BOX CHECKING

For someone who likes travel as much as I do, it is difficult for me to convey how much I hate talking to other travelers.

They end up falling into one of two categories: the people who have unlimited money and want you to know how many Exotic Trips they've made and the people who want you to know that they may or may not have lots of money but they do all their travel out of a backpack without a dollar in their pocket.

When I get roped into conversations or find myself in enclosed spaces in which I have to overhear them I always choke back the urge to yell questions at people when they're regaling their audience with tales of the absolute BEST time to go to Montserrat or how this may be nice but you just HAVE to see Angkor Wat or the time they were backpacking through Uzbekistan and a roving band of nomads gave them a lift on horseback.

What was it that you liked about it? Why did you pick that place to travel to? What did you do there that you couldn't have done somewhere else?

Yeah, I know, we all have the Tourist Gaze and there's nothing you can do to avoid being a traveler while you're being a traveler. It's amazing, though, how predictable are the lists of destinations people rattle off when they start playing this game of tourism oneupsmanship. Tell me about someplace you've been that isn't straight out of the condensed list of Vacation Bucket Lists by Conde Nast and I promise I'll be a rapt audience for as long as you want. Yeah, we all know that Prague is awesome, that's why everybody and their goddamn brother has been to Prague a dozen times because they Google "hip vacation destinations" and Prague comes up on every list (full disclosure: Some day I would like to go to Prague).

But I really like interacting with people and their experiences more if they're telling me something I can't find in every magazine on the rack and can say something more interesting than "Man, it's SO awesome" to describe the experience. Tell me about the Museum of Bunions, if for no reason other than to prove that you have some interests and aren't simply trying to check a bunch of popular Travel Things off a list without any real motivation beyond being able to afford it and wanting to tell people you did it.

tl;dr: people are boring and an old man is cranky.

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91 Responses to “BOX CHECKING”

  1. Alec Says:

    I have found that every conversation with a fellow traveler starts with the same four questions.

    1) Where are you from?
    2) Where are you going?
    3) Where have you been?
    4) How long are you traveling?

    It seems like a crutch to start a conversation with different people but people are unoriginal.

  2. carrstone Says:

    I'd agree, 'people are [ofttimes] boring', but maybe you're not asking the right questions.

  3. Sam240 Says:

    Would Philadelphia's Mütter Museum be offbeat enough?

  4. Katydid Says:

    Military-dependent-turned-active-duty-military-turned-traveller-for-business.

    One question I get asked a lot on airplanes is "Why can't you quiet that screaming baby/control that tantrumming toddler/make that running child sit down?!?!" The answer; "Because I am not the parent and it's not my place to do so."

    For some reason, if you're travelling with two X chromosomes, it's just ASSumed that you will wrangle any child/arrange for meals/make life easier for any passing XY-chromosome traveller.

  5. Nathan Says:

    Lol, funny reading this as I'm headed to board a plan to Prague with family on vacation. Can't wait to tell you how awesome it was after! ;)

  6. Nathan Says:

    *plane

  7. Dean Says:

    I loathe travel, a sad substitute for quality time spent reading. It's expensive, time and energy consuming, a source of new and strange species of anxiety, and not unlike a Mobius strip. You always end up back where you started, sometimes even before the return trip home. But not until I read this post did I realize how much talking to others about travel is like talking to others about their dreams.

  8. John Danley Says:

    Trump takes the best vacations. Believe me, folks.

  9. Aaron Says:

    Some friends of mine just got back from the Civil War Tails diorama museum in Gettysburg. You know, the small museum that consists of dioramas of major Civil War battles, but all the little model soldiers are tiny cats in uniforms. I mean, it wasn't their primary destination, but still: https://civilwartails.com/

  10. DH Says:

    Next time, put that tl;dr at the top. Are we entering the phase where you have to save your best stuff for the paying outlets? I'd understand if that's the case. They can't all be Rolling Stone worthy. ;)

  11. mothra Says:

    I can tell you all the best rest stops along the highways from the Netherlands down to the south of France/through the center and western part of Germany. There is one, on the way to Nordlingen, which has a stunning view of the Mosel Valley…

  12. TakomaMark Says:

    I went to Peoria once for a minor league baseball game. Had a fun time despite it being a reputed shithole but then all I did was drive in, go to a baseball game on a warm summer evening, and drive home to Champaign.

    Also went to Springfield, IL and in addition to the requisite Lincoln stuff there's a spectacular Frank Lloyd Wright house there – the Dana Thomas house.

    Also Gibson City Illinois has a working drive in theater and an excellent German restaurant (the Bayern Stube). If you want off the beaten tourist track I highly recommend downstate Illinois to you. It's so spectacularly unspectacular – Southwests Ohio is virtually mountainous by comparison – that it's not on anyone's bucket list as a vacation destination.

  13. Emerson Dameron Says:

    All is vanity. That's why I stay home and whine about working too much.

