. They make their suggestions sound very enticing, and it will make you feel that if you do not hit all 258 fantastic locales you are doing yourself a major disservice. And any research on a travel destination is essential. Most people don’t have months of recreation leave banked-up. Nor do we have in an unlimited treasury. For most people, even if money isn’t particularly scarce, it is not exactly something that you want to just throw away. After all, Bill Gates wouldn’t pay $900 for a burger even if he could afford to.
Actually, now all I can think of is what a $900 burger would taste like? Man, that would be some burger, amiright?
But as I said, travel writers have to make suggestions because we all need to hit-up someone who has a bit of a clue about unknown places before we jump in that big silver tube and take a sub-orbital hop seven miles high into the stratosphere.
And travel writing is a tough gig, although I had no understanding of this when I first started. For it is one thing to travel, experience the experience but what is worthy to suggest to other people, and what is, you know, the borderline? I might like something, but would everyone? Of course, some travel writers are just paid professional promoters. A hotel chain or an amusement park or an airline, will pay them a penny a word to shill their particular product. They might just be a gunslinger for hire. As always, I’m not going to judge them for that. We all have rent to pay, food to buy, and when all is said and done, every job from Supreme Court Judge right down to a humble McDonnell’s employee is locked into a hustle of some sort. No judgement here — you do what you have to do. But as no large corporations are paying me diddly squat to market their capitalist, planet-destroying mega fun parks, I can afford the only thing that I can afford to have — tin-plated integrity. For better or for worse, travel writers such as myself can give honest opinions and actually tell the truth about what we think and hope that it lands with the reader.
I have traveled quite a bit myself. I used to keep count of the countries I have visited but I stopped doing that long ago. I have probably been to about 30 or more countries, I guess? But I am not bragging, because the countries I have not been to would probably surprise you for someone who likes to write about travel. Given that there are 195 countries in the world, only visiting 30 or so seems a bit on the pitiful side. There are probably people reading this who would have visited at least twice that number. For instance, I’ve not been to anywhere in Africa, nor anywhere in South America, which is a spectacular glaring blank block of the globe. This is true especially for someone who claims to know a thing or two about the world. However, these many blank spaces on the map that are just temporary pauses in my travel history. I fully intend to cover as much of the world as I can. I will explore for evermore. Or perhaps just long as my remaining facilities allow me to crawl up those wheeled air plane steps and demand the obligatory lukewarm orange juice from the air hostess. If the world is my oyster, I shall order the entire seafood basket with a whole bunch of shrimp trimmings and, perhaps, a side order of blue whale. After all, who can be satisfied with only an oyster?
One not insignificant reason why I haven’t ranged as far afield as I would have liked is that I am an Australian. A simple glance at the world map will indicate that the placement of Australia hovers just above Antarctica. One of our nearest and dearest neighbours, New Zealand, lies just off our East Coast like a dog who has been banished out to the front porch for farting in front of the vicar. On the other hand, to our north and dominating our horizon to the rest of the world, is Indonesia. I would hazard a guess that most of the rest of the world does not beat a path to any country or countries in my immediate neighborhood. Not too many people even venture south of the equator at all. Or, at least if the equator must be crossed it is more likely that us “Southerners” will be the ones doing most of the crossing. So here is a free tip, New Zealand is probably the most spectacular land in terms of scenery than anywhere else on the globe. If you are going to make the long journey south, and you are short on time and/or money, I’d head straight to Kiwiland as the best bang-for-the-buck holiday. Just don’t let my fellow Australians know I made this ridiculous recommendation lest I be hung up by my didgeridoo.
What was I saying before I distracted myself by first sledging, and then recommending, New Zealand?
Hailing from the antipodes, as I do, visiting the rest of the world is no easy endeavour. I have often heard Americans moaning about their long flight to Europe. Well a flight from New York to London is about seven hours and change. Yes, that can be a bit tedious, granted. Or, if you fly from Los Angeles to London, you’re looking at a good 10 and a half hours. Both journeys can be a pain in the butt, I agree. But the truth is to an Australian or New Zealander, your typical American-European journeys are child’s play.
For an Aussie living in Melbourne a plane ride to London will take at least 23 hours, often longer. At least 90 minutes to 2 hours of that journey will involve a layover in Singapore (or another hub terminal depending upon the airline) for a crew change. The passengers will be asked to disembark and be forced to loiter about the terminal for about an hour until they are caged again in a security limbo which is a special containment area that is neither terminal proper nor on the air plane.
Singapore airport is the Disneyland of terminals, however for short layovers all that spectacular stunning playground is on the other side of the glass barrier. In the security area awaiting re-boarding you are in the gulag of air travel. If your flight left Melbourne at say 6:00 PM, this next period of transportation is about 4:00 AM the next morning. You are tired, wired and there is nowhere to lay your head and it is impossible to get comfortable on the hard-plastic chairs designed by interrogators who thought that waterboarding was for pussys. You have just finished a nine-hour flight with possibly another 15 hours to go, that is, once they let you get back on the plane. By the time you touch down at Heathrow, Stansted or Paris airports you will have spent almost 24 hours skimming the planet and your mouth will feel like you have dragged your tongue every inch along the ground in the process. In addition to long distance travel is the corresponding expense. Even traveling via cattle class in the cheap seats, a round trip to Europe and back can cost between $2000 and $3000 AUD. It is amazing, therefore, that Australians and New Zealanders are such committed world travelers.
Still we do it, Americans, Italians, Dutch and also us Australians — we all want to see the world and for good reason, the world really is worth seeing. For all pain and expense, we are driven, aren’t we, you and I? It is something that we must do, we must feed that insatiable sense of wonderment. I write for people pretty much just like myself. I communicate with those folks who spend idle moments in traffic jams wondering about the world. For those people who long to know just what’s over the horizon. For those people who are eager for the small adventures rather than the big ones. Someone else can write for the big game hunters who think that they are brave for shooting at a family of lions from a distance of 300 yards from a Landover. I would rather write for the people — people just like yourself — who would find delight in being snubbed by a haughty French waiter. I would rather advise, for example, someone just like yourself reading these scribbles, on the best place for a swim on the French Côte d’Azur (which is possibly Juan-les-Pins, but the choices are endless). It would give me pleasure to describe to you the joys of travelling in a working transport ferry down all the fjords off the coast of Norway instead of the indistinguishable gigantic ocean-going “pleasure” cruises. Not knocking them really, but they are not my cup of beer.
I write about travel in a way that I like to read about travel. I’m not really big on box-ticking, though I have engaged in it sparingly. Who could go to Paris and not drink all of the cultural ocean dry? Yep, I will tick Paris boxes all day long. The Eiffel Tower? Tick! The Louvre? Tick! The Musée d’Orsay? Double Tick! But I have also, made myself at home at the English Shakespeare Bookshop on the Left bank — a much overlooked delight by many travellers to the French capital. Box ticking can be very important, but so can getting lost and experiencing actual raw discovery. I have been to London on at least four separate occasions and have still not seen the Houses of Parliament nor Big Ben. Am I missing much?
But every trip I visit the squirrels at Hyde Park — every damn time.
It all depends what rocks your canoe!