To start this article I wish to channel a little of my father’s philosophy when it comes to travel. He likes to think of himself as a fiercely independent wayfarer who eschews the horrors of package travel. He also chooses his holiday destinations with a keen eye for ‘authenticity’ and places that are ‘real’. For example, it genuinely seemed to break his heart when he visited me in China and I arranged all his travel from Tianjin to Xi’an from the comfort of my couch using the internet. Using the Chinese booking sight ELong took a certain element of the joy of the trip away from him. I dread to think how he felt when he saw the several branches of Starbucks in the centre of the city and the array of tourist stores close to the Warriors themselves.
As you can probably tell from the tone of my opening to this journal, I am not 100% in line with my father’s ideas. I am of the school of thought that argues that, in the twenty-first century, you are unlikely to find the type of authenticity my father yearns for. Globalization and the internet have made finding places untouched by the outside far harder – not impossible, but far harder. If you find a Starbucks or McDonalds outside a beautiful temple or ancient castle, it is probably best just to enjoy a latte and not worry about the loss of identity.
The picture I paint may seem a little sad. For what it’s worth, I do agree to a certain extent with my father’s philosophy. And, when I see somewhere that seems full of local flavor, life and tradition, I find it best to really enjoy it. This brings me to a favorite haunt of my Dad’s: The Leeds Arms in Scarborough. He likes it because it is a wonderfully traditional English pub that is the heart of the fishing community in Scarborough and is steeped with history and tradition.
When my girlfriend and I went to the UK to visit my family, my father was keen to take us to the Leeds Arms. If I am honest, I was not so enthused. The way I saw it, I could get a pint of beer anywhere. However, he insisted and after much persuasion, I relented and agreed to go. I was unbelievably glad that I did. Not only was I able to enjoy two or three very nice pints of beer, but I got a fantastic look into the traditional livelihood of one of England’s most interesting coastal towns.
The walls were bedecked with some genuinely interesting memorabilia. There were ship’s bells and ship’s clocks. There were stern-boards from boats as well as oars from the lifeboats and dotty boats that served the fishing trawlers. The ceiling looked as though it were made solely from deck beams of ships that had fallen out of service. There was also a great array of marine art and antique photography of the harbor and old boats. It was wonderful. The only thing that was missing was a few grizzled old seamen sat at the bar smoking heavy tobacco and spinning their yarns about the sea.