He studied the French tapes. He bought the French software. He even took the French immersion course. Jules Older was ready for Paris. He would sound just like Maurice Chevalier and leave the French with a better impression of Americans. He would be the Pretty American.
by Jules Older
OK, here it is — my dark secret.
No, first, let’s set the scene. I’m a professional traveler. I make a substantial part of my unsubstantial living by traveling the globe and writing about it. I should be good at travel.
I am… when I travel with my wife. We serenely swan into Portland or Ponce or Pittsburgh, where we observe, write, photograph, and leave. People say, “My, what a competent couple.”
Couple. That’s the key word here.
On a ski trip to Italy, when I drove on to Cortina, my right ski boot stayed behind in Val Gardena. Care to guess how much it costs to ship one ski boot across the Dolomites?
On recent trips, I’ve left my swimsuit in Miami, car keys in Montreal, camera in… I never did find where I left that camera.
by Elyn Aviva
Unwittingly, my husband, Gary, and I walked into an alternative virtual reality. We were surrounded by aliens who looked human. Aliens who spoke a language that sounded like English, but their vocabulary was subtly different. Words like “ROI,” “SEO,” and “hashtags” peppered their speech.
And they communicated with odd body language. Although they seemed to be talking to each other, they rarely made eye contact. Instead, they stared intently at small, vibrating, hand-held devices with brightly lit screens. And they kept tapping these strange pieces of equipment, sometimes with one finger, sometimes with several, or sometimes with their opposable thumbs. Occasionally, their eyes flicked up from the screen to glance around. But only for a moment.
Into what strange world had we wandered? An international travel bloggers conference in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. It sounded appealing in the invitational email: inexpensive, educational, entertaining—and it included a visit to a castle. AND it was taking place in my adopted home town of Girona, so why not?
In this alternative universe, everything was baffling, including the meaning of words I thought I knew. “Relevant” meant “meeting your fans where they’re at” and “content” meant maximizing your Google indexability (the number of searchable key words in your website or blog). “Service” writing” meant providing information and the rush to publish meant some bloggers are posting not weekly but daily or even hourly. A popular book author was called a “long-form print guy.” “Engagement” referred to how actively engaged your Facebook (or blogsite) fan base is, not to a diamond ring.
It was a given that I would be the only male in the weekly belly dancing class that I took off and on for years. Being a gay man, you would think that I would be put off by the incredible lack of testosterone. It actually was a blessing because I didn’t have the distraction of watching gorgeous men moving their muscular bodies. Therefore, I paid closer attention to the instructor and learned how to do the many tribal movements with grace and ease. Who knew that eventually I would get the chance to wiggle my hips in a far away, exotic land.
Thailand is renowned for having some of the world’s best prostitutes.
It also has some of the scariest.
My first order of business upon arriving in Bangkok was an early morning trek to the Damnernsaduak Floating Market, a 90 minute drive south of town in light traffic, and one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever been.
The Damnernsaduak Floating Market is a series of canals lined by rickety wooden stalls selling all manner of goods, from tacky tourist items to local art and sculptures. You can purchase exotic spices and oils, native clothing, a vast array of fresh fruits, and even play with snakes.
When you arrive at Damnernsaduak you hire one of the long-tailed wooden boats to guide you through the markets. A 2-hour tour is around 300 Bhat (about $9), and the boatman will just float along past shops til one peaks your interest and you ask him to pull up alongside. There are also numerous merchants in other boats selling fresh fruits, meats, or cool drinks. They’ll pull up beside your boat to pour you hot tea, show off their fruits, or describe (always in a language I don’t understand) what their meat on the stick is and why you must buy it.
In the middle of the market is a non-descript shack that at first glance appears to be selling nothing. There are a couple of guys lounging in chairs enjoying a smoke. Upon closer inspection you discover that the men are draped in huge snakes, and are all too eager to show them off to interested tourists.
I can’t resist bad decisions like this, so of course I stopped.
I tell lies when I travel. My mother would call them “little white lies” and I only tell them to spare the feelings of others.
Oh, alright. That wasn’t exactly honest. I tell lies when I travel in order to spare myself the piteous looks I receive when I tell the truth. A woman traveling alone is not as rare as it once was but, depending on where she goes, there is still a curiosity factor. The farther afield she wanders, the more curious the local folks will be.
“Where is your husband?” That is the first question.
Now, I never mind admitting that I am single – I am an optimist and the inquirer just might have some terrific friend I could meet. Of course, if I answer truthfully and admit to two divorces I could appear to be a poor risk. So I hang my head, and in a tragic voice, I whisper, “Gone.”
Which is not a lie, not really. They are all gone, those husbands.
words + photos by Ellen Barone
It was a few days into my first African safari when I learned the Fourth Rule of Safari Travel: When you think you’ve spotted a lion, casually ask the guide “What’s that?” rather than blurt out “There's a lion!” because 9 times out of 10 the ‘lion’ will be a termite mound.
