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The Traveler in Me – Fogey Rant

Yesterday, in Kuala Lumpur, it occurred to me that my sense of adventure and travel was shaped by my early experiences, and those experiences/preferences/interpretations may not be serving me so well in this Flat World. I also realized that I’m an old fogey… because I’m about to launch into a “back in my day” rant. Forgive me in advance. I hope it’s at least entertaining.

My parents took me to Europe several times when I was young, in the 1980s. At that time, global brands were not at a saturation point. Starbucks was not on every corner. McDonald’s was the most common western brand, but it wasn’t ubiquitous by any stretch of the imagination. As late as 1993, I recall that there was no McDonald’s in Florence, Italy.

Those early trips were challenging, but exhilarating. I remember one time we ate at a hole-in-the-wall that could hardly be called a restaurant somewhere in France. My parents didn’t speak French, nor did I. (Later, I studied the language in high-school, but never really learned much.) The meat dish we ordered (by sight alone) was a bit tough, but quite flavorful and prepared in a distinctly French cuisine kind of way. At the end of the meal, we played a game of charades to figure out what kind of meat we’d consumed. It turned out to be horse. C’est la vie!

And I recall my mother dragging me to every museum in every town. If I complained of being hot or tired and she’d cajole me: “One more room, just one more room. There’s a masterpiece ahead!”

And so, I have an idea of what traveling should be: different, with lots of fantastic local stuff to see, do, and experience. The concept of getting on a plane for 14 hours only to see the same stores, eateries, and experience the same stuff doesn’t jibe for me. And that’s kind of what’s going on in this new, flat world: especially in the modern cities around the world. It just took me a little while to figure that out at a really personal, internal level. Don’t get me wrong: I read the book… I just didn’t really think about what that would mean for my sense of personal adventure.

I thrive on the culture shock of a good trip. Gambling and shopping in a different locale are never going to thrill me, and seeing the famous local landmarks may only fill up a day on the local Hop On Hop Off bus. Unfortunately, local cuisine and authentic, local, non-touristy entertainment is getting harder and hard to find. I have struggled in this city (Kuala Lumpur) to find authentic, local food. I had to pass not only Starbucks, but also Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Carls Jr., Tony Romas, and Subway before coming to a place called Madam Kwans, which serves the famous malay dishes: curry laksa and nasi lemak.

Passing all those western restaurants made me sad. Globalization certainly employs a lot of people, but it is making the world too homogeneous for my taste. And I’m sorry to report that my entertainment – on my last day in Malaysia – consisted of getting a tan by the pool after strolling through Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany’s, and other luxury stores. I know…. it sounds like a shallow, high-maintenance-girl, thing to do. It is not my finest world traveler/globetrotter moment.

The point of this post is that I think I better find something else to challenge/entertain myself whilst traveling. I need to become a different kind of traveler. I am intrigued by these people that travel the world to do their sport hobby (e.g.: surfing, scuba diving, biking) around the world. I like hiking quite a bit, but I was quite scared in Tasmania and subsequently decided to be more cautious about hiking in foreign terrains where I don’t even know the name of, or know how to spot, the wildlife that can kill me. Urban hiking is good too, but can be a bit sketchy for a single woman in many cities around the world, so I don’t stray too far of the beaten path anywhere.

Maybe I should collect something (besides magnets) from around the world. Something that will spawn a treasure hunt in every city. I don’t know, I’m reaching here. Does anyone have any ideas for what I should be doing as a traveler? If so, drop me an email.


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