What Travel brochures really mean

Bengal Tiger
The Patient Arrowhead.

For my journal,  I cut out the brochure or travel planner photos and descriptions of what I will encounter. And since it never matches my experience,  I have learned to embrace the difference.  With a little practice and a lot of writing, you will too.

From the tour company’s description of our Indian safari: …  we regroup for a second safari expedition. Though it is rare, we may see the Royal Bengal tiger, usually sleeping by day in the tall grass. A recent census showed 26 tigers in the reserve. We also see lakes that hold crocodiles and a wide variety of water birds in season.

The cautious marketing language is in boldface.

Here is what we did see: a Royal Bengal tiger.  Her name is Arrowhead.   She posed just long enough for photos, then casually wandered around the preserve just enough out of reach that our drivers had an excuse to whoop and holler and recklessly hurl the tourist-filled jeeps over potholes the size of VWs.   Not exactly a hushed moment in nature.  But it is probably better to view even an indifferent tiger from the relative safety of a crowded jeep than to face the same tiger – no matter how calm – unprotected in the wild. (Many of the tourists were decidedly more snack sized than me but we weren’t testing that today.)

Pleased with the encounter, we photographed Arrowhead and happily posted her photo on Instagram, Facebook and eventually, the holiday newsletter.

Then, unlike any Facebook post you’ve ever seen, we turned the camera around.  Against the calm tiger, a dozen jeeps lined up to give a hundred tourists, all breathless, yet chattering, the chance to frame the lone animal. Not the private moment the first photo would have you believe.

What kinds of discrepancies have you encountered?  We are accustomed to being lied to by advertising, what about brochures and travel fantasies?



Truth in Travel

Have you ever stood with your back to the sea, held up the resort brochure and marveled at the difference?  The sea photographed for the brochure is turquoise, the sky, brilliant, almost surreal blue, the sand is blindingly white, the palms sway in an invisible breeze because you can’t PhotoShop the breeze.

The actual beach is strewn with trash, the sky is the color of lead and the only brilliantly colored feature in the whole scene are the yellow signs cautioning swimmers to mind the:  sharks, box jellyfish, or riptide.  Pick something.

It happens so often it’s a travel cliche.

No one photographs the disappointment, but you should journal about it.  It’s the first step to truth in travel and enables you to contrast what you expect with what you really saw.

Like the Sphinx starting across the parking lot at a KFC, journaling allows us to widen our view, and capture something of the truth.

The Livraria Lello, The Harry Potter Bookstore

Where do you want to go?  And what inspired you?  Instead of “just taking a trip”, you may be on a Pilgrimage

A pilgrimage isn’t just about the Canterbury Tales.  A Pilgrimage can be Livraria Lelloabout Elvis, or Royalty, most certainly about history. It is a category of travel originally bent on redemption, but now more about gaining a deeper understanding.   Your pilgrimage can  confirm the past, enhance current projects or inspire future research and reading.  Many people pilgrimage to sites of favorite books or authors. I know, I met a number of those pilgrims crammed into the Livraria Lello (Porto, Portugal),  famous as the purported inspiration for the Hogsworth Library.  It cost five euro to even visit the store and visitors lined up at the cash register clutching copies of Harry Potter books as if they were pieces of the True Cross. Pilgrimage in every sense of the term.