Saturday, April 5, 2008

Travel-o-pedia: Useful travel adjectives

Travel writers are liars. They get their cut, not for honesty, but for irresistibility and between the airbrushed photos and sickly sweet prose, a decent travel writer will have us salivating over Bayonne, New Jersey by the end of the opening paragraph.

But there is a darker side of traveling of which we are inevitibly reminded when at long last we embark on that much-anticipated and well-earned vacation. Whether it's the ubiquitous hotel room that smells like urine or the stark realization that you can't actually stand to be around your loved ones, traveling can be tricky business.

The truth is that with every picturesque white sand beach comes giant tropical mosquitos carrying deadly pathogens and to reach that gorgeous vista of verdent green there is a twelve hour bus ride complete with flatulent farm animals and upon arrival there's a man with a gun who's decided to charge admission...
(read more)

Well, lucky for you, dear reader, nobody has threatened Crawl Walk Travel with so much as a dime and therefore we remain unfettered by the shackles of corporate sponsorship and free to expose the seedy underbelly and dirty little secrets of the travel writing business.

Today we tackle the ever-present descriptive euphemism. This is the trick of the trade that allows us to take the most abhorrent quality of a particular locale and describe it in such a way as to make it quaint or intriguing. A city that is lively, frenetic or exciting, for example, is crowded and dangerous but offers cheap drinks whereas if we call a place "dynamic" it's because we couldn't think of anything else to say.

So next time you flip through a resort brochure, peruse a vacation magazine or study a travel guide, keep these handy definitions in mind.

Spartan- A term descriptive of any facility that is so utterly ill-equipped that it lacks the very basic necessities required to fulfill it's intended purpose. For example, a bathroom without a toilet like this one in Saigon, Vietnam:

Or, for that matter, a toilet without bathroom like this pair of Asian style squat toilets roadside in Don Det, Laos:

Exotic- Characterized by unbearably hot, pestilent, mosquito-ridden climate and the inevitability of stomach illness. If you are planning on visiting any location described as exotic be sure to bring DEET by the gallon and refrain from drinking the water or eating the food for the duration of your stay.

Idyllic- Requisite adjective for describing all areas containing a waterfall and/or hot spring. Publishers meet the defiance of this unwritten code with swift and vicious retribution whereby the writer is forceably detained and subjected to Danielle Steele's entire body of work on audio tape.

Atmospheric- A descriptive term used for inexpensive accomodation usually meaning "old" and "made of wood". Take for example this lovely accomodation in Northwest Thailand:

Bohemian- A delightful term designed to make a destination sound artistic and pleasantly unconventional which in actuality denotes simply that it's a good spot to score some weed.

Cultural, Historic- Of and/or pertaining to boring museums, monuments and places of worship. Whereas visiting every temple in Thailand may seem like an enriching and educational passtime on your trip, in actuality it's the cultural equivalent of touring every Baptist church in Georgia. Cultural and historic destinations have been used by parents to torture their children into submission for centuries, and, more recently, by backpackers in an attempt to distract attention from their true interest in traveling: excessive drinking.

Colorful- Dirty.

Bustling- Typically refers to a large town or city whose severe traffic problem makes leaving your hotel unadvisable at best, impossible or deadly at worst. This daunting four-way intersection in Hanoi is a perfect illustration.

Rustic- An adjective for any facility so dated, so filthy, so completely intolerable or unliveable that it defies all but the most mercifully euphemistic description. Avoid any destination described as such at all costs.


Chelsea said...

This, by far, is the most hilarious depiction of my beloved travel. GREAT blog!!

Traveller said...

Hahahaha! Great revelation of the darkside of travelling in Asia. I am Asian and it is true that cleanliness is alien to most of them. Chaotic traffic is equated to bustling! Wait till you visit India, on the onset a beautiful picture is painted but the reality would give you nightmare that you want to board the next flight home! Careful while walking around as there will be human poos scattered around. Human leeches and pick pockets after your money. Urea "aroma" permeates through the air especially near bus stations. Toilets?? You better have a heart of steel. Food or water? If you strong go ahead and help yourself. Don't say I didn't warn you. :-;

Kimberly said...

I loved your definition of Bohemian. That hut seems nice but I could not say comfortable. My only good experience is when I rented a Furnished apartment in Buenos Aires . You may call it snob or whatever, but it was the best!

SimplyMe said...

Fun way with travel words.
Travel writers couldn't afford the holidays that would show the true meaning of those words.

Apparently going back to basics costs you a lot more than the normal holiday.

Anonymous said...

Ha, superb.

amruta @ said...

Haa haa haa... you just nailed it. This article is a bang-on. Travel writers do make use of flowery words and Photoshopped images to makes us want to visit the place or at least drool for it.

Post a Comment