How Much Home Do You Need When Traveling?

We’ve touched upon the subject before in previous posts, but today I am doing a lot of reflection about what travel means to me and wondering what it means to others. Do you travel to get completely away from what you know, or are there some creature comforts that are important for you to have when you go away? With globalization, internet and the huge amount of information available to travelers, sometimes it feels like it’s possible to see the same things everywhere you go.

Take the mass export of American restaurants, for example. In 2001, I had the opportunity to take a trip to Beijing, China. (http://www.beijing.com/) Though I had toured Europe previously and been to Mexico and Canada many times, this trip to Beijing was the furthest from my “comfort zone” that I had ever been. Imagine my shock when I stumbled upon the all-too-familiar green awning of Starbucks whilst sightseeing in a local Beijing neighborhood! Since my trip, I understand that Starbucks has opened and subsequently closed a location at Beijing’s famous and historic Forbidden City, which dates back to the 1400’s.

When is enough enough? Do you find these familiar sites comforting when you are traveling or do you head out to dine with the locals and shy away from any chain restaurants? The news that McDonald’s is planning to open a restaurant in the food court at the Louvre in Paris shocked many this past fall and critics decried the juxtaposition of Botticelli and Big Macs. However, with a Virgin Megastore and newly opened Apple Store in the same Louvre shopping center, is McDonald’s any worse? Also, the French apparently are the second biggest consumers of McDonald’s per capita, behind only the United States, so is this opening entirely appropriate?

I know when I’m traveling, I’m hoping for some exposure to local culture, customs and cuisine. That’s not to say that I don’t sometimes queue for some typical tourist attractions like Michelangelo’s David in Florence or the Buda Castle in Budapest, but I do hope for an authentic experience dining-wise and stop short of meals in McDonald’s in a new city. I was definitely put off by my Starbucks experience in China and am a bit sad to see these types of places dotting historical sites in most all of the countries I’ve visited since. I will admit though that I have ordered and sampled a Diet Coke in pretty much every city I’ve visited I guess we all have our vices!

I’m curious to know what others think about feeling at home whilst traveling abroad. Are there certain things that you need to have that you would also have at home? Do you go for a 100uthentic experience and stay away from all familiar products? Or, do McDonald’s and other fast-food chains offer you a nice home away from home that make all those scary menus written in a foreign language disappear as quickly as you can say “I’ll have fries with that?”

About The Author:

This guest post was provided to Reef-N-Rail by one of our guest authors Ben Lukes. Ben runs the website nebinfo.com which focuses on agriculture, farming, ranching, crops, and other such “farmy” type things.

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