Sometimes the destination picks you

Even as vagabonders, we pick our travel destinations more often than not. We say that we want to go to Southeast Asia, or Peru, or Morocco, and to varying degrees we research those destinations and we go.

Tonight, I found myself in a new part of San Francisco. As I got off at the Civic Center subway station and walked north along Leavenworth Street, I couldn’t help but notice that the density of beggars, liquor stores, and graffiti had increased dramatically. Often described in tourist guides as “the worst neighborhood in San Francisco,” the Tenderloin feels about as seedy as one might expect. And yet, it is also known as Little Saigon, was the setting for the Maltese Falcon, and was recently listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

What drew me to this “soft underbelly” of the city was Afar Magazine’s third issue launch party, held at a speakeasy-style bar dedicated to American rye whiskey. It was only a few months ago that the last event lured me to North Beach, home of the city’s Little Italy, and I find that I am thankful for Afar providing an excuse to explore new corners of San Francisco.

Meffi, via Flickr

I remarked at the time how one of their features is to spin a globe and send a writer to an unexpected destination, such as Rolf in St. Petersburg, or writer/actor Andrew McCarthy being sent to Ethiopia in the current issue. Whether as a literary device, or simply being the location of an event you want to go to, having a destination be chosen for you can provide not only an opportunity to see someplace new, but it can challenge you to adapt to what might not be ideal circumstances.

For example, I was in Shanghai last July in order to see a total solar eclipse. Had I planned to go to southeastern China in the height of summer, or had Rolf planned to visit western Russia in the middle of winter? Certainly not. When I plan destinations, I try to take local climates into consideration in order to minimize such combinations. And yet, sometimes we are thrown into a snowy blizzard or a humid soup and therein lies the excitement of rising to meet a challenge set forth by an outside influence.

Magazine editors, professional conferences, cultural or religious celebrations, and cosmic events all provide an opportunity to see places that might not be on your list of dream destinations, yet can be just as rewarding.

Posted by | Comments (1)  | February 18, 2010
Category: Notes from the collective travel mind, Vagabonding Advice

One Response to “Sometimes the destination picks you”

  1. Rebecca Travel-Writers-Exchange Says:

    “Having a destination be chosen for you can provide not only an opportunity to see someplace new, but it can challenge you to adapt to what might not be ideal circumstances.” This is a great concept. Travel writers can have their friends blindfold them and “spin the globe” to choose their destination. You’d have an interesting set of travel articles to publish. Perhaps more travelers will leave travel up to chance and immerse themselves in the experience.