During a recent road trip, my daughter and I were talking (ok, lamenting) the fact that everywhere we went we saw the same thing. Literally, the same thing! Chain restaurants, chain hotels, chain stores – if you closed your eyes in Minnesota and opened them in Kentucky, you might not know you’d even left home. Except they have Waffle Houses in Kentucky, of course – approximately one every five miles!
When I travel, I appreciate a certain level of familiarity, I do! But I want to see something that tells me “you’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto”. I like to travel in the Southern states and find a Billy Bob’s Barbeque, or a Dixie Diner for Miss Mary’s pecan pie. I want to sleep in a Magnolia Inn or an Orange Blossom House.
The same holds true when I travel outside the country. I want to see and smell and taste the country I’m in. On a recent trip, I went to three islands in three days. I was so busy inspecting properties that I rushed from the airport to the resorts and back to the airport and on to the next island. When I got back, I realized that I could have been almost anywhere in the Caribbean at any of those islands. I hadn’t had the time to get the flavor and personality of any of them, hadn’t made a new friend or danced a new dance or tried a new rum drink, even!
I often stay at large resorts, ironically, but I make sure to get out and about. Sometimes, it’s good to go on the commercial tours. You can do fun things like horseback riding, or whale watching. But sometimes… venture off! Get the nice concierge to book you a bi-lingual driver for a day. Talk to Milford – he drives taxi’s . His family fishes for a living, he’s been to Miami on holidays, and he knows where to get the best jerk on the island. He can tell you the name of every plant you pass and what to do with it (he’s taking horticulture classes), and knows the roadside ladies who sell the strange fruit. Take him to lunch – you’ll get to go somewhere you never would have, otherwise, and he can tell you what the strange things are on the menu!
It’s great to plan ahead (with your travel agent of course!), so you know what there is to see and do where you’re going. And you can avoid the Burger Kings, and have some of Miss Mary’s pie!