Trust Paul Theroux to find the most lugubrious polysyllabic means to take the fun out of, well, fun. Because that’s the translation of “undiluted jollification.” Since I’m on an anti-Theroux kick at the moment, I thought I’d try to think up a few places where travelers with pain can get their undiluted jollies. (No, not like that! Well, maybe like that, but that’s your business not mine.)
The Mouse realized years ago something that the mainstream tourist industry has yet to pick up on—people with disabilities want to leave home and SPEND MONEY HAVING FUN. Disney’s accommodations for park guests of all ability levels are incomparable. They want as many people as possible to walk, run, roll, crawl, hop, hobble, and cartwheel through their gates, then to have the time of their lives inside.
Even depressive goth teenagers get caught smiling at Disneyland. My own severely dignified father, who wears three-pieces suits to work daily, laughs like a little kid when Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride bursts into Hell.
2. Hawaiian Beaches
When I travel for pleasure instead of work, I go to Hawaii. When I step off the plane and into that delicious tropical breeze, my pain just floats away. I don’t know why, and I don’t really care. I spend whole days lolling on the sand with a drink in one fist and a cheap romance novel in the other; other days I have to be drug out of the sea by my ankles.
Granted, the overcrowded, overbuilt beaches of Waikiki don’t quite do it for me. Too many people, too few parrotfish. But I’m no misanthrope—it doesn’t harsh my buzz to see other people enjoying the sand and surf off the Kona coast. Hawaii feels fabulous, and everybody ought to have a chance to feel that good.
3. Musee d’Orsay
I visit the d’Orsay to worship at the altar of beauty. In the Musee d’Orsay, the Impressionists smear the walls with bright colors and joy of life outdoors. When I look at a Monet landscape, I feel myself walk through a flower-strewn meadow, listening to the whirr of insects and soaking up the gentle sunshine. Faced with an ornate piece of furniture, I envision myself folding up a silken nightgown and stowing it in the drawer with the whimsical slug-shaped handle crawling across it.
The Musee d’Orsay, a former railroad station that served the heart of Paris, refuses to permit the pale pathos of mere observation. Art, when it’s done right, creates experience for all who come in contact with it.
4. The French Laundry
I’m so glad I ate at the French Laundry, despite the bizarre gyrations involved in getting reservations and the breathtaking cost of the meal. Not just for a taste of the food, which is of course magnificent. There’s an embarrassing plethora of magnificent food in California’s Napa Valley.
What makes the FL special is the whole dining experience. Unlike similar pinnacles of cuisine in Manhattan, once you’re in the French Laundry, the staff treat you like…well, like people who can afford $500, 4-hour lunches. The servers’ choreographed performance as they slide each plate in front of each diner is worthy of a Broadway stage. And after 14 courses wallowing my way through some of the best-prepared food on earth, I was content to bolster my blown budget by skipping breakfast the next day. And lunch.
5. Shasta Lake
I love lakes; I grew up spending half of each summer on my family’s property on Loon Lake, Washington. I chose Shasta Lake for this post because it’s bigger and thus more fun to zip across in a power boat. Few revolutions happen on the shores of lakes. There’s little of import to observe (stars, deer, teenagers flirting awkwardly on swimming floats). Plus, staring at bikini-clad vacationers is creepy.
Lake vacations lend themselves to the simple pleasures—hiking in the woods, canoeing along the shoreline, fishing off a dock, racing a jet-ski across the deeps, counting constellations and watching the moon rise. All things that travelers with pain can have fun doing (well, maybe not the canoeing).
All of these destinations (and the many others of their kind around the world) tend to be friendly to travelers with pain, hidden disabilities, and visible disabilities. None are perfect, but all allow people of every ability level to step outside of the observer role and into the better and much, much more joyful part of participant.
Do you have a favorite destination that’s pain-friendly? What do you do when you’re there?
Speaking of which…if I led a trip/tour for travelers with pain, would you come? If so, where would you want to go? What would you like to do there?