And you, when traveling—what compromises are you prepared to make in order to live a unique experience, different from that of millions of other tourists? Is that even something you want?
It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but for someone who took an early train to an unfamiliar town and hiked several kilometers from the station to sit for a couple of hours on a hillside waiting to catch a seconds-long glimpse of the peloton—well, it was the most important decision I’d made in a week. A month.
I selected Poland on a whim because the people seemed nice and genuine, like the plucky European underdogs. I didn't speak Polish. I didn't have any Polish family members, and I did not have a long-distance Polish lover.
In all likelihood, Grandpa Wade didn’t think of Italy as his homeland while he moved towards Rome from the coast and liberated the city with the American Army. Wearing the uniform of the American Army, he probably didn’t think of going home until he was on a ship heading west across the Atlantic after the end of the war.
Paranoia hits in the queue of the Wilde Renate, a tumbling down town house, unmarked aside from the line of people gagging to get in. "How easy is it to get in here?" I ask the Germans behind me as two guys ahead of us are inexplicably turned away.
Within the next ten minutes, I would find out that those language tests were for a French telecom giant that needed a friendly, young woman answering client service calls, and if I wanted to take the job, it could be mine for 1,500 złoty a month.
Out spilled the hoards of resort tourists, sun hats flapping and flying away as they stepped onto the windy boardwalk, freshly-applied sunscreen streaked across their skin, money strapped to their bellies beneath their sweat-stained shirts in an expensive-looking apparatus.
I licked my lips, salty from sweat, and entered the earth’s embrace: The dirt crumbled and my body pressed into the rock as I fit my limbs and fingers precisely into the grooves of the mountain.
At Treehouse, Josiphet welcomed us in the morning with a warm smile and showed us all the rooms in the building, which was inspired by Spanish Catalan architect Gaudi. Pieces of bright, colorful glass were cemented into the white walls, which had been designed to spiral up in large curves, following the staircase up the maze-like tower.
My scalp was moist, my back was sticky, and a slippy layer of sweat covered all of my extremities, so going to sleep at night felt like laying down in a salty puddle, with two other cyclists bathing in their own grease, just inches away.
But take a step closer to the men under those wigs, salesmen armed with red plastic binders and smartphones, welcoming you to Vienna with breath rolling in cigarette stench, touting the latest “authentic” musical rip-off, and the illusion quickly fades: welcome to Vienna.
I questioned whether or not we were in a movie, in which I wondered whether the festival was real, whether Pont-à-Celles was real, whether we were real, whether the day had slipped from one dimension of time and space to another without our realizing it
They were all immaculately dressed in H’mong traditional garb, and the intricate pattens on their shirts and pants and the bright colors that flowed across their limbs seemed to move of their own accord in the darkness.
This is the beginning of a downward spiral into inevitable Greek holiday weight-gain. But for these few days, breakfast is a sweet, sweet part of the day.
The surroundings will please adventurous minds as well as those in search of peace and quiet: cute villages, forests, lakes, streams, and mountains are all at a walk-able distance or a train/car ride away.
Now, the hotel is a hipsters’ paradise, with cool, light interiors and a do-as-you-please vibe. We felt as if we had stepped into a hip playground for grown-ups, where real life was but a distant memory.
The hotel sits on a lava field at the foot of a volcano and is surrounded by hot springs, which gives it the appearance of being an alien structure that is seemingly growing out of its moon-like surroundings.
You don't even need to go on a walking safari to see game—at Mfuwe Lodge, I saw a leopard, a pride of lions, and an elephant, who pulled at the branches of the tree next to my chalet at night, shaking the roof.
The Bristol was originally the brainchild of Paderewski and his financial partners, who decided to build a grand hotel in Warsaw that would rival the other high-end hotels of western Europe—in a Neo-Renaissance design and with all the latest amenities—towards the end of the nineteenth century.
How do I feel about Marseille? The Mediterranean city has been a crossroads of immigration and trade since its founding by the Phoenicians in 600 B.C.E. This alone means I feel affection for it, but there are many more reasons.