Taking A “Mystery Trip”

The “mystery trip” is reportedly the hot new concept in the travel world.  It works pretty much like it sounds:  the traveler hires a travel agent, who then plans the trip without disclosing anything about it.  The traveler shows up at the airport, or train station, or port on the designated date, is handed an envelope that finally discloses the destination, itinerary, and tickets, and then is off on a voyage into the new and unexpected.

vintage20luggage20-20mylusciouslife-com20-20vintage20suitcase20covered20in20stickers2Apparently the “mystery trip” appeals to two kinds of travelers:  those who hate planning for trips, and those who really, really like to be surprised.  And there are gradations in the degree of mystery you can seek, too.  You can set a price range and then leave the trip totally in the hands of the travel agent, or you can identify a general geographic region and leave the rest of the trip in the hands of the planners.  And some mystery trippers rein in the latitude and longitude of the surprise by themselves focusing on specific regions, like one website that specializes in weekend trips into the unknown for domestic U.S. travelers.  In any case, one “mystery trip” website concludes,  “one thing is for certain: the more that is left unknown, the more rewarding and thrilling your experience will be.”

It’s an intriguing concept, but I’m not so sure about that conclusion, really.  Vacations are precious, and the “mystery trip” concept really requires you to put a lot of trust into that travel agent’s abilities.  If you’ve only got so much vacation time — to say nothing of a finite amount of vacation budgeted dollars — taking a mystery trip could be a big gamble.  I also think I’d need to be in precisely the right mood before I’d try a “mystery trip.”  Normally, I go into vacations with a clear goal in mind, like unwinding with a toes-in-the-sand vacation in a sunny, warm beach location, or an “experience the culture and see the sites” trip to a place I’ve never been to before but always wanted to visit.  Your mystery trip could be interesting, but an adventure in Lapland just might not scratch the right itch if you’re actually yearning to smell that suntan lotion or finally walk through the old sections of Istanbul.

One other thing:  how in the world (pun intended) do you pack if you don’t know whether you’re going to Alaska, Borneo or Timbuktu?

Direct From the ’60s, I Give You The Light Blue American Express World Travel Service Bag

When we cleaned out Mom’s condo to get it ready for sale, we removed a bunch of stuff that had been stored in cupboards and closets and ignored for years.  The paraphernalia was distributed among the five kids, to be examined later.

Among the boxes and bags that I received were two very old movie projectors, an old slide projector, slide carousels, a Super 8 hand camera, and lots of old movies from the ’70s.  They are found in two light blue, high-quality plastic American Express World Travel Service bags.

IMG_3727Richard and I are going to have to figure out how to work the projectors, but for now I want to focus on the American Express World Travel Service bags.  They are chock full of maps, passport cases, American Express travel tip booklets (one is entitled “Priceless Travel Secrets” in Laugh-In era typeface) and other items that harken back to a day when travel was a great adventure, something that you dressed up for and anticipated.  In those days, you went to an American Express travel agent to help plan your trip, and the agent gave you “free” stuff that made the impending journey even cooler — stuff like these little blue bags.  They reek of the ’60s and early ’70s, these little blue bags, like props you might see to set the time period on Mad Men.

The American Express bags belonged to my grandparents, who loved to travel and paid careful attention to every tip and suggested technique.  I can just imagine them holding this bag stuffed full of cameras, film, itineraries, and booklets as they boarded a Pan Am prop plane for the transAtlantic trip, both wearing hats and dressy attire, passports secure in their passport case in one suit coat pocket, American Express Traveler’s Checks carefully stored in their special holder in another pocket.

It was a different time then.