  14. Scotius Says:

    I guess there's some unwritten rule that, if you're a tourist, you're supposed to be able to make small talk with other tourists. On the plus side, it gives me the incentive to learn a foreign languge, any foreign language, so I can pretend not to speak English and avoid these converations. Failing that, I have been strongly tempted to get a tshirt with the logo "Why, do I look like a fucking extravert?" to see if that can help.

  15. Stephen Says:

    Will you accept Turkmenistan's 'Gates of Hell' as at least somewhat interesting?

    http://www.stephenlioy.com/Travel/Central-Asia/Turkmenistan/

  16. anotherbozo Says:

    Sorak National Park, South Korea. If you take pictures, you don't have to point—any direction is as beautiful as any other. Try to go in the fall. Reminding me, if you're in a foreign country, as the natives where THEY go for a weekend—often those places are off the tourist maps but worth the time.

  17. E* Says:

    The Civil War Tails diorama museum wins hands down. We all agree on that, right?

    I used to love to travel to see The Thing, but now I kind of hate it. You see The Thing and then what? You take a picture, tell your friends, ugh. I've found that instead I love touring grocery stores or markets, any country, any city. It's a little microcosm of what the locals value, what they eat, and how they spend their time (e.g., Stockholmians apparently value meat paste very highly).

    But I mostly avoid travel unless I have some purpose. Like tracking down my friend's estranged husband in the slums of Kingston, Jamaica to deliver divorce papers.

    Or going to the Civil War Tails diorama museum because right now that's one of only two things on my bucket list (#1? Meeting a capybara, obviously).

  18. RosiesDad Says:

    We just got back from Prague and you *do* want to go there. Wanna know why? Well, for one thing there are lots of old things there that didn't get bombed to shit by the Allies at the end of WWII. And then, it's interesting to spend time in a place that lived under Soviet Communism until barely 30 years ago. Lastly, beer (good beer, mind you) is literally less expensive than bottled water. (Food generally is inexpensive compared with other European cities like Rome, Paris and London.)

    Also, the Museum of Communism was very informative. And there are Alfonso Mucha paintings in the Municipal Building across the street. And the Jerusalem Synagogue was a very unexpected treat.

    And did I mention that beer is less expensive than water?

  19. anotherbozo Says:

    Also, Krakow. The ancient Polish city that WASN'T devastated by the Nazis.

  20. John M. from Ct. Says:

    When I talk to others I meet while touring, I typically ask them more about their own home towns than about where they've been in the area we're at.

    A couple of places I've been that I regard as off the Conde Nast list include (and yes, it's important to say more than just "awesome"):
    Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Spectacular Maritimes scenery; Alexander Graham Bell museum based on his summer place; Coal mine under the sea you can tour in raincoats; Angus MacGaskill museum about giant 7'6" local man from the 1800s.
    St. Malo, Brittany, France. Spectacular Channel scenery; walled city completely rebuilt after being leveled in the war (kudos to Prague for missing that; I want to go to Prague too, by the way); local cuisine is crepes, crepes, and crepes (aka galettes when they have sausage instead of jelly in them); Tidal power dam nearby; Mont-St.-Michel nearby; all of the rest of Brittany nearby.
    Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico. Laid-back west coast town with spectacular surf that attracts the pros; full-fledged fishing fleet still goes out each day so restaurants have good local seafood dishes; nice weather; not too many tourists or tourist hotels (at least when I was there, which was a number of years ago, I admit). It's the kind of town where the ending of Shawshank Redemption might well have been set.

  21. jjack Says:

    All I ask is that you and your companions don't spread out side-by-side across the entire sidewalk (slash street, slash aisle, slash etc.) and walk 0.2 feet per second while you figure out what it is you're actually doing. Some of us actually live and work in those places and have shit to do in a finite amount of time.

  22. blahedo Says:

    My trip to Europe last year was filled with obvious places, but the unexpected one was Nuremberg. My sister and I went there literally just because the guy leading our bike tour in Munich (see, obvious, told you) also ran bike tours in Nuremberg, and we thought he was awesome, so we booked our next train ticket to there. The old city was largely restored after WWII rather than rebuilt in a modern style, so the architecture there is phenomenal and the castle in the middle of town is cool to wander around in. The Nazi parade grounds are an easy bike ride from there and are fascinating to look at (though I wouldn't do it without a tour guide—it's the stories that make them interesting, obviously). And all around, while there certainly were tourists, I can't think of a single place other than inside the castle that the area was dominated by tourists or *for* tourists. There was just a lot of great stuff in a working city. A very *old* working city.

  23. Leon Says:

    Guys, you're kinda making his point for him.

  24. blahedo Says:

    "Tell me about someplace you've been that isn't straight out of the condensed list of Vacation Bucket Lists by Conde Nast and I promise I'll be a rapt audience for as long as you want. … say something more interesting than "Man, it's SO awesome" to describe the experience."

