Monday, March 9, 2009

The Impractical Traveler

As the child of an immigrant from Denmark, family reunions generally involve trans-Atlantic travel. I made my first hop over the pond at the tender age of two, and have been going every few years since. I remember one trip, as a child, where we drove from Washington State to Canada (cheap tickets!) before flying to Copenhagen. My brother and I had brand new outfits that we had to keep clean for ten hours of plane travel. We needed to be fit to be seen by the relatives. I felt fancy and delightful. I don’t even remember the arrival. At that point, I was probably tired and cranky, if not comatose. But the belief that travel was magical, an occasion, never faded from my mind.

As many have pointed out in various articles and op-eds, air travel is no longer glamorous. It’s barely customer-service oriented anymore. Gone are the days of upgrades, good meals and amenities you didn’t have to pay for. Now you’re shoved into “cattle class”, trapped in the skies.

Travel, in general, lacks finesse. I wince when I see some of the travel apparel available, stretchy waistbands and ugly earth shoes intended to serve the comfort needs of travelers. There’s nothing wrong with comfort, but I can’t help but wonder if we’re trying to cram too much travel into too little time. Must we see every tourist trap, walk 20 miles in a day? Is there really ever any need for a fanny pack?

One of my favorite movies with traveling is “Gidget Goes to Rome”. Feel free to mock me at this point. But, as uninspired as the plot of the movie is, the girls are all dressed in chic little pedal pushers and skirts to go sightseeing around Bella Roma. A guide describes the culture of Rome to them (unfortunately stealing Moondoggie’s interest from Gidget—I still wonder why she took that wretch back) as they go to the Coliseum and the Forum. Gidget experiences the fashion and food of Rome, all at a glamorous, unconcerned pace. I wish I could travel like that.

Tonight I’m packing to go to Denmark to see family—another reunion, this time for my grandmother’s 95th birthday. I’ve had to decide what to wear, what to pack, what to leave behind. It’s been agonizing. I’m trying to figure out what I need to travel, because I want to be glamorous. I want to be impractical. (My toe is currently broken, which means I can choose footwear that’s somewhere between practical and impractical.) I don’t have many plans for my trip. I want to take a lot of pictures. I do know that I will be sweeping into the airport tomorrow as if I’m going to be escorted to the VIP lounge and sitting in first class. Travel may not be glamorous, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be.

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