A recent article in the British travel press saw a freelance writer taking her baby daughter along with her around the world. It’s an admirable move and incidentally gives the girl some amazing bragging rights when she grows up, but it made me wonder: could that baby, when an adult, really say she has experienced these countries if she only has photos, and no memories, to rely on?
Whilst the article was about the logistics of working parent duties rather than said bragging rights, it spurred me into thinking about the many different ways we measure ‘doing’ a country or a destination. Just Google ‘travel blog + country counting’ and you’ll see there are plenty of people out there with a tally to monitor. There’s even a prestigious Travelers’ Century Club (American spelling) for those who’ve reached the precious 100 milestone. So, for everyday adventurers not indicted into any club, what could potentially be considered as a valid tick from the list?
I’ve taken three bites of the Big Apple so far, and I’m eager to take a fourth chunk out of the city with yet another trip to New York. It’s the kind of place that doesn’t deserve to be ticked off a list only once; each time I’m there, I do totally different things, from hanging out at the UN Headquarters to appearing in the background on Good Morning America, and it feels like a new side to NYC is revealed. I also have some great insight from my sister Nancy, who lived in the city for a year and has been back a few times since.
My hotel in Boston had enough history to qualify as a tourist attraction in its own right. It was the birthplace of the Boston Cream Pie, had its own clubs for 19th century men-about-town, was Charles Dickens’ crash pad during his American lecture tour, and once had Malcolm X as a staff member. But what was it like to actually stay here? I visited with my family for a four night city break, looking to see the sights.
I shared a twin room with my sister and we were lucky enough to have huge beds, a flat-screen TV, dressing gowns and a seriously tempting snack selection on offer from the minibar. We settled down to watch a news piece about a jelly bean that looked a bit like Kate Middleton and were soon really chilled out, if a little bemused about the jelly bean.
There’s been a lot of travel press focus on Washington DC and Gettysburg recently, thanks to the Lincoln effect (two films – Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Lincoln – have recently been released), propelling American politics and the man with great taste in hats back into the travel spotlight. I started to think about the time I went to Gettysburg, during a sixth form college Politics trip to New York and Washington DC, which saw us stopping off at the famous battleground with absolutely no knowledge of its significance.
The more I travel, the more I become aware that it’s actually quite normal for tourists to visit graveyards, despite the fact that it jars with stereotypical Western attitudes to death (we tend to talk about the dead in hushed tones and use euphemisms such as ‘passed on’ and ‘no longer with us’, rather than confront the truth). Boston’s Granary Burial Ground is so embedded in the city’s Freedom Trail that it’s almost a travesty not to visit, so it’s the perfect place to test your tolerance for morbid thoughts. This is where I saw some very plain epitaphs for famous people and some very cool ones for the not-so-famous, amongst the estimated 5,000 bodies placed here.