Why travel can be the best learning experience you’ll ever have

For me, the next best high after travel is when I’m asked to play tour guide. Or offer travel help

A few weeks ago, two people who might as well be from different planets asked me for the same favor.

The first was a dynamic young Australian woman whose dad had been a friend for decades.  She’s 18 and about to begin uni — that’s what they call college over there — and  can’t wait to delve into her arts and law studies. Arts and law? She wants to change the world, and I don’t doubt she will.

The other, our incredible dog sitter (our beloved Dog Whisperer), who’s never ventured too far from home in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Easily old enough to be the Australian’s grandmother. She, too, has a mission — to savor every second of life while she can still get around on her own steam. Her cancer is  spreading.

Each asked  if I’d show her around New York. That she’d only get on the subway if I — not exactly a giantess — was there for protection.

The Australian was visiting a friend in The Apple, and she was eating it up.

My Australian guest at the "Harry and Sally" deli.

My Australian guest at the “Harry and Sally” deli.

We had a great time.  Since she has some Jewish roots, we did the ultimate New York Jewish tour of the Lower East Side. The time-trip tenement museum (a museum for those who can’t stand museums); knishes at a place that’s been around since forever; and Katz’s Deli, where they filmed that unforgettable scene in When Harry Met Sally.

Anna and meIt being what’s known as Australia Day, no surprise we ran into  an Aussie Day party in Manhattan.

We  switched gears and did the whole Sex and the City neighborhood. I could have shown her so much more, but we had limited time.

When she found out I took an almost three-hour train ride from PA to get there, she was floored.

I told her I was happy to show off my hometown to someone so appreciative. But the truth was, it doesn’t take any arm-twisting to get me to Nu Yawk. And once there, I’m always like a kid myself. After we parted, I made a pilgrimage to a bakery I’d been meaning to try, ever since I’d judged a cooking contest that had a Nora Ephron theme to it.

After Ephron passed away I wrote a tribute. It got the attention of a blog whose members read books and whip up dishes based on those books. I was asked to judge the latest round, based on Ephron’s Heartburn.

The winner made cookies based on a recipe from one of Ephron’s favorite hangouts, Levain Bakery. They looked so delish, I filed away the place for a future visit.

cookie

Is this Levain specimen a muffin or cookie? It tasted like both. Pretty good, but not the best I’ve ever had.

Anyway, when our dog sitter’s ready to visit New York  (she says she’d like to wait until it’s a little warmer) I have a completely different itinerary lined up for her. Actually, I can custom-make one for anyone.

Meanwhile, a work colleague traveling to LA (also my old stomping grounds) asked if I  could point him in the right direction with airfare and lodging. I did a little comparison shopping on places like airfarewatchdogKAYAK and plain ‘ole Google and did OK. I also turned him on to Airbnb, my favorite place to find reasonable, fascinating digs. Used them in three countries so far. Can’t wait to hear how it goes.

I’m telling you all this because after all the globetrotting I’ve done, I still get excited about traveling just about anywhere. To me, travel is still the best learning experience anyone can ever have.

I continue to be wowed when others feel the same.

Got travel questions? I’m here to help.

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