liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
[personal profile] liv
I am really enjoying this daily prompt meme, and one of the reasons is because [personal profile] ephemera has come up with several really excellently thinky prompts. This is particularly great because [personal profile] ephemera's DW schedule is just enough out of synch with mine that I quite often don't get to her comments, but the longer time scale of putting up a post soliciting prompts a couple of weeks ahead of filling them has worked really well. Anyway, one of [personal profile] ephemera's excellent suggestions was: you have a month of leave and an unlimited travel budget - where do you go?

I have done a fair bit of thinking about how I would answer this prompt and I think learned something about myself in the process. The thing is, my immediate response was that if I had a month and an unlimited budget, I wouldn't use it for travel, I'd use it to get all my friends into one place. So I suppose I could deliberately follow the letter of the suggestion but not the spirit, and pick a place that would be cool for having a gathering of all my friends. And then I could use the hypothetical money to pay for all my friends to come out there. That still leaves me to decide where would constitute a cool place for such a gathering, of course!

This is not a completely random notion; in real life, when I got married I put the budget people would traditionally spend on a honeymoon once-in-a-lifetime trip to an exotic location into hiring a big old house in a pretty part of central England and invited my dearest friends to come and stay with me. But a month of that would probably be too much, even in much more luxurious accommodation. I might try to stagger it, dividing my friends into sub-groups who get on well with eachother and having a week or so with each smaller group. If I did that, though, I'd find myself torn between actually visiting whatever interesting place I selected, and just spending time with my people, and it would probably defeat the point of travelling.

A month isn't really enough to do a round-the-world tour; I wouldn't see anywhere properly and I think I'd pretty quickly get fed up with travelling and not really get anything out of even brief visits to the obvious tourist spots. So I can't wriggle out of the prompt by saying that I'd use the money to go everywhere and not have to choose!

That leaves me with trying to work out what I could do with the unlimited budget that I couldn't do by saving up for a few years and making a big life-changing trip in a more frugal way. I am sort of tempted by really extreme luxury, staying in the fanciest imaginable hotels, eating meals at world famous restaurants... But I think that would pall long before the month was out, and I'd end up not appreciating the luxury as much as I might if it were a one-off. Also, since I don't move in those circles in real life I don't begin to know which hotels or restaurants I would pick. It might be that picking this sort of option would spoil the point of travelling; extreme luxury is almost its own global country, I think, it wouldn't be properly experiencing what's unique about the location.

With unlimited money I could hire a retinue to set up a really perfect trip. A PA to deal with all the logistics, so I wouldn't have to think about luggage or booking accommodation or buying tickets. An a couple of guides, people who really know the area from different perspectives. Perhaps one with really good connections locally who would find all the hidden gems that normal tourists don't know about, and one with a more scholarly perspective who would teach me something from their area of expertise about the history or anthropology or culture of the area. An interpreter would help me to get a lot better access to really visit a place. When I start spinning fantasies in this sort of direction it ends up sounding like one of those Victorian Grand Tour sorts of concepts, doesn't it?

Then again, once I start thinking about learning, perhaps what I'd find most fun would be a really exciting programme of study. There would be much less danger of getting bored if I were really using my mind and learning new stuff. Maybe I'd just go for a general intensive programme, rather than a personalized one, in order to have the other students to bounce ideas off. One possible answer to [personal profile] ephemera's prompt is that I would pick one of those tours aimed at rich retired people, where they hire a bunch of experts to give a seminar programme alongside the travelling. But I have mixed feelings about organized tours, and again, that's something I might just stretch to doing anyway, if I manage to save up enough and have good enough health when I retire IRL. Again, this is not completely unrealistic; last time I did have a decent amount of savings and some time between jobs, I precisely chose to spend a month doing intensive Talmud study at Drisha in New York. I'd do that again in a heartbeat, though I would consider other alternatives apart from going back to Drisha. Hadar or Pardes, maybe, though I have certain ideological issues with both.

I could imagine using a month to really properly explore one country, using the money to cushion the aspects of travelling that might otherwise get wearying. Probably somewhere that's more famous for art and history and culture than beautiful landscapes and nature; I'm very tempted to say that I'd spend a month exploring Italy really properly. Especially if I could hire experts who would teach me enough to really appreciate what I saw. The downside of this suggestion is that I probably will manage to visit Italy on normal holidays at least a few times in my life, so maybe it wouldn't be the best use of the unlimited budget. Turkey would I think be more mentally challenging, because there are so many cultures mingled there and none of them are closely related to cultures I'm familiar with.

The other idea that comes to mind is that because I heavily prioritize both money and leave time on overcoming geography so I can spend time with my friends, rather than enjoying and revelling in geography so I can explore new places, I'm pretty much resigned to the likelihood that I'll never make it to India or China. Places that are so important for both the history and the future of human civilization, and I if I wanted to educate myself, learning anything at all about them beyond really basic stereotypes would definitely be beneficial. So if I'm planning a total fantasy trip, maybe I should pick one of those countries! OTOH both are really huge; a month in India or China would be like a month in "Europe", perhaps not really better than trying to tour the whole world and doing little more than ticking off the famous sights. If I did choose this option, I probably have more emotional connection to India for the slightly embarrassing reason that there's a lot more English language literature set in India. It does feel kinda colonialist to state that if I had unlimited money I'd hire a retinue of experts to take me on a tour of India and learn all about its history and culture. So maybe I should choose China, because I know so little about it that I really have very few preconceptions, and because there's a lot less bad history of English people thinking they own the place.

So, conclusions from answering [personal profile] ephemera's question: what I really want out of both travel and money is the opportunity to learn more. Also I care more about culture than landscapes. And I am not very good at fantasizing about luxury. This probably means that I should put more effort into finding opportunities for systematic learning, especially about cultures other than my own, in my actual, not unlimitedly rich, life.

[January Journal masterlist. Anyone want the last empty slot?]
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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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