I have a confession to make -- I want to go everywhere.
If I've been hesitant to say it before now, it was only because it seems sinful somehow, in the same vein as gluttony or greed, as if one day a new commandment might be added to cover it:
"Thou shalt not want to go everywhere."
Until then, I want to go everywhere.
Last month, I journeyed to Berlin to attend what is billed as the world's largest business-to-business travel show, ITB.
Under one roof -- well, more like 30 -- virtually every country on Earth was represented with great, colorful displays showcasing their very best tourist destinations, accommodations, activities and modes of travel.
I was there to visit travel companies that Vacations To Go already represents and to look for new ones, but I felt more like a kid in a candy store. I want THAT one...and THAT one...
From the familiar to the exotic, from the tame to the adventurous, one tempting vacation opportunity after another presented itself. I realized how lightly I have skimmed the surface of possibilities, and how much work I have to do to scout them all for my readers!
So vast is the Berlin convention complex that by the last of the three days I had budgeted for the show, I still had not seen all of the 11,000 exhibitors.
Each day was analogous to travel itself -- so many places to see and so little time.
I discussed mountain gorillas with the Rwandans, polar bears with the Canadians, red sand dunes with the Namibians and Arctic icebreakers with the Russians.
Count me in!
A nice lady from Madagascar mapped out an itinerary that would take me from the lemurs (primates with large, reflective eyes) of the eastern rain forests to the tropical, volcanic island of Nosy Be.
The Maldivians brought their own thatched-roof village to the show to complement the photos of fabulous beaches and over-water bungalows.
Headline-hogging Dubai was there, resplendent and ostentatious as always. The centerpiece of their exhibit was a two-story-high rotating globe that held dozens of people. I've heard mixed reviews about this booming, desert oasis in the Persian Gulf, so I'm afraid I'll have to schedule a personal visit to get to the truth.
Nearby, one could preview the new first-class pods of Emirates Airlines, including flat-bed seat, personal mini-bar, vanity desk, 23-inch flat-screen TV, walls and a sliding door, for absolute privacy.
I'm not sure what I'd do with all that privacy, but those pods might make getting there more fun than being there.
The Tanzanians told me their safari business had been boosted by the civil unrest in neighboring Kenya (fortunately, things have calmed down recently). Standing in their exhibit reminded me of my family's Tanzanian safari and made me feel as if their tourism ambassadors were somehow old friends.
Jambo! Can I hitch a ride back to East Africa?
At times, it seemed that ITB was a microcosm of the entire world. The conference halls were laid out in geographic order, and stepping from one exhibit to the next was akin to crossing the border to a neighboring country.
I could not help but notice some interesting combinations. The Israelis were next to the Palestinians, the Indians near the Pakistanis, the Serbs beside the Croats.
A few thousand miles away, Venezuelan soldiers were massing on the border with Colombia over an incident in Ecuador, but in Germany, tourism officials and native dancers from all three countries peacefully coexisted in the same lively exhibit hall.
I was reminded of something I've believed for a long time: Travel alone can't solve a conflict, but it does increase understanding, which is a huge step in the right direction.
I have to admit some disappointment with the exhibits of the U.S. and Canada, neither of which was up to the task of illustrating the beauty and diversity of North America's vacation opportunities.
With the dramatic fall of the U.S. dollar, America is cheaper than it has been in decades for most international travelers. Note to U.S. tourism folks -- we might as well make the most of it and show the world what we've got!
It was my first visit to Berlin, and I enjoyed the friendly people, good restaurants and my stops at the Brandenburg Gate and what remains of the Berlin Wall.
On the flight home, I had time to reflect on all the interesting people I'd met and the fascinating places they represent. I realized that I am particularly fond of jungles and deserts, of tropical islands and snow-covered mountains. I like hot-air balloons and overnight trains, and ships of all sizes. I'm happy as long as I'm headed for a big city, a small village or a tented camp.
Most of all, I prefer beaches, hills, plains, lakes, rivers, savannahs, deltas, tundras and, of course, the open sea.
So where on Earth are you headed next?
That sounds good to me.
Vacations To Go
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