Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The joys of unadventurous, inauthentic travel

Your blogger contemplating the rise and fall of empires.
Getty Villa, Malibu, California.

Just going on vacation is bad form. To be respectable among the "Stuff White People Like" crowd, you must include a one-upmanship gambit, for example, Adventure Travel and Authentic Travel.

The two overlap some. In both, it is imperative that you go someplace you cannot fly to (except in a helicopter that was last overhauled in 1970 and whose pilot is neither type rated nor current for his machine). Preferably a deal of hiking should be involved. If you must use ground transportation, the more primitive the better. A birchbark canoe is a good bet, unless you are traveling on a river, where a canoe would be too efficient -- really gauche. Better still is a sedan chair, so long as you are one of the bearers and a native is riding in the seat.


But Adventure Travel and Authentic Travel each have a slightly different emphasis.

Adventure travel involves risking your neck. You don't want to overdo it and actually get yourself killed, which would make telling your acquaintances about it later difficult, but there must be a tingle of danger at the minimum. Ideally you should almost lose a life or a limb. You want to gauge this carefully.

Where to go on your Adventure Travel can be determined by the following formula:

DH x ¬ET


DH is the distance from your home

multiplied by , degrees of latitude north or south of the globe's temperate regions, not including any ET

where ET = Eiffel Tower, that is, any recognizable tourist attraction.

You have, of course, seen the Eiffel Tower every time you were in Paris (except when you spent a week doing ParisUnderground®, during which you never saw the light of day. You explored the city's major sewage systems, wells, and subterranean streams, with accommodations in a refurbished medieval plague pit decorated by Philippe Starck). The same goes for all picture postcard sights, everywhere. Be warned: should you glance, even inadvertently, on an ET you turn into a pillar of salt. Your Adventure Travel is invalid. Game over.


Now let us consider the requirements for Authentic Travel. For this I am indebted to an article in the April 2004 Condé Nast Traveler. (I only read travel magazines when I'm actually on a trip; at home they seem boring and irrelevant. Hence, they tend to stay around the dwelling for a long time. Now, I suppose, Authentic has been supplanted at the top of the political correctness pyramid by Green, but a Green side dish with your Authenticity is probably unbeatable in the one-upmanship stakes).

Titled "Keeping It Real," the piece offers important suggestions, to wit:

"Museums and alumni organizations are two of the best sources of guided luxury tours that explore remote regions and their cultures in depth. The American Museum of Natural History, for instance, recently began offering its Margaret Mead Anthropology Series ... based on Mead's belief that the best way to understand a culture is to be immersed in it, the trips focus on one-on-one interactions between travelers and members of local communities. Designed by anthropologists, they provide an intimate view of isolated corners of the world while taking great care not to disrupt them."

"If you don't mind roughing it a little, a number of less costly ways to gain cultural understanding are available. Canadian tour operator GAP Adventures, for example, runs small-group trips to more than 60 destinations around the world ... . GAP saves money by using public buses and trains and by booking small, locally owned hotels. 

"Similarly affordable is Global Exchange, a California-based human rights group that leads what it calls Reality Tours in Afghanistan [this in 2004, not a vintage year for Afghanistan], Cambodia, Iran, and South Africa. The tours attract politically active clients who are more interested in culture than in comfort -- and who want to meet with women's groups to inspect health facilities, and to visit small villages."


Traveling on public buses and meeting women's groups to inspect health facilities in Iran is not my idea of a good time, but you understand that having a good time is strictly for the white boorjwah. You want to be politically active, you got to go where the wretched of the earth are, do what they do. But imagine being able to talk about it later to your SWPL friends! That's the beauty of it: this is conceptual travel.

My problem is that I've spent enough of my life riding buses and experiencing the reality of poverty. Been there, done that, and I suspect poverty is essentially pretty much the same in Cambodia or the Ivory Coast as it is anywhere; and if unique in some way, I'm ready to take your word for it rather than check it out personally, you know what I'm saying? But do tell me when you get back, in 25 words or fewer, about what the Women's Collective is doing for health facilities in Bongoland.

Contemplating a bust of the American economy.

People asked me why I would go to Los Angeles -- Eewwww! -- for a week's vacation. Well, I know my way around reasonably well, including where to keep my distance from, there are great art museums, the world's best movie theaters, all kinds of nifty restaurants, jazz clubs, Amoeba Records where I could browse all day (but don't, in deference to my better half), and a pretty decent chance of sunshine and moderate temperatures in February. All in aid of unadventurous, inauthentic enjoyment.

Wait a minute ... I'm forgetting LA's freeways. They're an adventure. And one to be shared with a great number of locals.



yih said...

OK, got that out of my system :)
Just out of curiosity, did you visit Disneyland? Never been any further west than Dallas myself, more as comparison.
Used to be employed at Dizzy World in fact. As did my late Mom, I've been there more times (as a ''guest'') than you can even imagine.
But the pics you've already posted are good, please post more.
''a pretty decent chance of sunshine and moderate temperatures in February.'' I understand that, it's gone down a bit but it got to 85(f) 2/21/11.
So I understand.
But the air quality is better here...

Rick Darby said...


No, I've never been to Disneyland or Disney World. Too adventurous for me.

Sandy said...

I think of LA as a scary place with poor air quality and way too many malls. Not a place I could relax in. I'm glad you had fun there.

I've done the bush planes and scary helicopters as work transportation, so I don't need to do that for fun. I do like canoeing though. :)

My husband won't go anywhere without a decent steak house in the vicinity. We honeymooned at a remote lake-front cabin that had all the stuff Hubby needed (hot tub, internet access, good food) and all the stuff I needed (hiking trails, canoes, loons on the lake). I gave up on camping with him years ago.

Rick Darby said...


I understand why people like wilderness, and I enjoy natural settings. But I want creature comforts nearby. Someday I hope to go on a cultural/scenic cruise.

Sandy said...

I don't blame you, Rick. My husband is the same way. So we find places that make us both happy.

Maria said...

Sand and Rick: We do "camping-lite" as well. Lots of fantastic state and national parks in California, though sadly, most of them are becoming infested with Mexican drug cartels using them for illicit pot plantations.

Even Yosemite has been invaded.

YIH said...

I mentioned masochism, I have no doubt you know what that means.
OTOH, cats?
Safe For Work.

YIH said...

BTW, FINALLY got my acronymn to display as intended!

Sandy said...

Sorry for going OT, but your president really scares me.

Rick Darby said...


Go, cat, go!


I've never used Skype but I can't imagine even our two-left-feet security agencies are unable to tap into it already if they want to. Something more is involved here, something that's not out on the table.

Our president scares me too, but it's not just Big Juju Obama, it's the whole federal Establishment.

Sandy said...

Rick, I suspect it has something to do with a recent round of internet attacks the Chinese military has launched on the computers of governments around the world. Between the Russian Mafia and the Chinese Military, the internet is becoming a rather insecure place. But I don't think clamping down on the internet is going to stop that. There are too many nerds out there willing to circumvent any restrictions placed on them.