“I love to travel; hate being away from home.”
It was some time ago. Three of us kids jammed in the backseat of the baby blue metallic Chrysler land yacht, on our way to see family in Ontario, driving. It was the Windsor model, with medium blue brocade cloth seats and vinyl trim. We were enroute to the big city – Toronto, and points beyond. We would visit Grandpa and Aunt Rhoda in Hamilton, Uncle Molson on his island.
Memories of trips taken swirl in my head.
Seeing my Starwood preferred guest nights summary this week was a bit of a shock: 302 room nights since joining. The scarier thing is that Starwood is one of five chains I regularly stay at, plus a few no-name one-off hotels that do a great job of the basics. It reminds me I travel – a lot. I meet new people every day, eat different and sometimes exciting food, and get to see spots lots of Canada, many Canadians just dream of, even if some are nightmarish.
I started traveling for two reasons: to leave my self behind; and, find myself somewhere else. I was surprised and somewhat disappointed to find that I came along when I travel. There is no escaping who I am. It seems silly to tell you I was surprised to find me there in Sydney Australia, then Christchurch, New Zealand, and the a again in the Fiji islands. I came to accept that I came along on these trips. This is a ridiculously simple, yet profound concept. And I found that the more I learned about others, the more I learned about my self. Yes, I do discover myself while traveling. It is a wonderful discovery.
I travel because my senses are heightened. The food, smells, visual and aural inputs are all different, exciting, educational and interesting.
That first trip to Ontario as a kid, I spent my hard earned pocket money on Schneider’s summer sausage, smoked and dried in a cotton muslin bag. Back then you purchased the whole thing right in the bag. I had a full size red Swiss army jackknife in my pocket for such an occasion. That sausage was a highlight of the trip. I still recall peeling the muslin back, cutting a nice slab of sausage off with my knife, wiping it clean on the thigh of my jeans. Food is still a highlight of travel for me.
My uncle and aunt owned and operated a hotel In Muskoka where the whole family vacationed every year for several years in a row. My experience there as a kid is part of why I love food so much today. This was the kind of hotel where the meals were included. It was all-inclusive before that phrase became popular. You dressed for dinner. You can imagine my age 10 brush cut head squished into a shirt and tie, complete with summer jacket for formal dining. Breakfast was made to order, and casual dress. I was completely astounded to learn you ordered whatever you want and got it: eggs, pea meal bacon, pancakes, sausages, fruit you name it and the long pony-tailed gold uniformed beauties delivered it to your table, with a smile.
Lunch was less formal, buffet style. It was often a chilled roast turkey, salads, and selection of cold meats and cheese. Lunch came with soup. The choice was extravagant, the wait non-existent. Both appealed to me.
Dinner was formal, ties for the gentlemen, evening wear for ladies. Dinner called for best manners, and impeccable service. This was a fixed menu arrangement where you chose from a selection of red meat, roast or grilled, poultry, and fish. Meals were served on good china and sterling silver. It’s where I learned to pull my Mom’s chair out before she sat down, and that a knife and fork placed at 10 and 4 o’clock on the top right third of your plate meant we were ready to roll for pie. Desserts were pretty much whatever you wanted. I discovered crème d’menthe syrup on rich vanilla ice cream suited me well, and I alternated between that and apple pie for my after dinner excursion.
I learned where to place a napkin, patience for the host of the table to dig in before you did, and that food is an adventure on its own.
Yes, there are beautiful things to see, interesting people to meet, and fun things to do, but the real excitement for me is the food: fresh grilled chicken and hot soft tortillas in Mexico; pots of steaming curried octopus in Fiji; roast lamb shanks at the pub in London; fresh fish and chips at the Halifax Harbour; Huli-Huli chicken and sticky rice on Maui; Chinese BBQ duck in any Chinatown.
All this started with a road trip in that big Chrysler, three of us stuffed in the back seat, primed for adventure.
The adventure continues.