I’d like to think that I’m an ideal travel companion — well equipped to deal with the vagaries of travel, thorough planner, and of course fun to be around. Maybe so, maybe no if I’m being honest. I guess I should lay out my own observations of my travelling self based on numerous cross-country road trips in these United States and my escapades of 20+ other countries. (Feel free to jump in if you’ve travelled with me.)
I like everyone to have a good time. In fact I feel obliged to make sure other people having a good time. That’s a lot of pressure to put on myself, which can sometimes lead to, well let’s be nice and call it crankiness.
I obsess over seeing the *authentic* place. I’m not interested in interstates and the quick way from A to B. I am pretty adamantly opposed to eating at a chain restaurant if there’s a local place to visit instead. I’m vocal in my opposition. Street food, however, I’ll happily scarf.
I don’t drink gas station coffee or hotel coffee. I also have a pretty significant caffeine addiction. This can be problematic in this country.
I refuse to eat fast food (thanks Eric Schlosser). I don’t eat beef, pork, poultry or game. I’m deathly allergic to mushrooms. I hate bell peppers. I have to eat every 3-4 hours or I get shaky and weak and (my mom coined this term) hangry.
I won’t sit in the smoking section of a restaurant or stay in a smoking room in a hotel.
I drink a lot of water, therefore I require frequent bathroom stops (I’m talking every couple hours). The good news is I’m not particular about bathrooms. I’ve used Turkish toilets — I’m not worried about the grime in a Texaco.
I plan thoroughly for a trip and tend to think therefore, that I know the best way, the best idea, for any possible activity or route. I can see how this could be obnoxious.
I take a L O T of pictures.
I stop to talk to animals.
I’m an excellent navigator — I’ve gotten Brian and myself around France (including Paris — and if you’ve driven there you know that’s no little accomplishment), Italy, Germany, Belgium, Poland and Slovakia with no more than an assortment of maps and atlases (and a few ViaMichelin and GoogleMap printouts). I’ve also navigated us through rush hour in Manhattan (when is it not rush hour?), Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago and just about any other sprawling city you can name, frequently with Brian hauling a 20 foot trailer behind his behemoth SUV.
Remember when I said I plan thoroughly? I can tell you the best place to eat, the coolest things to do, how much they’ll cost, when they open, the story behind them and how to get there. I’m lucky with upgrades.
I don’t hesitate to scrap the day’s plans if something better comes along, even if that something is a glass of wine at a sidewalk cafe instead of seeing the museum.
I’ve got hard-earned travel street smarts. Something goes wrong, I’ll figure out what to do, whether it’s dealing with a missing shuttle driver in Rome, being abandoned by a pub-crawl guide at 3 a.m. in Budapest, an airline that gives away our seats on the transatlantic flight home, or a Provencal apartment rental that kicks us out with nowhere to go in high season after a reservation mix-up.
I’m not scared. Is there an Etruscan tomb in that field on the other side of the gate? Just climb it! I had never mountain climbed — until I did, in the Alps. How fast will that snowmobile/jet-ski/4-wheeler go? Let’s see! Want to learn how to roll cigars in Tampa? Just ask the guy. Hungry at an Italian hilltop church? See if we can eat at the caretaker’s house. And much to Brian’s dismay, see the sign outside Area 51, the one that says: Use of Deadly Force Authorized? Step on across that line just to see what the weapon-weilding sunglass-wearing fellows in the Ford up on the hill will do.
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