I write a lot on this blog about my ideal type of travel, and my last post even gave advice for finding the offbeat. My best travel revolves around unique personal encounters with locals and quirky sometimes bizarre experiences. The kind that challenges everything you thought about the world and even yourself.
But I’m going to tell you a secret.
I have my share of guilty travel pleasures.
Let’s face it. Sometimes travel is hard work. Often it’s exhausting and we’re sick or just not in the frame of mind to seek out grand experiences (which can be trite if they’re not spontaneous anyway). Sometimes we’re homesick. Sometimes we just want what we want.
So here goes. Here are my guilty travel pleasures.
1. Eating at McDonalds in another country.
Yes, it’s true. The Golden Arches call to me in foreign countries. More than once, it’s even been my savior. But here’s something you might not know about McDonalds abroad. Often it’s surprisingly good. And sometimes the menu has culturally dictated items on it. In Japan, for instance, there’s a shrimp burger with wasabi mayo. In Hong Kong, you can buy a red bean sundae.
2. Getting coffee at Starbucks
Okay this one I am more ashamed of, especially with wonderful small local coffee shops abounding. But Starbucks is convenient if you’re in a hurry.
3. Eating pizza
After eating a certain type of food for awhile no matter how delicious, I just can’t do it anymore. Case in point: in Thailand and Vietnam, I ate local dishes for as long as possible and then hit my wall. My next meal? Pizza. Like McDonalds, pizza-eating in foreign countries can be a cultural experience. It’s fun to see what ingredients they like to put on it. In Japan, I’ve tried pizza with tofu and seaweed. In Taiwan, I had it with corn and mayonnaise.
4. Dining at a luxury hotel breakfast buffet
I don’t do this one very often unless I’m traveling with my husband (he insists on nice places), but a breakfast buffet at a 5 star hotel can set everything straight in the world. Once in Hong Kong, I was deathly ill and rather than hitting the streets to find a hole in the wall to eat, my husband suggested we eat at the Kowloon Intercontinental Hotel. Oh my! What a selection of delicious food! Every time we visit HK now, this breakfast is on our itinerary.
5. Taking a guided tour
While I generally don’t enjoy the confines of a guided tour, often it’s the easiest way to see a place. Not that I’m always looking for easy, but still. Letting someone else worry about how you’re going to get from the Great Wall of China to the summer palace can be liberating, and it frees up your mind for other things, like actually enjoying yourself.
6. Going to a mall
Instead of exploring the natural scenery or admiring World Heritage sites, at times you’ll find me in a shopping mall. Before you judge, let me say this. Shopping malls abroad can also be interesting encounters. It’s fun to see what kind of food gets served up in the food courts, what people are buying, what local fashionistas are wearing, and other features of popular culture.
7. Watching TV in my hotel room rather than sightseeing
I love foreign TV. Crazy game shows. The array of cooking programs. And best of all, local news.
8. Going to bed early rather than exploring the nightlife
I mentioned this one before, and I’m really trying to give up this bad habit. But the thought of crawling into bed and getting a fantastic night’s sleep is just so much stronger to me than salsa dancing the night away (although I always love that too when I actually make it there).
Are you horrified? Or do you maybe have some guilty travel pleasures yourself? Do spill…