Thursday, January 15, 2009

Back from Vacation

Occasionally, I need to take a break from my pet computer to gain perspective. To remember how to function without the internet / smart phone etc.

Despite calls from the SO that I really NEED to bring the laptop (to check on Caps scores, of course), I decided that I was going to travel the way I used to. No computer. No phone.

Back in the day, before mobile, practically ubiquitous internet, I used to bring 3 things with me:

- A copy of the most recent Fodor's guide to whatever country I am visiting (in this case, the Dominican Republic).

- A hard-copy list of things I might be interested in doing and important phone numbers / contact info. (Credit card co's and the US consulate)

- A willingness to ask questions and talk to people.

Unlike all of my previous trips, this one was literally planned at the last minute. We had a general idea of what we wanted to accomplish while we were on vacation (golf, eat, sleep, maybe fish if the waves aren't too high). Did some research. Gathered some survival tips. Left one week later with passport in hand, Fodor's in the carry-on, the list, 6 days worth of clothing, golf clubs and a wad of US dollar bills.

One of the best vacations I've had in years.

We had well-defined objectives and we met them. Golf - check. Food - check. Sleep - check. Hanging at the beach to people-watch - check (and prime people-watching it was too! If I ever go swimsuit shopping again, I will think of the fearlessness of elderly Russian women.).

We gave ourselves enough flexibility if we found something better to do or the weather didn't cooperate (hence, no fishing pics this time). Furthermore, we had no obligations to meet (usually, we travel to see friends or family). As a result, our schedule was a lot more open. We did everything we wanted to do and had lots of time to siesta.

There is something simultaneously refreshing and challenging when travelling in unfamiliar cultural territory. Dusting off forgotten 20 year old Spanish. Eating unfamiliar foods. Playing golf. Hanging at the beach people-watching.

Somehow, this trip got the balance of new external inputs and familiar comforts just right.

3 things I learned while on this trip:

- Knowing how to say "hi", "thank you", "yes", "no", and "How do you say.....?" in the language of the country you are visiting pays huge dividends. I found that the more we made the effort to communicate with them (often badly) in their language, the better the service. I found this to be true in all of the countries I've visited (yes, even France....)

- Not having a computer or the internet forces you to talk to people and use their expertise. On this trip, I found this interaction to be more satisfying than the usual lonely round of online research + reading the reviews.

- Going to Caribbean resorts that market to Europeans (and Canadians) means better and more varied food! Just avoid anything that is "American-themed." :')

I've started working on the video of my trip (an excuse to finally play with iMovie). Hopefully, I'll have something posted before next Wednesday.

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