If you could be anywhere in the world, where would you be?
There’s probably a good reason most people don’t patronize travel writers. Aside from moaning about the details of the trip – I didn’t get that upgrade, I had to transit through Heathrow, I had to stay in a hotel that was only four star, blah blah blah – there also has a lot of general travel talk.
where we have been. where we loved. Where we hated. Where we are going next. And now, of course, we have a new topic of conversation: where we would like to be right now.
Travel has changed. We can’t just be where we want to be anymore (see, you get an idea of how boring chat is). Although some countries are now open to tourists and Australians are free to leave their home countries to explore, many borders remain closed and the world doesn’t work the way it used to, you can’t just think of somewhere you would love to go and save for it and make the arrangements and off you go.
And so, a few weeks ago, I sat there with some fellow travel writers, drinking cheap beer behind a tennis court in Sydney’s Inner West, and played a game: where would you like to be right now? If you could be anywhere in the world, doing anything, without worrying about COVID-19, just like it once was – where would you be and what would you be doing?
It’s not just pure fantasy. This is actually not a bad way to organize your priorities. As international travel begins to open up to us again, it can be tempting to jump on the first plane and see where it will take you.
But the possibilities these days are limited and traveling is a hassle, so if you’re going somewhere it’s worth knowing you really want to visit. What do you like about this place? What do you hope to discover? What are you dying to experience?
Calculate all of this and you’ve planned your next vacation, you’ve got your first post-COVID-19 escape.
Or in my case, you have three. I have three answers for where I would like to be right now and what I would like to do, because it’s my fantasy and I can do whatever I want. And they are, in ascending order of fantastic importance, as follows.
I’d love to walk the streets of San Sebastian’s old town, somewhere in the middle of a round of pintxos, drunk, hungry and happy. I would love to be back in the city I once called home, catch up with old and dear friends, see sights I’ve missed for years, and most importantly, wander the narrow, cobbled streets of the old town. and eat and drink with a happy crowd.
There are few dining experiences better than a pintxo tour of San Sebastian. A snack, a drink at each bar. And because this is a COVID-free fantasy, there are no restrictions here, no worries, you walk to the bar and point to some of the food and shout at the bartender. You take your plates and glasses of beer or txakoli and take them out to the street to consume. And I know where all the good stuff is now. I know how to get it.
But then we move on to the next fantasy. If I could be anywhere. If I could do anything. I would be at a campsite in Botswana, a place called Third Bridge in the Moremi Game Reserve. I would have a tent set up in a good spot overlooking the plains of the Okavango Delta.
I’d be sitting there with my family watching the sunset, talking about the day that was, wildlife spotting, 4×4 adventures, brushing with danger, soaking up the sights, sounds and scents of southern Africa at the end of the day. I would keep an eye out for elephants that roam the campsite and the hyena that usually calls to try and steal people’s food. Incredible.
And finally, my last choice, my last fantasy. If I could be anywhere. It’s a bustling izakaya in downtown Tokyo, a place called Ginza Shimada. This is a “tachinomi”, a standing bar, with no seating, just room around a small L-shaped bar that seats about 10 people.
Ginza Shimada does upscale food, weird for a bar where people get up, a style that’s mostly about quick drinks and then leaves. But here, you get soba noodles topped with a mountain of grated bottarga; you get Hokkaido turnips with that amazing flavor; you get perfect, fatty pieces of Hamachi or Japanese amberjack sashimi. And you get it all in the awesome setting you have to love in Tokyo, where you’re thrown in with a bunch of strangers and everyone is talking to each other and drinking sake and beer and having a good time.
It’s interesting, really, that my fantastic travel experiences are the ones I’ve had before. Maybe that’s what we’ll do for the next few years at least, reuniting with old friends and family around the world, reconnecting with old favorite destinations, reassuring ourselves that our passion is still possible. Having adventures, but in places we know we’ll love.
That seems alright to me. I promise I won’t even find a reason to complain.
How is your fantasy journey doing right now? If you could be anywhere in the world, without worrying about COVID-19, where would you be and what would you be doing? Will this be your first post-pandemic trip abroad?
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