“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” —Mark Twain, 1868
Many writers far more accomplished than I have ruminated on the transformative power of travel. Well, with all due respect to the illustrious Mr. Twain, I must respectfully disagree, because if he’d seen American teenagers writing graffiti on the bathrooms of the Louvre or Japanese visitors to New York refusing to dine anywhere but hokey theme restaurants, he would know that all that nonsense about travel being mind-expanding and horizon-broadening is pure crap.
Allow me to give you the gift of honesty: summer is simply a terrible time to have a birthday. All of your friends are out of town, you can barely move without working up a sweat, and it seems inevitable that on your Special Day, you’ll end up drinking wine spritzers alone while watching Golden Girls reruns. (Although, is that really such a bad thing?) No wallowing in self-pity this year, Cancer. The best way to mitigate your clinginess and self-absorption is to decide to get the hell out of town and go on a birthday adventure. Travel to some country you’ve never heard of, and when you end up drinking alone on your birthday (because you will), you can at least tell yourself that it’s because no one else in that country speaks English. Once you return, don’t forget to post the most truly pretentious pictures from your trip on Facebook.
This summer’s vacation abroad may test the limits of your loyalty and generosity when you discover that your close friend and traveling companion isn’t as worldly or easygoing as you previously thought. It turns out she’s the most maddening, provincial hosebeast you’ve ever met in your life. She will refuse to even attempt to speak the local language, instead resorting to the time-honored American communication technique of shouting in English. She will insist on visiting the most tourist-infested attractions, walking around perpetually terrified that some dark, swarthy foreigner is going to steal her wallet. I advise you to let it go. One of the great things about other countries is that they’re usually much more lax about alcohol, so get drunk early and often, and when your friend refuses to take off her fanny pack, just get loaded and pretend she’s with someone else.
This month, Virgo, you’ll be sitting in a hotel bar, enjoying a crisp cocktail, when a beautiful woman will sidle up next to you. With a suggestive toss of her hair, she’ll look at you out of the corner of her eye and give the smallest hint of a smile. You’ll smile back, offering to buy her a drink. As you chat, you’ll gradually move closer and closer to each other, until she suddenly leans in and puts her hand on your leg, whispering that perhaps you two should go up to your room for a cocktail. You’re not being your usual observant self, are you, Virgo? Many people have visions of meeting their soul mate in some exotic locale, but in real life that just doesn’t happen. If a beautiful foreign woman seems to be magically attracted to you, she’s a prostitute.
It’s a little surprising that Twain himself wasn’t a Libra, considering his idealistic, hopeful take on travel’s enlightening and transformative powers. You’ll travel this summer, all right, and what you’ll take away is that no matter how much you might find fault with American culture, other countries are even worse. Think you’re in for a spiritual journey through India? Think again. Excited for your trip to a tropical island? Hopefully it won’t be marred by the surly hotel staff, who couldn’t be more outwardly resentful of your disposable income and fancy sneakers. If you think people are small-minded and ignorant in America, just wait until you get to a country where the locals would just as soon spit at you as look at you. Get real—traveling doesn’t convince anyone of the innate humanness of all people.
You’ll be slightly disappointed when you discover that those plane tickets you bought on a drunken whim weren’t to Paris, France … they were to Paris, Texas. No wonder they were so cheap. Try to make the best of it, Scorpio, and enjoy what Paris, Texas, has to offer, whatever that may turn out to be. (Sand? Lizards?) But whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of calling it “Gay Paree,” because down here, folks don’t take kindly to your godless, lib’ral-elitist lifestyle.
There’s nothing better than traveling to a new place and discovering all of its delicious culinary secrets. Of course, the places with the most amazing secrets tend to also have the most disgusting ones, too. In Italy, you may be treated to transcendent cured meats, but you could also run into tripe. In China, you’ll have to avoid things like monkey brains and beef entrails. There’s nothing worse than digging into a bowl of what you thought was Hunan chicken, only to discover that it’s actually squid jerky with a side of cricket surprise. Sag, I advise you to protect yourself, no matter where you travel on vacation, by carrying a picture of a chicken and a cow and simply pointing to one or the other in every restaurant. If you bite into something suspiciously crunchy, spit it out, because it’s probably an insect. Or do the truly safe thing and just eat at McDonald’s everywhere you go.
