Saturday, September 28, 2013
The main idea I wanted to convey back in 2008 wast hat tourists usually have a shallow experience of countries they visit. They see sites and take pictures, but don't get to know locals, talking only to receptionists, waiters and other service providers. Yes, there are exceptions, but they are not the norm.
Vacation home exchange sites were the first step into a deeper experience, with the movie The Holiday suggesting this is a way of finding romance. Couchsurfing.org soon followed opening up two-way communications. Tripadvisor.com and Booking.com give useful comments and rankings, making them invaluable for planning and booking vacations. Eatwith.com is the latest I heard of, helping you dine in private homes or host travelers for a meal in yours.
So yes, tourism becomes more personal, a positive shift for people who like to know others from around the world. But with all this globalization going on, we are still looking for and value the authentic and uncharted.
We recently returned from a 3-week vacation in Slovenia, Croatia, a bit of Italy and a pinch of Austria. Yes, 3 weeks. Not so long ago, it was not unusual to take 3-4-week vacations. Now you tell someone you took off 3 weeks and they look at you like a weirdo or sinner. While everything happens in shorter cycles, our brains need time to disengage, absorb the change of scenery, calm down, relax, and return to work refreshed. This "always-connected" modern slavery will lead to counter-revolution. Not sure we'll see droves of people joining the ranks of the Amish, but many will try alternative, quieter lifestyles.
Our two twenty-something year old boys came with us. Grownup kids joining their parents on vacation is also unusual. But actually we joined them. Tom organized the trip, Dan drove, we sat back and relaxed (when he wasn't driving too fast) and paid the bills. We argued, even about such petty things as the order of visiting sites on a certain day, but all in all it was a pleasant togetherness. Actually, I was the only one not fitting in, as the long uphill walks were difficult for me, while the guys jumped around stones and boulders with the gracefulness of mountain goats.
Going away also helps putting things in perspective. Regardless of the tenseness and frequent news about the Middle East, Europeans have their own lives are worries, they know surprisingly little about what's going on here. We are certainly not at the center of their attention.
Plecnik. Larger but poorer Croatia's Zagreb looks more like an architectural patchwork. Northern industriousness versus Mediterranean mindset coarsely summarizes the difference between the two countries. Trieste is super-polluted, while old Vienna offers grand palaces, music and pastries.
We enjoyed the mix of outdoors (mountains and valleys, caves and waterfalls, forests and gardens, lakes and rivers), cooler weather, culture, food and wine, being served, and the interaction with different people. Any suggestions for next year?