    It's not *exactly* a request for travel recommendations, but that's what the responses are picking up on. Or are you claiming that all the recommendations here are on the Conde Nast lists?

  25. Kineslaw Says:

    I've been around a lot of frequent travelers, and the questions I have learned to ask are:
    1) What's the coolest experience you've had?
    2) What's the weirdest thing you've seen?
    3) What's the scariest moment you've had?

    Those are more difficult questions to ask on autopilot and even most boring people can provide non-standard answers.

  26. Katydid Says:

    Great place to visit for introverts; Ireland. In particular, the west coast of Ireland. You can sit on a beach (strand) all by yourself. You can walk around ancient ring-forts and castle remains all by yourself. You can go have dinner in a cafe or pub all by yourself and nobody bothers you unless you initiate contact. You can browse shops and the staff will leave you alone unless you indicate you want their attention.

    It's also a great place for extroverts because if you feel like chatting, you can strike up a conversation with anyone at practically any time.

    I agree with jjack; if you're gonna be slow and clueless, FFS, get to the side of the walkway and out of people's way. I think that's the Disnification of the US, where Americans (especially those from the midwest) think whenever they're in a city, the people who live and work there are only there to kiss their ass. People in cities need to get to work/appointments/scheduled events–their livelihood doesn't depend on answering YOUR stupid-ass questions, and if they've got a limited window to go from subway to bus to get to work on time, they do NOT appreciate your XXXXL ass taking up the entire sidewalk as you gawk at the tall buildings.

    Sorry–that obviously hit a nerve.

  27. ChickenLady Says:

    I was on my way out the door to drive to Columbia, CA, for a baby shower, when my landlord (and neighbor) asked where I was headed. He salvages and restores old buildings, so he had a bit to tell me about historic structures in Gold Country, but the most interesting part was about the marble quarries in Columbia. Apparently, they provided the marble for all the pretty banks and hotels built in SF during the gold rush. One of the quarries sent a big block of particularly fine marble to be included in the construction of the Washington Monument. https://www.bluemountainminerals.com/about

    What started as a somewhat obligatory journey turned into a really fun trip. We saw marble sidewalks in town and plenty of marble in the old buildings. We talked to several of the older locals, and they were pleased to tell us more about the history of marble in the area. One of them clued us in to an old quarry which is now part of an RV park, so of course we went. Cool stuff!

  28. ChickenLady Says:

    And Civil War Tails is now on my bucket list.

  29. Candlepick Says:

    see the movie, see the town
    Columbus, Indiana. Columbus: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/06/19/the-precocious-genius-of-columbus

  30. democommie Says:

    I had a t-shirt, some years ago, that said, "I'm not a tourist, I live here.". I lived, at the time in the Newburyport, MA area where people liked to come and say how nice it was but also well nigh unaffordable. So, I'd be walking down the street or sitting in a bar or diner (okay, always in a bar) and somebody would ask me a question about some local history or how to get to such and such place and I'd say, "I have no idea, I don't live here.". They would say, "But, but, your shirt…" and I would reply, "It's a shirt.". Then, if they were nice people I'd tell them what they needed so desperately to know, like, how many witches were burned at the stake in Salem (the number was somewhat elastic).

    I was at San Simeon back in 1986 and after I found out that it cost $8 to go in and that I couldn't use a flash indoors, I opted to take a few photos of the Hearst Mansion from the parking lot. Then I went to a state park campground, pitched my tent, ate some dinner and was joined by an Australian couple (the gent saw me playing my guitar and asked if he could play it for a bit–he had sold ALL of his guitars to buy the Harley they were riding) we had a chat, smoked all of the pot their friends had given them for the trip and ate all of the Oreos I had for my trip along with some nice hot tea. Way the fuck better than that guided tour.

  31. jcastarz Says:

    "Tell me about someplace you've been that isn't straight out of the condensed list of Vacation Bucket Lists by Conde Nast…"

    I regard travel as a pain in the butt, and believe there is no comfort like home. So… the desire threshold has to be very high to get me out of my comfort zone. Nevertheless, I have been to one off-the-beaten path place of (possible) interest.

    I am into amateur astronomy, with small telescopes and binoculars. But from the latitude at which I live (38N) I can't see that 1/3 of the sky that is in the Southern Hemisphere. For years, my itch to see this region grew until it had to be scratched. What stood in the way was trying to get there with the equipment and under the conditions that made it worthwhile from the astronomy perspective.

    Then, In 2015 I discovered a volunteer outfit in Australia who arranged Star Party events just for Northern Hemisphere visitors to see the southern skies under ideal conditions. They provided the telescopes – 18" to 30" dobsonian reflectors, and held the event at an isolated dark sky site complete with motel accommodations; they rented the entire motel for the week-long event so we could control the local lights. I attended their event in April, 2016, and it was superb.

