Sunday Stealing: Parts Unknown

Another week for Sunday Stealing, this time with the questions being about travel. I’ve had travel on the mind for several years now, partly from watching the wonderful shows of Anthony Bourdain and then Phil Rosenthal’s Somebody Feed Phil, and partly from studying photography and seeing the dispatches sent back by the pro photographers. And, yes, from a few small travels of my own. Let’s get to it!

1. Have you traveled abroad? Where have you been? If you haven’t been overseas, which country would you most like to visit?

No, I have not. Places I’d like to see or go? Great Britain, for one. Vienna. Maybe Paris, but I’m not totally sure on that one. Japan…I’ve heard things about Kyoto that sound life-changing.

2. Where did you go on your last trip? Talk about where you went and what you did.

Defining “trip” as “any jaunt out of town that involves a hotel stay of any duration”, it would have been our annual trip to Ithaca last year. When we can we prefer to make a two-night stay out of this journey, but that didn’t work out last year. But basically the usual itinerary is kind of the same: lunch locally on Friday, then we road-trip to Rochester where we stay and have dinner. Then the next day we travel to Ithaca, stopping along the way at a winery and to see some sights in the Finger Lakes before we attend Ithaca’s Apple Harvest Festival. That’s a lot of driving for one day, which is why we prefer to have a two-night stay in Rochester (from home to Ithaca is about three hours). I would just link the post where I talked about that trip and shared a bunch of photos I took from it, but…it appears that I never actually wrote such a post about last year’s Ithaca trip. I chalk this up to the fact that starting in mid-August, and not really ending until just this past January, was a cataclysmically awful time in my life.

Prior to that, we had a long weekend in Toronto last spring, and prior to that was Ithaca again.

3. What is the best place for a vacation in your country? Why is it good?

It depends on what you want, really. If you want a hot city or a cold nature place, or a cold city and a hot nature place…or if you want mountains or seaside, forests or deserts…quiet or crowd energy…I couldn’t begin to say what’s best. I can say why I’ve loved places I’ve gone to, though.

4. What is the longest time you have been away from home? Did you feel homesick?

We were in Hawaii for eleven days. It was not enough. (Though I did miss our dogs terribly. And our cats a little.)

5. How long should a vacation be? How long does it take you to really relax?

Now, a vacation isn’t quite the same as a trip, is it? I think a vacation should be long enough to allow one to fully get one’s mind off work, and there’s no real one-size-fits-all for everybody on that. For me to really be a vacation it needs to be at least five days; anything shorter than that is a long weekend. (And those are lovely, truly! I’ve got one coming up, and I desperately need it!)

I think I read somewhere recently that the optimal length of a vacation is eight days; anything more than that and while you might have continued fun, your mind won’t benefit any more for having not been at work. I don’t know about that, but I do know that for many Americans, including myself, an eight-day vacation is kind of a luxury.

6. What forms of transportation do you prefer to use when you travel?

If I could take a train everywhere, I would. I dislike flying because the airlines have made it unpleasant, though I don’t find it hellish. (Oddly, I love airports! I find them incredibly fascinating places.) Unfortunately, trains are not much of an option these days, so it’s mostly driving.

During our Toronto trip, we stayed in the outskirts of Mississauga, ON, and relied on the GO Train system to actually get into the city. Good public transportation is a wonderful thing.

7. How do you choose where to go? Are you inspired by other people’s travel stories? Or photos? Or advertising?

I love reading travel writing, and watching travel documentaries! We don’t get to travel far-and-wide enough to have to make decisions on where we go, though. That’s the thing about travel: it’s really a matter of privilege, isn’t it? Which I think is a big part of why so many people have annual trips that they take to the same place: when you’re laying out big money for travel, you don’t want to risk it not going well.

8. What’s more important to you when you travel – comfort and relaxation, or stimulating new experiences?

Some of each. I don’t like “on-the-go, all-the-time”, but just sitting in the hotel or lazing by the pool all day for the duration? No!

However, I do also think that traveling to beloved places because you want to do beloved things again and see beloved things again doesn’t get celebrated enough.

9. Do you like to try local foods when you go somewhere? Have you ever had something really delicious?

Always! Part of the whole reason for travel is food! I’m always flabbergasted that people travel to places far away from their homes and then eat at the same chain places. I do not understand that, ever.

Hawaii, just to name one example, was an amazing food experience. Just the garlic shrimp from the shrimp trucks blew our minds.

10. Things can go wrong when you travel. Have you had any bad travel experiences?

We had set up our Toronto trip before it emerged that The Wife was having mobility issues, so that made for some challenges, especially when one restaurant we wanted to go to was seven or eight whole blocks from the nearest subway station…and then it turned out that the trains weren’t even running that far because of construction, so we had to transfer to buses and then still walk the eight blocks there…and then back again. And this was after we’d managed to get lost in Toronto’s Underground City thing. That day as a challenge.

Oh, and the flight back from Hawaii was…an adventure.

11. Do you take a lot with you when you travel? Or do you try to pack light?

I probably pack heavier than I should. I don’t admit to many downsides of overalls, but they take up more room in the suitcase than normal pants. The Wife always makes fun of me for packing tons of clothes, but I’m always like, “I have an outfit for each day, plus one ‘lazy in the hotel room’ outfit!” And when we went to Hawaii, I did not pack an outfit for each day! That would have been absurd. Our suite had a washing machine, which made things easy. Plus I knew I’d end up buying a new shirt or two.

12. Which places in the world do you think are too dangerous to visit? Why are they dangerous?

Honestly, I don’t think I’m educated enough on the world right now to really assess this. Bad things can happen anywhere, and they do.

13. What is the best age to travel? Can children appreciate the experience?

They can, but then you have to tailor a lot of the experience to them. Nothing’s worse than being dragged somewhere with your parents, away from your friends, and having nothing to do.

14. What are the advantages and disadvantages of traveling alone?

No idea! I’ve never traveled alone, except for a training trip for a job I had years ago, and that doesn’t count. I suppose it’s easier to keep track of yourself.

I’ve thought about going on writing retreats in the past, or maybe a photography trip now, but I haven’t pulled the trigger.

15. What kind of accommodation do you like to stay in when you travel?

Hotels, mostly. I really don’t think I’d like the vibe of an Air B&B or an actual B&B. I’m not super-demanding; clean and cool rooms, a decent selection of channels on the teevee, Wi-fi, and near to decent restaurants, and I’m good. The place we stayed in Hawaii was luxurious, and I’m going to have a hard time with not staying there if/when we go back. And we rented a wonderful cottage on Seneca Lake for our 25th anniversary; that was an absolute delight!

16. Do you like to talk to the local people when you travel? Why or why not?

We do, in the course of just being there and interacting.

17. Would you like to go to a big international event, such as the Olympics or an international film festival? What would be good or bad about attending such an event?

I honestly don’t think that would be pleasant at all…but then, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade was an absolute joy to attend, so…maybe?

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