Travel inspiration can come from many sourcesWritten by Roger Holliday Claudia Fischer | | email@example.com
The start of the summer holiday season feels like the perfect time to talk about destinations and how to pick them.
It’s not a subject to be taken lightly. A vacation, at anytime, can be a costly affair, especially if it involves crossing an ocean. Picking a vacation destination is rarely an impulse buy.
You don’t simply leap out of bed one morning and say, “Pack your bags, we’re off to Zanzibar!” just because a late-night classic movie starring Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour was on cable last night, or you’re working your way through the alphabet and finally made it to “Z.”
Last time we looked, it takes three plane rides to get to Zanzibar, costs a minimum of $2,100 round trip per person and there’ll be all kinds of pesky road blocks in your way, like visas and such. Zanzibar is part of Tanzania … and you know who’s in charge there.
Other destinations arrive ready-wrapped, like when a relative e-mails you to say their restored Tuscan farmhouse is ready to receive visitors; they have a bunch of leftover frequent flier miles you can use; their chauffeur, Fabio, will pick you up at the airport in the Porsche, and there’ll be martinis on the terrace at 6 p.m.
Or maybe you’re on the genealogical trail of some family scion and discover a couple of Scottish castles and a baronetcy that you’ll likely inherit. Now those are probably trips worth pursuing as well … regardless of price.
Sadly, most story lines don’t go that way. Not for us, anyway.
Our destination selection usually begins with something small. A random thought. A memory.
Maybe it’s something heard on the radio or seen on PBS like the recent documentary about eagles on the Hebridean Island of Mull. (We’re going!)
Or perhaps it’s a song … or a singer … who shuffles through our iPod while hiking the trails of Ohio and Michigan like WWII British Forces sweetheart Vera Lynn, singing “The White Cliffs of Dover,” French ‘60s pop idol Francoise Hardy, trilling about Paris, John Williamson or Slim Dusty doing something achingly Australian or Paul Simon in his African period.
But most often, because we’re rabid readers and part-time scribblers, our motivation and inspiration will come from the written word. From magazine articles, newspaper features or books.
It was, after all, James Herriot’s veterinary tales in “All Creatures Great and Small” that first got us exploring the Yorkshire Dales and ultimately a meeting with the man himself for a few minutes in his Thirsk surgery before he went off to do something unspeakable to a cow.
A lovely memoir by a one-time Vogue editor Mary Roblee Henry called “A Farmhouse in Provence” inspired us so profoundly that we tracked down their house in Seguret during a driving tour of southern France and ended up cooling off in their pool and sampling the home-made wines.
It’s Donna Leon’s detective novels set in Venice that keep us going back to literally walk in the footsteps of her hero, Guido Brunetti … and it was an article in Smithsonian Magazine that prompted a hike of 200 miles across Britain on the Coast to Coast Trail, not once, but twice.
And now, we’ve just read a short piece in the current issue of Gourmet Magazine — always a good source of travel information and inspiration — about the Isle au Haut, a pinprick of an island off the Maine Coast, and about a chocolatier who has set up shop there.
It reminded us of another truly touching story about this self-same island titled “Lobster Chronicles” by fishing boat captain Linda Greenlaw.
The setting, her poignant story of family life and the whole lobster thing made us want to go there right away. And someday we probably will. But in the meantime, we recommend it as a great summer read, especially if you happen to like the sea, fishing, lobsters and islands beginning with “A.”
Finally, a little something to smile about for anyone not taking a holiday this year, from Liane Hansen on NPR’s “Weekend Edition” (who attributed it to Real Simple magazine):
“What do you wish people having a “staycation”?
E-mail Roger Holliday and Claudia Fischer at firstname.lastname@example.org.