I find that travel advice generally falls into these categories:
1) Step off the beaten path, e.g., Get lost.
2) Don’t be stupid, e.g., Avoid guys named “Giacomo” who promise a better exchange rate. Never stand behind a camel.
3) Be respectful, e.g., Don’t wear jeans and tennis shoes everywhere. Speak softly. Don’t point.
4) Immerse yourself, e.g., Learn the language, or at least a few choice phrases such as, “Help,” and “I do not enjoy that.” Talk to locals. Ask a lot of questions. Go to restaurants where the menus don’t have pictures.
5) Just do what I say (because it can be really scary when things are too weird or new), e.g., Call this travel agent! Stay in Room 217 at the Hilton on Main Street! Don’t drink the water!
It’s this last bit of wisdom that can kill all the potential of a travel experience. Certainly, I don’t advocate drinking giardia-infested water just to make a memory. But travel ought to do more than confirm expectations. In this era of virtual experiences, face-to-face conversations are all the more important for understanding each other and maybe even making this world a better place.
This is a blog about travel for those among us who want to drink the water.