October 28, 2019

"If experiential travel signifies engaging meaningfully with the people, history, environment and culture of a destination (like a local, not a tourist), then transformational travel is..."

"... supposedly the next step: Engage so meaningfully, the trip actually changes you. This can mean extreme adventure travel...  Or it can mean wellness-inflected, small-group trips aimed at building fellowship, as with a slew of female-focused companies... Black Tomato, a New York- and London-based agency, recently debuted a 'Get Lost' service, which drops travelers into remote destinations, requiring them to find their way out.... This past spring I swallowed my skepticism.... ... I was whisked from the Lisbon airport in a black sedan with tinted windows by the driver and a local guide. After dropping my bags at a hotel on Lisbon’s central Praça do Rossio, the guide, Edgar Miguel Rodrigues, took me on a walking food tour of central Lisbon. We tried ginjinha, a smooth, sour-cherry liqueur, ate bifana... Edgar dropped me off at the hotel at the point of bursting and informed me that my next guide would soon arrive for — I’m not kidding — an evening food tour, coinciding with the Feast of St. Anthony.... [T]he breakneck pace and constant chaperoning felt suffocating, and the only viable option seemed to be drinking heavily until I joined a cluster of middle-aged women dancing wildly to an onstage band playing pimba, an up-tempo style of Portuguese shlock-pop, in a packed Alfama square.... The next morning, moderately hung over, I was in the back of a car headed for... pastel-hued villas and palaces... [W]e found ourselves descending the spiral stone staircase of the initiation well at Quinta da Regaleira... 'This is the rebirth process,' said [the guide] Susana as we made our way through a tunnel... 'You are buried in the earth. You go through the dark, this tunnel, until you come out and are born again. The entrance of the cave is …' She trailed off. 'A vagina? I offered. 'Yes, like a vagina,' Susana said...."

From "Can a ‘Transformational Journey’ Change Your Life? Our Writer Had Her Doubts/Seeing the world “through new eyes” was the aim of a rigorously planned trip to Portugal, offered by a new breed of tour operator. It almost worked." (NYT). The photograph at the top at the link looks (unintentionally) like a skull. Oh! I see it's the thing that's supposed to be like a vagina.

I'm interested in that Black Tomato "Get Lost" idea. When I was a teenager, I used to drive my car until I got lost, then try to find my way back home. But that's not really possible anymore, not if you have a phone that sees where you are and gives you directions. Does Black Tomato take away your phone? This service you pay for is strangely like getting victimized by a crime. Some will rob you with a sixgun and some with a fountain of youth promo.

26 comments:

Michael K said...

I have taken a couple of medical history trips. They are useful in helping to understand the history. I sat at Florence Nightingale's desk. It was interesting that the Turks revered her, at least before Erdogan.

gilbar said...

transformational travel is..."
... supposedly the next step: Engage so meaningfully, the trip actually changes you.


Respectfully, that's not what transformational travel IS
Back in the '60's, two of my Great Great Grandfathers traveled the Southern United States;
Engaging so meaningfully, that their trip (along with their companions in the 15th Corps) ACTUALLY CHANGED the Southern United States

The Army of the Tennessee, THOSE Were transformational travelers!

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

Sounds more like chauffeured "get lost", of the shlock-pop variety.

A true get lost experience would be a blind-folded drop-off to somewhere you have no idea where you are, and there isn't a cocktail bar for miles.

traditionalguy said...

For this dream they gave up on Christianity? But when its done right, Christianity does all that this cult promised and raises your intelligence level too. Paul could argue with the best of them.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

didnt church mission trips do the "life-changing travel","building fellowships"
and "born-again experience", etc, before it was cool?

mockturtle said...

"When I was a teenager, I used to drive my car until I got lost, then try to find my way back home."

As a pre-cell-phone adult I liked to drive remote roads--sometimes logging roads--just to see where they went. It was a little scary when the road was narrow and meeting a logging truck would mean backing up a very long way. I still like to drive remote roads not knowing where they will lead and, though I have a cell phone, there is no signal in many of these places. I'm a road person. Even looking at them on a map excites me. Sometimes, of course, these roads turn out badly and I wouldn't even attempt them without a 4X4 vehicle.

Anne said...

I get lost regularly by my own self, out for runs in the wilderness. One day, I will be eaten by a bear.

tim in vermont said...

When I used to travel internationally a bit, we had a saying that you didn’t know a city until you had been lost in it at least three times. This was pre-GPS.

John Lynch said...

Why not live your day to day life the way you want, instead of pretending a vacation is the "real" you?

Richard said...

Isn't Black Tomato racist?

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/bed-bath-and-beyond-black-pumpkins-blackface-jack-o-lanterns-new-york-a9169681.html

Heartless Aztec said...

I tired of itinerant travel in a VW bus somewhere trying to climb the switchbacks up a Central American mountain at 4mph sometime in the early 80's. These days in my mid 60's we hate, Hate, HATE jumping on and off planes, trains or arranged tour busses. We now go and rent an apartment in a place we like for anywhere from one to eight weeks and simply live as locals albeit transitory locals. We now have dear friends in numerous places that visit us as we visit them. ABnB or VRBO is a wonderful asset in 2019. In one civilized place of unsurpassing beauty where any tourist seldom venture we became the pet Americans. We bought a used 25' sailboat joined the local yacht club and spend summer months sailing. Eating in our friends homes. Reading books. Loving. Occaisional day trips to tbe nearby city. It sure beats traditional traveling.

tim in vermont said...