    The motel was in the Warrumbungles Mountain Park, six miles outside of Coonabarabran, New South Wales, and about a six hour drive from Sydney. And… "Sydney" is usually the only name in the previous sentence most people recognize – including my travel agent and a good number of Australians I talked with on the trip. The Warrumbungles are about the size of our Appalachians, but are more strikingly cut, and the whole park is on the edge of the outback. Coona was just big enough to have some good restaurants (~3,000 people). This area was not a tourist trap; it was the real thing.

  32. Kaleberg Says:

    We always enjoy talking to travelers. In our own area, we get to share our neighborhood which includes Olympic National Park. We're Tripadvisor experts, so we help all sorts of people, online and off, find neat stuff to do. We learn stuff too. One woman from Utah was amazed that people in Washington just let their lawns turn brown in the summer. Of course, we know that we have plenty of rain coming. Not so much in Utah. We often get emails thanking us for our help.

    When we are on the road, we often ask for advice and get it, but we also meet interesting people. The standard traveler questions are a great way to break the ice. Then you learn stuff. We met an English-Polish insurance surveyor who had been a pilot in the Battle of Britain. We met an ex-safe cracker who ran a security consulting concern. We met an Australian who had founded an international commercial real estate firm. We met a British automobile executive who hilariously described his visit to Detroit in the late 1970s.

    I can understand someone not wanting to be bothered on vacation, but we find that it often adds a fair bit to our explorations.

  33. rw2 Says:

    Ok, you want an oddball museum. Try the Mummy Museum in Guanajuato, Mexico. It's basically a display of naturally preserved mummies (the ground dehydrated them) from local cemeteries. When the lease on the grave expired and the family couldn't (or wouldn't) renew it, the bodies were dug up and put on display.

  34. Mo Says:

    I sport a Patagucci raincoat that I bought recently at a clearance sale and so it still looks crisp. Buying a snack at a local venue last week, I was asked if I was off one of the tour ships? The irony made my day.

  35. ChickenLady Says:

    @jcastarz
    I don't know where you are along the 38N, but if you're in California you may be interested in Fremont Peak – https://www.fpoa.net/
    Members can reserve the 30" Newtonian. There are campsites, events, classes, etc. I think the annual Star-B-Que is coming up this month, too.

  36. jcastarz Says:

    @ChickenLady: Thanks for the invite, but I'm on the other coast in Virginia! Will keep your site in mind, if I'm ever out that way.

  37. other bill Says:

    *shakes fist*

  38. Jhoosier Says:

    Sure, but everytime I try to tell people about the museum in Madrid with all the different kinds of sidewalk tiles and bollards used in the city, their eyes glaze over.

  39. Talisker Says:

    A friend of a friend works for the US State Department. He spent a decade or so in challenging posts like Baghdad and Islamabad; then they posted him to Prague as a reward. He liked the lower chance of getting blown up, but found the work incredibly boring. 80% of his job was helping lost American tourists, and explaining to them that yes, it is a bad idea to get falling-down drunk in a strange bar in Prague while carrying all your cash, credit cards and passport in a money belt.

    Prague is fascinating and the beer is excellent, but I prefer Berlin. (I could attempt to wax lyrical about Kaliningrad or some other Intentionally Offbeat Destination, but no bullshit, I really like Berlin.)

    @jjack: HELL YES. I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland for nine years and had to navigate hordes of clueless tourists every summer. A little consideration for the locals goes a long way.

    @Kineslaw: Okay, here goes:

    1) Cool: So many to choose from. But I'll go with the Quiraing ridge on the Isle of Skye.
    2) Weird: The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is like no other building on Earth.
    3) Scary: A [full-scale riot](http://blog.iainroberts.com/2014/07/rioting-and-tear-gas-or-what-i-did-on.html) outside my holiday apartment in Istanbul, while I sat inside with my pregnant wife and tear gas came under the door.

  40. HoosierPoli Says:

    Prague is REALLY cool though and it totally deserves the hype. It's also cool outside of its touristy parts which is not always the case.

  41. Dan Says:

    It sounds like you're having an incredibly horrible time. Please come home and send me in your place.

  42. Isaac Says:

    I spent two enlistments in the Coast Guard, on ships, so I've been all over the Pacific, and I have a lot of drunken touristy memories. After that I spent two and a half years as a field service technician spending two or more weeks per month flying around fixing shit in factories in crappy industrial shit-holes. Living as I do in an out-of-the-way city, every trip was at least three flights. I so hate flying now. I can deal with taxis and sewage smell and horrible instant coffee but just the thought of spending time in an airport makes me start twitching. My retirement dream is two Honda motorcycles with saddle bags and just putter around China and SE Asia, stopping whenever we smell good food.

  43. Isaac Says:

    @Kaleberg, I graduate High School in Port Townsend, after which I worked as a park aid cleaning toilets and mowing at Fort Worden State Park. One foggy morning I was tying up a trash bag in the "canteen" directly across the road from the little marina, where two or three sailboats were tied up and the volleyball hippies were warming up. A German couple approached me, backs to all this, and asked, “Vere is da beach? Da beach? da vater?” I just sort of made a circular motion with my hand.

