Friday, March 21, 2008

Getting Away From It All

I don't know if I told you, but I'm planning a vacation. Somewhere. Anywhere. It doesn't matter. Siberia or Patagonia or a secluded spot in the Pacific for all I care. Not that there aren't better places, but as long as there's prepared food, a bed, and it's not here, I think I'll be happy. (Aside: I left out the part about food and a bed in my first draft, then thought better about tempting God to crash my plane, Cast Away style, in the middle of the ocean, spending my last two weeks alive in a life raft, fighting sunstroke and subsisting on turtle blood.) Looking back through my notes, I've been planning a trip since November — and then looking at my calendar, it turns out that was five months ago, so I have an annoying nagging thought that by the time I'm actually ready to travel, I'll be booking tickets on a Star Trek teleportation device. Which will be slightly less onerous than flying.

I used to have this globe in my room, and I'd point and spin it and fly wherever my finger landed, but then the political landscape changed (stupid Cold War ending!) and it was no longer possible to travel to beautiful Yugoslavia. So the globe got trashed. Here's my new travel criteria, aside from the destination being "anywhere:" It's got to be someplace easy, for a green circle traveler, because I'm not going to be bribing border guards or spending twelve hours on a bathroom-less train or anything. Someplace cheap, too, which eliminates most of... everywhere, thanks to rising oil prices and a pathetic dollar. I eventually settled on Buenos Aires, Argentina, the Paris of Latin America. Tourists flock to Buenos Aires to see the widest street in the world and... other stuff, I guess.

When I went to Italy — my calendar claims it was a year and a half ago — I went solo, as evidenced by these dopey pictures of me pointing the camera at myself. I know most people travel with their friends or family, but, much as that sounds like fun, it doesn't really work for me. My family hasn't left the New York metropolitan area in six or seven years now, and I have enough trouble planning a trip with my friends to the movies, let alone another continent. Traveling alone has its benefits, "daytime" benefits — namely I can go where I want, when I want, and tolerate however much foot ache and exhaustion I want (which turns out to be a lot). But the advantages solo traveling has in the daytime are balanced out by the nighttime limitations, when the tourist stuff, the crap you just have to look at, shuts down and the social scene comes alive.

This time, I thought I'd sacrifice the itinerary planning that I really do enjoy and look for a tour group, especially going someplace where I've never been before, don't have relatives, and haven't spoken a word of the language since Sesame Street. I found some companies running these demographically targeted tours, ages eighteen to thirty-five, and I'm going with the one that has the most attractive people in its brochure. Also, the one that had the common sense to refer me to a travel agent... who's now got me convinced that the Euro's not that strong and it's possible to do Europe on a hundred bucks a day while still having all that food and bed and not being stranded in the middle of the ocean discerning travelers like myself expect.

Now I'm looking for the most gloat-worthy trip I can find. England and France are automatically out because everybody's been there (except me). What I'm thinking is maybe Berlin to Budapest with stops in Prague, Bratislava, and Vienna: "Suck it, peers! Bet you can't say you spent a day in the Republic of Slovakia!" How Robert Ludlum of me. Or another promising possibility is the Russian Adventure, starting in Riga, Latvia and passing through Russia, Helsinki, and finally Stockholm, although I don't see the point in going to Sweden if you're not spending a night in the Ice Hotel.

The ultimate trip for rubbing it in your friends' noses, though, has got to be Virgin Galactic, where that fucking tool Richard Branson will take you into space. I should really scrape together the $20,000 deposit and book now, because it won't be nearly as cool once commercial space travel goes mainstream.