From The Publisher

August 21, 2017 Edition

Oh Lordy, Lordy, Lordy  what have I done? I am in hour seven of a return flight from Europe, and I'm starting to lose my mind. There’s only so much I can read at one sitting, and I forgot to load a couple of movies on my tablet Last night. I also forgot to take my anti jet lag pills I sent away for. Saw them in the back of a magazine. Guaranteed to work, the ad said. But expecting them to work while they're in the cargo hold might be a bit too much to hope for. I get terrible jet lag lasting about a week, during which time I feel like I've been unfairly visited by a terrible hangover.

I’m pretty sure that each year this trip takes longer, possibly due to continental drift. How can this be right: Three hours Amsterdam to Iceland, then this eight hour slog to Pittsburgh and after that four more hours to Phoenix, then a final one-hour push into Palm Springs. This is insane self injury. And in an era when the world is getting smaller?

 In Copenhagen the taxi driver took us the long way from the train station to our hotel just to jack up the fare, could Delta be doing the same thing? Or maybe their plane is old and slow. I'm pretty sure not every plane goes the same speed. Next year I will check speed before making my airline selection. Nope. No next year, I’m done, I’ve seen enough of the world.

There were crowds everywhere, even in Estonia for crying out loud. Who goes to Estonia? Turns out way too many people besides us.

Since I didn’t take my pills, and I didn’t download movies, obviously I left Amsterdam in a bit of a disorganized state. Enough said there.

My takeaway from my month of playing tourist is rather interesting to me, (and I hope to you), and has altered my way of looking at our precious tourists in Cabo.

First, we need to help them more. Instead of getting irritated as I walk through the malecon clogged with cruise ship people, I need to be more helpful. I do often offer to help obviously lost tourists, but I need to step up my game, as do all of us.

But my most important takeaway reinforces something I’ve felt for a long time: How much knowledge of Mexico, and in particular, Baja, do these folks leave with? (Whether or not they even care is too painful for me to even get into here.)

I was in Russia, and I don’t speak Russian. I don’t speak Estonian either. But it was more than just not speaking the language, it was not being able to read the local papers to understand what their concerns are. The local papers are a great reflection of what’s going on around us, but we were oblivious to that, not because I don’t care, but because I didn’t have a way of learning.

I have often said coming to Baja without speaking the language is like watching television with the sound turned off. You see, but you don’t understand. Well, I saw lots of Europe, but I understand nothing new. I saw buildings, which I can see in books. I saw highways, parks, farmland, all things I can see in picture books. I do not understand anything more than before I left.

I did make friends with a Muslim man from Saudi Arabia, and I did have dinner with a Russian family in their apartment in St Petersburgh, and those were tremendous learning experiences, the highlight of the entire month, which only served to emphasize how little else I learned. 

So, my takeaway from this hugely arduous, hugely expensive trip is either I’m doing the entire travel thing wrong, or travel is not even the way to learn about other peoples’ lives, their culture, or anything about them.

So, here’s my plan. (Remembering that at this point I’m not feeling the fun of this grinding flight, and I am trying to peck this out on a silly little tablet.)

Stop traveling. Stop with the annual trips to Europe. Instead, read travelogues and watch the travel channel on TV. And when I do travel, just do what our very smart and precious Baja tourists do: Simply go to the beach all day and drink the night away. Don’t look at the trip as a learning experience at all, don’t be so damn earnest. Let the mind turn off.  I can do that, and I don’t have to go half way around the world to do it.

Just remember, I’m saying this under extreme squish on this plane and I reserve the right to change my mind when I am more comfortable.