Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Travel Combines the Familiar with the Unexpected

Last month I went to spring training and Harry Potter world for the first time. Both were a thrill because they combine elements I love with new twists.

David Price in Red Sox uniform
 (a little disorienting),
starting against Pirates
I've watched major league teams play and been to minor league parks but never saw the two combined. The vibe is relaxed, players talk with fans and for the price of a nosebleed seat during regular reason I could rest my elbows on a front row third base seat. 

I've also loved the Harry Potter books, seen the movies and been to theme parks but never had a convergence of all three like at Universal. The this is the closest I may come to walking through a movie set, one with goods in the stores and regular people pouring the butterbeer. 

Medium-fun during rain delay
at Phillies game
I loved simply being there, soaking up the details. During a downpour the Phillies and Yankees played through I sat on a vendor's cooler eating nachos and keeping score, wiping the card with a napkin, sipping my first ginger beer between innings. At Universal Mark and I compared the Hog's Head on one side of Universal (Islands of Adventure's Hogsmeade) with the Leaky Cauldron on the other (the Studio's Diagon Alley)--repeatedly--and it's hard to imagine a time I was happier. 

The immersive experience is part of the pleasure but another is the way nothing is exactly as you'd imagined. The goblins of Gringott's were stern but kinder than expected. The Phillies Mikael Franco was more intimidating in person, and funnier. 

Butterbeer (of course): one is plenty
There was also no learning curve where I tried to figure out how to get where and do what because everything in JK Rowling's inspired world is one-off to begin with--the bus is normal but the driver has a shrunken head on one shoulder. The modern-day students of Hogwarts wear Oxford-like academic gowns but carry wands and write with quills. 

Dragon on the bank.
Mash-ups like these make for a comfortably unfamiliar world, where similarities to "normal" life help us slip in unannounced but the differences hold us fascinated, shocked we never thought about what it would be like to have our mail delivered by owl. 

This seems to me the ideal way to travel anywhere, without enough common ground to make minor details like train times and police whistles make sense but enough surprising details to make sitting on a corner with a drink (indian chai? thai iced tea? japanese bubble tea? italian espresso? mexican coffee? british cream tea?) gripping stuff. 

Sunrise in New England is solitary
while sunset on Florida Gulf Coast
is communal and it's all good
I find travel where I don't understand what's going on or know what I'm doing highly stressful and there's no enjoyment there. And travel that I've done a number of times borders on boring.The sweet spot is the comfortably unfamiliar of going for a walk at dawn with my daughter and finding the Gulf-side beach where we were staying had a view of only sunset. Shocking for girls who grew up on the East Coast where the beaches always faced the orange-pink dawn. 

And fun, and a challenge to get back out there at sunset and check out the color differences. 

'Twas cheerful bliss, and addictive. I'm collecting ideas and books for travel at lightning speed.

I mean fastball speed.

I mean Quidditch fast. 

Love, Lisa

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