Thursday, October 13, 2005

Travel, part deux

Some of you strongly reacted to my India post. On that subject, you may want to check out Taras Grescoe’s The End of Elsewhere. Anyway, that post got me thinking about why we go through the trouble of spending a big chunk of our hard-earned money to see a new face, a new building, a new tree. Out on the road, Grescoe wonders how he is drawn towards wandering and in the end finds no rational answer.

Yet there are so many reasons to travel. If as a kid you read Tintin et le Temple du soleil you'll want to verify that Hergé described Peru accurately. If you're a hiker, you'll want to see the biggest mountain. If you watch L'année dernière à Marienbad you'll want to see Paris. Sometimes we just have time to take a three month walk in China. Other times we want to see if life is generally more enjoyable in Florida.

I bet that with each of these reasons you pictured a specific individual. Ever found yourself classifying travelers into specific categories? Over the years I've compiled a mental list of types of travelers I’ve personally met on the road. Each of them have their own reasons to travel. Here are a few examples:

The Budget travel snob: Takes pleasure in informing you of all the authentic experiences he has enjoyed and you, poor philistine suburbanite, have managed to miss. Always mentions that it was better back in the eighties when [insert random Eastern European country here] was still under communist regime. Connoisseur of the primitive, he chases native tribes and thrives on having an audience to spew his exploits. Next destination: Kyrgyzstan's back country.

The Girl with bulky sweater: Sporty yet environmentally conscious chick. Vigorous South American hiker, Utne subscriber, hosts vegan potlucks and prez of her local Stitch n’ Bitch and honorary member of Knitters against Bush. Thinks Machu Picchu is sooo last decade. Next destination: Tanzania.

The bon-vivant: devoted to the finer things in life, especially good food and drink. Tends to compare everything with home, is a lousy planner and bordering alcoholic. Example: Bill Bryson. Next destination: Oktober Fest.

The DOC (Drinking Olympics Contender): ever saw that SNL sketch, Drunk Girl? A hefty, squinty eyed college student who has too much to drink. Last seen on a Prague-Vienna train spotting a tee-shirt with caption: “I wolfed down 30 shots at the Ultimate Grappa Challenge, Italy 2004”. Travel must have: flip flops. Next destination: Spring break Aspen 2006.

The Wanderluster: has strong longing or impulse toward wandering. Signs of fear of commitment, thrives on change. Will not give you his/her email address if you meet him/her on the road. Travels lightly. Does not have a definite destination. Next destination: re-read last sentence.

The Uberinsured: paranoid over-vaccinated resort hopper from Edmonton. Stays by the hotel pool and fears ice cubes. Does not take advantage of the Havana day-trip included in package. Next destination: same as last year.

I could go on forever (the Edacious, the Crazy Ageing Hippie), but I won't or you'll think I’m way too judgmental. Besides, I have been a little bit of all of these characters one time or another (except perhaps the Uberinsured.) Each time I watch myself making travel plans I think "What motivates her?" and I’m not certain I know the answer. If I had to guess, it's because travel has to happen for the act of getting back where you started to read books and drink tea and play scrabble with your mother.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Choose carbs

I've managed to do the autumn thing even though there are no fall colors to speak of here in Ottawa. That is strange. I try to compensate for lack of fall foliage by cooking with squash. Last weekend I discovered a wonderfull thing: the Acorn Squash. The acorn squash looks like a very small pumpkin, and is easy to find in supermarkets. You need an industrial strenght circular saw to cut it in two lenghtwise, but it's worth the effort. Remove seeds and stringy stuff and cut each half in half again. Line on baking sheet. Drizzle lots of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes at 375 degrees until squash is soft. The texture is heavenly and it tastes like a rich dessert. The experience is completely satisfying once you realize it's entirely healthy. (Healthy is good.)

Here are some winter squash hints and tips.