Are We Different When We Travel?

Waiting for me in my inbox this morning was a message from our partners at the city of New Orleans. A simple message on the face of it – New Orleans has produced a new short video to promote itself to international visitors, and would we like a copy to put on the New Orleans page of the Bon Voyage website to help highlight its attractions to would-be travellers? So I watched it. And I like it! But that’s not my point: Sure, it is a really good 3 minutes and 40 second overview of one of my favourite US cities. What got me thinking was their choice of theme. YouTube is awash with destination videos, some better than others it must be said. Almost all of them focus on what they have to offer – attractions, experiences etc – but this particular video talks more about the visitor than the destination itself. “You’re Different Here” does highlight the fun things that there are to do, see, buy, experience, eat and drink in “the Big Easy”, but it touches on a fascinating concept, namely, does travel alter who we are?

It is a widely held view that travel broadens the mind. In my own case I have worked for most of my adult life in the travel industry and have been extremely fortunate to have travelled the world while researching and contracting new holidays. Travel has definitely Can this really be America?broadened my mind – my work over the last 26 years has been an education in culture, beliefs, ideas, cuisines and lifestyles that has helped me to grow as a person. But looking back at some of the trips I have taken over the years I can recognise that particular destinations have caused me to behave like a different person for the short time that I have been there. Does that sound familiar to you? It seems that I have immersed myself in the spirit of the place – in the case of New Orleans I have quite literally immersed myself in the “spirit”, but that’s another story.

Is it just me, or does Sangria actually taste great when you are at a Tapas bar in Spain, but dreadful back in Blighty? And why is it that I would never – and I do mean NEVER – drink beer when eating lobster tail or crab claws, but when I’m in Florida , Georgia or New Orleans at a Crab-shack on the beach it seems like the perfect marriage? And who would dream of eating a deep-fried oyster, for goodness sake? They are great with cold beer, though! I am not a big fan of hot dogs, but there’s really nothing quite like a “dawg” from a street vendor in New Orleans, New York or at a baseball game (a sport which I thoroughly enjoy when in the ‘States but, with all due respect to my American friends, I would never watch on the TV in the UK).

And what about inhibitions? I’ve got a few of those myself. For example, anyone who knows me also knows that I don’t really like to dance much – I have that in common with Steven Fry, if little else. It’s probably that I don’t like to make a spectacle of myself – who

No – this isn’t me. But it could have been…

knows? But in New Orleans I have danced ’til dawn in the French Quarter, caught up in the soul of this unique city. And it’s not just in New Orleans – if it pleases the court there are other similar offences that I would like taken into consideration; I have behaved with similar seemingly reckless abandon at BB King’s club in Memphis, at a Beachboys concert on the beach at Penrods in Miami, at the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville, a Madonna concert in Atlantic City (yes, really) and at countless nightclubs in glittering Las Vegas (aka Lost Wages).

Now that the can of worms that is my memories is now open, I find myself faintly alarmed yet strangely amused and warmed by the times I have been captured by the atmosphere and personality of a place. Travel has certainly broadened my mind but, even more importantly, my immersion in these sensory-rich experiences has given me a passion for places that I could never have tasted if I hadn’t “let myself go”.

So thanks New Orleans – “You’re Different Here” has  reminded once again me why I love to travel. As they say in Louisiana, “Laissez les bon temps rouler” – let the good times roll!

How has travel changed your life? What places have had a profound effect on you? We would love to hear your view on whether we behave like different people when we travel – please leave feedback.

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