How to Suck….Up As Much Culture as Possible

As I mentioned in my More Waffles Than a Waffle House post, Henie and I are plotting world domination in Mexico City and Acapulco. Our flights are already booked, and now we’re just trying to choose accommodations in Acapulco.

Owing to my ongoing mini-midlife crisis and the hard work involved in getting TtW up and scooting along, I have not been indulging in my favorite past time: travel research (aka “plotting global domination”). Both Henie and I love researching and planning our adventures almost as much as the adventures themselves. I’ve always done at least some digging into the history, geography, culture and logistics of a new place, no matter how significant or mundane my travels are. But this time, I’ve been alarmingly lackadaisical.

I have GOT to get my groove back.

My family is of Hispanic origin. They’ve lived in America for nearly 200 years, but there are still a number of Americanized “Mexican” customs and traditions observed in my family, including making tamales during the holidays and playing mariachi and cumbia music at special events. And yet, despite all of that and my love of travel, I have only been to Mexico ONCE.

All the more reason to sit down and actually DO the research.

As a result of having lived on the West Coast for so long, coupled with having a family that’s semi-bilingual, I speak Spanish. It had gotten very rusty over the years from non-use until it suddenly awoke from its hibernation when Henie, Maypo and I were in Mexico City. So things like Spanish-language television, music, books and other research sources are easily accessible and consumable for me.

Now, contrast this with my two trips to France. I can read French pretty well. But I can’t speak it to save my soul. I’ve just never been exposed to it, and so I don’t understand verb tenses, syntax, and so on. I was able to read Le Monde and most menus, for example. And I listened to all kinds of French music before I departed America, everything from trance and rap to classics like Yves Montand and Charles Aznavour (I LOVE “La Boheme”!). But context is everything when you don’t understand a language well, and probably 90% of what I should have absorbed was lost in translation.

So in other words, I try hard to suck….suck up culture, that is.

There are countless practical reasons for learning as much as you can about a new destination. For example, you might want to know the rough exchange rate for the currency you’ll be using so that you have an idea how much that Bulgarian Lev really gets you. I mean, 20,000 Thai Bhat for a 15 karat diamond tennis bracelet is a bargain (assuming it’s real, of course), but 20,000 Bahraini Dinars for that same bracelet is some SERIOUS coin. You probably want to understand that BEFORE slapping down the Amex, right?

But for me, it all goes back to resonance and meaning. As I will endlessly point out, I’m all about the gravity and impact of an experience. You’ll eventually want to punch me for being redundant, but I will repeatedly go back to the Peter Mayle story when I try to explain why planning and research is so important to me. If I don’t already have a deep-seated, passionate longing to see a new place (or to return to one I’ve been to before), then I’d better hurry up and at least develop a fairly well-informed curiosity about it.

Admittedly, I get a little lazy when it comes to beach trips. I mean, even in places that aren’t overrun with prixe fix menus and American fast food joints, in many ways a beach is a beach. Strolling, swimming, slacking, snoozing….and perhaps in more developed beach communities, water sports, shopping, bar hopping, and so on….are pretty standard fare, no?

And in the case of Acapulco, much of what I’ve encountered in research that wasn’t related to accommodations centers on what a purportedly violent place the city has become in the last decade. That’s of little value to me….I grew up in a rough neighborhood and know how to practice “safe tourist” (it’s like “safe sex”, but different). I’m probably more likely to die in a car accident today than to be murdered in Acapulco, so reading over and over about cartel wars doesn’t really interest me.

So it’s time for me to start paying attention. Because I’m going to ACAPULCO, bish!

Stay with me….as I get my groove back, you’re going to get a front row seat into how I plot global domination!

–Hink

 

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About the Author Hinky

Hink is an aspiring traveler plotting global domination and looking for the funny.

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