A few days ago, I got back from a vacation to Southeast Asia (you can see all the photos I took on my Instagram, if you like). The trip home was long: 21 hours of flying or layover time, and since I can never sleep on planes, I had plenty of time to process the events of the previous ten days or so. Somewhere over Japan, I shifted to thinking about the other places I’d been (I’m not all that well-traveled, at least by the standards of my friend group in San Francisco; by my count, I’ve been to fifteen foreign countries, not counting Guantanamo Bay, Cuba or St. Croix, both of which are still technically the US, but counting various British overseas territories as individual countries), and which moments from all those trips stood out as the most memorable for me.
In a few hours, I will cross the Pacific Ocean for the first time, on my way to a two-week vacation in Southeast Asia.
I enjoy traveling, except for the part about being in between home and where I’m going: for me, getting there is never even close to half the fun. Anyway, J and I both prepare for travel by reading, of course, but we don’t read the same things. She, being sensible and logical, read the Fodor’s guide for Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand to get ready for this trip. I took a different path and read The Sympathizer. Last year, for our trip to Italy, she didn’t read anything because she’s been there so many times before. And while there were plenty of traditional travel guidebooks available to me, I read The Dark Heart of Italy instead. (I highly recommend both books, by the way.)
This way, she knows all the actual sights to see and places to go, and I feel like I have an understanding – or maybe the beginning of an understanding, since you can’t get much more than that from a book – of the place based on who its people are.
At least, that’s how it worked last year. We’ll see if it works that way this time. I’ll just read the Fodor’s guide when I can’t sleep on the plane, just in case.