I love to travel, experience different cultures, see how the rest of the world lives. There are many fascinating places I want to visit before I become too decrepit in mind, body or spirit to pack my suitcase. But I also enjoy vacationing in the good-old-USA. Even northern California offers so much that I sometimes wonder why I venture anywhere else.
Recently, I went to Spain, where my godson Eric is a college exchange student in San Sebastian. Talk about a picturesque place. He lives just a couple blocks from La Concha Beach, with golden sand like superfine sugar.
The beach is framed by a mile-long alcove facing the Atlantic Ocean. Boats come and go and people fish while seals bob along the shoreline. It’s quite breathtaking.
But here’s the thing: other than the Atlantic, we pretty much have the same view from Tiburon or Sausalito (and I don’t have to fly 12 hours to see it). Now don’t get me wrong, it’s still worth going. It’s just that it’s nice to know similar beauty is at my disposal, all within a 20 minute ride.
Before we began our two-week Spain adventure, we (my family by choice – Eric’s parents, sister and her hubby) had to travel 27 hours (planes, missed trains and automobiles) before meeting him in San Sebastian. Needless to say, that first day is a blur. In fact, I’d have to refer to my travel journal to recall any of it.
Yes, vacationing is sometimes a pain, but generally so worth the effort. Still, I often find myself comparing what I’m seeing with what I have here at home. For instance, in Italy I could swear we were driving through Napa Valley as we cruised through Tuscany. The rolling vineyards were gorgeous, but then so are those in Sonoma.
In South Carolina, the heat index in June (I know, stupid time to go) reached 110 degrees! How is that humanly tolerable on a daily basis throughout summer? From sun up to sun down, it’s like one long hot flash from hell. I tell ya, I never shopped so much in my life, hiding out in every air-conditioned store in Charleston.
In Marin, where it only occasionally passes 90 degrees, I’m just 30 minutes from Stinson Beach, where it’s often about 20 degrees cooler than the rest of the county. Relief is only a short jaunt away.
In New Orleans, famous for a smorgasbord of culinary delights, their cuisine is loaded with flavorful spices and abundant, fresh seafood. But living in the Bay Area affords us the same benefits (minus the jazzy street bands, of course).
In Spain, I discovered that vegetarians are sort of like UFOs – rarely seen, but when encountered by one, eyed suspiciously. Perhaps visiting during winter was a bad idea since veggies are scarce and I don’t eat anything with a face.
Whenever I ordered something labeled vegetarian, it invariably had tuna on top. I was reminded of a quote from the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding: “What do you mean, you no eat meat? That’s okay, I make lamb.” On the bright side, I lost 2 pounds in Spain.
Not only are we spoiled here in the Bay Area by the magnificent hills, beaches, great weather and endless outdoor activities at our disposal, I believe our wide variety of food for any palate is almost sinful.
In Spain, if I had to eat another plain baguette with cheese and tomato, I thought I’d hang myself. But hey, if it works for them… (BTW, guess what meal was offered on the plane home? You got it – a cheese and tomato baguette. I just about cried.)
On a layover at the Philly airport, I so missed vegetables and something with a kick, that I scarfed down a spicy veggie burrito like I’d just escaped from a culinary concentration camp. It was embarrassing how much I enjoyed that airport meal.
From strictly a food standpoint, Spain confirmed for me how fortunate I am to live where I can order whatever my taste buds desire and it’s all within a short car ride. I’m officially a spoiled American.
Still, I do enjoy seeing how others in the world live – their culture, history and beautiful cities. I’m just saying I’m never sad to come home.
Here, I can enjoy breakfast at my friend’s restaurant in Sausalito then head out to the beach with my dogs, take an afternoon hike on Mt. Tam, walk across the Golden Gate Bridge before dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf, then have an evening cocktail at Sam’s Anchor Café in Tiburon. Not that I ever do any of that. But you get the point.
My family and friends live in the Bay Area, so that makes it an even more beautiful place to me. I suppose most people feel the same about where they live, or why stay there? We’re all biased in our reasons for living where we do and that’s good enough for me.
I find that traveling affords me the benefit of being like a grandparent; I treasure the visit but don’t mind returning to my own reality because it’s a pretty good one here in Marin. I tell ya, the more I travel, the more I realize Dorothy had it right.
There’s no place like home.