Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Who Took the Vacate out of Vacations?

I love to travel. There is something very exciting about going to a foreign country. You get to learn about different cultures, try new kinds of foods, and spend way too much time exploring gift shops filled with overpriced junk and unnecessary trinkets. Unlike a beach vacation, which emphasizes relaxation and drinking, traveling to a foreign city or country requires a desire to move outside the confines of your hotel. In fact, a trip to Paris or London might hardly be relaxing at all if you tried to cram everything you could in the time allotted.

Even so, I much prefer the rapid pace of this type of exploratory holiday over the slow-as-molasses atmosphere at a beach. Plus, on a beach I turn into a slovenly glutton after ten days, whereas on a touring vacation I lose ten pounds.

Last year I went to Italy and immersed myself in the history, architecture and classic art of this incredible country. It was a wonderful vacation, though there was hardly enough time to see and do everything. One of the highlights was getting off the train in Venice and walking onto the promenade for my first glimpse of this incredible city. It was truly a magical moment, like stepping into a living fairy tale.

This year, I wanted to visit Spain as a part of my annual sojourn to Europe. But after looking at the prices for airfare alone, I might have to rethink my plans. How the heck am I supposed to survive in Madrid for ten days, if the cost of getting there could send me to the poorhouse? The price for airfare alone is staggering. Unless I wanted to make more than one stop, with layovers of five to six hours between flights. On top of that, there’s the cost of the hotels, the meals, the attractions. And all the many souvenirs and momentos I’d have to purchase in order to remember the trip when I started getting old and senile. I could probably pay someone’s college tuition for a year on what it would cost to go. (Granted, it might only be tuition at a community college or night school, but still…)

When did traveling become so expensive? Even Canada, which used to be the best bargain vacation of all, has caught up in strength against the U.S. dollar. No longer able to take advantage of the two for one exchange rate, going to Canada is now as expensive as going to most cities in the U.S.

At this rate, the only vacation I may be able to take this year is a vacation from vacations. Who can afford anything else?

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