My experience is that travel that changes your perspective is travel that puts you in touch with local people for extended periods of time. Real friendships. Friendships with actual French people disabused me of some anti French prejudices. They actually worked very hard, just not the same rigid way Americans do. Australians are pretty open and you get to know them pretty quickly, Brits are more reserved, but they become good friends too. Both of those nationalities greatly enjoy drink as part of work culture. For all of the time I spent in the Caribbean, I don’t believe I ever made a real friend on any island where I worked, but mostly I was in raised floor computer rooms working in racks. So even though, for example I spent a couple of months in Barbados, it feels in memory like a week long tourist vacation.

Kathryn51 said...

So, after searching for Black Tomato and clicking on "Portugal", nothing about "get lost" appeared immediately, but the link did feature:

1. "Lisbon and the Alentejo: A Chic Luxury Holiday in Portugal"

2. photo of cute little golf cart type vehicles with the label "Discover a picture perfect city"

3. Supposedly "captivating" descriptions such as: "The perfect start to any trendsetting trip to Portugal. . . . , " [my emphasis]

Chic. Trendsetting. Picture Perfect.

I think sites such as this should also be required to identify the "carbon footprint" for their chic, trendsetting vacations.

robother said...

"Like a Vagina?" Wasn't that Modonna's first gold record?

Rosalyn C. said...

As a teenager I also used to drive around (Bucks County) exploring and get lost for the excitment of finding my way out of it -- thought I was the only one who did such a thing.

The Minnow Wrangler said...



"wellness-inflected, small-group trips aimed at building fellowship, as with a slew of female-focused companies..." So silly and affected!

It's still pretty easy to get lost in rural states, just turn off on a dirt road somewhere, turn off the GPS, and drive...and it only costs you the price of gasoline.

For some reason I am thinking I should become a wellness inflected tour guide for these helpless people, I could probably get rich.

mockturtle said...

Anne proclaims: I get lost regularly by my own self, out for runs in the wilderness. One day, I will be eaten by a bear.

Look upon it as recycling.

mockturtle said...

Heartless observes: We now go and rent an apartment in a place we like for anywhere from one to eight weeks and simply live as locals albeit transitory locals.

That's the ticket! Much better than hopping around trying to 'see' everything. Although I tend to get restless...

The Minnow Wrangler said...

We used to actually do this pretty often in Nebraska! Without a wellness-inflected tour guide! Turn up the car stereo, with some Little Feat or Leon Russell, drive until the dust plugs up your sinuses, then find our way back to a paved road. We would occasionally see some really weird things, like ski jumping in the middle of a cornfield, some llamas or ostriches in a pen, or a tiny little town with no paved roads in or out.

mockturtle said...

Heartless, PS: That's exactly what my daughter and SIL do in Tuscany where their good friends own a B&B and winery.

MayBee said...

blah, blah, blah. Travel if you want to, how you want to. If you are giving it labels and rules then you are doing it for someone else, not yourself.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

WTF does "wellness-inflected" mean? Anyone?

Big Mike said...

Visiting Fairbanks, AK, in the winter could be transformative. Getting lost in the woods outside of town could be especially interesting, albeit life-shortening.

daskol said...

wellness-inflected: infected with the disease of our zeitgeist, if not bacteria. feckless.

Clyde said...

The whole idea of "transformation" really seems like a bad idea when it's in someone else's hands. If you decide to transform yourself into something else, well, that's on you, but at least you have an idea of what kind of a transformation it would be and whether it would be beneficial to you. Having it in someone else's hands seems foolish at best.

I'm not really sure that a rigid guided tour is the best way to travel, either. I just got home from eight days on the Big Island of Hawai'i with family, and while we did have my uncle, who has lived there for 32 years, as a guide to some of the coolest places to go on the island, my brother's girlfriend suggested a coffee plantation tour (Mountain Thunder Coffee) which turned out to be outstanding, and my uncle had never heard of it. This despite the fact that everywhere we went, it seemed like either my uncle or my aunt knew someone. We played it by ear and went to a whole bunch of interesting, beautiful places. I have now breathed in the breath of Pele from a steam vent at Kilauea Caldera, seen the beauty of Akaka Falls, and have stood at the southernmost point in the United States at South Point. I've seen nene and mongooses. I've eaten moco loco, malasadas and shave ice. And I didn't need a guided tour to do it.

Lurker21 said...

Is travel really still "broadening"?

Or does it just cement you all the more firmly into the class of people who take foreign vacations? The class of people who become tourists. The class of people who prefer to call themselves "travelers" rather than tourists. The class of people who take specially designed travel packages like eco-tourism. You may be thinking that having built a house in Guatemala has taught you a new way of looking at the world, but what if it only confirms and implants you more deeply into the group of people who do things like that and look at life and the world in one particular way?