  44. JB in Walla Walla Says:

    I need to tell you about this one time I went to New Orleans …

  45. Poultine Says:

    I have a reputation with the missus for wanting to go to oddball museums. I think it was the power plant museum in Belem, Portugal which started that trend (Tejo Power Station), but has also included the museum of broken relationships in Zagreb, which was awesome, and the human rights museum in Santiago, Chile. The latter was *extremely* sobering; I'm pretty sure most of the museum-goers were directly affected by Pinochet in one way or another.

    Personally I like the desolate places which (most) people don't like to visit. Driving the Ring road in Iceland was spectacular; tons of opportunities to pull over and eat your gas-station lunch (from the last gas station you saw two hours ago) while staring a some breathtaking waterfall or glacier or frosty inlet. Entirely by yourself. Plenty of spots were touristy, but so very much of that country is beautifully untenanted. And the campsites are super cheap. I get a similar thrill from cruising around the Southwest US, tbh.

    This whole "doing specific things" while traveling seems like a drag to me. I get just as much enjoyment from wandering around a city and looking at how it works.

  46. Henry Says:

    TakomaMark: "Also Gibson City Illinois has a working drive in theater and an excellent German restaurant (the Bayern Stube)."

    I fell off my chair reading this as this is the first time in the history of the internet that my hometown has been mentioned in any positive way. I love and miss the Gibson City of my youth, which included the Harvest Moon Drive-in even back then, and also the Edna Theater downtown, and a different and non-German restaurant where the Bayern Stube now sits which was where I first ate the exotic food called "shrimp." Go Greyhounds!

  47. Major Kong Says:

    On the 757 we talked about going to "the greats and the grands".

    Great Falls, Grand Forks, Grand Rapids, you get the idea.

    Plus Sioux Falls, Cedar Rapids, Winnipeg, Springfield MO, Dayton and all the other garden spots.

  48. democommie Says:

    "stopping whenever we smell good food."

    According to Anthony Bourdain (going back a few years) Cambodia is the only place he was afraid to eat the food.

    If you stop whenever you smell good food, you might need bigger motorcycyles.

  49. Major Kong Says:

    I spent seven months on Diego Garcia during Desert Shield/Desert Storm.

    Think "Gilligan's Island" except with a runway. It's not even an island, it's an atoll. It's shaped like a horseshoe, roughly eight miles long and a quarter mile wide at the widest spot.

    Normally there would be 200 people there. It hosted a NASA satellite tracking station, a small US Navy detachment and some very bored Royal Marines.

    We had 2000 people crammed onto that little rock, living on top of each other. Then we had to go get shot at.

    As the saying goes, it was hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer stark terror.

  50. geoff Says:

    @RosiesDad, HoosierPoli, so yeah, does Prague have a Kafka Museum? Asking for a friend. (Fuck it, you had me at "beer is LITERALLY CHEAPER THAN WATER.")

    As a poor who's hardly ever been anywhere, I thought Chicago was pretty fucking rad. Like the aquarium, art institute, great food? Fuhgeddaboutit!! (Architecture? The Lake??)

  51. Zach Says:

    I went to the Isle of Man last year to watch the TT race. That was fun :)

  52. Nate Says:

    I would like to visit Japan. I've always loved Japanese culture and i'd definitely want to spend some time in Akihabara and go to an onsen and visit shinto shrines and stuff.

    I'd also love to visit Iceland and go back to Holland and travel Europe by rail. I have relatives that live in Holland and it would be a lot of fun to visit there without being 16 and having my dad accompany me. I hear the coffee is quite nice there. :)

  53. geoff Says:

    @Nate, my kid (damn her eyes!) went last fall, to Tokyo and Kobe. Yes, she rode the bullet train (which is apparently pretty expensive), but didn't make it to Kyoto and is ready to go back. She speaks a little of the language and says the people there were pretty friendly.

  54. democommie Says:

    @Nate:

    They have really excellent "coffee" in Colorado, these days–just sayin'.

  55. Berkeley '74 Says:

    I'm heading up to the Eclipse and will be stopping for an overnight in Winnemucca NV on the way back. Always wanted to stop in Winnemucca after having driven right past it for many cross country trips. Going to appreciate the challenge of justifying an overnight there. Google street view indicates it will be pretty bleak.

  56. mk Says:

    @rw2, The mummy museum!! it's what first that popped into my mind reading this post yet my visit was over 30 years ago.

  57. xulon Says:

    Not an exotic travel story but this past weekend, my wife and I went a couple of states over for a family reunion. When we checked into the hotel there were a dozen other family members from out of town in the lobby. We chatted and they said they were about to go out to eat. My wife asked where they were going. They pointed out the lobby window and said "The Cracker Barrel". My wife said, "I'd rather die first". We found a nice local restaurant about 15 minutes away.

