Tag Archives: Travel Essay

Now You See Me…


It’s 1 a.m. in Minneapolis, and my friend and I are sharing a 20-inch tall, boot-shaped glass of beer with three young professionals we just met. Polka music is playing in the background, and the air smells like cinnamon and wood smoke.  With each sip of dark brew, we become more pleased that we heeded the advice of a random article about “best hipster bars” and took a cab across town. We each take turns allowing a 75-year-old man to waltz us around the room to the rhythm of the accordion.  We laugh at each other’s expense when he gets a little too close for comfort.  The lights dim and the polka fades into hip hop and the old man disappears.  My friend gets caught up in conversation with a dark and handsome stranger.  I forget myself and approach the attractive guy I spotted when we first walked in.  He’s all-American – blonde hair, blue eyes, and built like a football player.  I grab his hand and lead him into the crowd, knowing that after tonight, he’ll never see me again.


When we travel, we try to absorb as much about a destination as we can.  That’s the point: to discover some place new and discover more about ourselves in the process.  So it makes sense to believe that the longer we stay somewhere, the more we learn.

But there’s something to be said for fleeting getaways.  The quick trips we take just to escape for a moment, where there’s not enough time to adapt to a new environment – there’s only the present.

When we travel somewhere briefly, we remove the stress around doing things “right.”  We don’t have to worry about running into someone we know, or ordering the wrong food, or mispronouncing a word from our phrasebook.  We’ll be gone tomorrow.

Short-term travel might seem a little selfish, but only because it’s liberating.  For one or two days, we can be bolder, braver versions of ourselves.  We can come into people’s lives suddenly and leave them just as soon – and that’s okay.  We can throw ourselves right into the heart of a city with no preparation and little hesitation – and often learn more than we ever would have with more time.    Maybe we don’t come out with lasting friendships, or a new outlook, or a list of best restaurants, but we still leave with memories.  And those are always worth the trip.


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Filed under Monthly Musing

It’s Not Me, It’s You: An Open Letter to the Travel Channel

Dear Travel Channel,

You may not know it, but we’re on a break.  Our relationship has been a long one–second only to my lifetime romance with chocolate.  For eight years I’ve watched you religiously, wondering where you’d take me next.  All those countless nights we used to snuggle on the couch together to pass the time… So you might have noticed how I’ve been pretty distant lately.  Sure, I’ll linger for a minute or two to watch Bourdain catch a fish in the Amazon.  But at the first commercial break, I’ll stray, flipping down two channels to TLC where I’ll contentedly watch Say Yes to the Dress for the next half hour.  And when I choose wealthy bridal fittings over you, Travel Channel,  you know it’s bad.

I’ve tried to be reasonable, tried to give you the benefit of the doubt, but my patience is worn through.  I’ve stopped watching because I’ve stopped having a voice.  As a female traveler, I’m simply no longer represented.  You, my dear TC, have gone all-male.

You can try to argue, but I don’t have to look far for the evidence. Man vs. Food, Mancations–the proof is in the promos.  It almost seems that being a middle-aged, slightly overweight man is a requirement to host a show.  But don’t worry! He may be ordinary, but he makes up for it with a fascination for the Extreme or the Bizarre.   So while these Average Joes travel (prove their worth) by testing their physical or intestinal fortitude, your female hosts get to….traipse across the Sexiest Beaches in a bikini?

I know you’ll counter with the obvious: Samantha Brown. God love her, but where is she? Nowadays, the only Samantha Brown I see is from a 2004 rerun at 10 a.m.  While I’ll always respect her quirky sense of humor and genuine interest in travel, there’s a reason why Anthony Bourdain occasionally disses her: she’s safe.  She takes dainty tours in the pretty parts of town and eats the mint from her hotel pillow at night.  Her show is fun and luxurious and escapist, but it’s just not realistic when I’m praying for clean sheets at my 15 € hostel.  Samantha Brown gets a taste of culture without having to get her hands dirty. But let’s be straight, Travel Channel: this Travel Girl knows the value of some soap and water.

You and I both know that your one saving grace is Bourdain.  He gives viewers their own taste of the authentic with each dish he tries and always manages to tap into the heartbeat of a destination.  He’s wise with the years and experience to relate to older travelers but still badass enough to earn a cult following from the young.

But I’m not a chef.  I occasionally wear a leather jacket, but I’m not badass.  I’m just a girl who wants to learn more about this big ol’ world we’re living in.  Ask my girlfriends who have all gone abroad, ask the female editors and writers gracing the pages of magazines like National Geographic and Budget Travel, ask the 80% of women making travel decisions, and they’ll tell you the same.  In fact, they already have–but maybe you just haven’t been listening.

Travel Channel, it’s time for you to bring back the female travel host.  The one who considers immersing herself in another culture both challenging and entertaining in its own right.  The woman who explores the places we female travelers have been longing to go and who inspires us to seek out new adventures.  The one who can out-eat Adam Richman and out-drink Anthony Bourdain–or who’s at least not afraid to try.  The woman who, at the end of the day, is not defined as a woman at all, but as a traveler.

If it means eating octopus tentacles or log-rolling or getting tribal tattoos, bring it on!  I, for one, am up for it.  Any of the above is preferable to feeling like the female traveler is obsolete. Far from it, TC.  She’s out there and she’s more curious than ever.  I hope for the sake of our relationship, Travel Channel, that you can find it in your heart to make things right.  If not, well, I just might leave the country…

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