Wednesday, November 28, 2007


One of the few bad things about the downfall of travel agencies in the US, it seems to me, is that travel has lost some of its mystery. Gone are the days of storefront longing, special travel agent favors, thick and official envelopes of red-carbon tickets, the days of returning home with a vacation like a car.... I suppose it's possible to get swept away into a daydream while comparing prices on the internet, but usually I'm stuck in the details, wondering if I've forgotten to search any web sites, if the uncertainty of bidding is worth the potential bargain, or if the price will go up if I wait another day.

Somehow, travel agencies are alive and well here in Europe (and I'm told still offer good deals). Thus, around every other corner or so, I'm faced with the temptation of flights and package deals, cruises and bus trips. It's actually perfect entertainment for someone who is pseudo-retired and in charge of trip planning. Sometimes I have to take a break when my imagination gets tired, or when I'm with the less-willing-to-linger-around-every-corner Swiss Mr., but I manage to spend a good deal of time peering into windows. Or else perusing the National Geographic-like travel magazines I've compulsively picked up, later at home.

The most interesting places to me are the dangerous ones (I never see any armed guards in the pictures but I know they're there!) or the forbidden ones, like Cuba and Tibet. I'm thinking maybe these savvy travel agents could arrange my trip to Bhutan, where tourism is controlled by the state government. (They charge a per diem fee, part of which goes toward the education system and your specially assigned, mandatory tour guide.) But I bet even they could not get me into North Korea. Although the DPRK web site makes it seem like anyone is welcome to come, if you read closely, you will see that only about 20 people per year are allowed to visit.

1 comment:

oijoy photo - THE BLOG said...

mailed you a package yesterday. turns out the post office doesn't send packages by boat anymore. $40 later your package was on it's way to Switzerland + the ticket I got while I was in the post office...merry christmas - bah humbug.