  58. Safety Man! Says:

    Randomness:
    High up on neat was Shuri Castle, Okinawa. A buddy and I want to go to Ireland next fall to see some European castles, pending poorness.
    My co-worker and I tried to go to Mt. Fugi in the mainland, but got lost. He turned around, I kept riding the train until I got of at a random stop and meandered to a beach that has a rock formation off the coast like a shark fin. No idea where it is or what it's called.
    I was tooling around south GA with my dad once and found a place called Swine and Dine, we stopped to eat because besides the name, it was only open 3 days a week or something crazy. Reminded me of an Onion Article Phandom Diner Only Appears in Hour of Drunkest Need, or something like that.

  59. Scm Says:

    First job out of college was teaching English in S. Korea. The long-term (1+year) expat scene is a very interesting mix of people. Certainly not tourists, but also not quite travelers per se, because they are actually working and tend to sign 1-2 year contracts with a local employer/visa sponsor. I met an Irishman who'd worked his way across Eurasia, doing 6 month and 1 year contracts in Poland, Georgia, etc. An interesting set, those people are.

  60. schmitt trigger Says:

    Richard Feynman, outrageous and iconic theoretical physicist , Nobel-Prize winner, and Challenger-accident head investigator, made a point of traveling to Tuva, in the outer Mongolia, then an USSR republic.

    I won't spoil it to you, but there is actually a book (Tuva or bust) on their attempts to get there.

    Fascinating reading on one of the world's remotest places!

    BTW; I've been to Prague too.

  61. E* Says:

    So… yesterday I was having dinner with some friends I haven't seen in a while, and someone said, "How was your trip to China?" And I said, "Awesome." [Pause.] "Fuck."

    @Xulon: There are no cracker barrels west of Utah, so I consider it rather exotic and fascinating. I *always* want to stop there when car-tripping through the middle.

  62. Nate Says:

    @demo

    Oh trust me, I am aware. It's actually way more likely that I'll be able to visit there or Washington state than go to Europe. International travel being what it is pricewise, etc. I used to have a friend in Michigan that had a green card and it was always incredible to go visit her for a weekend.

    Indiana will probably be one of the last states to legalize coffee of that calibur, sadly.

  63. Nate Says:

    @geoff yeah, most Japanese are kind and helpful to a fault. One of my best friends in college got into JET which is a language program and he was in Japan for a few years teaching high schoolers about english. I was super jealous and my (admittedly meager) Japanese wasn't good enough to pass the bar.

  64. sheila in nc Says:

    Roadside America in Shartlesville, PA

  65. geoff Says:

    @Nate, that's her dream (for now anyway) to be able to teach in Japan, but she needs to get a BA first. I am of course like, well get on that, then! Otoh, she's not real hyped on borrowing like $50K to do so, either, so we'll see.

  66. TakomaMark Says:

    @ Henry – I am a sucker for a good German Restaurant. I also enjoyed going to the drive in theater. I lived in Chambana for a few years working at a research institute at the University as a data analyst. While downstate Illinois has pretty much nothing to offer the tourist(spectacular scenery, copious opportunities for cultural enrichment, etc.) life there was surprisingly pleasant, mostly because the people were laid back, friendly and fun to be around. No one ever seemed to be in a hurry or under massive amounts of work related pressure.

    While the area lacks any natural scenery that is tremendously dramatic or beautiful in the conventional sense, on a smaller scale there are pretty areas. I did get stir crazy for mountains, or large bodies of water (I grew up in MI near Lake Michigan), or even just a decent hill with a view from time to time but it wasn't all bad is what I'm saying.

  67. John d. Says:

    Algoma Wisconsin is a nice little fishing town not too far from Green Bay and get off my lawn!! im grumpy ol man too

  68. Major Kong Says:

    German food does nothing for me. I find most of it heavy and bland.

    In Munich I mostly survived off Döner kebabs at the Turkish restaurants, which are fortunately plentiful in Germany.

  69. democommie Says:

    @ Major Kong:

    I find some german food to be as you describe it but I spent most of four years there and ate some excellent food that was made by talented folks. It wasn't anything like health food but it was tasty and well prepared.

    I do not get an opportunity to eat out much these days due to a paucity of decent restaurants and self-induced penury–but, if I want something like classic german cuisine (which is, like all cuisines, the result of hundreds of years of tradition, admixture, adulteration and innovation–I'm out of luck.

    I'm only happy that I'm not lucky enough to live somewhere that lutefisk is a local delicacy.

  70. TakomaMark Says:

    @ Major Kong – yes, much of it is heavy. Whether it's bland depends on what you order. My mom grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch country so it's comfort food to me.

    @democommie – my dad's side of the family were lutefisk people (2nd generation Swedish in NW PA/SW NY State. I can stomach some Swedish food (talk about bland though – German food is a symphony of flavors by comparison, at least as made by my elderly Swedish relatives) but not lutefisk. Swedish yuletide baked goods are delicious but it goes downhill fast from there.

