Friday, July 13, 2012

From Vegetable Lasagna to Putumayo and Beyond: A Travel Memoir

Have you seen that episode of “Seinfeld” where Elaine and Puddy go on vacation to Europe and break-up and the whole plane ride home they are fighting, getting back together, breaking up again, and so on? This used to be my life.

But I’ll get to that in a minute …

Ahhh – that moment when you realize that the person you’re dating is “the one.” It comes at different times for every relationship, but once it hits you something in your brain just screams out “I am never letting you go!” (Though hopefully your brain doesn’t do this in a stalker, creepy, “Every Breath You Take” kind of way.) For me that moment came while on my first vacation with GAR.

Of course I have travelled with previous suitors before. And every single time it ended in disaster. And we’re not talking a “Oh, I learned that he’s really more of a ‘lay on the beach’ kind of guy whereas I’m a gal who prefers mountain climbing” type of vacation incompatibility. No, I’m talking about a full-scale, all-out, complete lack of respect or understanding for how we should be spending time together while on holiday. I don’t think you can really comprehend unless you’ve been in my shoes, strolling around Paris, debating where to grab some lunch and your current significant other insists that he MUST have a chili dog – a decidedly un-Parisian food item – and demands that you take him to Disneyland Paris (1 hour away) to acquire one and, when I laugh at what I think is quite obviously a joke (it HAS to be a joke, right?), he plops himself down on the ground in front of Notre Dame and begins to throw the world’s biggest temper tantrum, refusing to go anywhere else with me.

Yes. THAT happened. THAT is the type of vacation incompatibility I’m talking about here.

I once spent an entire weeklong cruise playing bingo alone, lounging by the pool alone, dining at the buffet alone and heading into port alone while my now-ex stayed in the stateroom catching up on books 3 & 4 of the Harry Potter series. I’ve strolled along the canals of Venice alone, spent hours alone in Barbados watching “Golden Girls” in Spanish, sat at a New York City diner alone drinking “the world’s best cup of coffee” (2 different times, at 2 different diners with the same claim to fame, after ditching 2 different guys) and tucked myself into a new age London hotel room “pod” alone – all due to similar type nonsensical blow outs with former beaus. So when an opportunity arose for GAR and I to take our first trip together – to Ireland and Scotland – I was more than a little nervous about the whole thing. After all, I was really pretty darn sure that this guy actually was THE ONE, but I knew from experience that things could all go downhill in a heartbeat (or should I say, go downhill in a meltdown at Europe’s oldest McDonald’s – because that’s been my experience).

The truth is that I’m a pretty laid back traveler. I’m not really so complex in my needs. I just want to see the typical sights, eat whatever food item that area is known for and have some fun surprises along the way (not surprises like watching my current “sweetheart” lay on the Parisian pavement and wail “I want a chili dog!” but, you know, FUN surprises). And I totally found everything I had been missing with GAR. We drank and laughed in just about every Dublin pub, almost got stranded on the west coast of Ireland when we missed our bus at the Cliffs of Moher, went hunting for Nessie on Loch Ness, found ourselves cheering on a team we’ve never heard of in a sport we didn’t really understand at the Hurling championship game, sampled haggis and blood pudding, blew out all the power in our rundown motel when I plugged my American hair straightener into a European outlet, and taunted a ghost named Mr. Boots in the Edinburgh vaults (which led GAR to believe he was being haunted for several days by a ghost who wanted to chop off his toes). In short – it was amazing. And I knew then that I had finally found my partner for life.

Since then GAR and I have had endless adventures together – at home in our day-to-day life and abroad. We got desperately lost in Monaco (a country that’s smaller than Central Park), drank endless liters of beer at Oktoberfest while dressed in lederhosen and a dirndl, rode out violent 25-foot waves in the Mediterranean – dodging puking cruisers as we attempted to walk upright, taught a bartender in Cabo how to make avocado margaritas, climbed the Alps, partied on Bourbon Street, bartered for goods in a Tunisian souk, drank wine made from garlic in LA, peered into the smoking crater at Mt. Vesuvius, engaged in snowball fights in 3 different countries, and feasted on everything from delicious charbroiled oysters in New Orleans and scrumptious crepes in Corsica, to flavorless schneeballen in Germany and foul, mysterious street vendor fair in Villefranche, and beyond.

Oh sure, some people prefer to head off the beaten track. A couple I know recently packed up all 4 of their kids and set off on a 21-state driving adventure that took them to wacky places that claim they have the biggest ball of twine or the largest wooden armadillo – stuff like that. And while I do see the fun in seeing those types of quirky things (aside from the fact that spending 17 days trapped in a car with 4 children is pretty much my ultimate idea of what Hell must be like), I don’t feel like I need to go out of my way to have an unexpected adventure – those moments can just as easily happen while visiting the Coliseum or touring Savannah … and many of my best vacation memories come from all those touristy spots.

And we even, somehow, manage to bring back the most generic souvenirs, no matter how hard we try. The giant beer stein debate we were embroiled in while in Germany led to us buying the same exact one I later saw at Epcot (for less money). We wandered through Mexican flea markets to track down an Aztec calendar (since the world is ending this year after all and we want to countdown to destruction ourselves), another item that, apparently, was on sale for cheaper at Epcot. And my Italian glass necklace? You guessed it – it’s also easily found (for less money) at the E(xperimental) P(rototype) C(ommunity) O(f) T(omorrow). From now on I should just save my money and efforts and buy everyone souvenirs from my own place of employment. “Here Mom, I got you this authentic Norwegian wood carving during my recent trip to ‘Scandinavia.’” (wink wink)

But now GAR and I are off to our next destination – a visit to continent #4 for us, South America (which, thankfully, is a place that is completely unrepresented at Epcot – ha ha!! Take that Walt Disney – you won’t foil me again). We’ll be heading to Peru to hike Machu Picchu, take a million stereotypical photos of the ruins at Moray and Maras, buy the same Alpaca wool scarves that everyone probably gets at the Pisac Market and learn how to make the classic Peruvian drink, a pisco sour. And even if our itinerary isn’t entirely unique, I’m sure we’ll find more than a few moments along the way that will make the whole thing completely extraordinary. ‘Cause that’s just how we roll.

And since I started this post with a Seinfeld reference I figure I should end it with one too  ...

I’ll be sure to post some photos of me feeding a llama while wearing a woven poncho when we get back.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some last-minute Al-paca-ing to do. It’s winter in Lima right now and I need to Peru-se my closet for sweaters. I South American’t wait to get going!

1 comment:

  1. Hope all your stories from Peru are good ones.