The first time I rode a Vespa, I closed my eyes and winced around the curves. It was mid-October in Bermuda, the off season, yet still warm enough to swim. We spent every day touring the 20.6 sq. mile island, ducking into sandy foot paths, searching for hidden beaches. We buzzed past the tourist alcoves in St. George where the cruise ships dock, massive floating hotels absurdly proportioned against the small town. We swerve around on-coming motorists, also on Vespas and momentarily forget to drive on the left. “Watch out!” We’d slam on the brakes and laugh. The speed limit is 15 MPH on the entire island. It was a great vacation.
Deeper inland, we’d stop everyday at the grocery store, where toe headed children would follow us while their mother shopped. I would wave, smile. They would turn away, shy. We never even scratched the surface of the culture. We had ventured far enough outside of tourist path, where hundreds pour onto the island and plop themselves down on the first beach. But we were in search of the same things as every other tourist—to see, experience, and enjoy. Never to interact. Never to get involved.
In thinking about the places that I have travelled, it has always been the case. My yearly vacations have always been an equation in pleasure. 7 days minus travel time, times having fun, divided by budget. Over the years we’ve become efficient vacationers, knowing exactly how to cram the most into a tiny window of freedom doled out by our employers.
This summer, when we arrive in Spain, we won’t be vacationing. We have rented an apartment, will have our dogs with us, and will be working during the days. Instead of seven days, we will have three months to explore the city. I have a few contacts, and will be reaching and hopefully making friends. Instead of ripping through the scenic tour, we’ll be living in Spain. Buying toothpaste and toilet paper. Going to the same café every morning and knowing our servers name. Nodding hello (buenos dias) to our neighbors. Getting annoyed with the trash pickup or the crowds on Sundays at the mercado. In short, it will be travel unlike what we have done before. We will be adopting the city for a period instead of just visiting it. It will become our Madrid.
How would you approach travel differently based on how long you’ll be there?