  71. AfghanVet Says:

    First, I have weaponized my "Do NOT talk to me" body posture and facial expression when traveling. Have to travel a lot for work and at first it was a tactic for work reasons and then, for all that you just stated, I found it useful when traveling in general.

    Before it wasn't allowed I used to do what I coined "The Cocoon" and I would put the blanket over my head and go to sleep. The "strange" factor alone did the trick.

    If I get trapped somehow (shields go down for some unknown reason) I just mention all of the shit-holes I have had to go to and they shut up.

  72. sluggo Says:

    @TakomaMark
    Lutefisk is the unnamed fifth horseman of the apocalypse.

  73. democommie Says:

    @ sluggo:

    I think that it was MADE from the other four.

  74. Major Kong Says:

    @TakomaMark

    I do love scrapple. My father grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch country.

  75. carrstone Says:

    @Major Kong

    Saying 'German food does nothing for me' is as insightful as calling all Americans stupid if all you've met are Progressives.

  76. democommie Says:

    @ Crappstain:

    Saying that an offhand comment on food preferences indicates that Major Kong lacks insight is like saying that you have any–you fatuous twit.

  77. Major Kong Says:

    How much time have you spent in Germany carrstone?

    My scheduled line used to be Munich->Paris->Cologne->Munich.

    I know food (I'm an extremely good cook) and I know what I like.There's only so much you can do with potatoes and red cabbage. (The beer is as good as you think it would be however).

    Food wise I'll take France, Italy, Spain or Portugal over Germany. Your mileage may vary.

  78. Katydid Says:

    One of the many things I learned living in England was that English food doesn't *have* to be terrible–in fact, it can be quite good. What Americans think of as stereotypical British fare is a result of two world wars (and the rationing that went with), getting the crap bombed out of them, and being impoverished by interest on loans to pay for the war…up through the 1980s (sounds crazy they were still paying decades after the war but I swear it's true).

    One of my biggest disappointments in Holland was on a business trip in Amsterdam, when I invited my Dutch counterpart and his family to have dinner with me. We're in a huge city, surrounded by restaurants serving any country's cuisine you could imagine. What did they want? McDonald's. I am not kidding. I thought they were just being polite and explained that I wanted to treat them to something nice…and they insisted on McDonald's.

  79. carrstone Says:

    @Major Kong

    Some 12 years during which period I lived, worked and paid taxes in Frankfurt/M, Nuremberg, Dusseldorf. Equipped with an expense account, I ate excellent food in these cities and elsewhere in Germany, better than most of the fare in restaurants in the USA in which I've eater – unless you judge quantity higher than quality.

    I'm also quite familiar with the cuisines of the other countries [and more besides] that you mention but, whereas I've had bad meals in all of them, I was not ever disappointed by Belgian restaurants.

  80. carrstone Says:

    @Katydid

    Although I applaud your understanding heart, I would remind you that post-war UK got the biggest share [26%] of the Marshall Plan but invested it in the National Health Service. Germany received 11% of the Plan which they invested in the economy through fostering business growth.

    But Bastiat's and John Locke's warnings about 'unforeseen consequences' proved prescient. The German 'Wirtschaftswunder', initiated under Adenauer, brought prosperity to Germany but also led to the inviting of Turkish laborers, the consequences of which are now daily fodder in German media.

  81. democommie Says:

    Not that I expect it to ever happen but is there the slightest chance that CantSpout could ever say anything that doesn't let the rest of the world know what a truly superior person all Randroidfucktards like him are?

  82. Carrstone Says:

    @democommie

    What is it that has it annoyed you about me this time? Is it because I work for a living?

  83. democommie Says:

    Well, there ya'go. Being an asshole is your default, I'm certain.

    You dismiss others' points of view, condemn "progessives"–when it's pretty obvious that you don't even know what or who they are.

    Then you decide to insult people who don't, what? "Work for a living"?

    You fucking douchebag. I worked from the time I was 15 (I'm not counting the paper routes since I was 9 or 10) at a variety of different jobs. None of them were glamorous, none of them had expense accounts, none of them were "career paths" and none of them made me fuck other people as a condition of employment. I suspect that fucking people as a condition of employment was never really an issue for you as your every comment on the subject of humanity proves that you give less than a very used fuck about anybody who isn't you.

    I'm just puzzled by the fact that you deign to spend your time with th lower class, as you do here. The reason for that puzzlement is that, in my experience, Randroids–at least the ones who've actually reached that lofty pinnacle of achievement that you claim to have reached? They don't waste their time on blogs, not when there is so much money to be made.

    Go fuck yourself, asshole.

  84. carrstone Says:

    @democommie

    I know very well what 'progressive' is. It's what people who derive their identity from a group rather than from their own individual achievements call themselves, a sort of second tier of Luddites.

