Order Me a Vacation

by Liz Caskey on July 26, 2011

Here I am sitting, indecisive, paralyzed. How can something as fun as planning a vacation be so difficult? How the heck did my calendar get blocked for the next year already? You would think that since we’re in the business of planning other people’s vacations, it would be a whiz when it came to our own. Nope. Please, somebody tell me where to start, how do I decide on the destination? I am in literally in front of a buffet of options of all the travel experiences I could choose to have, places to go, and most importantly, foods to savor. Yes, I pick destinations based on the appeal of the cuisine (and wine, sometimes) and I want to experience it all. I am starting to have a meltdown. This should be a fun process, when I am turning it into something else? Ya’po Liz.  Córtala. It’s simpler than this.

I make myself a list of dream destinations where I have not yet been. I close my eyes and let those images appear in my mind. I decide to let myself dream a little, travel without flying. I imagine how those worlds might be. I start to think of the ethnic food I adore and what those places would be like. What are the faces of the people, the smells, the sensations, what does curry taste like in India?? Now it’s getting fun. I go through  those dishes and flavors mentally, one by one. Turkey, Vietnam, Thailand, India(Kerala, Goa, Kashmir, Mogul cuisine), Morocco, China, Lebanon, Persia, Spain, France (everywhere!), Italy (Tuscany, Rome, Puglia), Greece, Mexico, Peru, Malaysia, Japan, Seattle. The list keeps going. All provoke an instant sense of longing and desire. Not just to have those flavors in my mouth but to understand where they come from and the history, people, culture, influences, land, behind them. Food is just the vehicle to experiencing those places. It’s a fire that burns inside of me, an insatiable curiosity of how what people eat is so intrinsically tied to how to the local culture—yet, we all eat. We all share that basic human need.  My gastronomic cultural thirst is growing and I want to expand my travel horizons off the “American” continent.

I keep drilling down and my inclination is pretty obvious. I keep lingering, in particular, with visions of “Arabian Nights” in my head. I imagine myself wandering in the souks off of Djemaa en Fna, in Marrakesh. I imagine sitting under palms in a desert oasis that could be Syria savoring Mezze. I imagine hot mint tea and sweet arab treats on a balmy afternoon on the coast of Tunisia. I wonder how it is to walk in the bazaars of Istanbul smelling yeasty bread, mounds of spices, lamb grilling somwhere, perhaps something sweet from tea, the call to prayer in the distance like a radio station. Ayyy, . That’s where I am headed. I want to know these places of Islamic culture, the cradle of civilization. How many years have I been eating in these immigrant versions in the US, Brazil, England, but never in the place of origin. There’s already a connection established to the country by its food. It’s familiar, sort of. But now I am anxious to go in person. Go deeper. I want to dive into that foreign, unknown sea. I want to bathe in everything foreign from the language to local ingredients, new textures, flavors, smells, sensations, learn to navigate again. Everything new.  I want to be willing to try, confront, and learn.

Aja! So there it is. My natural measure for choosing our vacation spots is usually by the local cuisine and my personal interest in it. I see I am stressing about nothing. I have the rest of my life to visit all these places, as slow or fast as I want. If it’s already my day-by-day way of conceiving, understanding, and connecting with life in Chile, and what we share with our clients who travel here in South America, obviously it’s going to be my own “bridge” to comprehending other cultures on my own vacation. C-O-M-E-R. E-A-T. It’s basic to our survival yet one of the most pleasurable experiences we can have. It is a universal language. Some people take more interest in it than others, but we all speak it.

I am seeing the light, finally. Vacation is a huge opportunity for me to disconnect from what’s normal and get reinspired through cooking and cuisine. Get out of my security zone. Go on an adventure. Throw myself fullheartedly into what’s not usual for me. I want to go far, far away. I want to hear dialects I don’t understand. I want to smell new aromas that tickle my senses. I want, with all this, moments of relaxation, luxury, and some regaloneo, affectionate time, with my husband. I know know where now. It was so easy. I will start with number one on my list. Turkey. And I think we’ll start in Istanbul.

So how do you guys decide to go on vacation? Any tips to share for your process?

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