Caps always try to do the right thing, so I’m sure you’ve been studying in advance of your vacation so that you can communicate in the native language. How un-American of you! You may think it will be easy to pick up a few phrases of French or Spanish, but you’ll soon discover the hard way that when you’re in a rough neighborhood in Madrid, the phrase for “ I wish to find the subway” is dangerously close to “I wish to get your sister pregnant.” The locals will not be amused. Sometimes it is best just to speak English loudly and hope for the best.
Oh, Aquarius. It’s so cute that you thought you’d freshen up your look by going shopping on vacation. Unfortunately, you forgot about the fact that most locals you meet on vacation don’t dress like they’re from where you’re from. If you go shopping in Milan, everyone back home will wonder why you’re wearing skintight latex T-shirts, leather pants, and ostrich boots. Go shopping in the Caribbean, and you’ll come home with jeans so tight, the phrase “muffin top” won’t even begin to describe it. Here’s a hint: if the average citizen at your destination is slimmer than the average American fourth-grader or wears a wardrobe composed exclusively of neon colors, don’t even bother.
Everybody professes to like traveling, but few people really enjoy getting from point A to point B. Hours on a cramped plane? Days in a sweaty car? Ugh. You may be compassionate and tolerant, Pisces, but this month, when a flight attendant asks you to switch seats to accommodate a little old lady who wants to sit near the front of the plane, don’t feel guilty about saying no. Because that stewardess is going to put you in a middle seat next to a woman who insists on breastfeeding her infant, and that infant will barf on you. Be a humanitarian and switch if you want, but I suggest that you have a clean shirt on hand first. Trust me on this one.
When you’re traveling, sometimes it’s better to leave your penny-pinching ways at home. When you settle for only the cheapest airfare, you’ll end up finding that your route from Boston to Amsterdam takes you inexplicably through Chicago. When you book the cheapest hotel you can find, you may discover that the sink is clogged with beard hair and the next-door occupant is a weekly renter named Cooter. Such is the life of a traveler. Don’t be so stubborn, and just pony up the cash for a decent trip. What you spend on quality food, comfortable beds, and direct flights, you’ll more than make up for by not having to visit the doctor for extra scabies ointment.
Now is the time to revisit the wonder of summer vacation through the eyes of your children! You may dream of watching their adorable little faces light up at the sight of Mickey Mouse, or fantasize about building the grandest sandcastle on the beach. Yeah, that ain’t gonna happen. After the first day of the trip, your kids will be sunburned and screaming, assuaged only by $15 ice cream cones and Big Gulps of Mountain Dew, announcing that they have to poop only when the nearest available public restroom looks like a B–horror movie murder scene, only less sanitary. Some family fun this is, eh, Taurus? I have a prediction about your future: I see children … a backyard sprinkler … a faraway beach … you and your spouse sipping mai tais. Drink it in, Taurus, and don’t worry about whether leaving your children at home will scar them for life. They’re probably already scarred anyway.
The wonderful part of a lush tropical vacation is the chance to bask somewhere fertile and verdant, marveling at all the plant and animal life that surrounds you. As it turns out, that verdancy is also the worst thing about tropical locales. Remember, the heat, sunshine, and humidity that produce towering palm trees, dense rain forests, and raging rivers also nourish some pretty frightening animal life. I’m talking about mutant cockroaches the size of toddlers, mosquitoes that extract more fluid than your average blood donation, and furry beasts that have long since grown off any recognizable branches on the evolutionary tree. Your main mission should be to not attract any of these creepy-crawlies in the first place. Don’t ever handle food or wear perfume or any cosmetics. Don’t breathe too much or work up a sweat or blink too loudly. If something does get you in its many furry clutches, just give it whatever it wants, and hopefully it will let you go alive.
Allison Ford is an accomplished world traveler and a staff writer at DivineCaroline. She has frolicked under a Hawaiian waterfall, been spit upon by hooligans in Spain, and witnessed an arson in Paris. She can order a cocktail in six languages, never wears a fanny pack, and will happily visit any country that makes its own cheese. She has never, to her knowledge, eaten an insect.
The Visiting Visionary is a monthly column written by a different guest horoscopist each month. We’ll focus on a new topic every month so that our Visionary can foretell how it will affect each sign.