    You obviously didn't notice that I didn't claim any sort of unmerited superiority over you, I leave that to others to confirm. Your not answering my question I interpret as a tacit agreement that your progressivism is a tattoo of what you are rather than of what you do.

    The world, to me, is full of opportunity while you bitch and whine about the hand you've been dealt

  85. democommie Says:

    "I know very well what 'progressive' is. It's what people who derive their identity from a group rather than from their own individual achievements call themselves, a sort of second tier of Luddites."

    You are, of course, spectacularly uninformed.

    Your comments drip with condescension, moron. You assume that you know ALL of the important things in life.

    You know jackshit.

    I'm not a progressive, shit-for-brains. I'm hard left when it comes to social issues and fiscally conservative when it comes to throwing money into reduntant, useless and dangerously provocative warmaking.

    You're a Randroid Liberpublican who is leaning more towards the sort of NFL* drone that's most appreciated by the overlords of the world. Nah, not really. You're just a self-absorbed dickhead who (by your own admission) had a shitty childhood and decided to make the rest of the world pay for your dad being mean to you.

    Cry me a river.

    * New Fascist Legion

  86. carrstone Says:

    @democommie

    I'm happy for you that you recognize your schizophrenia.

    But I'm not persuaded that you validate yourself by any measure other than your association with a group instead of your own achievements. And that nothing makes you happier than to attempt to slot me into a category – any category, as long as it's a category. It seems that this tactic is the only recourse open to you.

    My dad being mean to me was salutary, it made me realize that I had to rely on me and that membership of a whining, complaining group of whatever nature was not for me.

    I'd also point out that dragging my family into this discussion is as abominably low as you've ever gone. It's quite immoral, too.

  87. democommie Says:

    "I'm happy for you that you recognize your schizophrenia."

    And you actually wonder why I, or anyone else, knows you're a fucking asshole?

    Your daddy issues obviously have made you the asshole that you are.

  88. democommie Says:

    At Cryybaby:

    I did not drag your family into anything. You brought them up, a long time ago, on this very blog.

    OTOH, I don't know that you have either an MD or any other sort of credentials that entitle you to diagnose me as schizophrenic. The psychiatrist I actually do see (because the VA hates Adderall and makes me jump through hoops to get it) would, I'm sure, love to disabuse you of the notion that I'm mentally ill–and she IS qualified, shithead.

    I have no doubt that you're a self-made man–one of the sort that I hope never to become.

  89. carrstone Says:

    @democommie

    My use of schizoid is based more on the urban dictionary definition of a split under which you can, without trying to be funny, declare that you're both far left and conservative. Here, again, you are focused on what you are hiding from us what you actually do, let alone what you've achieved.

    I think it likely, therefore, that you'll be granted your wish not to become a self-made man. To achieve that, you'd have to do something, rather than prate about opinions and wishes.

  90. democommie Says:

    "I'm happy for you that you recognize your schizophrenia."

    Gosh, I'm sorry, I didn't see an "/s" or emoji or anything and since you're pretty much an asshole all of the time, you can understand the confusion.

    Oh, it was a funny, hahahahahahahahahaha.

    Looking up both "schizoid" and "split"–not seeing either of those defined in the way you're "meaning" it–and, yes, there are multiple pages for "split", I'm not wading through all of that shit to find it.

    So, you were just hazzin' teh fun? Yeah, sure.

    I'm hiding stuff? what "stuff" might that be?

    I don't got no job for about 11 years now. It's not as if I sit on my ass all day, I have plenty of projects in my semi-prolly-never-to-be-finished house. When my energy level and my pain level coincide at the sweet spot I push as hard as I can and then go back into not feeling very good for some number of days.

    I do my photography, I pester assholes on the intertoobz and I walk the dog–among other. I know you travel and eat great food and prolly enjoy all of the finer things in life–aside from having a functional "empathy" button.

    So, gosh, I am sooooooooooooooooo upset that you don't think I'll ever amount to anything.

    You, otoh, will be such a huge success that you'll have to keep coming to this blog full of looooozer progs (which I am NOT one of) and do your best to help them see the errors of their ways. And most of them will be too polite to tell you to go fuck yourself. Obviously, I'm not one of those, either.

  91. Jado Says:

    Rochester NY Strong National Museum of Play

    http://www.museumofplay.org/

    It's a trip back in time to when you were a kid with all of the toys you used to play with. There is an entire floor of old video games – take a kid and show him/her the old Atari games with the crappy graphics. My 10 year old son was horrified by the Atari Pitfall game, cause he couldn't tell where the borders of the guy were, so it always came as a surprise when he died. Hilarious. He looked at me to explain what he was doing wrong, as if I could magically make the graphics better resolution. Yes, kid, this is what we had to put up with, and WE LIKED IT. Not like you coddled retina display resolution gamers today.

    Old toys, video games from the dark ages, new interactive stuff, it's all a lot of fun. Go there.

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