Paul Theroux writing recently in the New York Times ("Why We Travel")
proposes that travel, even when difficult or dangerous enriches the life of the traveler. I agree. Our voyages near and far, short and long can educate, inspire and refresh us.
But there’s another side to our adventures. Travel can also exhaust even an experienced traveler. Some days I think of a trip as a series of questions: how will I find food I want to eat? Is it worth it to keep restaurant cards with notes that say “Great Pasta!”, spend an hour searching to find the place again, only to discover that the chef changed and the pasta too? Which restaurant will delight? Do I keep all the other cards or not?
And then there’s the process of getting some place when you decide not to just hop in a cab. How do I navigate the metro, the bus or the walk? If I have a destination in mind, and I find my route using a map, directions from Map Quest or Google maps - where will I find the names of the streets? Will they be on a street corner sign? On the side of a building? Carved in stone? Written on a metal sign?
And those queries don’t even touch the basics of how will I open the door to my hotel room? A traditional key? A card I slide into an opening placed on the door? Do I wave the card by a card reader that isn’t identified as such? (Will my hotel be nice enough to place instructions in the elevator or not?) And once I’m in how will I turn on the lights? The TV or radio? Will there be a clock?
Outside the room we wonder how to manage the money that isn’t familiar especially those coins that collect so quickly? How to tip fairly, to whom and when? Can we use the words of Italian, French, Polish or Chinese that we practiced at home and be understood?
Some days travel is an endless series of questions. But once we find even a few answers we remember the exciting, mind expanding experience that is travel – Adventures big and small that fill our lives with new images, sounds, tastes and knowledge. Where shall we go next?