"But, are they organic?"
When I go somewhere, I like to linger for over a week in the same area – as opposed to globe-trotting – because experience has taught me it takes a good while to get one’s bearings. The first week in a new location is what I call the “expensive week”, because you end up spending a lot of money before you learn how to do things like a local. It’s important to plan ahead and be aware of this: no impulse buying for the first week, and remain flexible for meal planning and lounging locations; most importantly of all, ask as many locals in whatever location you are for where they go, what they eat, what they like; it never fails that, without emphasizing your interest in their preferences, you are going to be led to the same few tourist traps all outsiders are, and they'll be an expensive shadow of the real thing.
Here’s some red-flag words: plush, decadent, local-style, distilled, anything served on ‘skewers’. These are buzz-words that may alert you to the fact that you have been caught in a tourist trap. DON’T PANIC! If it’s too late to leave, just keep ordering down to a minimum (you can always eat again afterwards) and for the love of God, don’t buy anything you can wear (especially if the price tag looks ‘home-made’), or purchase anything you can clean/perfume your body with (beware of soap bars cut into irregular shapes!), or condiments that come in a tiny jar, i.e., raw honey with truffle, jasmine sugar pearls, or virgin priestess eyelashes candied in unicorn mustard.
Call me crazy, but unless there’s something vaguely suspicious about local sellers, I don’t buy. Yes, you read that right. If it’s jarred food, I need to think there’s a good chance it was prepared in a kitchen that isn’t up to code. Trinkets, crafts, homemade souvenirs – these should be sold by the person who made them, or their disinterested offspring, and if the maker describes them, they should do so in emotional terms, not technical terms:
“See how this one makes a face like he’s eaten something sour? I love that!” is good.
“It’s constructed with 10 inch wire, so it’s stable. And it’s secured with these brackets here,” can often be translated as, “I didn’t make these, I took them of out a box shipped from Korea.” What’s wrong with that, you may ask. Well, it means that you yourself could order it from Korea, eliminate the middle-man at a savings to you, and use that savings to support true, local crafts and food. Just saying.
Gee whiz… I didn’t intend this entry to be so preachy. I just love traveling – pretty much more than anything else I could be doing – and I get uppity and enthusiastic about it. Admittedly, I’m frustrated by people who are sheepish travelers, wary of trying out new and alien things. It’s not like I go diving off high sea cliffs into fire pits because “that’s what locals do”, but there’s a generous middle-ground between extreme sports and limiting your activities to whatever is offered on folding tables within a 30 yard radius of your hotel’s swimming pool. Getting your face painted is not an activity. It’s a desperate way to get a ten minute break from having to monitor your hyper-with-sugar child. Take the family hiking! Yes, your children will complain, they may even cry and sulk, but when they look back on their childhood, they will recall the view from the mountain with nostalgia, while the cheek-painting of the Pegasus with glittery pachydermatocele will be long-forgotten.
The boyfriend and I woke up on day 3 with excitement. Okay well, after coffee there was excitement - we’d scheduled snorkeling! After a small breakfast of smoked salmon and Japanese pickles (my new favorite Hawaiian breakfast option), we collected our gear and trekked toward our reefy destination, singing ocean-related songs on the way…
Having arrived at our destination, we inhaled salty air deeply, gazed with wonder at the vast expanse of turquoise-blue water blending into the horizon of clearest sky, and started dealing with my bad, bad attitude. I hate putting on sunscreen. It’s really the torturyiest* thing. The boyfriend has to talk me through it like I’m a three year old child getting a booster shot, all whining, crocodile tears and tantrums. I hate lollipops, so he has to bribe me with… well… let’s keep this work-safe and move on. I think the only thing I hate more than putting on sunscreen is getting sunburned, so it works out.
After submitting to slathering the dreaded goop o’er my pale, protesting flesh, we strapped ourselves into the gear and waddled toward the water, looking like ducks on peyote.
The snorkeling was lackluster, with more tourists to spot than marine life. I’m pretty spoiled, and it takes more than a handful of yellow tangs and a lone humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa to satisfy me. Disappointed, but not dispirited, we returned to our hotel. The boyfriend made base-camp at a cabana on the beach where he could sunbathe and read about the horrors of World War II in comfort, while I took over our room, plunged the air conditioning down to a cozy, sub-zero temperature and blasted my music…
All in all, not a very eventful day, but totally satisfying. And for those of you who think my locking myself in air-conditioning is hypocritical after I spoke out against “sheepish travelers”, you should know I have never lived in a house with air conditioning; it remains the most exciting feature to me. So there.
*Not actually a word, but definitely a feeling!