Vacation is like a pizza: though occasionally too cheesy or expensive, it’s pretty difficult to have a bad one. Vacation is also like sex, in that you don’t have it very often, and when you do, strangers stare at you uncomfortably while you pretend you’re having fun.
So. What have we learned? It’s difficult to have an unpleasant vacation, but it’s equally difficult to have a truly transcendent one. There is one simple exception to this rule, one obvious little stratagem to coordinate consistently magnificent trips of leisure, and I’m going to share it with you now. Are you ready? Here goes.
Plan all your vacations around food and drink, and you will always have a fantastic time. Plan your vacations around anything else -- family members, or roller coasters, or anything carved out of marble -- and your experience will land somewhere on the spectrum between “relaxing but too short” and “I can’t believe I paid money for this.” That’s trash. Don’t have a trash vacation, friends. Make your next vacation a foodcation.
Food is a respite from life's disappointments. So is a vacation.
Though often portrayed as vessels of recuperation and pleasure, the standard American vacation (the opposite of a foodcation) is actually a dense thicket of anxiety and dismay. For one thing, most (if not all!) trips require you to leave your couch. This is cause for moderate distress right off the bat. For another, expeditions of this nature tend to cost both money and time, two things that are in short supply for most people not named Carl Icahn. Thirdly, one of the goals (stated or otherwise) is to sightsee. Like, to "consume with your eyes." This is no bueno.
Sightseeing is not fulfilling. It is, at best, momentarily thrilling, with many hours before and after said exhilaration spent doing sweaty activities, like hiking up mountains, or shuffling through overcrowded cathedrals. Furthermore, your eyes are not connected to your stomach (or at least, mine aren't), and so you will not be sated by even the most stunning point of interest.
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Forsake this nonsense for something with a better rate of return. Namely, pounding coney dogs at a dive bar in Detroit, or drinking seasonal stouts at a brewery in Bend, or what-have-you. Swear off fast-food franchises, do some research (maybe on this very website!), and your boring sightseeing agenda will soon be surpassed by a glorious eatseeing one. Like, "to consume with your mouth, while looking at stuff."
This is yes bueno, doubly so when you remember that cuisine is the swiftest education in a city’s actual personality. The quickest way to get to know a place, after all, is through its food & drink.
Of course, you might have other opinions to consider. You may be traveling with a love interest, or a close friend. Perhaps you’re a practicing sadist, and have elected to travel abroad with a large group of loosely connected acquaintances who don’t speak the language. Maybe one of them is Carl Icahn. Whatever.
The point is, fulfilling yourself on vacation is tricky enough as it is, without worrying about renting jetskis for the day because Carl has never ridden one before. That rich bastard can buy as many jetskis as he wants, and now I have to waste an afternoon on this, you’ll think to yourself bitterly. Outwardly, you’ll smile and go with the flow. This is called resent, and it will ruin your vacation faster than an all-inclusive resort (though those generally tend to be pretty boring, too.)
When your entire raison d’escape is to track down and ingest unique culinary offerings, this does not happen. Your boyfriend may not want to go paragliding with you. Frankly, I don’t blame him, because that shit seems sketchy. He may suggest checking out a museum, which is, like, fine, you guess, but like, ugh. Right? Meanwhile, Carl is out in the bay, jetskiing his fucking cock off.
Go forth, gluttonous globetrotters!
You know what everyone likes? Eating. This is an era in which artisanal donut emporiums dot the land, and there’s a cocktail bar like this in every city in the country. “Foodie” rivals “hipster” for broadness of definition. Everyone gets hyped about eating & drinking, you guys. Your vacation crew may not be able to agree on whether they want to go ziplining or view paintings, but everyone can get down on some hand-pulled burrata or a local six-pack.
(Unless they can’t, in which case, you really shouldn’t go on vacation with them. They sound like no fun.)
The grim truth is that non-food vacations are breeding grounds for disappointment, because as cynical adults instead of easily amused children, we expect so much from them. We mark the dates of our trip on the calendar; we make our work computer’s background a photo of our destination; we obsess over the fun we’ll have there by scrolling through Instagram. We count on vacations to be points of light & hope in our otherwise mundane lives.
Then, when we’ve arrived at our destination, finally stopped checking our email, and temporarily slipped into the mindset of leisure… it rains the entire week and paragliding is canceled. Or the museum your boyfriend wanted to check out is insanely crowded. Or Carl is Carling amok, turning you into a passive-aggressive ball of fury.
When a vacation goes off the rails, you get bummed. Normal vacations always go off the rails because they are rife with unknowns. You’ve spent money and vacation days, yet you’re no happier for your trouble. And guess what?! Now you have to go back to work and tell everyone how much fun you had! This is a mild form of torture, and you may suffer it simply because you didn’t plan your vacation around food.
By their very nature, our basic meals -- breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, second dinner, couch dinner, and traditional midnight cry-falafel -- offer brief respite from life’s myriad disappointments. The same is true of vacation. This is not a coincidence.
When you anchor your entire trip around eating and drinking, instead of silly things like action sports or sculpture, you hedge against bad weather, and circumstance, and Carl. You may be underwhelmed by a historic battlefield, but nothing tastes as boring as learning history feels.
So go forth, my gluttonous globetrotters! Plan barbecue odysseys to Austin, pizza tours to Naples, and dumpling sojourns to... well, pretty much anywhere, because all sorts of cultures make dumplings! Hooray! Forget about trying to “soak up” the “local culture” of Montreal, or Montevideo, or Manilla, and focus your energy on trying to eat & drink it instead.
I can’t promise your next vacation will be transcendent if you do this, but I can promise that it won’t suck.
(Unless you go with Carl Icahn. Dude’s the worst.)
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