You know how people say that you should travel like you live there?
Me, I don’t get it.
Why would I want to travel like I live in the place I am visiting?
I live in a town you might visit someday: Washington, D.C. The nation’s capital; grand monuments; Smithsonian museums; Eastern Market produce and meat market and, on weekends, crafts fair and flea market; good nightclubs; fine dining; history at every turn.
Here is what it would be like to visit if you visited like you lived here:
RRRRRRRRRT. RRRRRRRRRT RRRRRRRRRT.
Wife hits the snooze button.
RRRRRRRRRT. RRRRRRRRRT. RRRRRRRRRT.
She hits it again.
RRRRRRRRRT. RRRRRRRRRT. RRRRRRRRRT.
It’s 5:30 a.m. Well, by now, 6 a.m.
What? A little early for vacation?
Hey, you’re traveling like you live here, right?
Next up — well, let’s just run through the first hour or so:
Take a shower, shave, pick out what you are going to wear, put on a shirt, go back to the bathroom, ask your wife when she is going to be done in there, read the paper (with one eye on the bathroom), drink coffee (but not too much), finally go back into the bathroom, all the while keeping an ear on the radio or television news, call from the bathroom to your wife (who is in the bedroom, getting dressed) to comment on something on the program (“Did you hear that?” “What?” “What they’re going to do …” “Who?” “The [fill in the blank — Congress, scientists, National Football League].” “No.” “Well, they’re gonna [fill in the blank: mess things up again or finally do something right for a change] …” “Is that right?” “Yeah. Incredible, huh?” “Yeah.”), put on socks and otherwise finish getting dressed, eat (or not) a quick breakfast, kiss wife, say goodbye, head out the door, pop your head back inside and yell up the stairs, “Don’t forget we have that thing tonight!” then hurry down the front walk, glance at the ragged shape of the lawn, check windshield for ticket for some trumped-up parking violation, get in the car, start the car, change the radio station because it’s tuned to the news and whatever is on is depressing or boring, change stations again because every single lousy station in this dang town plays crappy music, end up back on the station where you started, pull into the street, barely avoid the guy in your blind spot, stop at a red light, go a couple of blocks, stop at another red light, repeat for a couple of miles till you enter the freeway, stop dead there for a while, inch ahead, change the radio station, inch ahead, change the station, inch ahead, change the station, inch ahead, ALL RIGHT ALREADY.
See what I mean?
Who the heck wants to travel somewhere like they live there?
You’re in Washington, D.C. Or Paris. Or Tokyo. Or Delhi. Or wherever. Doesn’t matter. The point is, you’re not in your own city.
You’re somewhere else.
You want to be somewhere else. That’s why you went there.
You want to see things you haven’t seen, go places you haven’t gone, do things you haven’t done — and, incidentally, wouldn’t do because where you live, you know people and they know you.
I used to want to travel as if I lived there. Now? I practically shout that I am from elsewhere.
Used to be, I would hide the map inside a newspaper and sneak peeks at it in a locked restaurant bathroom. Now, I
keep it in my back pocket, sticking up to near my belt, and whip it out at street corners.
But let’s say you do come here to D.C., and you want to travel as if you live here. Let me give you a couple of tips:
One, you’ll want to drive on I-495, also known as the Beltway, during either of the two rush hours. The first extends from roughly 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., and the second is the rest of the time. I’d say the best time, though, is right around 6 p.m.
For a true like-you-live-here experience, you can’t do much better. Make sure you wave cheerfully at the guy stuck in traffic next to you. He’ll like that.
For another like-you-live-here experience, go to a steak house, order the bone-in rib-eye and a good bottle of wine, and put the $400 tab on your expense account. Oh, you won’t have an expense account on vacation? Get one.
An important like-you-live-here thing to do is to refer to the city not as “Washington” or as “D.C.,” but as “the District.” This is the preferred way of differentiating those who live here from those who live around here, which is a whole other deal.
The other thing you can do, whether you’re visiting Washington or some other place, is to travel like you don’t live there. Which isn’t cool. But it is a lot more fun.