Expat Travel: Just Stay Home

by Miss Footloose

CheetahAre your foreign vacation plans in ruins? Don’t you dare get on a plane? Won’t the country let you out or in? It must be the summer of the year 2020. So your choice may be to stay home, or close to home.

Exotic adventures? They’ll have to wait, maybe

Some years ago my American prince and I also had to postpone exotic adventures. Back from alien shores, we were temporarily living in the US (my adopted country — I am Dutch), eagerly awaiting a new work contract and further expat travels abroad. In the mean time we needed a little vacation. This to recoup from reverse culture shock caused by visiting American shopping emporiums and being gobsmacked by other expressions of American consumer decadence culture.

We rented a cabin in the woods, away from stressful American civilization, hoping for rest and relaxation amid the serenity of peaceful nature. Exotic adventures could wait until we were overseas again. This is what happened:

A Quiet Weekend in the Country

We have decided to spend a long restorative weekend in the West Virginia mountains (a few hours west of the teeming jungles of Washington DC for you foreigners not acquainted with the details of the US map.) We’ve rented a rustic lodge for the sojourn, packed our valises with bug spray and wine and set forth on a beautiful spring morn.

Upon arrival, we open the door to the lodge and are greeted calmly by a herd of giraffes, who, by the looks of it, have taken up residence and make no move to depart. They’re everywhere – even in the bedroom. Here a picture of the patriarch in the living room, almost reaching to the ceiling. An arrogant sort if you ask me.

Where in the world are we?

We explore our temporary abode in growing wonder. It’s a jungle in here! The place breathes exotic wildness, the air trembles with danger. Scary foot prints everywhere, decorating rugs and curtains. Wherever we look, wild animals leap, dance, and perch on ledges, shelves and walls. Trapped in framed art work, they look at us hungrily.

A cheetah perches on a shelf, ready to leap, reeds and dry grass sprouting out of its head: It’s a vase. (See photo at top of post). High up on a kitchen cupboard, a lion observes us with royal hauteur.

A palm tree of undetermined species grows dustily on a side table. Chairs and lampshades are fashioned in leopard skin fabric. Candles in various sizes and shapes all feature animal prints. A tribe of chimpanzees huddle on a shelf nearby, planning mischief.

Exotic adventures

Okay, this is not them, but I failed to take a picture.

An old leather trunk celebrates the demise of some huge reptilian creature – a giant boa, a crocodile, a monster lizard? Or maybe it is plastic.

Travel Trunk

Don’t linger here

In the bathroom we encounter a herd of elephants, ear-flapping and trunk-waving, trotting amid coconut palms along the edge of a magazine rack. A leopard print border wraps itself around the room.

We discover an egg, just sitting there on a little table next to the spare toilet rolls. An enormous egg, as large as an ostrich egg and I know whereof I speak since ostrich eggs were for sale in the supermarket in Ghana, West Africa, when we lived there (and ostrich meat as well). Just look at this picture by Mike Scott to give you an idea of its size.

Do cheetahs lay eggs?

What is creepy about this egg here in this bizarre jungle bathroom is that it doesn’t have a color normal for eggs – white, or blue or tan. Neither does it have cute decorative speckles like some eggs have. No, this monster ovum is very dark and has cheetah spots all over it. A cheetah egg? A new mutation? Maybe it is a haunted egg, because the photo I take of it does not come out usable. Just think of this for a minute.

Deeper into the jungle . . .

Hearts a-trembling, we safari into the bedroom, where more giraffes greet us. Joined by two massive, ornately carved dressers, lives a gargantuan four-poster bed that hails straight from the British colonies but is missing its mosquito netting. This is scary business in the jungle, don’t you agree? Fortunately we realize that malaria has been conquered in this particular wilderness, and on closer inspection the bedroom furniture is probably vintage Sears on steroids. We will survive without a mosquito net. But it is time for a drink to calm our nerves.

Outside on the veranda deck we try to relax and survey the view while sipping a restorative gin and tonic glass of wine. The verdant green of the woods is restful and serene. Squirrels live here, and birds and deer and rabbits. Not so easy to detect are the foxes and groundhogs.

However, when we’re ready for more exciting wildlife, all we have to do is go inside. I wonder what’s lurking under the bed.

* * *

Tell me a surprising, humorous, or exotic thing or event you’ve found in your own familiar habitat.

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What an amazing place – all the more so for being so unexpected! I love the way you paint the story…

Something unexpected – must be walking in the woods and encountering: a 1000-yr-old rune stone in the middle of nowhere; a 3-000-yr-old burial mound from the Bronze Age; or suddenly coming upon something that looks like a huge grassy snake only to discover later on (via the Internet) that it is a bunker from WW1.

Living close to Nashville there are so many ethnic restaurants to try. Each one we visit brings a bit of “exotic” into our lives. And satisfies cravings for food from places we have visited.

Are you sure this wasn’t a “theme” room you reserved? I love that type of decor, but for someone who’s experienced the “real” thing, this must have been a disappointment. I used to stay in “theme” rooms when my husband and I wanted to have a fun time and our kids were young.

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