Sunday, 4 March 2007
The Amazing Race 11 (All-Star Edition), Episode 3
San Pedro de Atacama (Chile) - Puerto Montt (Chile) - Petrohué (Chile)
When they plan their first trip around the world, most people imagine it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. By the time they get home, most of them are already thinking about doing it again.
I'm no exception, and neither are the 200-plus cast members who travelled around the world in the first 10 seasons of The Amazing Race . Despite the stresses of the race, and the limited opportunities it provides for either tourism or real learning about the world, all of those invited back for the current All-Star Edition accepted, and many others (including some of those who had already won the million-dollar grand prize in previous seasons) reportedly lobbied the television producers for a second chance to race around the world at someone else's expense -- not, presumably, for the money, but for the experience -- and complained when they weren't chosen.
Aside from the addictiveness of travel, what does this season tell us about how a second trip around the world is different from a first one? As I mentioned last week , the racers themselves appear to be making some of the same mistakes as first-time travellers. So, unfortunately, do the television producers who plan the route.
The first time around, most world travellers want to go everywhere, do everything, and "see the whole world". So they try to visit too many places in too little time. Or (less often) they deliberately plan many brief stopovers in order to find out which places they might like to go back to on subsequent trips. It's relatively uncommon, although not unknown, for such a trip to involve an extended stay in any one place: It's hard to be sure that you'll want to spend months somewhere, or that it warrants such a priority for your limited time, until you've been there and checked it out. Even if someone spends months in one country on their first trip around the world, they are typically travelling around, with no more than a couple of weeks in any one spot.
Someone who visits a dozen places on a trip around the world typically comes home with one or two of them they want to go back to for weeks or months each, and a few others that they would go out of their way to include, at least for a brief visit, if they did a similar trip, or were in that part of the world, again. They usually have a few other places they wanted to go to, or learned about en route from other travellers, but didn't get to for some reason.
Except for country collectors , the typical second or subsequent trip around the world involves a stay of several months in a place that they fell in love (or fascination) with on an earlier, shorter visit; return visits to a few previously visited places; a few places missed or passed over on earlier trips; and tastes of a few new places to see if they warrant a longer return trip. The overall pace is typically slower, the number of destinations much smaller, and the likelihood of an extended stay of months in one place much greater.
My current planning follows this pattern. My best beloved companion in life and travel has just accepted an offer of a sabbatical from her teaching job in the San Francisco public schools, and we've begun planning what will be our third trip around the world from July 2007 through July 2008.
We'll be spending several months in Argentina and Chile (hopefully including the Atacama Desert, where this leg of the race began), mainly in Buenos Aires , which we've visited before and decided we want to go back to for a longer stay. B.A. is one of the few places we've visited where we both immediately thought, We'd like to live here. Now, with a year to travel, we're going to make it happen.
We also plan to spend a couple of months in China, where we passed through quickly on our first and a subsequent trip -- unsure what it would be like, or if we would want to return -- but have since concluded it warrants the time for more leisurely exploration of more of the country and the ways it is changing. (If you only visit new places, you never get to see how places change over time.)
We might stop, at least briefly, in some other places we've been before, such as in the Gulf where we enjoyed the food, shopping, and conversation during a brief stopover a couple of years ago.
Of course we want to go some places we haven't been before, such as a series of cities across southern Europe and into Turkey including Lisbon, Barcelona, Marseille, and Istanbul. We don't feel we have to see everything on this trip, though, and that influences our planning. For example, Brazil is too big and diverse to "do" ( a tourist term of horrible connotations, if you think about it) in a couple of weeks, but that should be long enough for us to judge whether we want to come back for a longer visit.
Where are you going? Where do you want to go? How long do you want to spend there?
Your mileage may vary, of course, but it's likely to be substantially shorter on your second or a subsequent trip around the world than on a first trip of similar duration.
None of these real-world patterns are yet reflected in the itinerary of The Amazing Race: All-Star Edition . Other than the airports in Miami (an often unavoidable hub) and Santiago (also unavoidable as a place to change planes in order to get between northern and southern Chile), they have yet to return to -- much less linger in -- any of the places any of them visited in previous seasons of the race. And they aren't travelling any more slowly, or taking any more time to experience the places they pass through. If anything, the producers have given them tasks and challenges that involve less interaction with local people than in some earlier seasons.
This is, I know, a race. So perhaps it's unfair or inappropriate to criticize it for moving too fast. But if they are going to call it "reality" television, I'm going to feel entitled to point out its departures from reality, and the lessons not to learn from it for your own travel planning.Link | Posted by Edward on Sunday, 4 March 2007, 23:59 (11:59 PM)