By PAT HARTMAN
Ever wondered how to survive in troubled economic times, and yet extract your share of fun from life, too? There’s an old Italian adage, “Long voyages, great lies.” Well, guess what? The world has changed, and things are different now. The new proverb goes, “No voyage, great lies.” Take that, old Italians! We want the best of both worlds: bragging rights to a ripsnortin’ experience that will make our friends faint with envy, and a budget demand that approaches zero. So, when the going gets tough, the tough go on a “lie-cation.”
The guru who turned us on to this concept is Scott Carmichael of Gadling. His very pragmatic and helpful article is rife with useful real-world hints on how convince everyone that you’re back from fascinating journey, and did not, for instance, spend your hard-earned two weeks holed up in your own basement rec room, screening a porno-thon. Carmichael’s technique brings finesse to every detail of how to create a fantasy vacation and make it credible to the most discerning ear. Here’s one of his tips for getting away with it:
Want people to think you are in France? Find yourself a French webmail service, sign up, and send emails to your friends. You’ll need to be able to read or translate the site in order to sign up, but before you know it, you’ll be emailing people from your bigfatliar@ French webmail account.
This guide covers picking the destination; photos and other physical evidence (both pre- and post-liecation); souvenirs; and necessary homework to avoid being tripped up by details. You will, of course, check the weather in the place where you’re supposed to have been. And Carmichael also recommends a last-resort escape hatch, if you’re uncomfortably close to being busted for your tall tales. It cannot be revealed here, but he also suggests other ploys.
For instance: go for the mystery. Concoct one enigmatic, “heavy,” all-purpose phrase to stymie every inquiry. Maybe your story is that you’ve been doing “disaster tourism.” One way to go about it is, name a trouble spot, and start describing. All crumbled buildings and roasted automobiles look pretty much the same, after all. But if that is too much of a strain on the imagination, this genre has an advantage over some others. If the questions become too specific, you can always threaten an emotional meltdown: “I’m sorry, I just can’t talk about it.”
If, on the other hand, verbal embroidery is meat and drink to you, then by all means choose a lie-cation that leaves plenty of space for improvisation — for instance, by planning an itinerary composed of Weird and Odd Hotels. At Budget Travel, John Rambow offers a splendid list of such establishments, including those where you can sleep in a wine cask or a coffin. Jason Cochran at the same site actually published one of these fabulous lists first. These places are supposed to be odd and weird, right? So you can make up just about anything. Maybe get a few postcards through eBay beforehand, and you’re all set.
As long as you didn’t go anyway, make it a good story. Make it really outrageous. So bizarre that you couldn’t possible be inventing it. Tell your astonished listeners that you were one of the chosen beta-testers in the brand new space tourism industry. (Examiner Jay Hammond tells more about this.) Speak knowingly of physiological effects of acclimation during space flight.
Or make it really boring. Tell people you hooked up with one of those genealogy travel specialists, and start tracing for them the roots of your family tree. We guarantee, they will soon lose interest and stop pestering you. You could say you went on a Famous Gardens tour, but were so captivated by Sissinghurst that you jettisoned the group and stayed on there, and then you could branch out into a gossip tangent about the love life of famous gardener Vita Sackville-West, and before you know it, you’re out of the woods.
In the realm of the mystical, there are plenty of ideas to choose from. Tell everyone you went walkabout, and then joined up with the last wild group of Aborigines in Australia. (Hey wait, hasn’t that already been done?) Tell them you went on a Vision Quest with Stalking Wolf. Tell them you traveled for altruistic reasons. Don’t name a group like Medecins Sans Frontiers — it’s too easy to check up on. But you can safely claim to have flown over to Bangkok — they keep terrible records over there — to join a volunteer task force and help get the begging elephants out of the city.
In the New York Times, James Estrin introduces and presents an amazing suite of photos , taken by Brent Lewin, of the Thai elephants. In July, it was reported that about 200 beasts are routinely turned loose by their mahouts, on the streets of Bangkok, to scrounge for food. The government decided that the best solution would be to buy the elephants. So far, an organization called “Smiling Elephants” has purchased a total of one elephant, using funds donated by the public. We’re thinking this lie-cation will probably remain viable for quite some time.
Tell us about your dream lie-cation!