To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries. — Aldous Huxley
Once, in a conversation with my then ten-year-old granddaughter, I mentioned going to Paris.
“I would never want to go there,” she said. “It’s all pink and poodly.” And she, not being the girly-girl, pink and poodly type, had decided that Paris was not for her. Well, maybe it’s not, but I’m guessing that as she gets older she may discover that Paris, in spite of what she’s read in those Fancy Nancy picture books, is just the place for her to visit.
We all have formed impressions of places around the globe. Some of our images may be dead-on, other may be stereotypes. It wasn’t long ago that when one claimed to be from Chicago, the non-Chicagoans would mention Al Capone, not exactly our most beloved citizen. Then, it was Michael Jordan, certainly a step up from Capone. Sadly, today our image focuses on the violence. None of these snapshots show all of what Chicago is — a world-class city with a beautiful lakefront, surrounded by diverse and thriving neighborhoods. Then there’s my hometown of Naperville, called “kid-friendly” and “snobbiest” — depending on whose Top Ten list you read. We can’t sum up Naperville or Chicago — or any other place — in a word or two.
Recently a friend asked a group of us, “Where have you not gone that others have raved about, but where you have little interest in visiting?” A good question, isn’t it?
One spot that pops into my head is Las Vegas. Sure, I wouldn’t pass up a free trip there, but if I never see the fabled glitzfest, I’m okay with that. For one thing, I don’t like to gamble. Throwing my money away on slots or blackjack makes me uncomfortable, even though I can happily toss down cash for dinners out or new clothes. Also, I’d get anxious seeing others squander their money. I’d be tempted to head to the tables and scold people about frittering away cash needed for mortgage payments and groceries.
Now, some of the shows in Vegas would be fun to see, but I could go to shows right here in Chicago, too. Dining out? Don’t need Vegas for that, either. As far as the spectacle of the hotels and the strip, all the razzle-dazzle sounds like fun. But a gondola through the Venetian? The Italian ambiance of the Bellagio? and the Eiffel Tower of Paris? I’ve been to the real deal, and all of this fakey-fake stuff sounds silly.
Las Vegas fans are sure to find my comments ridiculous. She doesn’t get it, they’d say. Yeah, I know. I don’t get it. Still, I’ll probably never know about the stuff that happens in Vegas that’s going to stay in Vegas.