Later on, I’d learn other rules: No. 7, If you’re squeamish about eating flesh avoid restaurants with the word Carnivore in their title; No. 13, Never run out of the safari tent, half naked, screaming “there’s a creature in my bed” before you’ve determined it isn’t a hot water bottle put there by the room steward to take the chill off a high-altitude night; and No. 17, Avoid standing up suddenly in an open-top Land Rover with a metal roll-bar above your head.
Photo Slide Show by Ellen Barone
It was from the deck of a luxurious tent (complete with a carved mahogany four-poster bed) amid the amusing snorts and bellows of cavorting hippos in the river below that I first realized I was becoming immensely qualified to draft a new book proposal: The Idiot’s Guide to Safari (or should it be Safari for Dummies?)
Safari rule No. 8, A power outage is more than an annoying inconvenience when all that separates you and a river full of 5,000-pound hippos is an electric fence. (*Note, the Hippopotamus kills more people in Africa then all the other animals combined.)
by Jess Smith
Dear friends allow me to invite you on another Gypsy memory from my years traveling the country roads and glens of bonny Scotland in a blue single decked bus. I was the tender age of seven.
Spring with its bouncing lambs, yellowed valleys of blooming gorse bush and bluebell woods had given way to a warm sun kissed summer. Early spring rains had brought the fruit fields a mighty yield of raspberries as big as a man’s fist. The farmer on seeing his annual droves of Gypsies arrive at his family friendly campsite was rubbing his hands with glee.
My family of seven sisters, parents and our snappy terrier dog crowded down at the bottom of the field, signalling dad to reverse our bus home onto a nice flat piece of ground which was south-facing and secluded by a hedge of mayflower to meet a rising sun. I ran around laying marker sticks for our relatives who would soon join us. Aunt Maggie and Uncle Joe along with little Ed and his big brother Joey were the first to arrive. I swear to you, Joey was an all time excuse for a human being and I hated the ground he walked on. I had good reason to feel this way because he took a sadistic delight in torturing defenceless creatures like mice, birds and insects where as I gave them all the protection I could.
By late afternoon, Aunt Josephine and Uncle Sandy with their three kids arrived, followed by Aunt Jenny, uncle Toby and their brood of ten who erected a circus tent to accommodate them all for the duration of our fruit picking holiday. By sunset we were a big happy bunch of gypsy people circling a blazing campfire, sharing stories, singing songs and enjoying our cultural ties.
To complete the characters who make up this memory I must now introduce old bible Nell; the most formidable lady in the entire campsite. To the Gypsy people, Nell was a Priestess of high esteem. She wrote the rules on how everyone should behave and co-exist as gypsies. No drinking alcohol on the campsite, no flirting with another man’s wife or another woman’s husband. Dogs should not be allowed to run amok and babies should never be set out in the sun without a hat. Every child who didn’t want a slap from her bony hand or nurse a swollen backside after being caught by a flying wallop from her one-legged crutch stayed well away from her tent. Out of earshot, youngsters would call her a witch, older people with no respect said she was Lucifer reborn.
I was reunited with you today. I thought about you several times during the winter. When snow covered the ground and the winds blew cold through the bare trees, I hungered for your warming power. Your grass green eyes finally opened wide today as you welcomed me back to your loving arms. Sure, your tongue was razor sharp, your hands were bright yellow, and you smelled of grass and oil, but to me, you were perfect. You transported me to a place where all sounds were drowned out by the aura of your manly roar. Cell phones were unable to disturb the deep meditation that riding around on your back delivered to me. Oh, a car horn honking occasionally might have disturbed my deep thoughts when I weaved onto the road, but otherwise, it was a time to be alone with you, my deere John.
by Judith Fein
If you are one of those lucky people whose family gets along superbly, who looks forward to flying or driving to visit family on holidays or special occasions, who can’t wait until the family gets together again, who slid out of the birth canal into a functional family, then stop reading--this article is definitely not for you.
If, on the other hand, you start popping Valium, drinking vodka or meditating obsessively two weeks before you have to go home (or wherever your family convenes), then, by all means, read on.
Let’s face it, there are only two ways to think about family. Either you are born into one as an accident of fate (God’s divine sense of humor), or you mystically “chose” the family you were to plop into so that you could learn spiritual lessons. There may actually be a third possibility—that you are paying back some awful karma for unspeakable acts committed in a prior lifetime.
Whatever the case, you have been exposed to some or all of the events below when you grew up with or visited your family as an adult.
1) Screaming that could revive the dead and make them long for the peace of the grave
2) Heart-rending sobbing that would cause Caligula to weep
3) Spouses or significant others who stare into their dinner plates to avoid getting sucked into the black hole of rehashed drama
by Jules Older
Welcome to Las Vegas! Have a great time… and while you're here, we hope you'll take advantage of the unique services offered by AAES of Las Vegas.
As you stroll along the Strip or even through the casino of your Las Vegas hotel, you are sure to see one sight again and again and again. What is it? It’s the sight of a young — perhaps very young — lady on the arm of a gentleman of a certain age — perhaps your age.
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