Do you remember the Anne Tyler book, "An Accidental Tourist"? It centers around a man whose career as a writer has become the single-minded pursuit of the most familiar, least challenging travel experiences for his readers. I believe the logo used for his series of travel guides was an armchair with wings.
I've often lamented how strip malls and retail chains have taken away a sense of place and individuality to local communities. When I go on vacation my desire is to find the things about a place which are interesting, off-beat, true examples of the locale. It's disappointing to arrive many miles away from home to discover the same Bob Evans, the same McDonalds, the same Five Below and Payless.
The sameness. The sterile, unrelenting sameness. What have we become as a nation? The home for one franchise after another, from sea to shining sea.
This week I'm in Alexandria for four days of intensive education training and I'm staying at a hotel about five minutes away from the workshop site. I'm a woman traveling alone for business. That's not a big deal these days but it is for me. I've never done it before.
Oh, how grateful I am for Mapquest on my phone. And what a comfort it is to easily find a Panera or a Walgreen's in a place I've never been to before. Hmm...
To be honest, I was actually a little excited that the Walgreen's here had an almost identical layout to the one at home. I could easily find what I was looking for. And they accepted my discount card, too. I'm encountering so many new things all at once this week and the ease of negotiating the familiar is a relief.
Now I get it.
Maybe when I'm on vacation I'm interested in the joy of discovery. But right now, as a "business traveler" I'm happy enough to rely on the familiar.
Travel can be educational.
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