We should never be ashamed of where we travel. Any experience that allows us to immerse ourselves in another culture should be considered meritorious. Except that’s not always the case. Travel secrets are suppressed, calendar-weeks suspiciously erased and Facebook photos quietly de-tagged. Some destinations are simply considered anathema to travellers. And my travel secret is that I spent two weeks in the worst malefactor of them all: DisneyWorld Orlando, Florida.
There is a prevailing opinion amongst many travellers that if a journey is anything short of a feast of spiritualism and culture, it simply isn’t worth taking. DisneyWorld is undoubtedly bereft of spiritualism. It is the most artificial of Orlando attractions. The trees are carved into perfect squares with internal speakers that bellow at you to GET HAPPY! The dead-eyed workers grin inanely at you from behind unabashedly bright costumes. The Epcot Park features the only walking tour in Orlando that takes you around a miniaturised globe, replete with every borderline-offensive stereotype it can muster.
Most travellers gape in disbelief when they discover I spent two weeks in Orlando theme parks. Why didn’t I go somewhere worthwhile? Get some culture?
My belief is that, perhaps Las Vegas aside, there’s no better destination to experience US culture at its most excessive. Standing in line at the peak of a 120ft waterslide afforded a fine view of Florida’s vast expanse, sun glinting on Disney park rides that reared above the tree-line like waking titans.
The distance between parks left plenty of time to haggle with ambitious taxi-drivers over knock-off SeaWorld Orlando tickets, or listen to their impassioned tirades against the draconian tyranny of Disney Corporation. Where else does your resort have eight swimming pools and a PGA-tour level golf course, with sky-writers daubing pro-Christian slogans across the cloudless sky each and every morning?
Where else can you eat gargantuan ice creams every day; meet living cartoon characters; see a whale leap through an oversized hoop; spot a bird that’s the spitting image of Doc Brown from Back to the Future?
I defy you to find better entertainment in Orlando. Spiritual sinkhole, perhaps. But I had a fantastic time.
Yet such an admission is met with, at best, bemused incredulity, and at worst venomous derision. Travellers flick elastic bands at my head and push me over in the playground.
Some travellers (and I must stress some) hold an alarmingly elitist perspective on their chosen way of life. A backpacking trek across Asia is no doubt a profound experience for many. But for others it would be a gruelling ordeal of homesickness, stomach bugs, and unwashed underwear. Some people, sometimes, just want to escape the grind and revel in the luxury the richer parts of the world have to offer. There is no right way to enjoy travel; just as long as we do enjoy it.
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