Today is my start of the 2013 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise on the Seabourn Quest.
Late this afternoon I fly from Newark to Houston and then on to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This was originally to be a non-stop flight (long enough) but now it is a 15+ hour journey.
I always try to engage the culture where I travel as opposed to so many who seek to impose their needs or cultures upon the places they visit. (Ever been to a city without an Irish bar filled with Brits and Americans? Nope.) So as much I frustratingly enjoy the Italian response to the simplest of requests, “It is impossible!!!!”, I have found that with my planning for this trip the act of “planning” is an imposition when traveling in South America.
I mean I have planned how many trips for myself and my clients? How can planning a meaningful experience be so challenging? And then I realized I was being American rather than seeking to provide a South American experience. So while can be done, my impression is that the more culturally appropriate (and, hopefully, rewarding) way to visit this part of the world is to not really plan; but just have a few ideas and live for the day.
That said, as I previously commented, I tried to find something unique to do in Rio de Janeiro after we landed. There are only about four noted things to do…other than, apparently, always being concerned about being robbed...and they seem too touristic for me (and not the "tacky touristic" that you just have to do). So I am going to wing it. Fine dining or barbecue? Don’t know…oh, but I do love my barbecue.
My recent trip to Ensemble Travel Group's International Conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado opened my eyes to a number of things. While I will, obviously, be focusing on the Food & Wine Experience as well as the Seabourn Experience, I think I will spend a little more on what makes a person happy (you've seen that woman selling her linens with a simple life and a huge smile), what gives the traveler that inspirational rather than the “tick it off the list” moment. (This is really going to be interesting, with my head in one place and my food and wine experience in another! And just to make it more of a challenge, Seabourn has asked me to stay in and review the new Seabourn Penthouse Spa Suites on this cruise.)
At the Conference, Bruce Poon Tip, head of G Adventures, spoke at length about how we need to assure travel supports local communities and does not cause them to be lost. So rather than the people in the country leaving their villages to sell souvenirs to tourists, create more value for them by fostering them to stay in their village and create wonderful culturally relevant items (like beautiful native fabrics) for more money and sending them off to the tourist locations. This improves their lives while reinforcing, rather than destroying, their culture and village life. (He has a wonderful book I have a fascination with, Looptail. I won a copy and it is sitting on my kitchen counter waiting for me. I do have to finish The Philosopher Fish first…and I have 15+ hours of flight time ahead of me.)
While Rio, Montevideo and Buenos Aires are larger cities, I will also be visiting some smaller places. As I stroll the streets I will be observing. Not to worry, though. If there is a great churrascaria I am pretty sure I am going to stop in and linger for a bit.